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....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, July 31, 2010

THE DIRTY & DEADLY CONNECTION


Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team, began their experience in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981 for CBS News and produced a documentary, Afghanistan Between Three Worlds, for PBS. In 1983 they returned to Kabul with Harvard Negotiation project director Roger Fisher for ABC Nightline and contributed to the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They have continued to research, write and lecture about the long-term run-up that led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould are the authors of Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story published by City Lights. Their next book Crossing Zero The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire will be published February, 2011.

Friday, July 30, 2010

OBAMA'S CZECH MATE

  • Obama has shown once again his magician capabilities by with one hand pulling back the proposed George W. Bush missile offense deployments from the Czech Republic, but then with the other hand now saying that the U.S. will put a "missile defense center" into that country. Luckily the Czech resistance will respond quickly and make it tough on their new government which actually came into power after the former government was toppled due to their support for the previous Bush "missile defense" deployment plan. This whole thing just goes to show how serious the U.S. is about militarily surrounding Russia.

  • Our local newspaper, the Times Record, wrote an editorial yesterday entitled "$7 Billion a Month?" It calls into question the spending on endless war and quotes our two members of the House of Representatives that voted against the $33 billion war supplemental earlier this week. The editorial concludes with this: "More money for war means less for our real needs. Perpetual war is wrecking our economy." It is obvious that our Bring Our War $$ Home campaign is having an effect. See the full editorial here

  • On the brighter side, we picked our first ripe tomatoes (several of them) yesterday from the garden. I've lately been watching on-line videos about the care of tomatoes and have picked up some tips that have allowed me to get our first harvest much earlier than ever before.

  • Noise report: They are now drilling the rocky ledge under our street directly in front of our house in order to put the new sewer lines in the ground. My head feels like a wire is loose and every time I move my head something is rattling around inside my brain housing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

THE SCIENTIFIC ORIGINS OF MY GRUMPINESS!


To my friendly critic I say - put that in your water pipe and smoke it.

Of course I say this in a gentle caring sort of way.

Bestselling author, activist, and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.

FROM GRUMPY TO INSANITY

Right out in front of my bedroom window, at this very moment, is a huge noisy machine that looks like this. It is called the Recyclersaurus and it tears up the street as it slowly drags along and turns the asphalt into a dirt road. The city is going to replace the water and sewer pipes on my street and they expect this project to last until November. Even then they say they won't repave the road until next spring.

This machine must use about a million gallons of diesel fuel per second. Now I understand the war for oil. The ground is shaking and the dust is flying. We were told they would start at 7:00 am each morning but they come earlier than that and it lasts until 6:00 pm. Needless to say our sleep at the Addams-Melman House has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

It feels and sounds like we are living on top of a West Virginia mountain that is being strip mined for coal. My sister Laura is to arrive today from Florida for a vacation visit. She is going to love this.

The description of me yesterday by one blog reader as a grump will prove to be true in the days ahead. Be prepared for increasingly surly blog posts.

All the windows are closed to keep the noise and dust out. But the house still shakes and the groans of the Recyclersaurus penetrate the walls. In those rare moments when this monster machine pauses, bulldozers hauling gravel or other big machines move into action. The infernal beeping sound is destroying my brain cells. Thus the pleasures of working at home will now be interrupted for the next three months.

My friend Peter warned us last night to be sure to wash our garden veggies well recognizing that the toxic road dust stirred up by these diesel driven dinosaurs will completely cover our sweet produce. I pain for my new squash bed that I planted this spring in the front yard near the road never suspecting that it would now be under attack by the machines of madness.

Pray for me dear friends. I just might go from grumpy to insane right before your eyes. The only thing that gives me hope is the knowledge that the dinosaurs became extinct - so maybe the Recyclersaurus might as well.

The sooner the better.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

FOR THE GRUMPS LIKE ME OUT THERE


According to one comment in a recent blog I am nothing but an old grump who needs the war machine to keep me from having to find a real job....or something like that.

In other words, Bruce get a life! Be positive, be happy. Stop your raging against the machine!

Here is acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich as she explores the darker side of positive thinking.

