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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

THE INSIDE STORY



The Wall Street Journal recently revealed new details about how Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud — Saudi’s former ambassador to the United States — is leading the effort to prop up the Syrian rebels. Intelligence agents from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Jordan and other allied states are working at a secret joint operations center in Jordan to train and arm hand-picked Syrian rebels.

The Journal also reports Prince Bandar has been jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime. "Really what he’s doing is he’s reprising a role that he played in the 1980s when he worked with the Reagan administration to arrange money and arms for mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and also worked with the CIA in Nicaragua to support the Contras," says Wall Street Journal reporter Adam Entous. "So in many ways this is a very familiar position for Prince Bandar, and it’s amazing to see the extent to which veterans of the CIA were excited to see him come back because, in the words of a diplomat who knows Bandar, he brings the Arabic term wasta, which means under-the-table clout. You know his checks are not going to bounce and that he’ll be able to deliver the money from the Saudis."

SUNDAY SONG - A DAY EARLY





I'm going away today on a long planned week-long vacation to an ocean cottage north of here.  Bad timing I know, my heart is divided. 

Please do all you can in the coming days to stop this new war.

VICTORY IN BRITAIN



Recent protest in Britain.  Rejoice rejoice.

UPCOMING PROTESTS AT BIW




There are going to be two protests at Bath Iron Works (BIW) here in Maine during the month of October.  The first will be on Saturday, October 5 from 11:30 am to 12:30.  That vigil will be part of Keep Space for Peace Week and will be held on Washington Street in Bath.

The second, and likely larger protest, will be held on Saturday, October 19 during the "christening" of the Navy's first Zumwalt class "stealth" destroyer, DDG-1000.  This protest will come at the end of the Maine Drone Peace Walk and will be from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and will be held on the corner of Washington Street and Hinckley Street.  Just across the street from this spot many people will be lining up to enter BIW for the "christening" ceremony.  Yes indeed it is a sacrilege and presumptuous to give the blessing of Christ (the Prince of Peace) to a first-strike killing warship.

Long-time noted peace and justice activist Kathy Kelly will be on the last couple of days of the drone peace walk and will speak at the BIW protest.

The Associated Press has reported,  “A super-stealthy destroyer that could underpin the U.S. Navy’s China strategy will be able to sneak up on coastlines virtually undetected and pound targets with electromagnetic ‘rail guns’ right out of a sci-fi movie.  Using electric pulses, not chemical explosives, the ‘rail gun’ can shoot a 40-pound metal slug from New York to Philadelphia at up to 5,600 mph — more than seven times the speed of sound — with 32 times the force of a car traveling at 100 miles per hour."

The new stealthy DDG-1000 being built by General Dynamics in Bath will cost between $4-7 billion each.  The Navy did not actually want the destroyer because it would eat up too much of their shipbuilding budget.  But Obama, who was strongly supported in his run for president in 2008 by the Chicago-based Crown family (which are majority stockholders in General Dynamics), has insisted the ships be built.  

Previous versions of Navy destroyers, outfitted with ‘missile defense’ systems cost about  $1.5 billion each.

These protests will be sponsored by Maine Veterans for Peace, the Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm, Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home, CodePink Maine, and the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

HIGHLY RECOMMEND WATCHING THIS INTERVIEW



Given what we know about what's going on in Syria, is a U.S. response justified? And if we take action, where and when does it stop? In this segment with guest host Phil Donahue, historian and analyst strong Andrew Bacevich is asking those questions.

LEST WE FORGET



The police move priests and nuns to make a way for buses loaded with conservative and pro-base church followers who are increasingly being brought to the Jeju naval base sight in order to build support.  One might consider this a compliment of sorts when you consider that solidarity for the Gangjeong village struggle is growing in South Korea and around the world and the right-wing government feels it must increase support for their destruction of the village.

I wonder if the hearts of any of the conservative church people were touched when they saw the cement being poured over the sacred rocky coastline and the dredging of the seabed that is killing the already endangered soft coral reefs?  How could they not be moved by the humble protest at the front gate?

The Jeju Island navy base is a key element in Obama's other war front as we witness the global expansion of the US military empire.  The current US-NATO global war, on behalf of corporate capital, is being played out in the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific. Just imagine the $$$$ being wasted by all this militarization.

Friday, September 06, 2013

OBAMA ESCALATES PLANNING FOR ATTACK



It's another version of "shock and awe"..... if Obama strikes Syria it will be to take out their airfields, missile sites, command and control centers, troop compounds and more.  The civilian casualties will be high.

Obama wants to decimate the Syrian military in order to allow the Al-Qaida led "rebels" a clear path to victory.  Make no mistake, if Obama launches this attack it will not be a "limited strike" - it will be an all out blast of US military firepower.

