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

Monday, July 01, 2013

REPORT FROM 'HIGH NORTH' SPACE CONFERENCE

Activists from Finland point out drone test range just 30 kilometers from the Russian border (click on image for larger view)

Swedish Peace Council V-P Agneta Norberg and Norwegian journalist Bard Wormdal point out the locations of the satellite downlink stations at the two poles where Norway shares images with the US military

I am writing this from the Frankfurt, Germany airport where I have a three-hour layover on the way back to Boston.  I flew early this morning from Kiruna to Stockholm.

One of our new Global Network Advisory Board members, Luis-Gutierrez-Esparza (President of Latin-American Circle of International Studies) from Mexico was met with a big surprise after he left Kiruna.  Early this morning our board convener Dave Webb from the UK received an email from Luis saying that prior to boarding his flight in Stockholm he was pulled aside by United Airlines security and interrogated for 45 minutes about our Global Network conference.  He was asked who paid for his trip to Sweden, who organized the conference, how the conference was funded, and for a list of all conference participants.  Luis did tell them how his own trip was funded (by sources inside Mexico) but he refused to give any names of anyone else involved in the event.

This unusual interrogation of Luis indicates just how closely the military industrial complex is watching the work of the Global Network.  They do fear the spreading of knowledge and resistance to US-NATO efforts to use the “High North” of Sweden, Norway, and Finland for space radars, satellite downlink stations, and testing areas for drones and other high-tech weapons.  This incident should give us all full confidence that we are on the right track and the determination to continue, and to expand, our efforts.

I want to offer some observations from my conference notes that I think were particularly interesting and important.  They are not in any particular order but all equally valuable. 

The event was attended by people from the following nations:  Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, England, Russia, US, Mexico and Japan.

  • The conference began with singing by a Sami (indigenous people from the High North) man.  Sami are best known for their reindeer herding.  He sang prayers to his mother, grandfather, his friend, and the wind.
  • Kiruna is a city of about 20,000 people in the High North and while we were there we never saw the sun set – it is the land of the midnight sun.
  • Kiruna is a mining town and has the largest underground iron ore mine in the world.  Because they essentially mine underneath the city the ground just below is expected to eventually give way so the city is being moved away from the mine and the process will take the next 30 years to complete.  The mining company, owned by the state, will pay for the moving of the city.
  • During WW II the Nazi’s never occupied Sweden but instead they took the iron ore from Kiruna to Germany to build their war machine.
  • Just outside of Kiruna is the Esrange Space Center where they download images from satellites in polar orbits.  The information from the satellites is used for both civilian and military purposes.
  • Expanding mining operations and the growing space testing range are having negative impacts on the Sami people’s culture and ability to herd reindeer.
  • One Sami woman speaker told us that we’ve all had our minds colonized by the western dominant culture and that we each have a responsibility to de-colonize our minds.
  • Norwegian journalist Bard Wormdal (author of The Satellite War) told us that Norway practices a “double standard” as they violate the Svalbard and Antarctic Treaties which strictly forbid military operations of any kind from happening at these north and south polar locations.  In both cases Norway has downlink satellite stations at these two points and provide the US military with imagery that is used for war making.  The Norwegian government still denies this even after the publishing of the book, which provides conclusive evidence of these treaty violations.
  • When the conference participants took a bus trip to the Esrange Space Center we got a briefing from a public relations team representing the Swedish Space Corporation.  At first they told us that only civilian use satellite imagery are being downloaded at the center but after many knowledgeable persons in our group objected and offered the truth they reluctantly admitted that indeed satellite imagery is in fact provided for US and NATO military operations.
  • Russian conference participant Vladimir Kozin told us that when Obama recently spoke in Berlin about the need for cuts in nuclear weapons the Pentagon at the very same moment was releasing a new plan to upgrade existing US nuclear weapons based in Europe.  The US is the only nuclear power that bases its nukes outside of its own country.
  • Kozin stated that the Russian government feels strongly that the US “missile defense” program (now being expanded with NATO to surround Russia) undercuts their strategic defense capability and makes hopes for nuclear disarmament virtually impossible.
  • In Obama’s Berlin speech he did not mention “one single word” about missile defense Kozin told the conference.
  • Kozin also reported that in recent times the US Navy has been sending nuclear submarines toward Russian submarine bases. (Imagine the outrage if the reverse was being done!)
  • The new European Union “Galileo” military/civilian satellite system (like the US GPS) will be used to explore for oil and natural gas drilling in the melting Arctic Ocean.
  • Activists from Finland showed the conference a map of the large drone testing area that has been established in their country.  The 11,000 square kilometer test area is only 30 kilometers from the Russian border.  In 2005 drones that were used in Afghanistan were tested at the range.
  • Finnish corporate controlled media, like in Sweden and Norway, are doing major anti-Russian propaganda that is pumping up conflict in the region.
  • We need to draft international anti-drone agreements at the NGO level and it was decided to begin that process right away.
  • It was also decided that the Global Network should pursue the idea of making a documentary video about the dangers of expanding “missile defense”.
  • Over and over during the conference links were made between climate change and expanding militarism.  There was total agreement that we should all be demanding the conversion of the military industrial complex so that our resources can be used to deal with climate change.
  • We must turn the Arctic region into an International Nature Park in order to prevent the drilling for oil and natural gas and the militarization of the Arctic.
  • The development of robotic warfare technology may be the biggest military advancement since the making of the atomic bomb.
  • We must all talk more about how Techno-Fascism, and the worshipping of military technology, is a deep spiritual sickness.
  • A US military radar for “missile defense” is planned for deployment in the Kyoto prefecture in Japan.  Resistance plans are now underway.
  • RAF Waddington in the UK is now piloting drones from that base.  Protests were recently held there.
  • In Darmstadt, Germany US military downlink radars were removed some years ago but it was only recently learned that below the ground at that same location still exists a military war fighting computer center.
  • Following the recent disclosures about the NSA by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, the UK government told their media that they are not allowed to mention the NSA surveillance program and the Menwith Hill (US NSA spy base) in Yorkshire in the same breath.
  • There was a tentative decision made by the Global Network membership to hold our 22nd annual space organizing conference in 2014 near Vandenberg AFB in California. 
  • It was also resolved to create a Nordic network to work on drone and space issues that would work to organize local actions during Keep Space for Peace Week - October 5-12.
  • The new documentary called The Ghosts of Jeju was shown to the conference and people loved the film about resistance to a Navy base on Jeju Island, South Korea that will port US warships as Obama's "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific further surrounds China.  People cried, clapped with the music at the end, and asked for how to get the film.  You can order it here
  • Everyone expressed their deep appreciation to all those in the Swedish peace movement for doing a wonderful job hosting our conference.  Particular thanks go to Women for Peace and especially those in Kiruna who worked so hard to take such good care of us.

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