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, May 07, 2011

STANDING OUTSIDE OF BATH IRON WORKS

The current view of the coastline on Jeju Island where Navy base is being built. These rocks are to be covered in cement for piers to dock warships like the Aegis destroyer.

The Navy's proposed vision of the base on Jeju Island where Aegis destroyers will be ported


There was a huge throng of people lined up outside of Bath Iron Works (BIW) by 8:30 am this morning when our protest of the latest "christening" of another Aegis destroyer began. By the time we had our closing circle at 10:00 am most of the people had entered the shipyard. It was by far the largest crowd I'd ever seen during my eight years of protesting these events since moving to Maine.

It was obvious to us that the Osama bin Laden killing had swelled the nationalistic pride and driven large numbers of people to what normally has become another ho-hum launch ceremony at BIW. Added to the "excitement" this time around was the fact that the Navy was naming this ship after a Navy SEAL who had been killed in Afghanistan - the USS Michael Murphy.

Normally when we hold these events the ever polite Maine citizenry don't pay much attention to us but today it was different. Again, likely due to that spurt of nationalism running through their veins, many more people than usual gave us the finger, thumbs down, and quite some number felt the need to tell us we really had no right to hold our protest. We got some of the occasional lectures about "these ships protect your right to stand there." In fact, I've always felt that left up to folks with that opinion we'd be sent packing in a moments notice. Several of those holding that view went up to the police, who were watching over the scene from the other side of the street, and urged them to run us off our spot on the sidewalk across from BIW. Indeed, it is those who insist on holding protests under such unfriendly conditions who keep alive our right to do so.

We set up our sound system and for about an hour during the busiest time had activists in our group make statements to the public waiting to enter BIW. Two former Navy men, one of them a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, spoke from our side of the street about why they opposed the launch of another warship . Several social workers reminded the public about growing cutbacks in human needs programs, education, and the like while the price tag of these ships has swelled to $1 billion each.

I read the statement we received last night via email from Kang Dong-Kyun, Mayor of the Gangjeong village on Jeju Island and Go Gwon-Il, Chairman of the Gangjeong villagers’ Committee against the Jeju naval base. They wrote:

The Aegis Destroyer is a system with a bigger concept of aggression than that of defense.

We in the Gangjeong village express strong solidarity to your organizations’ activities, saying that we are seriously concerned about the development and deployment of the weapon system that provokes war and we oppose the current South Korean big corporation's growth toward military-industrial complex.

We urgently appeal to the United States, who has the 1st military and economic power in the world, to immediately stop provoking wars in the various regions of the world and invading the powerless countries.

The media was all over the BIW event and drove past us several times during our 90-minute peace vigil but none of them stopped to film or interview us. It was like we were carriers of a dreaded disease that must be avoided at all costs. News people understand the political climate at work during recent days. They must only cover the cheering crowds and any deviation from the patriotic script is not to be allowed. Likely no one had to tell the media crews this, self censorship long ago has taken hold of the American "free media".

I would venture a guess, with full confidence, that many of the speakers inside the "christening" event today spoke about the role of the Aegis destroyer as one of "defending" the nation and promoting freedom around the world - protecting our way of life. But the truth is far from that tale. These warships are part of the offensive U.S. military empire whose job is to protect the interests of the corporations as they control and dominate the process of resource extraction around the world. The only "freedom" the Pentagon is protecting is the corporation's freedom to rob, rape, and pillage lands for their oil and other declining natural resources.

In order to carry out this aggressive mission more ports of call are needed to dock ships like the new USS Michael Murphy. Thus pristine environmental wonders like Jeju Island must be turned into outposts of the empire. Usually places like Jeju Island are unknown to the American people who celebrate our "exceptionalism" but today, just for a short time, we brought the voices of the people of Jeju Island, Okinawa, Diego Garcia, Greenland, Guam, and the Marshall Islands to the people who came to cheer one more manifestation of America's out-of-control national ego.


It was good to stand outside of BIW today.


See below as the people of Gangjeong village try to get our attention as they fight to save their way of life - their fishing, their farming, their sea diving - all now under attack by the need to port warships in their community.

Friday, May 06, 2011

NEW FOCUS ON TORTURE



The American special forces' mission to kill Al Qaeda's leader was hailed a success by Washington. But there is now widespread criticism over why he wasn't taken alive. And, as Gayane Chichakayan has been finding out, it's not the first time U.S. methods in its war on terror have come under scrutiny.

FRENCH WAR SPENDING - SOCIAL SPENDING CONTRADICTION

Thursday, May 05, 2011

WHAT DO THESE SHIPS DO?

