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....
- Name: Bruce K. Gagnon
- Location: Bath, Maine, United States
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Just today my son Julian, who grew up attending these events during his childhood, sent me an email with a link to a book written by Suelette Dreyfus with Research by Julian Assange that was published in 1997. The book was called Underground: Front Page. You can find the book here
Julian told me, "One of the debate topics for the Harvard tournament is about WikiLeaks and I've been doing a lot of research on Julian Assange. Here's a link to a book he worked on...read the first chapter!!!"
So I dutifully clicked on the link.
Much to my surprise I found that the authors began their book with an account of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice's 1989 campaign to oppose NASA's launch of the Galileo plutonium-238 space probe that garnered international media coverage. This was the first of three major nukes in space campaigns that I led (the others Ulysses in 1990 and Cassini in 1997).
The authors wrote:
For weeks, the protesters had been out in force, demonstrating and seizing media attention. Things had become very heated. On Saturday, 7 October, sign-wielding activists fitted themselves out with gas masks and walked around on street corners in nearby Cape Canaveral in protest. At 8 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, NASA started the countdown for the Thursday blast-off. But as Atlantis's clock began ticking toward take-off, activists from the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice demonstrated at the centre's tourist complex.
That these protests had already taken some of the shine off NASA's bold space mission was the least of the agency's worries. The real headache was that the Florida Coalition told the media it would `put people on the launchpad in a non-violent protest'. The coalition's director, Bruce Gagnon, put the threat in folksy terms, portraying the protesters as the little people rebelling against a big bad government agency. President Jeremy Rivkin of the Foundation on Economic Trends, another protest group, also drove a wedge between `the people' and `NASA's people'. He told UPI, `The astronauts volunteered for this mission. Those around the world who may be the victims of radiation contamination have not volunteered.'
I'll always remember the 1989 launch of Galileo because it was delayed over and over again for about a week. The international media was gathered at the Kennedy Space Center tourist area with nothing much to do so each day during that week we'd assemble as many activists as we could get and hold another vigil and news conference which helped us tremendously to get the word out around the world about the deadly plutonium space launch.
In chapter 1 of this book is a whole section about a computer worm that got planted inside of NASA's computers during this very time. Was the Galileo delay due to a hacker trying to help us stop that launch? Was a hacker also trying to symbolically "sit on the launch pad"? We've got to learn more about this story. I've already pointed it out to journalist Karl Grossman who helped us break the Galileo story open in 1989.
The authors wrote about NASA beginning to suspect that the worm inside their computers was put there by protesters. (In fact at the time I don't think I even had a computer or knew how to send email.)
NASA was working in an information void when it came to WANK [worm planted by hackers]. Some staff knew of the protesters' action down at the Space Center, but nothing could have prepared them for this. NASA officials were confident enough about a link between the protests against Galileo and the attack on NASA's computers to speculate publicly that the two were related. It seemed a reasonable likelihood, but there were still plenty of unanswered questions.
It just goes to show that you never know who is paying attention to your efforts. Who could have known that Julian Assange, who has become such a big name due to his courageous work with Wiki Leaks, would be moved enough by our campaign to feature it in the first chapter of his book? Maybe it was because it was a classic story about out-of-control technology and the "little peoples" reaction. Any way you cut it one has to acknowledge that it has a nice twist.
One side story should be told here as well. My son Julian was nine years old in 1989 and one day I came home and he had my gas mask on. In his most serious voice he told me, "Don't worry Dad, if Galileo blows up I could wear this gas mask for the rest of my life." He was trying to make me feel better. His words cut right to my heart and my soul and virtually every day since that time I have stayed true to the cause because I believe that no child, my own or anyone else's, should ever have to think of living in a radioactive wasteland wearing a gas mask for their whole life.
