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

Thursday, August 09, 2012

SECOND DAY IN THE HEAT


Last night the VFP conference began with former TV show star Phil Donahue showing his anti-war film Body of War.  Having watched his show for many years, and being so familiar with his style, it was a treat to watch him during the Q & A following the film.  Frankly he seemed a bit lost when it came to questions about how we should be dealing with the present political situation.  He is still tied to the Democratic Party which reduces his ability to think outside the box.  I am more convinced than ever that we have to point the finger at the root of the problem which is our capitalist system which is all about greed, maximum consumption, and endless war.

As I write this I am listening to Carlos and Melida Arredondo speak about the loss of their son Alex to the war in Iraq.  More recently their second son Brian took his own life and Carlos recalled how lost he was following the death of his older brother in war.

It is hot as blazes in Miami with virtually no air to breathe.  Climate change is hitting hard here making South Florida a tough place to be.  Add in the fact that this is a concrete jungle and that only magnifies the heat.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

HEADING TO VFP CONFAB


I am in the Boston airport waiting for my flight to Miami, Florida where I will attend the annual Veterans for Peace convention.

I was up at 5:00 am to catch a ride with MB to Portland where I jumped on the bus to Boston.  I am not usually an early riser.

I will be speaking in three workshops and one plenary session at the convention.  I'll also be speaking on Thursday night at a local church program to remember Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing by the U.S. 67 years ago.

Many young people don't know that the U.S. is the only country that has ever used a nuclear weapon.  From all the talk by the Pentagon about Iran and North Korea you'd think the U.S. was a saintly nation.  Not so at all.  It's called blind hypocrisy.

I will be seeing several old friends from my Florida days which is exciting.  Being in hot and humid Miami in August is a bit less thrilling.

The VFP confab comes at an important time as Obama ramps up U.S. involvement in Syria and we face the growing possibility of an attack on Iran.  Our peace groups need to resist being baited by all the "election" hoopla and must stay focused on our work to end war and cut military spending.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

THE DIGNITY OF CREATION



Sung-Hee Choi writes from Jeju Island:

A music video with collection of photos and videos by a grand march report team.

Directed by the Sajahooo TV


March participants' flight to the Jeju Island and march experience for 5 nights 6 days recorded in the collection of photos and videos : 'Peace Is the Way.'

The lyric of background song titled, "To the country of happiness," ... 'Open the curtain, open the window[..] Let's feel the breeze again. Please let me walk on the grass field. I want to laugh and cry. Please touch my heart[..] I will dance overcoming rain and thunder. I will go to the country of happiness.[...] The wilderness is vast. The sky is blue..Let's all go to the country of happiness...'

'You, all the marchers are winners'

My Take: These folks are for real and they are creating an unstoppable momentum that very well could shut down this Navy base construction/destruction project.  This love, spirit, and non-violent determination, in such an epic local struggle, is a true model for all the world to see and feel.  If we all just did a bit more to help, this fight could be won.  God knows our international peace movement could use a "win" for once.  The Jeju Navy base fight connects all the dots:
  • Obama's "pivot" of military and foreign policy into Asia-Pacific to "contain" China.
  • This strategy is hugely expensive and our rotting country can't afford it!
  • Jeju is a pristine environmental jewel which makes it imperative that the enviro-community should be on-board this peace train.
  • Human rights violations and suppression of local democracy is a dramatic issue in this fight as Gangjeong villagers are subjected to daily outrages.
  • Just call it a local fight where the oligarchy is waging war on "the dignity of creation".  Not much more to be said after that..........

