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, October 16, 2010

GROWING U.S BASE IN SOUTH KOREA


Video from South Korea, with English sub-titles, about U.S. military base expansion at Pyeongtaek and the impact on the local residents.

A second runway is being installed at the base and major land grabs by the U.S. military have taken even more farm land from villagers.

This expanded U.S. base will be used for regional power projection as the U.S. begins to create an Asian-Pacific NATO to surround China. The Pentagon is also deploying Patriot (PAC-3) missile offense systems here at the base.

PLANTING SEEDS IN JAMMU & KASHMIR


I spoke to 100 people last night at the Jammu Club. They were mostly professional people - doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, military officers, political leaders, and bank employees (the banks are nationalized in India).

Sitting next to me on the dais was Mohammad Aslam Goni of the National Conference Party who is the former Advocate General for the Jammu & Kashmir state and currently political advisor to the Union Minister of Renewable Resources. I knew he was an important man when he was escorted into the hall by about a dozen men.

Following my talk Goni was asked to respond and the newspaper (one of two that covered the event last night) reported, "Goni expressed his disagreement with the chief guest ..... He [Goni] maintained that China and other neighboring countries have strengthened themselves in the race of defence and in compulsion the Indian government was focusing on defence. He added that Indian government was shaking hand with U.S. government for the safety of the country."

Not reported by the press was Goni's statement that even if satellites had to be destroyed and space junk made space unusable, then it was still worth it as long as India could protect itself from terrorism and outside aggression.

After he finished his remarks and returned to his seat, Goni leaned over and whispered to me, "I had to tell the truth". I shook his hand and whispered back, "Me too."

I actually liked Goni very much. We are of similar ages and I felt he was listening closely to my words. After the talk was over he invited Rao and I to come to his home this morning for tea.

A car has been furnished by a local politician for us while we are in Jammu. Sitting in the front seat has been a machine gun toting policeman. Everywhere you turn in Jammu there are police with guns and road blocks. In recent months there has been much unrest in Kashmir as stone throwing youth and growing members of the Muslim majority population demand independence. India has long promised Kashmir "autonomy" but the public has grown increasingly impatient. Some blame Pakistan for stirring up the youth. So far during this recent turmoil 111 people have been killed by the Indian government forces who have been trying to repress the dissent.

Goni lives behind guarded gates in a beautiful home with lavish gardens. Goni, a lawyer by trade, was waiting outside for us in his garden where we were served mango juice and nuts. He immediately said that he enjoyed the talk the evening before, he had been sick in bed all day with a fever, but had received five phone calls urging him to come so he felt he must do so. During the two and one-half hours we spent at his home were were served a brunch and we discussed the Kashmir situation and U.S. foreign policy.

I asked Goni why India would want to follow a sinking ship (the U.S. military empire). He responded that in this unstable world India must choose between China (who attacked India in 1962 over a border dispute - Rao tells me that some believe that India might have been the one to instigate the trouble) or the United States.

Goni then told us that our peace in space message was prophetic and that he felt his words the night before had to be uttered because they were essentially the official position of the national government. He suggested that India was only interested in defending itself from possible aggression from Pakistan or China.

I reminded Goni, as I had told the audience last night, that it is the U.S. who has been helping Pakistan develop its military capability for many years. I remember back in 1974 while in the Air Force I was stationed in Hawaii under the Air Force Headquarters Command. My job was to maintain the personnel records of Air Force officers assigned throughout the Asian-Pacific region. One day I rifled through all the records of these officers and discovered they all had the same job description - they were assigned as embassy staff in each Asian-Pacific capital and their task was to serve as liaison between the host government and American weapons corporations. In other words they were salesmen for the military industrial complex and funded by the American taxpayers. Prominent among these locations was the U.S. embassy in Pakistan.

I learned alot listening to Goni today and left feeling close to him. Several times he brought up key points from my talk so it was apparent he had heard me and had also reflected on what I had to say. At one point near the end of our meeting I asked him to think about the satellites in space each time he uses his cell phone. If we allow the arms race to expand into space I said, the amount of space debris is likely to destroy the satellites you count on for your phone and your TV.

Tonight we have been invited to the home of the leader of the Jammu Communist Party for dinner.

We were supposed to head north the 300 kilometers to Srinagar early this morning but the invitation from Goni changed those plans. So we will proceed north at 7:00 am tomorrow for more meetings and talks.

Slowly, much like Johnny Appleseed, we are planting knowledge and concern about space issues across India.

Friday, October 15, 2010

ENTRAPMENT BY FBI GROWS


Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their final arguments this week in the trial of the Newburgh Four, a high-profile case that has made national headlines as a potent example of so-called "homegrown terror." The defense has argued that the defendants were entrapped by government agents and not predisposed to commit a terrorist crime.