Sorry folks, call me a grump all you want. But if that's what you call someone who cares about peace and social justice then yes, I am a full-fledged grump!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WAR PARTIES JOIN HANDS IN $$$ ORGY

There were two important votes today in the House of Representatives (one must wonder who is really being represented by most politicians these days).

The first was a vote on Rep. Dennis Kucinich's resolution calling on the U.S. to remove its military forces from Pakistan. It went down in a blazing vote of bi-partisan unity 372-38. Those brave souls who voted in favor of the resolution were:

---- YEAS 38 ---

Baldwin
Campbell
Clarke
Clay
Cleaver
Davis (IL)
Delahunt
Duncan
Edwards (MD)
Ellison
Farr
Filner
Grijalva
Gutierrez
Jackson (IL)
Johnson (IL)
Jones
Kucinich
Lee (CA)
Lewis (GA)
Lofgren, Zoe
Maffei
McDermott
Miller, George
Napolitano
Ortiz
Paul
Pingree (ME)
Quigley
Rohrabacher
Rush
Sánchez, Linda T.
Serrano
Sires
Stark
Towns
Velázquez
Woolsey

Thirty-two Democrats and six Republicans voted in favor.

Then there was the vote on the $33 billion war supplemental for the remainder of 2010. Again the Democrats and Republicans held hands and passed it overwhelmingly showing skeptics that the two parties do find areas to agree with each other - namely war and corporate welfare.

In this case the vote was 308-114 in favor of the war $$$. Those who voted No were 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans. Those who passed the war spending bill were 160 Republicans and 148 Democrats.

Here is the list of those folks who voted NO on more war $$:

---- NAYS 114 ---

Baldwin
Becerra
Blumenauer
Broun (GA)
Brown, Corrine
Campbell
Capuano
Castor (FL)
Chaffetz
Chu
Clarke
Clay
Cleaver
Cohen
Conyers
Costello
Crowley
Cummings
Davis (IL)
DeFazio
Delahunt
DeLauro
Doggett
Doyle
Duncan
Edwards (MD)
Ehlers
Ellison
Eshoo
Farr
Fattah
Filner
Flake
Frank (MA)
Fudge
Garamendi
Gingrey (GA)
Grijalva
Gutierrez
Hastings (FL)
Hinchey
Hirono
Holt
Honda
Inslee
Jackson (IL)
Jackson Lee (TX)
Johnson (GA)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, E. B.
Jones
Kagen
Kaptur
Kilpatrick (MI)
Kucinich
Larson (CT)
Lee (CA)
Lewis (GA)
Linder
Lofgren, Zoe
Maffei
Maloney
Markey (MA)
Matsui
McCollum
McDermott
McGovern
Meeks (NY)
Michaud
Miller, George
Moore (WI)
Moran (VA)
Murphy (CT)
Nadler (NY)
Napolitano
Neal (MA)
Oberstar
Obey
Olver
Pallone
Paul
Payne
Pingree (ME)
Polis (CO)
Quigley
Rangel
Richardson
Rohrabacher
Rush
Sánchez, Linda T.
Sanchez, Loretta
Schakowsky
Schrader
Scott (VA)
Serrano
Shea-Porter
Slaughter
Speier
Stark
Stupak
Thompson (CA)
Thompson (MS)
Tierney
Tonko
Towns
Tsongas
Velázquez
Waters
Watt
Waxman
Weiner
Welch
Woolsey
Wu

Our Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) from the 1st district voted right on both of these. She deserves a pat on the back. Maine's Congressman Mike Michaud (D-ME) voted wrong on the Pakistan resolution but then voted correctly on the war $$ supplemental. A bit confusing for sure.

When Democrats come around this fall seeking your money and your vote in November ask them how they voted on this war $$ bill. When they start talking about all the bad things Republicans will do if they get elected - like cut unemployment, teacher jobs, health care, and the like - ask these blowhards how they figure they can pay for their social spending promises and fund two wars at the tune of $7 billion a month.

It's enough to make you sick. The Democrats have proven that when it really counts most of them love the Republican agenda of endless war.

I refuse to give up or give in. There is far too much at stake.

