Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

My Photo
Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, March 27, 2010


A French documentary about the right-wing Christian fundamentalists who are preparing to wage war on behalf of Jesus.

The difference between these folks and the Taliban? Not much as I see it. Where I come from they call this brainwashing.

Watch it and tell me what you think.

Friday, March 26, 2010


We arrived in Bath tonight after a 19 mile day from Lewiston. Very cold and windy but dry. Yesterday (Norway to Lewiston) was warm and sunny the entire day. The weather is bouncing back and forth from one extreme to the other. Our first day (Bethel to Norway in the photos above) was snow the first half of the day.

Not only did we experience the weather fluctuations but we also got a good look at rural and urban Maine the last three days. The roads are falling apart, there are legions of people without work, and many of the homes and buildings along the way are in disrepair. The cost of paying for war is hitting home.

Each day we've had different people come and go from the walk but we've maintained a steady group of about 15 throughout. Maggie Finch, our oldest walker who turns 89 next week, is doing very well and is a joy to have along with us.

Folks in Norway turned out in big numbers and gave us a feast the first night. Last night we stayed at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston and the mayor, Laurent Gilbert, joined us for supper after spending one and a half hours meeting with our group of walkers at City Hall. I'll write more another time about some of the great stories he told us. He is a member of Mayors for Peace.

Today fellow Maine Veterans for Peace member Doug Rawlings, who teaches at University of Maine-Farmington, brought eight of his students and they spent the day with us. They walked the whole way and helped carry the banners and really helped make it a special day for all of us.

Because it was so cold we needed a place to eat our lunch inside so we asked an Italian restaurant in Lisbon called Graziano's if we could sit in-doors. They were so nice to us that we ordered a bunch of pizzas rather than eat our leftover food and when we were leaving our waitress come outside with her coat on and told us she asked the owner of the restaurant if it was OK if she walked with us for awhile. He told her go ahead so she walked for three-miles and then we had our blister van drive her back to work. She said she wants to walk with us on Monday as well.

These walks are special like that - magical things just keep happening. One of the walkers said tonight at supper that an energy flows out of the walk and gets inside people along the way. I think he is exactly right. These walks are more spiritual than most peace "marches" and create a different dynamic.

We have a brunch at our house in the morning and then we will join the weekly Lenten peace vigil at Bath Iron Works where the Aegis destroyers are built. Then we'll walk on to Brunswick with a stop along the way at the Naval Air Station that is closing next year. We want to send some good vibes toward the base in hopes of ensuring that the "redevelopment" process does not turn it into a drone flight test center.

My knee is holding up very well, one of my ankles hurts and is stiff as a board, I need a bath very badly and am going to go sit and soak in the tub.

I'm having a great time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Activists draw attention to nuclear disarmament treaty
Lewiston Sun Journal
March 25, 2010

NORWAY — Hoping their long trek will help raise support and awareness for nuclear disarmament, a group of peace activists made their way from Bethel to Norway on Wednesday.

The walk, which is put on by the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order of Leverett, Mass., aims to arrive in New York City on the eve of a United Nations session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its next stop will be the Trinity Episcopal Church in Lewiston, where a supper and program will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“This walk is about how to get people in New England to join us in the march for nuclear disarmament,” said Tim Bullock, coordinator of the walk and a member of the Nipponzan Myohoji order.

Sister Claire Carter, a Buddhist nun with the order since 1981, said the order was founded in 1917 by Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fujii. While it has always had a strong focus on peace, it began to target nuclear weapons after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The “Walk For a Nuclear-Free Future” aims to promote the goal of ridding the world of such armaments.

“Nuclear weapons are so horrific that it's unimaginable by anyone to use one, yet there are over 23,000 in existence,” Carter said.

She said organizers hope to inspire some residents in the communities the walk passes through to make the trip to New York City, where an international conference on nuclear disarmament will begin April 30. Three days later, the United Nations is scheduled to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

First established in 1970, the goal of the agreement is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the world. It has been signed by about 190 nations, including the United States and four other nuclear powers. The United Nations has held a review conference of the treaty every five years.

Carter said the Nipponzan Myohoji also hopes to eliminate the use of nuclear technology as well as stockpiles of nuclear weapons. She said nuclear technology presents several problems, such as the disposal of radioactive waste and the use of depleted uranium in conventional weapons.

“We believe the whole nuclear cycle should be put to rest, because there's just too much danger in it,” she said.