VISITING EL CHORRILLO

  • My son Julian is in Panama on a Latin America vacation.  The other day he told a cab driver that he wanted to go to the ghetto.  The cab driver refused to take him there and dropped him off at the edge of the neighborhood.  Julian took the photo above that depicts George H. W. Bush's December 20, 1989 middle of the night invasion of the El Chorrillo neighborhood in Panama City.  Bush told the world he was going into Panama to capture Manuel Noriega but this invasion was more about showing American citizens and the world that there would be no "peace dividend" after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Much of El Chorrillo was bombed, shelled with heavy artillery, strafed, and finally burned to the ground by U.S. troops.  
  •  One resident, a young mother, told investigators after the invasion that “helicopters were firing all kinds of weapons because you could hear the bursts, and explosions were of different intensities...The lights in the neighborhood went out and houses began to burn.  It was chaos.  People tried to leave their burning homes but found themselves between two fires...tanks, and armored cars, and U.S. soldiers on foot advancing, firing.  We could hardly believe it.”  Another resident reported that a group of U.S. soldiers came down his street and “entered each house.  We saw the people – the residents – coming out, followed by soldiers, and then we saw the houses, one by one, go up in smoke.  The U.S. soldiers were burning the houses.”  More than 2,500 innocents were killed in the raids.
  •  In order to hide the dead, the U.S. military dug mass graves and bulldozed bodies into them.  Cremating bodies was another method used to destroy the evidence of the massacre.  A report from the Panamanian National Human Rights Commission claimed that in Cocle province “hundreds of bodies were cremated” by U.S. troops using flame-throwers. Some speculated that one reason for the invasion was that Noriega had not followed U.S. orders to assist in the illegal U.S. war on Nicaragua in 1986.  This was punishment for his “betrayal” of his bosses in Washington.
  • Julian reports that as he was walking around El Chorrillo an "older woman and her kids" approached him and asked if he was an American.  He said yes.  She told him to get out of their neighborhood and they followed him to make sure he left. Memories remain and injustice never forgets.

HONORING KARL GROSSMAN

Karl Grossman (left) sharing Space Command Vision for 2020 with a journalist during Global Network protest at the Treasury Department in Washington DC.  Grossman has been the leading journalist on the nukes in space story since the late 1980's.  He just had a flurry of stories about the Mars rover Curiosity being powered by nuclear devices.  Karl was recently honored by Networking Magazine with the following story about his long time efforts against nuclear power.


 
Deep Digging Journalist for the Sake of Public Safety
By Christine D. Giordano

It was a perfectly sublime Saturday evening in the Hamptons — with flowers blooming and restaurants hopping, yet it was a bookstore in Sag Harbor that saw the most action — with a standing-room only crowd gathered inside, pressing their way toward the podium to hear what a journalist had to say. It was no ordinary journalist, of course. It was one of the last surviving, vigilant watchdog journalists Karl Grossman, speaking about his 50 year career as an investigative reporter, at the very popular Canio’s bookstore in Sag Harbor.

For years, Grossman has developed a following through his interviews, his columns in Long Island newspapers, his “enviro-exposes,” his documentaries that spotlight environmental toxins, and his books such as Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power (1980); The Poison Conspiracy (1982); Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam? (1984); Power Crazy:Is LILCO Turning Shoreham Into America’s Chernobyl? (1986); The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet (1997) and Weapons in Space (2001). His television program Enviro Close-Up is in 200 countries, and he’s written and narrated TV documentaries for EnviroVideo.

Few have taken their Journalism responsibilities as seriously as Grossman. At one point, seven to 11 nuclear power plants were planned for Long Island, and, after researching the dire health effects linked to radiation, Grossman wrote articles and the book that opened a dialogue regarding the dangers of having a nuclear backyard. “The very exposure was enough to solve the problem,” said Grossman.

Former Governor Mario Cuomo eventually stood against creating such an environment.

Horror Stories

Now the journalist is concerned with the radiation leakage from the Japanese nuclear meltdown and what he calls the “coverup of Fukushima:” His physician sources tell him 1 million people will die of radiation poisoning resulting from the malfunction of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, yet pro-nuclear groups claim there will be no public ill-effects. The situation mimics the information gathered in his first book, Cover Up: What You are Not Supposed to Know about Nuclear Power (available for a free download here)

“I did a new preface right after Fukushima,” said Grossman, reading from the book.“I started off (the preface) we’ve not been informed about nuclear power. We’ve not been told and that is done on purpose. Keeping the public in the dark was deemed necessary by the promoters of nuclear power.”

During the interview with Networking®, Grossman sat in his home in Sag Harbor, surrounded by stacks of meticulous overstuffed paper files. He has a mine of information that often predates the Internet — spanning decades, from deep research he has done and special reports he has obtained from years of cultivating sources on the inside. Public advocates and warriors for the environment often get a bad rap for going off half cocked, but as Grossman cited information and discussed topics, he repeatedly fished out news clippings and government documents to back up his words until, what amassed, was a credible unstated creed: it is a journalist’s job to expose corruption in order to keep the public safe… and if corruption runs wild, the public needs to be warned.

“What you do, when you do this kind of work, is you look for the horror story,” said Grossman. His horror stories have investigated toxic pesticides, the hazards of fueling space probes with nuclear energy, and cancer clusters created by nuclear power.