Monday, July 26, 2010

WAR SUPPLEMENTAL VOTE LIKELY TUESDAY

Looks like the House will vote again (probably Tuesday) on the $33 billion Afghan war supplemental bill. It recently passed the Senate and has to go back to the House since the one previously passed by the House is different from the Senate version.

After the revelations yesterday by WikiLeaks one would presume that the Congress would be highly embarrassed about its total lack of oversight of these wars. Both parties have handed over zillions of dollars to the Pentagon for what is now widely known is a dead-end street.

Maybe the upcoming House vote will surprise us all but I am not holding my breath. The Democrats, who rode the anti-war horse into power, have shown they are quite similar to the Republicans when it comes to deceiving their base on issues they care about.

I read tonight that the teachers unions are on the verge of declaring total war on Obama and his "race to the top" which is part of a union busting move. At their recent national conventions the two teacher unions did not invite anyone from the Obama administration to speak which is highly unusual.

The president of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel, summarized teacher's experience with the Obama administration:

"Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced."

This is an extraordinary statement and illustrates that Obama is proving to be more anti-teacher than was George W. Bush, who introduced the terrible No Child Left Behind program. Teachers thought Obama would get rid of it. Instead he has expanded it and made it worse.

So the peace movement has been betrayed by Obama and the Democrats. The teachers feel the same as do many other unionists. Environmentalists are being screwed by Obama and the Dems. Hispanics are getting nailed as Obama is now escalating deportations. Black unemployment rate is now at an epidemic level. The list could go on all day long as we see Obama and the Democratic party leadership pander to Wall Street and corporate America.

If the Democrats had any damn sense they'd start by banding together and use the $7 billion now being pissed away every month on endless war to create real jobs at home building rail systems, wind turbines, solar systems, fixing bridges, rehiring teachers that are being laid off and much more.

But for reasons that are becoming obvious they will again take a dive and keep us mired in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan. Only handful of Dems have the guts to stand up to their own party leadership. They are basically lemmings and are taking the rest of us over the cliff with them.

We should be quickly figuring out that our real enemy is not the tea bag movement. The real enemy is crooked weaselly politicians who are screwing working people on the left and the right.

Let me go on record now and say that I don't see much "real world" difference if the Republicans take back the Congress in November.

What are they going to do, keep us mired in a war and waste all of our money?

NO MORE U.S. BASES ON GUAM






Pagat, a sacred site in Guam, has served as a center for the communal revitalization of the indigenous Chamorro people for millennia. Now, sixty-five years after the U.S. liberation of the tiny island (half the size of Okinawa) from imperial Japan—the U.S. military wants to transform this beloved gathering spot into a firing range. This threat to the sacred is one of many U.S. plans in its proposal to militarize even more of Guam, 30% of which is already covered with military bases.

For more info on Guam organizing look here

Sunday, July 25, 2010

AFGHAN WAR LOGS REVEALED

Afghanistan war logs: Massive leak of secret files exposes truth of occupation

By Nick Davies and David Leigh
http://www.guardian.co.uk/
Sunday 25 July 2010

The war logs reveal civilian killings by coalition forces, secret efforts to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, and discuss the involvement of Iran and Pakistan in supporting insurgents.

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama's "surge" strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

• How a secret "black" unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial.

• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.
• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

In a statement, the White House said the chaotic picture painted by the logs was the result of "under-resourcing" under Obama's predecessor, saying: "It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009."

The White House also criticised the publication of the files by Wikileaks: "We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us."

The logs detail, in sometimes harrowing vignettes, the toll on civilians exacted by coalition forces: events termed "blue on white" in military jargon. The logs reveal 144 such incidents.

Some of these casualties come from the controversial air strikes that have led to Afghan government protests, but a large number of previously unknown incidents also appear to be the result of troops shooting unarmed drivers or motorcyclists out of a determination to protect themselves from suicide bombers.

At least 195 civilians are admitted to have been killed and 174 wounded in total, but this is likely to be an underestimate as many disputed incidents are omitted from the daily snapshots reported by troops on the ground and then collated, sometimes erratically, by military intelligence analysts.