The walkers have made significant progress in their six days on the road, assisted in some places by vehicle shuttles. The walk began in Burlington, Vt., and progressed across that state and New Hampshire before entering Maine. Along the way, participants have met U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen, and three Burmese monks living in exile.

Wednesday saw a late-season snowfall, but marchers did not find the weather an issue. Bullock said the snow proved more agreeable than Tuesday's rain, and spirits were further buoyed by scenic views along the way.

“Actually, it was quite pleasant,” he said. “We felt yesterday it was rougher.”

Some of the participants are no strangers to long walks. Carter took part in a trek retracing a portion of the transatlantic slave trade that included the United States, the Caribbean, and western Africa. It lasted more than a year.

Maggie Finch, an 86-year-old Bath resident, said she thought that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have convinced the world to move in the direction of peace, but that they seemed to have the opposite effect. She said she took part in a peace march aiming to make it across the country in 1986, but she and most of the other activists had to drop out after some key sponsors pulled out. She intends to stay with the march throughout the Maine stops.

“I always had the feeling of unfinished business, and I think that's probably why I'm here now,” Finch said.

The route is one of three walks initiated by the Nipponzan Myohoji order that will converge on New York City. Another walk began in Steamburg, N.Y., with the route passing a nuclear waste disposal site in Springville, a nuclear power plant in Highland Falls, and several Indian nations. The third march began at Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a research laboratory was instrumental in the creation of an atomic bomb during World War II. Bullock said a fourth walk, organized by the Washington Peace Center, will also go to New York City from the nation's capital.

The Bethel-to-Norway leg of the journey was capped by a supper and service at the First Universalist Church of Norway. Along with chants and music, participants discussed the walk and other efforts they are involved in. Bruce Gagnon, a coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, said federal money spent on the military could be put to better use addressing domestic needs.

“Unless we deal with military spending in America, there will be no recovery in America,” he said.

MY COMMENT: Lucky to find a computer this morning at the church. Fifteen of us walked yesterday about 13 miles from Bethel to Norway. Today on to Lewiston. Nice coverage in the local paper as we walk into their community. Great potluck here last night attended by about 60 folks who brought great food. During first half of the day we walked through snow yesterday, with mountains in the distance, and Brother Kato (in photo above) says these walks are about unraveling the tight knot of militarism. Very well said. Slept on the floor last night, not the most comfortable bed in the world but did sleep well considering. Our oldest walker is 89 year old Maggie Finch, also lives in Bath, who is a poet, good spirit, and a strong walker.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Proposed Navy base on Jeju Island - note the Aegis destroyers that are outfitted with "missile defense" systems
Jeju is the island inside the red circle above. To the left is mainland China. To the right is Japan. China imports 80% of its oil along the seaway beside Jeju Island. The U.S. Navy obviously relishes the idea of one more Navy base in the region that would enable it to choke off China's importation of oil thus giving the U.S. the "keys" to China's economic engine. You can see that this Navy base will dramatically widen already dangerous tensions in the region.

Since my earlier email this morning asking people to call the South Korean Embassy in Washington DC I've already heard from two different people who both told me the person they spoke to at the embassy said it was the U.S. Navy that wants the base.

One of our supporters emailed me the following message after her call to the embassy:

I just spoke with the aide to the attaché at the Korean Embassy (202-939-5600) and she asked that we contact the U.S. Navy to complain. She understood our motivation is to support the resistance of the people on Jeju but she said "you have to talk to your government because they are the ones who want to do this." She asked me to relay this message to others.

This is very important information and confirms the worst suspicions of many of us that the U.S. has been pushing the South Korean government to build the Navy base on Jeju Island in order for the U.S. Navy to deploy Aegis destroyers at the base. But we never had confirmation of that theory until now!

We need to keep calling the South Korean Embassy and tell them not to do what the U.S. Pentagon tells them. South Korea is a sovereign nation and should not allow the U.S. to push them into building a provocative Navy base on what is known as the "Peace Island".

This proposed Navy base, and other U.S. military deployments in the Asian-Pacific region, will contribute to a new and wider arms race in that part of the world. We must act now to do all we can to create a global call to stop this dangerous military escalation.

So if you have not yet called or emailed please do so right away. Call the South Korean Embassy at 202-939-5692 (Admiral Choi) or 202-939-5600 or email at

And please be sure to let me know if they tell you anything else about the U.S. pressuring South Korea to build this Navy base. This information will be vitally important to the villagers on Jeju Island as they can now alert their media and inform them that this base is indeed going to be a key part of the aggressive U.S. military strategy to surround and provoke China.