From CopyBoy to International Resource

He began his journalist days as a copyboy, answering phones, and passing on the horror stories to the investigative journalist at his newspaper. Now he receives hundreds of emails each day from insiders within his networks, alerting him to environmental and nuclear news. The hardest part of the job is backing up what they’re saying with documentation. Yet he does. Even if it takes thousands of phone calls and hundreds of Freedom of Information requests.

“The power of the press is enormous and you only want to use it when you are absolutely certain you’ve got a case together,” he said.

In fact, he may be one of the few people in the world who has documents about things such as the potential consequences of accidents with plutonium fueled space probes, that he says could potentially shower deadly radiation over the earth. He has put this inside knowledge and documentation onto slides, and lectured internationally through the Macrae Speakers and Entertainment agency (www.macraespeakers.com).

Grossman’s first nuclear documentary, created while he was working as a journalist for Channel 21, was a calm review of nuclear power — through what he called journalistic “ping pong” — he interviewed sources on both sides of the argument for and against nuclear power. He said he was calmly told by industry experts that nuclear accidents only happened once in a few hundred years. But when Three Mile Harbor nuclear power plant malfunctioned and spewed toxins onto Pennsylvania and upstate New York in 1979, he realized he was witnessing the type of catastrophe he was told was nearly impossible. He felt he had been “bamboozled” by people with pro-nuclear interests.

He dug deeper. This time, he created the award-winning documentary, Three Mile Island Revisited, (able to be seen here), containing interviews with residents near the power plant who suffered a “600-fold increase” in cancer after the toxins were released into their neighborhood, according to the documentary. It showed a two-headed calf, soaring infant death rates and had interviews with experts such as Dr. Jay Gould who measured about a million excess deaths in relation to the toxic cloud that spread between Pennsylvania and upstate New York, and others who talked about the radiation nuclear plants routinely released. The documentary won the Worldfest Silver Award, Houston International Film Festival; the Director’s Citation, Black Maria Video and Film Festival and was chosen for screening at the 1993 Earth Peace International Film Festival.

Yet as Grossman researched, he said he found that nuclear power plants have the potential to do much more than melt down. If one of the control rods fails, nuclear plants have the potential to explode within a second, he said. The explosion, called a “nuclear runaway” or “power excursion” or “reactivity accident,” creates a toxic cloud and leaves no time for a massive evacuation. It has already occurred at Chernobyl, and a military reactor SR1 in Idaho, said Grossman, while pointing to a photograph of the explosion in his book.

“Edward Teller (a respected nuclear physicist) declared that because of the dangers of the nuclear runaway you should only build nuclear power plants deep underground. But that would be so expensive it wouldn’t be cost effective.”

Today, Grossman says the horror story of the radiation leaked from Japan’s nuclear meltdown at Fukushima is beginning to showing up in infant mortality rates in the U.S. as well as Japan, in places that held the first radioactive rainfalls, since fetal cells divide more rapidly. He said he wishes the topic were covered more by the mainstream media.

“This stuff streaming from radiation is getting into the marine (food) chain,” he said.

Trying to warn the public, he’s written articles in the New York Times, national magazines and various other newspapers and websites on the topic. His Op-Eds lambaste the nuclear regulators for approving more power plants to be built in Georgia, and “extending the operating licenses of most of the 104 existing plants from 40 to 60 years—although they were only designed to run for 40 years. That’s because radioactivity embrittles their metal components and degrades other parts after 40 years making the plants unsafe to operate. And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is now considering extending their licenses for 80 years,” he wrote.

Posterity

Grossman now favors the instantaneous publishing convenience of the Internet a true advantage over the year -long process of book writing, and calls this the “golden age of investigative reporting.” Southampton Press and Shelter Island Reporter have carried his weekly columns for years.

His work perpetuates through his army of students. A full professor at State University of New York College at Old Westbury, he’s taught modern day Investigative Journalism for 30 years, encouraging his students to live up to their responsibility of becoming truth seekers for public good.

Said a former student, journalist and editor Annette Hinkle, “What I really remember about Karl as a teacher was that he saw those who took his class, not as students, but as fellow journalists. He shared his passion for asking hard questions and did not accept pat answers. From Freedom of Information laws to finding sources on the inside, he challenged his students to dig deeper when something piqued their interest or didn’t seem right.“

Grossman’s influence still inspires her. “Sending writers out to uncover information that the public has the right to know is a big part of what we do at weekly community newspapers. It’s a basic right for journalists and Karl has long made it his job to impress that fact upon his students,” said Hinkle.