Another Aegis destroyer to be "christened" on Saturday at Bath Iron Works
Professor Yang sits in jail, on his 30th day of fasting, to protest the construction of Navy base to port Aegis destroyers on Jeju Island, South Korea

A Raytheon built "missile defense" interceptor is fired from an Aegis destroyer


I've been accelerating my pace of work on the Global Network 19th annual space organizing conference that will be held in nearby Massachusetts on June 17-19. We will feature the space technology work of the Raytheon Co. at that event since they are based in Massachusetts and are right-smack-dab in the middle of building many of the most destabilizing weapons systems of the day.

Coincidentally there will be a "christening" this Saturday here in Bath, Maine of another Aegis destroyer that is a launch platform for the Raytheon built SM-3 "missile defense" interceptor that you see pictured above. So these two events are binding my work at this time.

Few people in Maine know much about what these Aegis warships really do. They might notice them when they drive over the Kennebec River and see Bath Iron Works (BIW) just below where usually 1-2 of the Aegis are docked at the shipyard. They know that BIW is the largest non-governmental employer in the state and that there is a long history of shipbuilding in Bath. But that is about it. Most people think that the ships are about defending the U.S. (from who?) and leave it at that. In fact most Mainers don't really wish to know much more than that because they don't want to be in conflict with their neighbors who might work at BIW.

Some years ago there was a fashionable phrase in the environmental movement - bio-region. The idea was that good environmentalists should become more familiar with their bio-region and work in that area to preserve it. But I think the word should apply to other movements as well. We should all know what the U.S. military empire is doing in our bio-region and we should help foster a public discussion about whether it is a good thing or not for our nation and the world.

In the case of the Aegis destroyers, and the interceptor missiles built by Raytheon, these systems are currently among the most provocative weapons technologies being deployed by the Pentagon today. As I have described many times in the past, they are currently being plunked down along the borders of Russia and China and are forcing military counter moves by both of those countries. This obviously is leading us to a new dangerous and expensive arms race.

Here in Maine we are driving on roads with large potholes in them, our many bridges need repair, and education and social programs are being slashed as our state finds itself in fiscal crisis. Progressive activists admirably protest these cuts but few of them yet make the deadly connections to U.S. military spending - and they particularly ignore the massive expenditures of money at military production sites in our bio-region.

As I write this Professor Yang Yoon-Mo is on the 30th day of his fast while sitting inside a jail on Jeju Island, South Korea. Yang's jailing, for non-violently resisting the destruction of his sacred bio-region, is directly linked to BIW here in Maine and Raytheon in Massachusetts.

There is a circle that connects each of our bio-regions and sadly that circle is one of violence and destruction. The Aegis destroyers are indeed destroying life today - in Libya, on Jeju Island, and even in Massachusetts and Maine as social progress is devastated in order to pay for the new $1 billion warships that will only make the future more insecure for all of us.

THE SPORTS PAGE



Sports, bin Laden, and the New Normal
By Dave Zirin

Howard Cosell said that "rule number one of the sports jockocracy" was that sports and politics didn't mix. And yet last night, at the ballpark in Philadelphia, we received another reminder that some political expression is deemed not just acceptable but glorious.

When the killing of Osama bin Laden reached the Philadelphia Phillies fans, amidst their 14-inning loss to the New York Mets, boisterous chants of “U-S-A“ filled the park. This was praised across the sports landscape as a remarkable, yet altogether appropriate moment of national joy. “It was beautiful,” said one radio commentator. “It reminded all of us what is so wonderful about sports in our society.”

The eruption of patriotic emotion at the park should surprise no one. Since 9/11, the sports arena has been an organizer of patriotism, a recruiter for the US armed forces, and at times a funhouse mirror, reflecting the principles of freedom in a manner so misshapen and distorted as to rise to the level of farce.

As the Phillies faithful cheered, I thought about the NFL postponing games following 9/11, but only after a players revolt led by Vinny Testaverde made clear to Paul Tagliabue that no one was in a condition to play a game. I thought about the spread of "Military Appreciation Nights" at the stadium and the increased prevalence of jet flyovers and troops processions in the field. I thought about the military recruitment stations organized outside preseason NFL games.

I thought about Major League Baseball adding the second national anthem, “God Bless America” to the 7th inning stretch. I thought about the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner having chains put up along the side of the bleachers and hiring off-duty police to make sure no one did anything but pay fealty to the flag. I thought about a young man named Bradley Campeau-Laurion who was led from the park in handcuffs because he left his seat to use the bathroom during this celebration of freedom. I thought about ESPN’s week of SportsCenter from Iraq in September of 2004, which allowed the network to do what George W. Bush couldn’t: connect Iraq to 9/11.