- I am getting packed up and ready to head to Massachusetts tomorrow for the Walk for a New Spring that will lightly touch Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island during the Feb 13-28 trek. The theme of the walk will be: End All War: Building peace and human solidarity in a disarmed world. MB was going to drive me on Saturday but has been sick so now my plan is to take a bus from Maine to Boston and then catch another bus west from there to Amherst, Massachusetts. All in all it will be about a nine-hour trip.
- Our Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home meets here at the Addams-Melman House tomorrow from noon to 3:30 pm. We begin with a pot luck lunch. It's time to crank things up again in our state as the governor and new Republican controlled legislature are getting ready to gut social progress like a hunter does after shooting a deer. Sadly the labor unions, social service organizations, environmental groups, and Democrats are sort of frozen like a deer in the headlights as the hunter draws a bead on their heads. The governor is ready to pull the trigger and up to this point any real signs of fight-back are hard to find. We figure it would be a good time to insert the message that the now $3 billion that Mainers have paid in war taxes since 2001 could have gone a long way to solve our fiscal crisis. But we don't just have to look at the past spending - it's the future war spending that we can actually do something about.
- The chart at the top is quite telling. Our war spending is at an all-time high and the Obama team of corporate raiders understand that they have to quell growing public support for substantial Pentagon cuts, so they have announced what sounds like welcome news. CNN reports, "The administration is expected to propose a $78 billion reduction in defense spending over the next five years. Unfortunately, there's a lot more to the story. First of all, the cuts might prove illusory. The federal government appropriates money one year at a time, and the vast majority of that $78 billion reduction would take place in 2014 and 2015, when there will be a new Secretary of Defense and possibly a new president."
Call it a shell game. Call it subterfuge. Call it illusion. Call it the magician at work again. Just call it for what it is - a sham.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
SOUND A GLOBAL CALL FOR PEACE WITH JUSTICE
The global corporate oligarchy must be terrified about allowing the Egyptian people, and their supporters all around the world, to have such a resounding victory. Following the quick results of protests in Tunisia, that helped provide the spark to light the fires in Egypt, the ruling elites want to slow this train down. If Mubarak was to depart now, the fear is likely that other fires will get started in other suffering hearts and minds around the world.
Better to throw some cold water onto this raging fire lest it become much more out of control. The decision has likely been made to do everything possible to discourage and frustrate the people in Egypt and beyond.
Leaders in countries like the U.S. will maintain they are on the "side of the people" and have "no control over Mubarak". But I don't buy it. The U.S. does not like seeing its well supplied military dictators toppled so "easily" by determined and non-violent street protests. This would set a bad example for the empire's other client states - and particularly for the colonized people living in the U.S.
But the real power lies in the hands of the Egyptian people these days and they should continue to keep doing what they are doing. It appears that Egyptian protesters are calling for even bigger marches on Friday. The worst thing the Egyptian people, and their supporters across the globe, could do now would be to back off. Now is the time to apply even more pressure and to widen the demands.
Not only should we all be supporting democracy and freedom but we should also be calling for a reordering of domestic priorities everywhere - stop the expansion of militarism - fund human needs - return our civil liberties. This should be the call of all nations and all people.
Maritime Security in Northeast Asia has been a common topic of conversation for a while now, and with recent escalations in the naval arms race, the North Korean threat to South Korea seems more real than ever. In the midst of the looming possibility of war, the people of Jeju find it difficult to accept their land’s fate as the new home of a large naval base.
The South Korean government approved construction of the naval base in May of 2009, although talk about the issue started in the early 1990’s. Due to resistance, however, little development has been done. The majority of the people on the island agreed with the central government that a base was needed, just no one could agree where, until now. Actually, not everyone has agreed. Those able to force the issue have.
Eugene Craig Campbell lives near Gangjeong, the proposed site of the base, and frequently visits the beautiful shoreline area.
“There are two motives here, one of the motives is NIMBY, not in my back yard, the other motive is, well, anti-military or at least anti-military on Jeju. I’m on the NIMBY side, but at least I respect that the base has to be. If isn’t going to be here it’s going to be somewhere else. I just wish it were somewhere else that’s all.”