For several months, Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat and Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films traveled through Muslim communities in New York and New Jersey to track the Newburgh case and two others. In all three, Muslim men were arrested on terrorism charges. In all three, no terrorist crime was actually committed. And all three cases relied heavily on hundreds of hours of surveillance recorded by a paid government informant.

IMPACT OF FLOODS NOW TAKE HOLD

Thursday, October 14, 2010

TOILETS NOT STAR WARS

  • This is what the sleeper car looks like that I have been riding throughout India. I sleep on the top rack. The car is air conditioned and the curtains close. Not alot of room to move around but more comfortable than you might think.

  • India is a nuclear power but 79% of the rural population and 46% of city-dwellers have no toilets. You wonder how the country can afford to join the U.S. Star Wars program as a "junior partner"?

  • When you wake up on the train workers go up and down the aisle calling out, Chai tea, chai tea"....it really sounds wonderful and the tea tastes great. I've had alot of tea since I've been here and love it.

  • India's hosting of the Commonwealth Games has been the big story in the media while here. Corruption appears to have been rampant as money to build and staff the games was diverted off to line the pockets of certain people. The Secretary General of the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee in India caused quite a stir with his statement that "they [the rest of the world & the media] may have one standard of hygiene and we may have another." Oops!

  • The food has been great. I've eaten virtually everything that I am given (those who know me won't be surprised by that). I particularly love the breads.

  • Our train arrived three hours late in Jammu from Agra. Sat on the tracks for at least an hour outside the city before heading in for the final leg. I've been reading the book by Admiral Bhagwat called "The Eye Opening As I Saw". A very fascinating learning experience to get the inside view from a high-level military man as he gives his views on U.S. corporate/military strategy; India's surrendering its independence and autonomy to the U.S.; China's role in the world; the oil wars; and a whole lot more. Once I get a chance I'll post some of his golden words.

  • I love that expression...the other day in Nagpur a student was asked to sum up my talk, as is the custom, and she thanked me for my "golden" words...... very nice indeed.

  • One last thing. I saw a bunch of emails about Obama's Department of Energy running a sub-critical nuclear weapons test. This pretty well indicates that he is absolutely not serious about getting rid of nuclear weapons. One more time he screws his base and he does it right before the November elections. Can anyone doubt that Obama works for the CIA?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TAJ MAHAL & DENGUE FEVER IN AGRA

October 13

I am in Agra now and yesterday Rao took me to see the Taj Mahal. It was just a short motorized rickshaw ride from our hotel and was quite crowded as there is a tourist festival going on at this time.

To say that the place is impressive is an understatement. Completed around 1653, the Taj Mahal took 22 years to build and was created by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is widely considered as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and stands as a symbol of eternal love.. The Taj Mahal is an architectural wonder but the small detailed work on the inside really got my attention. I found the colorful tiny bits of stones, like tourquoise, onyx, amazonite, and cornelian that are embedded in the white marble to create images of flowers, to be beautiful and really fascinated me to imagine the work involved.

Last night we had a late dinner meeting with eight members of Indian Doctors for Peace & Development. This group is connected internationally to IPPNW and is regarded as one of the more active peace organizations inside of India. In this very informal setting I was able to review virtually the entire space warfare issue and they had many questions about India's role and what they could do to help. I asked them to consider making financial support for Rao's national student organizing effort a priority, telling them that on his meager railroad worker pension he was doing most of this travel and educational work using his own resources. They appeared to agree that this was something they could easily help with.

I was particularly impressed with the leader of the group. At the end of the evening he made a strong statement about the efforts now underway by American corporations to buy out Indian drug and agricultural companies. All those present agreed that the growing corporate domination of their government was a frightening prospect for their future. One doctor, who owns a local private hospital, told us that dengue fever and malaria were now an epidemic in Agra and that the federal government was doing little to help deal with this situation. The worsening divide between rich and poor inside India is further evidence that corporate greed was having a major negative impact on their ability to support human development.

The obvious implications of India's participation in the U.S. Star Wars program are more suffering for people already living in grinding poverty. These doctors understand that and I believe we have made some friends here. On the drive back to our hotel after the dinner one of the doctors told me that I was a clearly "a human being" and not what he considered to be a typical American. I appreciated that complement very much.

At 5:00 pm today we board the train to head north for Jammu in Kashmir. There is much unrest there now as the long unresolved Pakistan-India territorial conflict still rages. Rao says Kashmir is the most beautiful place in the world. I am ready to see it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TALKING WITH HIGH-TECH STUDENTS IN THE CITY OF TRAGEDY


October 12

The man in the photo above was living 7 kilometers away from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India on June 3, 1984 when at midnight a leak released deadly toxic gases into the air that drifted with the winds. The immediate human death toll was around 3,000 as 36 of the 56 municipal wards of Bhopal were impacted (approximately 600,000 of the nearly 900,000 people in the city have suffered various internal injuries). Today this man's face is scared and he, like many others, suffer injuries for which that have never been adequately compensated. To date he has only received $1,000 from Union Carbide.