I also thought about the athletic-dissenters. I thought about then Toronto Blue Jay Carlos Delgado who refused to come out for the second 7th inning stretch anthem, saying, “I don't (stand) because I don't believe it's right, I don't believe in the war. It's a very terrible thing that happened on September 11. It's (also) a terrible thing that happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. I just feel so sad for the families that lost relatives and loved ones in the war. But I think it's the stupidest war ever.”

I thought about then Washington Wizards forward Etan Thomas electrifying a mass anti-war rally in DC in September 2005. I thought about Steve Nash wearing a t-shirt at the start of the Iraq invasion that read “No war. Shoot for peace.” I thought about NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt. Jr. imploring people to see “Fahrenheit 9/11”. I thought about the fiercely brave Manhattanville women’s basketball captain Toni Smith turning her back on the anthem and igniting a firestorm with her courage. I thought of Adalius Thomas, Josh Howard, Nick Van Exel, and all athletes who used their platform and spoke out.

But more than anyone, I thought about Pat Tillman. I found myself wondering [if] the 19 year olds who were turning Ground Zero and the White House into a frat party last night even knew who Pat Tillman was. And if they were aware that a man named Pat Tillman once walked among us, which Tillman did they know? Did they know the Tillman the NFL wants us to remember? That Tillman was a star safety who turned down a multi-million-dollar contract after 9/11 to join the Army Rangers, only do die in combat 22 months after enlisting. In the immediate aftermath of his death Tillman became a caricature, used to promote and encourage war.

But the Pat Tillman his family has fought to be known is the actual, thinking, opinionated human being. This Pat Tillman believed that 9/11 had been manipulated to justify an illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. As journalist Jon Krakauer said, “He thought the war was illegal. He thought it was a mistake. He thought it was going to be a disaster. And in the Army, you’re not supposed to talk about that. You’re not supposed to talk politics. And Pat didn’t shut up. He told everyone he encountered, ‘This war is illegal as hell.’” He started reading the anti-war theorist Noam Chomsky and sent word that he wanted to meet Chomsky upon returning to the states. This Pat Tillman died not at the hands of the Taliban but in an incident of “friendly fire”, a fact hidden from his own family for weeks after his nationally televised funeral. Pat’s family has spent years fighting to get the true facts of his case known. I thought about Pat’s brave mother Mary and I was just so sad. We killed bin Laden and all it took was three wars, a million deaths, a trillion dollars, and infinite broken families and broken hearts.

Yes, sports has been co-opted, exploited, scarred, and turned inside out by the aftermath of 9/11 and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Some have wondered if now that bin Laden is dead, life will “go back to normal.” But as we saw in Philly last night, this is the new normal and will continue to be so, until every last troop is home. Maybe then we can enjoy sports as an escape from, rather than a promoter of, this country’s culture of war.

Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

JAPANESE ANGER GROWS OVER NUCLEAR LIES



Japanese parents strike out in anger at Education and Health Ministries' death sentence for their children..citizens from Fukushima Prefecture brought with them a bag of soil from the grounds of an elementary school. The crackling sound of the counter proved that it was highly irradiated. It was presented to the officials themselves. Feelings ran high, and few in the audience believe the government's contention that their children are safe. The officials left the room under public scorn.

FROM BASES TO BONES - RULED BY CRIMINALS


  • The Pentagon and Romania have decided to deploy a U.S. ground-based "missile defense" system at the Deveselu Air Base near Caracal, Romania. The missile offense system will be the SM-3 interceptor (also referred to as the “Aegis Ashore System”). Normally these interceptors are deployed on 21 different Navy Aegis cruisers and destroyers but Obama has decided, due to their successful testing program, to put them on ground-based launchers as well throughout the region. The Pentagon has also announced that they will deploy Aegis warships in the waters of the Black Sea which would give them the capability to take-out Russian nuclear missiles following a U.S. first-strike attack.

    According to one pro-MD group, "The Romanian based Aegis Ashore system will work in coordination with deployed U.S. Aegis BMD ships in the Mediterranean as well as a forward-based radar placed in Turkey or Bulgaria by 2011 and the Battle Management Command at the Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. Other missile defense assets such as the Defense Support Program (DSP), Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) Satellites, future Precision Tracking Space Sensor (PTSS) satellites as well as the airborne infrared (ABIR) concept will be integrated into the AOC at Ramstein to ultimately provide the best tracking, discrimination and shooting solution amongst all the missile defense assets."