Grossman’s awards for investigative reporting include the George Polk, Generoso Pope, James Aronson and John Peter Zenger Awards, the New York Press Association, Press Club of Long Island, Society of Professional Journalists, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, New York Civil Liberties Union, Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting, Citizens Energy Council and Friends of the Earth.

“Across his more than four decades of investigative work, Karl has made his mark by examining both the heavily cited and, perhaps most importantly, frequently not cited pros and cons of policy and debate as they relate to the environment, sustainability, and energy issues. Equally if not more important is his continuous call for accountability at every level of our society on these issues. He has paired this pursuit with a level of excellence in the classroom that prepares young journalists not only to report on the news of today but to seek out the impacts such news will have on our tomorrows.”

- Calvin O. Butts, III, president, SUNY College at Old Westbury

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL LAUGH & LEARN



Gan Golan, street theater artist and co-author of best-sellers "Goodnight Bush" and "The Adventures of Unemployed Man," leads a mock baseball team called "The Tax Dodgers." Golan's guerrilla art tactics developed through his student-activist years at MIT, battling the World Trade Organization in Cancun, Mexico, and eventually taking on powerful corporations alongside Occupy Wall Street.

Monday, August 06, 2012

REMEMBERING THE OTHER WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Inside Fort Detrick, Maryland in the early days

I first wrote this blog entry in 2006 after reading an amazing book called “A Plague Upon Humanity” by Daniel Barenblatt. It tells the story of the hidden history of Japan’s biological warfare program before and during WW II.  Since we are remembering the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this week I thought we also should remember the origins of another weapon of mass destruction - biological weapons.

Barenblatt begins by revealing how Japan created a phony pretext in order to start the Manchurian war. In September 1931 Japanese army engineers secretly blew up the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway near Shenyang. The Japanese government then immediately blamed the explosion upon Chinese soldiers garrisoned nearby. Japan then attacked the Chinese troops, sleeping in their barracks at the time. A war was underway.

Early on Japan set up a biological warfare (BW) unit led by Shiro Ishii. BW units were established throughout Manchuria and China in Japanese army occupied territory. At these locations Chinese freedom fighters and civilians were used as lab rats and were given lethal doses of bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox, typhus and typhoid. Bodies of infected prisoners were cut open, often while people still lived, to study the effects of the biological contamination. Japan’s BW program used infected rats and fleas, dropped from airplanes, to spread the deadly diseases killing entire Chinese villages. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese civilians were killed by Japan.

As WW II widened throughout the Pacific, Japan took their BW campaign to Japanese occupied islands. Japan also sent disease laden animals into Russia in hopes of spreading disease into that country. American prisoners of war were experimented on in Japanese labs as well.

Following Japanese surrender at the end of WW II one would have thought that these crimes against humanity would have been exposed and punished, similar to Nazi war crimes at the Nuremberg trials. But this was not the case. General Douglas MacArthur made a deal with Japan’s chief BW expert, Shiro Ishii, protecting him from prosecution by literally covering up the entire BW story. Ishii and his BW team gave their expertise to the U.S. According to Barenblatt, “Not only did they escape war crimes proceedings and public scrutiny by virtue of their cooperation with the U.S. occupation authorities, they also became prominent public health officials and respected academic figures in Japanese university and government circles. A few became quite wealthy as executives of pharmaceutical companies.”

The Soviet Union knew about Japan’s BW program and in late 1949 called for Ishii to be apprehended and tried by the U.S. occupation forces in Japan as the ringleader of the secret Japanese program. In response, Gen. MacArthur’s office in Tokyo denounced the Soviet charges of Japanese biological warfare and a U.S. cover-up as evidence of communist propaganda.

In fact on March 13, 1948 the U.S. War Department cabled instructions to Gen. MacArthur in Japan to give “immunity” to Japanese BW operatives. “Information retained from Ishii and associates may be retained in intelligence channels,” the instructions concluded.

There were war crimes trials in Japan after WW II. B.V.A. Roling, the last surviving judge from the Tokyo trials, who represented the Netherlands on the international tribunal, learned of this American deception many years later. “As one of the judges in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, it is a bitter experience for me to be informed now that centrally ordered Japanese war criminality of the most disgusting kind was kept secret from the Court by the U.S. government,” Roling wrote. The U.S. should be “ashamed because of the fact they withheld information from the Court with respect to the biological experiments of the Japanese in Manchuria on Chinese and American prisoners of war,” he said.