Campbell also said he has grown to trust Koreans and their insight. After all, this, Gangjeong village, is where he has made his home. Campbell said although his feelings regard NIMBY, the idea itself is harmful to the greater good.
Many of the people of Gangjeong have been adamantly against the base since realizing their village’s destiny as its new home. Protesters shaved their heads, cried, and pleaded for reconsideration. Several protesters were taken to jail and accused the police of brutality. The Environmental News Service reported that a 70-year-old man hit his head on a rock after being pushed by police officers.
When the newly-elected Governor Woo Keun Min came into office on July 1, he halted construction due to unresolved issues. This was considered another setback for base development after the Seoul Administrative Court rejected a lawsuit by the village claiming the Ministry of Defense approved construction without completing an environmental impact study. The results of a final vote in Gangjeong, however, showed that 62 percent of eligible voters chose to accept the proposal unless another location chose to house the base.
Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He and several other representatives opposed to the base visited the island to express concern at a panel held in early 2010 by the Gangjeong residents. The panel consisted of individuals from Guam, the Philippines, and Okinawa, all locations affected by naval base construction.
“When we were out on the coast today and the mayor was showing us the pictures of the fish and the coral, he was crying. You know, they are not just fighting for their land to grow tangerines, not for just their way of life but they are fighting for the fish, for the coral, for the rocks, a kind of depth of consciousness that I have seen very few times in life as an organizer,” said Gagnon.
Jeju is the only place in the world to achieve UNESCO “triple crown status” because of its remarkable geography. The former Roh Moo Hyun government also designated Jeju a “peace island” as a form of apology for the April 3rd 1948 Massacre.
Gangjeong village leader, Kang Dong Kyun said at the panel that bringing the base to the village would make the island a target if there were ever a conflict and that the notion of a base here negates the idea of an island of peace. Kang went on a 14-day hunger strike in protest.
Kim Myung Yeo is a 43-year-old Jeju resident. He said he is in favor of a naval presence on the island for development opportunities and military strategy, but only if the location is agreed on by everyone.
“Those in charge of bringing the naval base here must follow the will of the citizens and avoid destroying the environment,” said Kim.
Kim also said he would not want a US military presence on the island.
Gagnon said the base is provocative and dangerous, that it will turn the island of peace into a projection of power for the “US Empire.”
“It’s important to know that the US has recognized that it can’t compete with China economically anymore, but the theory is that if you can control their access to oil then you will hold the key to their economic engine, and thus be able to manage or control China. And so as it turns out, China imports 80 percent of its oil via ships, right along, guess where — the sea way just between China and Jeju Island,” said Gangnon.
Jeju is in the center of Northeast Asia, which gives the island a political and geographic advantage. To the east, the island faces Tsushima Island and the Japanese territory of Janggi. To the west, Jeju faces Shanghai across the East China Sea. The South China Sea lies south of the island while mainland South Korea lies to the north.
The naval base built on Jeju was earmarked for 97.5 billion won, or $86 million.
The new base will be home to up to 20 Aegis destroyer warships. The Korea Times reports that the Aegis combat system, built by Lockheed Martin, is the world’s premier surface-to-air and fire-control system, capable of conducting simultaneous operations against aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, ships and submarines. Only a handful of countries, including the United States, Spain, Japan, South Korea and Norway, deploy Aegis warships.
“It’s my contention, and this is shared by many other analysts, that the United States is massively expanding its military within this particular region in order to develop the military capability to be able to essentially hold China hostage if it wish to. Now all this sounds wild and crazy and oh my god this is conspiracy theory, the US wouldn’t do anything like that,” said Gagnon. “But you should know that the space command has been annually war gaming a first strike attack on China set in the year 2016, and so they are actually moving through the process of creating both the theoretical military engagement plan, but also more importantly the military capability, the actual boots on the ground, the ships in the ocean, the planes in the air to put this kind of military strategy in motion.”