You will notice on the map above how the Black Sea adjoins not only Romania, but also Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia and Russia. The U.S. is steadily depositing bases, troops, and weapons systems into each of these countries as the encirclement of Russia increases. The Obama team, like the Bush administration before them, is also pushing NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia which would mean the establishment of permanent bases in those countries.


  • My Catholic Worker friend Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington DC) was one of 52 people arrested in Kansas City, Missouri on May 2 when they non-violently blocked the gate to the construction site of what will be the nation’s first nuclear weapons production facility, costing $1.2 billion, to be built in 33 years. Despite the pretensions that the U.S. was going to get rid of its nuclear weapons, in fact the Obama crew is increasing funds for the Department of Energy nuclear program.


  • Native Americans are furious. “We’ve ID’d Geronimo,” said the voice of the Navy SEAL who reported the hunt for Osama bin Laden was over. Obama, and all those gathered in the situation room, waited on edge for the voice to return with the triumphant news, that in fact, “Geronimo” was dead. According to multiple sources, “Geronimo-E KIA” is the message that was sent to the White House by the strike team to announce that bin Laden, the “E,” or Enemy, was Killed In Action.

This comes from Indian Country where the use of Geronimo's name has reminded them that the "great white father" in Washington still regards Indian people as renegades. “It’s another attempt to label Native Americans as terrorists,” said Paula Antoine from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. Potentially the most disturbing fact is what this says to American Indian children. It equates being Native American with being hated, an enemy to the world, and someone to be hunted down and killed, and re-casts one of their heroes into a villainous role.


The skull of Geronimo, the great Apache warrior who long eluded the U.S. Army by hiding in the mountains of the Southwest and in Mexico, today sits inside the "tomb" at Yale University which hosts the Skull & Bones society. The grandfather of George W. Bush, former U.S. Sen. Prescott Bush, was one of six Skull & Bones members who dug up Geronimo's skull and bones from his burial ground in Oklahoma. This secret dark society finds power in such artifacts. Many of the power elite from both major political parties, including Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, are members of Skull & Bones.

It just goes to show what a sick bunch of people are running this country and much of the world. Why anyone would follow them, and believe in them, is a mystery to me.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

NFL STAR CHALLENGES AMERICA'S CHEERLEADING



Pittsburgh Steelers pro football running back Rashard Mendenhall caused a stir with Twitter statements criticizing the cheerleading after Osama bin Laden was killed by the Obama administration.

See a full article here

Mendenhall is coming off a tremendous season, as he led the AFC champion Steelers in carries (324), rushing yards (1,273) and rushing touchdowns (13).

WHAT'S NEXT IN AFGHANISTAN? A BIT OF PERSPECTIVE



ALL THE ELEMENTS

My reaction on the second day of the big "American victory" is a basic one. When you are a country built on violence, and sustained by violence, you need another hit now and then to pump up the people in order for the mythology of cultural supremacy to persist. It's also a perfect distraction from corporate thievery of the nation's declining financial resources.

I've been closely reading many of the mainstream media reports and see the broad outlines of a foreign policy facade having been erected. Here are a few important points as I see them:


  • Obama says that the "unity that we had on 9-11 has frayed a bit since then".....this killing of Osama bin Laden helps to restore that nationalism and sense of superiority.


  • This event is being framed as a "vindication" of the CIA's detention facilities and interrogation methods. The claim is that these controversial intelligence operations resulted in this "mission success".


  • The woman as a "human shield" talking point was a key element in the story that came out yesterday about the killing of Osama. It was used to show that Osama was a wussy who, to the bitter end, hid behind women (his wife) while brave American soldiers stood in the open to engage the "enemy". Today there is some walking back from this story. See it here


  • Today we are beginning to hear that the U.S. should end military aid to Pakistan as they must be punished for looking the other way while Osama hid out there in recent years. Look for this to become an excuse to further expand U.S. military operations into Pakistan to "stablilize" their government - thus another reason to remain in Central Asia for years to come.


  • I was watching some talking heads on MSNBC-TV news yesterday and one of them had this to say: "We put a bullet in Osama's head. This our our brand!" That's a pretty disgusting comment but quite telling as it indicates the depth to which many Americans have internalized the killing culture narrative. It's actually very sick and sad.