Bloody errors at civilians' expense, as recorded in the logs, include the day French troops strafed a bus full of children in 2008, wounding eight. A US patrol similarly machine-gunned a bus, wounding or killing 15 of its passengers, and in 2007 Polish troops mortared a village, killing a wedding party including a pregnant woman, in an apparent revenge attack.

Questionable shootings of civilians by UK troops also figure. The US compilers detail an unusual cluster of four British shootings in Kabul in the space of barely a month, in October/November 2007, culminating in the death of the son of an Afghan general. Of one shooting, they wrote: "Investigation controlled by the British. We are not able to get [sic] complete story."

A second cluster of similar shootings, all involving Royal Marine commandos in Helmand province, took place in a six-month period at the end of 2008, according to the log entries. Asked by the Guardian about these allegations, the Ministry of Defence said: "We have been unable to corroborate these claims in the short time available and it would be inappropriate to speculate on specific cases without further verification of the alleged actions."

Rachel Reid, who investigates civilian casualty incidents in Afghanistan for Human Rights Watch, said: "These files bring to light what's been a consistent trend by US and Nato forces: the concealment of civilian casualties. Despite numerous tactical directives ordering transparent investigations when civilians are killed, there have been incidents I've investigated in recent months where this is still not happening.

Accountability is not just something you do when you are caught. It should be part of the way the US and Nato do business in Afghanistan every time they kill or harm civilians." The reports, many of which the Guardian is publishing in full online, present an unvarnished and often compelling account of the reality of modern war.

Most of the material, though classified "secret" at the time, is no longer militarily sensitive. A small amount of information has been withheld from publication because it might endanger local informants or give away genuine military secrets. Wikileaks, whose founder, Julian Assange, obtained the material in circumstances he will not discuss, said it would redact harmful material before posting the bulk of the data on its "uncensorable" servers.

Wikileaks published in April this year a previously suppressed classified video of US Apache helicopters killing two Reuters cameramen on the streets of Baghdad, which gained international attention. A 22-year-old intelligence analyst, Bradley Manning, was arrested in Iraq and charged with leaking the video, but not with leaking the latest material. The Pentagon's criminal investigations department continues to try to trace the leaks and recently unsuccessfully asked Assange, he says, to meet them outside the US to help them. Assange allowed the Guardian to examine the logs at our request. No fee was involved and Wikileaks was not involved in the preparation of the Guardian's articles.

See much more here and here





Interview with Wikileaks Julian Assange

SPEECH FROM NAT'L PEACE CONFAB


Journalist Glen Ford speaking at this weekend's national peace conference in Albany, New York. Ford writes for the Black Agenda Report.

Many of the other speeches at the event can be found here

LOOKING FOR A FIGHT

Right now the U.S. military is practicing an invasion of North Korea. The U.S. and South Korean military have just begun war games called "Invincible Spirit" which will include about 8,000 military personnel from both countries.

North Korea and China are not happy as they witness the U.S. currently doubling its military presence in the region. These war games, ostensibly aimed at North Korea, are ultimately being done in order to show China that the U.S. will "manage and control" this part of the world.

"We resolutely oppose any activities in the Yellow Sea that may threaten China's security," said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman. Imagine if you would the howls of outrage if China was holding similar war game exercises off the coast of California. The politicians in America would be spitting on themselves as they screamed bloody murder. But when the U.S. does the same to other countries it is all "for the good".

Just last Friday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got on her rostrum and amped up the war talk saying, "Peaceful resolution of the issues on the Korean Peninsula will be possible only if North Korea fundamentally changes its behavior."

Translation: North Korea must surrender to the U.S. or they will never have a moment of peace.

The U.S. destroyed North Korea during the Korean War. In his new book called The Korean War, historian Bruce Cumings recalls the truth about the war that to this day has not seen a peace agreement. Instead a truce was declared on July 27, 1953 but the U.S. war "games" today are evidence enough that the "conflict" still rages on.

The New York Times just days ago reviewed the new book by Cumings. Here are some parts of the review.

Americans need to get past the idea, Mr. Cumings says, that the Korean War was a “discrete, encapsulated” story that began in 1950, when the United States intervened to help push the Communist north out of the south of Korea, and ended in 1953, after the war bogged down in a stalemate. The United States succeeded in containment, establishing the 2.5-mile-wide demilitarized zone that still runs through Korea’s middle, but failed miserably at the war for the north, an attempt at Communist rollback.