In the 1950’s Ishii was secretly taken to the U.S. to lecture at Fort Detrick, MD on how to best conduct germ warfare. And as the Korean War heated up, Ishii was used by the U.S. to advise on how to spread deadly disease in that war against North Korean and Chinese forces. North Korea, China and the Soviet Union all claimed in 1951-52 that the U.S. Pentagon was using germ warfare on a large scale in the Korean War.

The Chinese showed footage and photographs of metallic U.S. shells that snapped open upon hitting the ground, releasing a swarming cargo of insects that unleashed bubonic plague, smallpox, and anthrax. This method of delivery had been a favorite of Japan’s BW program.

Barenblatt notes that an international scientific investigating team, headed by a highly noted British biochemist from Cambridge University, did research in Korea and issued a report saying that sudden appearances of insects and spiders, of species not normally known in the region, in winter, and in association with the dropping of strange containers and objects by U.S. military planes were evidence of bio-warfare. Lab tests performed on fleas discovered in such unusual circumstances, positively showed the presence of bubonic plague bacteria.

In some cases, U.S. military jets, usually F-86 fighters, had flown over Korea dropping masses of fowl feathers tainted with anthrax.

In 1956 American journalist John Powell was charged with 13 counts of sedition for trying to expose the U.S. BW campaign in Korea. In 1953 former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover brought Powell before congressional committees charging him with “un-American activities.” Years later, in the 1980’s, Powell’s story was finally aired in an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

So as we today hear China warning about the re-arming of Japan, with full support and encouragement of the U.S., can we not see some historical precedent for their worry? Both Japan and the U.S. have shown, since WW II, that they will use extreme measures to subdue Korea and China in the quest for control and domination of the Asia-Pacific. As the U.S. today doubles its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, can there be any doubt that China and Korea have not forgotten the stories of the past? Stories that to most Americans are unknown and long covered up.

STILL KILLING TODAY



Hundreds of people who live near Fort Detrick, Maryland died from cancer or are living with it. Now, one by one, they’re coming forward with grave accusations against the military base.

“This is more than just people dying from the disease and government cover up. This is murder,” said one.

 During the Cold War, Fort Detrick led the country’s research into biological warfare, even experimenting with Agent Orange. EPA reports show hazardous chemicals were dumped within hundreds of feet of people’s homes.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

JUST MAKING IT OFFICIAL



Obama has signed a secret order allowing the CIA and other American agencies to support rebels seeking to overthrow the Assad regime, a US government source told Reuters.

Obama reportedly gave the order, known as an intelligence “finding”, earlier this year. The presidential finding also provides for US collaboration with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

The full extent of the assistance the “finding” allows the CIA to give the Syrian rebels is unclear. It is also unknown precisely when Obama signed the order.

The Obama administration has been open about providing non-military support to the Syrian opposition. On Wednesday, the State Department said it had allotted a total of $25 million for “non-lethal” assistance to the Free Syrian Army. Some of that money may be used to buy communications devices such as encrypted radios, a US official said. The State Department also said the United States has set aside $64 million in humanitarian aid for the Syrian people. 

JUST THE FACTS


GRAND FINALE




The grand march ended yesterday with a grand finale concert and celebration in Jeju City attended by 3,500 people.

Both east and west march teams came together at the end creating an impressive long line of march through the city.  A famous Korean comedian was the moderator for the evening program. About 20 children from the Gangjeong elementary school performed the music with okarina. The title of their songs were 'Beautiful things in the world,' and 'Rock Island.' Speakers, dancing, music and more were part of the spirited event.

The grand march was in itself a concluding event of a massive month-long push of activity throughout South Korea against the Navy base.  A candlelight vigil relay tour to 23-cities and a nationwide bicycle pilgrimage helped to promote the Grand March around Jeju Island.  


Next on the agenda will be the IUCN-hosted World Conservation Congress on Jeju Island from Sept. 6 to 15.  About 10,000 people from 180 countries will come to Jeju. There will be a huge effort undertaken by the village to get delegates from this environmental conference to come and stand with the struggling villagers.  The village "appeals to the peace-loving people in the world to have any small and big solidarity event in your regions to revoke the Jeju naval base project and/or visit the village" during that time.
  
Almost 600 people have been arrested trying to stop the Navy base in Gangjeong village.   


You can see many more photos from the last day of the grand march here

SUNDAY SONG