United States Forces Korea denied comment, stating that the base was South Korean and all questions should be directed towards the ROK Ministry of National Defense, who also denied comment.
Eugene Campbell worked 13 years at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul and six years for the Korea Institute of National Unification. He said the purpose of Korean blue-water naval capability is not to oppose China but to help protect Korea’s vital sea lanes coming in from the Middle East.
“Washington has long been demanding Japan and Korea to take their fair share of responsibility for that,” said Campbell. He denied Gagnon's theories.
Governor Woo said in November that he had considered the concerned parties and is now on board with the central government’s chosen site in Gangjeong. However, on Dec. 22, the proposed date to begin construction, 34 protesters including priests, citizens, and local politicians were arrested on site in an attempt to stop construction.
The protesters were held for 12 hours and then released. Sung Hee Choi represents the Gangjeong villagers resisting the base. She said that although the decision has been made and their voices may seem weak, the struggle is still real.
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
THE GREAT TRAGEDY: OBAMA'S BETRAYAL OF DEMOCRACY
The longtime Middle East correspondent of The Independent newspaper in London joins Democracy Now from Cairo to talk about the popular uprising ongoing across Egypt, its regional implications, and how Obama should respond. “[The protesters] are asking for nothing less than Americans expect in their own lives,” Fisk says.
STRATCOM - RUNS THE WORLD
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
The House measure which was sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) failed on a 277-to-148 vote. Twenty-six Republicans voted with 122 Democrats to oppose the measure, while 67 Democrats voted with 210 Republicans to back it. Ten members did not vote.
The measure would have extended three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire on Monday, Feb. 28, unless Congress moves to reauthorize them. One of the provisions authorizes the FBI to continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; the second allows the government to access “any tangible items,” such as library records, in the course of surveillance; and the third is a “lone wolf” provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act that allows for the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group
Republican leaders vow to bring it up again soon to try to pass these key provisions. Some of the new Tea Party Repubs in the House helped defeat these provisions indicating they might follow the Ron Paul libertarian line on these issues.
Here are those that voted No.
Jackson Lee (TX)
Johnson, E. B.
Sánchez, Linda T.
TIMEOUT FOR SPORTSNIKS
By Dave Zirin
But it wasn’t just the film tribute that reminded viewers of the Reagan 1980s. The sheer tonnage of militaristic bombast with patriotic trimmings was like Top Gun on steroids and may have seemed over the top to the Gipper himself. Viewers were treated to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, coupled with Marines marching on the field, coupled with that twit from Glee singing “America the Beautiful,” coupled with more shots of the troops, coupled with a damaged Christina Aguilera stumbling through the National Anthem. By the time it was done, I was ready to get an American Flag tattoo and send my taxes to Hosni Mubarak like a Fox-Approved Good American. But fortunately for my sanity, I was watching the game with the DC Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against War at their annual Demilitarized Super Bowl Party. The vets, who booed every time Fox tried to use the troops to build its brand, made it clear that real war in Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t have a damn thing to do with what the broadcast was selling. As Geoff Millard of Iraq Vets Against the War said to me, “We love sports but hate the way it’s used and hate the way the soldiers are used to sell war.”
And yet somewhere amidst the noise, the smoke, the Reagans and the Black Eyed Peas, a football game actually broke out, and it was a dandy. In every previous Super Bowl, no team had ever come back from more than a ten-point deficit, and before you could blink, the Steelers were down 18, 21-3. This was thanks to two costly interceptions by Pittsburgh quarterback and twice-accused rapist Ben Roethlisberger. An electric interception return for a touchdown by Green Bay safety Nick Collins reminded a lot of us why we love this game in the first place. But Pittsburgh is a team with two dozen players who were part of their Super Bowl championship team two years ago and they refused to quit. The game wound down with Green Bay leading 31-25 and Pittsburgh having the ball with just two minutes to play. Green Bay’s defense held and a fantastic game ended as the Pack came away with the win. Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers was absolutely brilliant completing 24-of-39 passes for 304 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and winning the MVP.