  • By taking out Osama, and bombing the hell out of Libya, the talking heads are also now claiming that Al-Qaeda has lost the struggle for the hearts and minds of the surging people in the Middle East who want change and democracy. Al-Qaeda uses "violence and killing" while the U.S. supports real democracy. While I would generally agree that the people in the Middle East are not "following" Al-Qaeda, this self-serving talking point reeks of hypocrisy.


  • The oligarchy is universal in saying we must stay "on course" with our "war on terrorism". Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) worked himself to tears commenting about the killing of Osama yesterday on the TV and pointed to his flag lapel pin and said he's worn it every day since 9-12-2001. That performance was certainly worth another round of funding for the Afghanistan occupation.


  • The talking heads were also working themselves into a lather yesterday when they congratulated each other about the bi-partisan nature of Congressional foreign policy decision making. While Republicans and Democrats might argue over funding for NPR or Planned Parenthood, they made it clear yesterday that they are "one" when it comes to waging war. Ugh......


  • In the end a familiar feeling came over me yesterday. I felt it when Ronald Reagan ordered the "invasion" of mighty Grenada; when George H. W. Bush invaded Panama and then began the Persian Gulf War; when Clinton waged war on Yugoslavia; when George W. Bush pulled 9-11 and launched shock and awe on Afghanistan and Iraq; and now as Obama escalates war in Afghanistan-Pakistan and attacks Libya. We are an out-of-control war making country. Addicted to war and always needing another swig on the bottle full of demon blood lust.

I saw a quote in the Washington Post this morning from Cindy Sheehan where she said, "This lying, murderous Empire can only exist with your brainwashed consent — just put your flags away and THINK!”


Nicely said.

Monday, May 02, 2011

I'M NOT CHEERING


"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

OSAMA DEAD - WHO REALLY KNOWS?

There have been rumors for years that Osama bin Laden was already dead - either by kidney failure or U.S. strikes early on in Tora Bora. Then there were the reports of multiple variations of Osama. So who knows for sure what just happened in Pakistan?

One interesting twist is the interview with former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto who maintains in the video below that Osama was killed years ago. See that bit at 6:05 in the interview with David Frost. I would think she knew what she was talking about.

I found it interesting that "spontaneous" crowds gathered at the White House last night with flags and red, white, and blue hats to cheer the news that Osama had been killed. I can't imagine that they just had the flags and hats lying around. It all has that weird feel of a staged event.

I remember years ago, during the time of the Soviet Union, that the people there used to say you had to learn to read between the lines of the Pravda newspaper. That's how I felt when I was reading the Washington Post this morning about the killing of Osama.

Some speculate that the Obama team has created this spectacle of Osama being killed as the opening to justify the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Others wonder if this event is more about building Obama's case for reelection.

The government claims that DNA was taken to prove it was Osama before he was buried at sea. Dumped at sea? The government claims they wanted to get rid of his body in order to ensure no "shrine" was ever established.

I read that Osama's $1 million compound in Pakistan was heavily reenforced and a secure hideout. It seems remarkable to me that only three people were killed in the attack. You mean Osama only had 2-3 guards? Hard to imagine.

We are already being told that Al-Qaeda is still a threat even though high level U.S. military personnel have said that there are less than 100 of the network actually operating in Afghanistan today. This quick restatement by "world leaders" that the war on terror is not over gives me the strong sense that we won't be leaving Afghanistan anytime soon.

Let's see where things head in the coming days. It's really going to get interesting now.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

MEXICAN-AMERICAN STUDENTS FIGHT FOR THEIR EDUCATION



The state of Arizona, which is heavily populated with Mexican-American citizens, has declared war on the Latino population.

The city of Tucson's school board has threatened to shut down the Mexican-American Studies program in the district.

This video shows Mexican-American students taking over the school board meeting where the final decision was to be taken to close the program. The students forced cancellation of the meeting.

UNINSPIRING CHOICES IN CANADIAN ELECTION




Some years ago I read a raw quote from a right-wing political strategist in the U.S. who said something like this:

"Our goal is to make elections so nasty, so unattractive, to the average voter that they quit voting. At that point it will become easier for us to win the elections and control the country."

I am kicking myself for not hanging onto that source. But in reality, this is exactly what seems to be happening in the U.S., Canada, and countries all over the world.

The ruling elites control the major political parties and make their campaigns so expensive and evil that the working class drops out. Who can blame them?

Maybe at some point we have to organize full-on boycotts of elections and then demand the restructuring of the systems in order to allow alternatives to the ruling elite?


What else can we do? When the majority of the voting eligible public refuses to vote maybe organizers and political activists need to reformulate our strategies.

SUNDAY SONG