Our next steps will be to organize pressure on the U.S. government. But first let's continue building pressure on South Korea - especially now that we see them giving us vital information as a result of your calls!

Thanks for your help.


The latest word from Jeju Island in South Korea is that things are coming to a head very soon. The photos above and video below is from a sudden protest that was organized on March 20 when the Gangjeong villagers learned that the South Korean Minister of Defense was going to come to the village for an "inspection".

The villagers turned out with their yellow flags that say "We Death Defiantly Oppose the Naval Base!” It appears that the Defense Minister, Kim Tae-Young, did not stay long.

Apparently later that same day the Defense Minister met with five representatives from the village including the Mayor Kang Dong-Kyun. A transcript of some of the meeting has been released by the village committee against the base. Here are some bits from the meeting:

Mayor Kang told the Defense Minister Kim, "So-called national business can make both the nation and villagers cooperate and co-live only when it makes both healthy. The site selection process of changing the site from Hwasoon and Weeme to Gangjeong was a problem. Kim Tae-Hwan, the Jeju Island governor and the Island Congress, who said that they would not drive for [the naval base] without villagers’ agreement, have just driven for it. By the result of the villagers own vote, 94% were against the drive for the naval base."

Defense Minister Kim, listened but requested that the people "not point out the problems of the past but to think with an open mind, of the future of Gangjeon, Jeju, and the nation."

Minister Kim emphasized the importance of the naval base construction, saying, "The naval base construction would be a big help for the defense of the southern area of the Jeju Island" and claimed that the "Naval base is different from the general factories that contaminate the environment. If it is constructed, it would help the economic development of the Jeju."

[This statement by Minister Kim that the navy base would protect the southern area of the nation is very interesting. When you study a map you find Japan on one side of Jeju and China on the other. The fact that Aegis destroyers, outfitted with "missile defense" systems would be deployed at this proposed navy base indicate that China is the target.]

Kim also said that, "I think, in the case of Hawaii, the naval base has given much help for the Hawaii development."

The two hour meeting did nothing to reassure the Gangjeong villagers. The villagers lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in Seoul on March 25 and rumors abound that the Navy will make an attempt to quickly hold their ground-breaking ceremony that same day while some of the village leaders are off the island attending the court hearing on the mainland.

Just days ago an activist in Maine told me she had called the South Korean embassy in Washington DC to complain about the proposed Navy base on Jeju Island. The activist was told that many people have been calling to protest the base. It would be helpful if you would call as well. The phone is 202-939-5692 (Admiral Choi) or email at

Remind the South Korean embassy that Jeju Island is now called the Island of Peace and that building a navy base that will be used to help the U.S. militarily encircle China will create a new arms race and increase instability in the Asian-Pacific region.

If you live outside the U.S. please call the South Korean embassy in your country and lodge a similar complaint.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: One of the folks on our email list said she called the phone number above at the South Korean Embassy in Washington DC and this is what she wrote back to me:

I just spoke with the aide to the attache at the Korean Embassy and she asked that we contact the U.S. Navy to complain. She understood our motivation is to support the resistance of the people on Jeju but she said "you have to talk to your government because they are the ones who want to do this." She asked me to relay this message to others.

This is a very important statement because I have long maintained that the South Korean Navy was only building this Navy base because the U.S. Navy wanted to use it as a homeport for Aegis destroyers that would allow them to be even closer to mainland China. This statement by the South Korean embassy staffer appears to give credence to that claim.

We need to keep calling the South Korean embassy and tell them not to do what the U.S. Pentagon tells them. South Korea is a sovereign nation and should not allow the U.S. to push them into building a provocative Navy base.


The Walk for a Nuclear Free Future and Conversion to a Peaceful Economy enters Maine early Wednesday morning in the town of Bethel at the New Hampshire border. Seven of us from Maine will join the walk at that time. We'll spend our first night at a church in Norway, Maine and then move on to Lewiston, Bath, Brunswick, Freeport, Portland, Saco, and Kennebunk. Each night at 6:00 pm a pot luck supper and program will be held to honor the walk and hear about its purpose.

Many others plan to join the walk as it passes through their community. In all the walk will be a wonderful experience for lots of Mainers.