Retired Army Colonel N. P. Dixit who hosted us throughout this very busy day in Bhopal took us inside the now abandoned Union Carbide plant. Dixit was in charge of the Army unit that loaded thousands of dead bodies into trucks right after the accident. Col. Dixit had to get a permit in order for us to get inside the still guarded but decaying plant.

A court case against Union Carbide on behalf of the victims is still pending. After 25 years of suffering and waiting, the victims, who have organized themselves to fight for proper compensation and treatment, are frustrated and angry at Union Carbide and the U.S. government.

To date the corporation has never apologized to the people of Bhopal despite the strong evidence that the tragic accident was caused by poor maintenance of the facility by the company.

The day began when Rao and I got off the train just after 6:00 am when it arrived in Bhopal. I slept for maybe two hours during the long bumpy all-night train ride from Nagpur. We were met at the station by several students from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) and were taken to the college guesthouse where we had breakfast and a chance for a shower. Soon after we finished eating Col. Dixit appeared with a small entourage and took us on a frenzied half-hour car ride through crowded and chaotic streets to a college on the outskirts of the city. When we arrived at the Bansal College of Technology we were immediately taken to a large meeting room filled with 200 students. After the usual formalities and introductions I spoke to the students about the space work of the Global Network and answered their good questions.

After the talk a group of about ten professors and administrators from the college gathered along with our party for a half-hour discussion about the possibility of the college hosting a future Global Network space organizing conference. They were extremely interested in doing so and Rao promised to follow-up with them in the near future.

When we left we raced back to the NIT where I again spoke to over 200 students being trained in high technology. Local newspapers covered the talk and I was later told that the TV station that filmed part of my speech was from a national network. Following a very lively question session several students approached Rao and told him they wanted to help the Global Network raise consciousness about space warfare issues in their country.

This was my appeal to the students at both colleges. We need your help if we are to prevent the arms race from moving into space. How can the people in a "democratic" society like the U.S. or India participate in a debate about whether their taxes should be used to build space weapons technology if they don't have a clue about the issue? We need students, especially those at technical colleges, to help us teach the public about the space issue.

In discussions following the talk at the NIT the professors and administrators expressed interest in also hosing a future Global Network space conference at their institution (which I was told is the 2nd leading technology institute in the country.) Col. Dixit, who showed great interest and support for the idea of the Global Network conference, pushed both colleges to commit to offering their facilities. His suggestion was that over the course of a weekend, conference events could be scheduled one day at one of the colleges and then on the second day at the other. That way more students and faculty could be involved.

This busy day also included a sit-down interview with a reporter at The Hindustan newspaper and then a half-hour meeting with the state cabinet minister who represents Bhopal. This meeting with the conservative (BJP) party member did not bear much fruit as he kept saying he agreed with us about the need to keep space for peace but then on the other hand maintained that if the Indian military said they needed space weapons to deal with China or Pakistan then they should have them, as well as any other military hardware the U.S. could sell them. India is not an aggressive nation he maintained, these weapons would be used to maintain the peace.

Of course that is always the sentiment of those who seek greater funding for miliarization. Since I have been in India I've heard much talk about their hopes to become a "Superpower" and some view the development of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons as one key ingredient in the stew that would make it possible for India to join the club of mega-warrior states.

I am writing this on the train again as we continue our journey north. We boarded the train at 8:00 pm and will arrive in Agra at 4:45 am. If I am lucky I will get an hour or so of sleep. But listening to the hyperactive five year old in the bunk below me gives me little confidence I will be lucky tonight.

Yes I am just a bit grumpy…..but I will get over it soon enough.

Monday, October 11, 2010

THE ADMIRAL SPEAKS TRUTH TO POWER

I am writing from Nagpur on Oct 10 but not certain when I will be able to post this, as I have no Internet connection at this time. I am staying in a guesthouse that the state ministers use when they come to Nagpur each year for the state assembly that meets for a couple of weeks. It is a humble room with bed, two chairs, a desk, and an Indian-style bathroom. Lucky for me it is air conditioned, as Nagpur seems to have a reputation as one of the hottest places in India. Nagpur is located about mid-center in the country.

I arrived here early yesterday morning after a 5:50 am flight from New Delhi. The plane stopped in Raipur first to drop off, and pick up, more passengers as it made its three-legged route between the cities.