Yet for all the celebration of the Packers and their history, there was one brazen decision made by the show’s producers and announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman that was an insult to everything the team stands for. Often, the Super Bowl includes numerous shots of the two teams’ owners fretting in their luxury boxes like neurotic Julius Caesars. But the Packers are a team without an owner. They’re a community-run nonprofit owned by 112,000 fans. Rather than celebrate that fact, Fox didn’t mention the Pack’s unique ownership structure once. They also then didn’t include shots of the Rooney family, the most celebrated ownership family in the NFL.
After the game, during the traditional passing of the Lombardi Trophy to the winning team’s owner, the award was handed to the Packers’ “CEO and Chief Executive Officer” Mike Murphy, who barely looks old enough to shave. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, as he threatens to lock the players out, clearly wants to hide the truth that the Packers have no single billionaire owner. They want it hidden because the team from Green Bay stand as a living breathing example that if you take the profit motive out of sports, you can get more than a team to be proud of: you get a Super Bowl Champion. It aint Tahrir Square, but it’s something, in our over-corporatized, hyper-commercialized sports world, to cheer. That is reason enough to celebrate the fact that the Lombardi Trophy has finally come home to Titletown.
Named of the UTNE Reader's "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World," Dave Zirin is the sports editor for The Nation magazine. Zirin is a frequent guest on MSNBC, ESPN, and Democracy Now. He also hosts his own weekly Sirius XM show, Edge of Sports Radio. His books include What's My Name Fool? (Haymarket Books), A People's History of Sports in the United States (the New Press) and the forthcoming Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love (Scribner). You can find all his work at http://www.edgeofsports.com/
Egyptian TV interview with Internet activist Wael Ghonim who was arrested and detained for 12 days.
Monday, February 07, 2011
HOLDING OBAMA TO ACCOUNT
Ralph Nader holds Obama by the same standards he has held all other U.S. presidents. He holds them to their word and to the truth. Nader is one of the few statesmen we have in this country.
- I am feeling marginally better today after spending most of the weekend in bed surfing the Internet on my laptop. You can see I went a bit wild posting various videos on the blog. What else can I do when I am sick? Today I have a bunch of work to get caught up with but my mind is not ready to focus so I keep drifting off and have to really force myself to keep going. Luckily I had long ago scheduled a doctor appointment for today to take my annual physical so I can have the doctor check me out real good. (Or is the proper word well? My friend and editor Selma will let me know which is correct I am sure.)
- I did a blog rant (January 11) after the recent Tucson shooting and sent it to our local newspaper along with a photo of a kid playing with a machine gun mounted on a military vehicle. I never heard from the paper and figured it was rejected. But last Thursday it was in the paper as an Op-Ed along with the photo. You can see it online here (without the photo).
- The Portland Press Herald ran a story in recent days about a Maine link to Frank Wisner who was the former U.S Ambassador to Egypt who Obama just sent to meet with Mubarak. He arrived in Cairo the day before Mubarak turned the thugs loose onto the non-violent resistance. As it turns out Wisner is the brother of a prominent Maine peace and justice activist. Wisner was on the board of Enron and AIG. See what Democracy Now has to say about Wisner.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
John Trudell is an acclaimed poet, national recording artist, actor and activist whose international following reflects the universal language of his words, work and message. Trudell (Santee Sioux) was a spokesperson for the Indian of All Tribes occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971. He then worked with the American Indian Movement (AIM), serving as Chairman of AIM from 1973 to 1979. In February of 1979, a fire of unknown origin killed Trudell's wife, three children and mother-in-law. It was through this horrific tragedy that Trudell began to find his voice as an artist and poet, writing, in his words, "to stay connected to this reality."