I plan to do the whole walk through Maine so I will have limited access to my computer - basically no access except for the two nights we are in the Bath-Brunswick area and I will be sleeping in my own bed. So the posts here will be few and far between. I am looking at the walk as a bit of a vacation - I haven't had a real vacation in years. I hope my aging knees hold up.

This morning we got the call that a close friend passed away from cancer last night. Dennis Stanton, married to MB's best childhood friend, was a dear man who we loved to argue politics with when ever we visited with them. On our most recent visit, knowing he had terminal cancer, he told us that he had come to the conclusion that both political parties were corrupt and under the control of corporations. This was a big deal for him as prior to that he had usually vigorously defended the Democrats. I think Dennis began to think of his two children and the future they face. So as I walk each step during these coming days I want to carry Dennis in my heart. We will miss him very much.

During the walk I will also be carrying in my heart the images of the children in Iraq who are suffering from the exposure to depleted uranium. I will carry with me the cries of all those who are dieing and being wounded in these unnecessary wars my government is waging. I will be thinking of how all those wasted dollars could be used here at home and around the world to relieve the suffering from needless poverty and environmental degradation.

I will hope that those in the public who see us pass by might open their hearts just a tiny bit and think more about the waste that growing militarism is in our world today. I will hope that people can find the courage to speak out so that their own children might have a better future.

See you along the road my friends. Please wish us well.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Cancer – The Deadly Legacy of the Invasion of Iraq

By Jalal Ghazi

Forget about oil, occupation, terrorism or even Al Qaeda. The real hazard for Iraqis these days is cancer. Cancer is spreading like wildfire in Iraq. Thousands of infants are being born with deformities. Doctors say they are struggling to cope with the rise of cancer and birth defects, especially in cities subjected to heavy American and British bombardment.

Here are a few examples. In Falluja, which was heavily bombarded by the US in 2004, as many as 25% of new- born infants have serious abnormalities, including congenital anomalies, brain tumors, and neural tube defects in the spinal cord.

The cancer rate in the province of Babil, south of Baghdad has risen from 500 diagnosed cases in 2004 to 9,082 in 2009 according to Al Jazeera English.

In Basra there were 1,885 diagnosed cases of cancer in 2005. According to Dr. Jawad al Ali, director of the Oncology Center, the number increased to 2,302 in 2006 and 3,071 in 2007. Dr. Ali told Al Jazeera English that about 1,250-1,500 patients visit the Oncology Center every month now.

Not everyone is ready to draw a direct correlation between allied bombing of these areas and tumors, and the Pentagon has been skeptical of any attempts to link the two. But Iraqi doctors and some Western scholars say the massive quantities of depleted uranium used in U.S. and British bombs, and the sharp increase in cancer rates are not unconnected.

Dr. Ahmad Hardan, who served as a special scientific adviser to the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, says that there is scientific evidence linking depleted uranium to cancer and birth defects. He told Al Jazeera English, "Children with congenital anomalies are subjected to karyotyping and chromosomal studies with complete genetic back-grounding and clinical assessment. Family and obstetrical histories are taken too. These international studies have produced ample evidence to show that depleted uranium has disastrous consequences."

Iraqi doctors say cancer cases increased after both the 1991 war and the 2003 invasion.
Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of “Uranium in Iraq” told Al Jazeera English that the incubation period for depleted uranium is five to six years, which is consistent with the spike in cancer rates in 1996-1997 and 2008-2009.

There are also similar patterns of birth defects among Iraqi and Afghan infants who were also born in areas that were subjected to depleted uranium bombardment.

Dr. Daud Miraki, director of the Afghan Depleted Uranium and Recovery Fund, told Al Jazeera English he found evidence of the effect of depleted uranium in infants in eastern and south- eastern Afghanistan. “Many children are born with no eyes, no limbs, or tumors protruding from their mouths and eyes,” said Dr. Miraki.

It’s not just Iraqis and Afghans. Babies born to American soldiers deployed in Iraq during the 1991 war are also showing similar defects. In 2000, Iraqi biologist Huda saleh Mahadi pointed out that the hands of deformed American infants were directly linked to their shoulders, a deformity seen in Iraqi infants.

Many US soldiers are now referring to Gulf War Syndrome #2 and alleging they have developed cancer because of exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq.

But soldiers can end their exposure to depleted uranium when their service in Iraq ends. Iraqi civilians have nowhere else to go. The water, soil and air in large areas of Iraq, including Baghdad, are contaminated with depleted uranium that has a radioactive half-life of 4.5 billion years.