Mr. Cumings argues that the Korean War was a civil war with long, tangled historical roots, one in which America had little business meddling. He notes how “appallingly dirty” the war was. In terms of civilian slaughter, he declares, “our ostensibly democratic ally was the worst offender, contrary to the American image of the North Koreans as fiendish terrorists.”

Mr. Cumings likens the indiscriminate American bombing of North Korea to genocide. He writes that American soldiers took part in, or observed, civilian atrocities not dissimilar to those at My Lai. An official inquiry is needed into some of these events, he writes, for any kind of healing to begin. (He also writes that this war, during which nearly 37,000 American soldiers died, deserves a memorial as potent and serious as Maya Lin’s Vietnam memorial.)

Among the most important things to understand about North Korean behavior then and now, Mr. Cumings writes, is the longtime enmity between Korea and Japan. Japan took Korea as a colony in 1910, with America’s blessing, and replaced the Korean language with Japanese. Japan humiliated and brutalized Korea in other ways. (During World War II the Japanese Army forcibly turned tens of thousands of Korean women into sex slaves known as “comfort women.”) About this history Mr. Cumings writes, “Neither Korea nor Japan has ever gotten over it.”

North Korea, which is virulently anti-Japan, remains bitter and fearful of that country and of the United States. It will do whatever it can to stay out of the hands of South Korea, where leaders have long-standing historical ties to Japan.

Mr. Cumings, in “The Korean War,” details the north’s own atrocities, and acknowledges that current “North Korean political practice is reprehensible.” But he says that we view that country through “Orientalist bigotry,” seeing only its morbid qualities. We wrongly label the country Stalinist, he argues. “There is no evidence in the North Korean experience of the mass violence against whole classes of people or the wholesale ‘purge’ that so clearly characterized Stalinism,” he writes.

The most eye-opening sections of “The Korean War” detail America’s saturation bombing of Korea’s north. “What hardly any Americans know or remember,” Mr. Cumings writes, “is that we carpet-bombed the north for three years with next to no concern for civilian casualties.” The United States dropped more bombs in Korea (635,000 tons, as well as 32,557 tons of napalm) than in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. Our logic seemed to be, he says, that “they are savages, so that gives us the right to shower napalm on innocents.”

Witness the carnage in this passage from early in “The Korean War”: “Here was the Vietnam War we came to know before Vietnam — gooks, napalm, rapes, whores, an unreliable ally, a cunning enemy, fundamentally untrained G.I.’s fighting a war their top generals barely understood, fragging of officers, contempt for the know-nothing civilians back home, devilish battles indescribable even to loved ones, press handouts from Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters apparently scripted by comedians or lunatics, an ostensible vision of bringing freedom and liberty to a sordid dictatorship run by servants of Japanese imperialism.”


You'd think that Obama and the Pentagon had enough war on their hands at this time. But the U.S. military is currently running provocative war games not only near China and North Korea.

Similar military operations are underway in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman where the U.S. and its war allies have 100 ships on maneuvers. The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters is based just across the Gulf from Iran in Bahrain. There can be no doubt that the U.S. strategy is to create an incident with Iran in order to justify U.S. and Israeli attack on that nation.

And in the Caribbean, the U.S. has positioned some 5,000 troops in Costa Rica, just a stone's throw from Venezuela, under the pretext of doing "drug interdiction" operations. Clearly, just like the cases cited above, the U.S. is militarily surrounding and provoking Venezuela in hopes to justify the overthrow of the Hugo Chavez administration.

In the case of Iran and Venezuela we know that both those nations have significant supplies of oil. China is a huge importer of oil and thus a rival with the U.S. for declining supplies of fossil fuels. In the case of China the U.S. is developing the naval infrastructure to interdict China's oil importation by sea - thus "managing" their economic expansion.

The bully empire is on the lose and is looking for a fight. But back home in the U.S. the economy is collapsing under the weight of these global military operations. Something has to give - and it will be soon. We will have either total global war or the U.S. empire will collapse.

Which side are you on?