Our Global Network board member J. Narayana Rao was waiting for me in Nagpur when I arrived. Rao is our key contact in the country, a retired railroad union man, who discovered the space issue some years ago while on our mailing list. He was organizing the GN’s international space conference that was to be held this weekend but was not allowed by the Indian government, which had to give permission under their archaic definition of democracy.

So instead, Rao quickly changed course and turned the event into a national conference, which successfully began late yesterday afternoon with more than 200 people attending.

I had lunch yesterday with the man who was invited to be the keynote speaker for the conference. His name is Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, the former Chief of the Indian Navy. This tall and slender man, with shining dark eyes, is a breath of fresh air. I learned that he had been “sacked” from his post a dozen years ago for speaking out against government policies. He was to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff but the U.S. opposed his appointment and made sure he was forced out of power.

Two local newspapers this morning carried stories from a news conference Bhagwat held after his talk yesterday to the conference. One headline read: “Defence is the biggest corrupt sector” and the other “U.S. still funding terrorist outfits.” From the latter article: “Bureaucrats play stooges to arms manufacturers, deals are signed with greased palms, defence continues to be the most corrupt sector and government is feigning innocence. Nothing has changed. On the international front, U.S. continues to fund terrorist outfits including those in Pakistan,” Bhagwat said.

A truly independent man, Bhagwat confirmed my long held belief that the corporate international oligarchy is now taking over virtually all the governments of the world. The goal? Corporate domination of resources and markets with expanding militarism to be the tool of control.

Here are a few bits from his excellent speech last night:

“It is the policies of this [global corporate] oligarchy which determine priorities of national budgetary allocations on weapons systems and their expansion into space to target the planet earth, and for use in the oceans, and the seabed.

“As we see the world order today, the material conditions of the people from one continent to the other, the direct consequences of colonialism, breeding predatory wars for resources and markets, and conflicts within nations ….to further consolidate an extremely exploitative, parasitical and colonial regime to crush the ‘untermenshens’ or sub-humans which is the expression for the ordinary people of this planet, as never before at any time in world history. In our own country, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had described these conditions as the ‘terror of hunger and unemployment’, thinking they were inherent characteristics of those times in colonial India and would be eradicated when freedom was won!

“We are seeing a greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. We are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. I am convinced that we have reached the decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.

“A ‘Permanent War’ system nurtured by a permanent ‘War Economy’, fed by the predatory practices of Big banks and the multi-national corporations has led to the establishment of the National Security State which in turn advances the private interest of the financial oligarchy. The three golden rules, therefore, are US/NATO global military presence, global projection of military power and the use of that force in one conflict or the other to threaten the ‘lesser people’ of the world with ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ – including in space. The ruling classes are actually an alliance of the ‘Transnational Capitalist Class’, which delivers to itself profit, power and privilege through policy control and weaponisation.

“Either the Transnational Capitalist Class alliance self-destructs, compelled by the conscious mobilization of the working people in solidarity across the continents, those who oppose war and stand solidly together in a counterforce on the side of humanity, or we go further downhill the slope of lower depths, into an abyss. For every person there are always two choices in life: to accept things as they are or to accept the responsibility to bring about change – from a war economy to a political economy of peace to share, to preserve our environment and to belong to the commons in which every being has an equal stake for our minimum needs.”

Following his talk we showed the new documentary Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space. At the end I was besieged by many people that wanted a copy of the film.

Rao was particularly thrilled that about 60 students from colleges and universities across the country had come for the conference. He has been traveling across India for the past five years promoting the space issues work of the Global Network and it appears that his efforts are bearing fruit. I was very impressed by the sharpness and serious character of the students present and after the film was over I met professors from these same schools across the nation who also had come to Nagpur. They were teachers/students from many disciplines such as: political science, business, pharmacy, commerce, metallurgy and engineering. And these are just the few that I met.

Today the conference resumed and I spoke about the new “Strategic Partnership” between the U.S. and India. Increasingly the Pentagon is drawing the Indian military into the space weaponization game as a way to help create a military alliance against China.

In one session two women students spoke about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the links between nuclear power and building nuclear weapons. One of the young women, a fiery speaker, was so impressive that I invited her to accompany Rao to the U.S. next year for the GN’s 2011 international space conference. She said that she would be happy to come along.

At the end of today’s conference I was approached by a group of students and their professor from a social work college in Nagpur to tell me they were excited about my planned visit to their school tomorrow. In addition, a group of four people from Bhopal, where I will visit next, told me they wanted to welcome me in advance of my visit.

Rao and I will take the night train from Nagpur to Bhopal on October 11. I have long known of the Union Carbide accident there years ago that killed thousands of local citizens. I’m sure I will learn more about the famous disaster and look forward to that visit.

I will post more when I can but wireless connection is a rare find here. So far I have been luck to get online by a metallurgy professor at a Nagpur college.