Dr. Doug Rokke, former director of the U.S. Army’s Depleted Uranium Project during the first Gulf War, was in charge of a project of decontaminating American tanks. He told Al Jazeera English that “it took the U.S. Department of Defense in a multi-million dollar facility with trained physicists and engineers, three years to decontaminate the 24 tanks that I sent back to the U.S.”
And he added, “What can the average Iraqi do with thousands and thousands of trash and destroyed vehicles spread across the desert and other areas?”

According to Al Jazeera, the Pentagon used more than 300 tons of depleted uranium in 1991. In 2003, the United States used more than 1,000 tons.

The deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group


Democracy Now speaks with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy on President Obama, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, India and Kashmir.

Roy also talks about her journey deep into the forests of central India to report on the Maoist insurgency that is fighting to hold onto their lands against the mining corporations and their government who wish to throw them out.


It would be an understatement if I said I was disappointed with Rep. Dennis Kucinich for caving in on the health insurance corporate give-away bill that passed last night. But I should not have been surprised.

Just days ago I posted a video on this blog where Kucinich called Obama's insurance corporation bailout bill weak and built on quicksand. But he has done this kind of thing before. Kucinich pulled an about face when he declared he would support Sen. John Kerry's presidential nomination in 2004. Then again this last year, after justly criticizing Obama endlessly during the primary campaigns, Kucinich supported him and urged his left-leaning anti-war and anti-corporate supporters to vote for the right-leaning party presidential nominee.

I've heard some say over the years that Kucinich eagerly plays the role of the guy whose job it is to corral the leftists and herd them into the party. He might not be doing that consciously but in effect that is just what is happening.

For me it is four times now that I've seen Kucinich pull such antics and as they say in baseball - four strikes and you are out.......I'm done with the guy.

In the end it is not so much that he joined the rest of his party in voting for the bill. After all he is a Democrat. It is more the way he wound us all up and we were hanging on his every fundamentally correct criticism of this corporate dream bill and then he gets us to the edge of the cliff and just gives us a shove and over we go. I'm just not going to follow him to the edge of the cliff anymore - I now get the picture.

I was reading some entries today on Facebook and one liberal woman was saying that if anyone wanted to criticize this Obama health insurance bill they should just "go away"....... it reminded me of the old right-wing mantra - "American love it or leave it".

I read a quote from another liberal yesterday talking about Obama's Afghanistan war and her comment was essentially this - "Obama didn't start this war and anyway our troops are over there now trying to help those people and we have to support the president." I almost fell out of my chair. But why do I still get surprised by such mindless drivel?

There are these kinds of people - Republican or Democrat - who are just intellectually lazy and they want to live in a nice tight little box where everything is easy and the world makes sense. As long as "their party" is in power they are quite content to follow the "leader" and they do their level best to swallow the pill handed to them. Put the "other party" back in power and suddenly their critical thinking seems to reawaken, but as soon as their party regains control their minds switch back to "operate only upon instruction."

It's all very sad. This is why I could never be a politician. I could not handle the sausage making process. This nonsense also makes it hard for me to feel like I could ever be a loyal party person of any kind. That kind of mindless "party first" thinking just doesn't sit well with me.

Thank goodness there are many of you out there who are also critical thinkers. In times like this we need each other more than ever.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Over 100 turned out in Bangor, Maine for a Community Teach-In that called to Bring Our War $$ Home
Mark Roman and Lisa Savage of Solon, Maine took our Maine campaign banner to the White House in Washington yesterday to deliver our message directly to Obama

This protest of 150 folks was held in Northampton, MA. yesterday. Good to see the war $$ message spreading

Mary Beth and I drove two hours north to Bangor yesterday where we participated in an afternoon long community Teach-In called Bring Our War $$ Home. The well attended event was organized by the Eastern Maine Peace & Justice Center.

The keynote speaker was Mariam Atifa Raquib, a woman of Afghanistan origins, who now coordinates a non-profit Reforestation Project based in Boston called Afghanistan Samsortya.

Mary Beth was a plenary panel speaker and did a fine job. Other speakers on the panel included a Gold Star mother from Bangor who lost her son in Iraq in 2005 just 10 days before he was to come home. A representative of U.S. Labor Against the War was the other panel speaker.

I facilitated a workshop that carried the same title as did the conference.

It was good to see that many protests were held throughout the country yesterday. We need more of them.

CNN coverage here

Below is one from Germany as well.