These Navy destroyers outlined in this video are built here in Bath, Maine.

"WE ARE GETTING CRUSHED WITH CALLS"



I rode with friend Regis Tremblay to Augusta, Maine today to join other members of Veterans For Peace (VFP) in a meeting with the staff of Sen. Angus King (I-ME).  The first thing we heard from staff person Scott Wilkinson was, "We are getting crushed with calls."

Edie Smith, King's state director, was more specific.  On Tuesday this week they got 1,200 calls to their Maine office, on Wednesday 900 calls, and on Thursday 1,500 calls.  Who knows how many calls today will bring?  Smith had to be coaxed to say that the "majority of the calls were against" Obama's attack on Syria.  After further coaxing she acknowledged that the calls were 90% against the war plan.

We asked what the senator's position was on the attack and Smith told us that he is "currently undecided" and is gathering information and looking forward to the debate on the senate floor.  The vote is now likely to happen next Wednesday.

One thing that caught my attention was when King's top Maine aide Smith said with pride that the senator was "in the inner circle" of decision makers on foreign policy issues.  To claim that as a source of pride, knowing that the "inner circle" in Washington DC is full of agents of the military industrial complex, is enough to give most anyone pause.

VFP founding member Doug Rawlings told King's representatives that, "VFP is totally opposed to intervention in another country's affairs.  The attack will be the beginning of a long war.  We find it awfully ironic and tragic that we'd be supporting and arming Al-Qaida."

Current Maine VFP President Richard Clements shared the story about when his own son was in Iraq during the Bush war.  He said that he is "always watching to see the possible impact of depleted uranium (DU) on my son" who participated in the shelling of Fallujah.  Today in that city legions of babies are being born with severe cases of genetic mutations.

As my contribution to the discussion I said it was the height of hypocrisy for the US to be lecturing the world about poison gas when we are the only country that has used atomic weapons, Agent Orange in Vietnam, DU in the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990's and again in the Kosovo War and then more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ridgely Fuller told King's staffers, "There are no jobs in Maine, we need to be taking care of our own people...we can't keep doing this."

Vietnam veteran Dud Hendrick said, "I felt betrayed by the lies in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria."

When I got home from the meeting I checked my emails and found a link to an Op-Ed in the Washington Post.  Written by Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, the piece is headlined "A war the Pentagon doesn't want".  Speaking about military personnel he has been talking with, Scales writes, "They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense.... They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about 'red lines'.... Our people lament our loneliness.... They are tired of wannabe soldiers who remain enamored of the lure of bloodless machine warfare."

We made the case to Sen. King's staff that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents don't support this war.  He has political cover if he truly listens to the voters in Maine.  But the lure of power and being a part of the "inner circle" in Washington is strong.  Deals can be cut that would ensure more Pentagon largesse for our state.

What is clear is that the American people are presently in a state of political revolt.  They know that the country is being hollowed out and that we can't afford these endless wars.  They don't trust the system or the politicians anymore.  Sen. King's vote will either make him a hero in the eyes of the people or will completely tarnish his political legacy.

You can help by letting your member of Congress know how you feel.  Do it soon - we are running out of time.

Call 202-224-3121.

BAN THE BASE CONFERENCE COVERAGE



Here is belated coverage of the Ban the Bases international conference held in the Philippines last July.

OBAMA'S NEW FRIENDS



Thursday, September 05, 2013

TIF OF THE ICEBERG - ROUND 2

Bath Iron Works in Maine is owned by General Dynamics Corporation





Last night I attended the city council meeting in Bath, Maine where they held their second "workshop" about another TIF (Tax Increment Financing) request by Bath Iron Works (BIW).

Because the workshop would not allow public comments four people who oppose the tax break for the $33 billion weapons corporation spoke during the public comment period at the start of the meeting.  One local resident told the story of one top General Dynamics executive who recently got a $60 million compensation package for just one year.  The same Bath resident talked about how his street is unexpectedly being torn up because the sewer system in the city is falling apart.  The city, which has a municipal budget of less than $15 million per year, can't afford to tackle the whole sewer system at once so is just putting our fires as they happen.

The workshop did not begin until all other city business was finished which meant it did not get underway until 10:00 pm.  By that time everyone who had arrived for the 6:00 pm meeting was long gone.  I was the only person from the public left when the workshop started.

The corporate lawyer for BIW, Jon Fitzgerald, began the workshop with a head-spinning fast paced ramble through a dense PowerPoint presentation.  I tried to take notes but could not keep up.  I asked for a paper copy of the BIW presentation but was told there were none - even for the city councilors.  Even though the public is not allowed to speak during council "workshops" I insisted that an open public process should allow for real information.  The city manager then wavered and asked BIW to make copies available to the public at the city clerk's office.

One thing I did pick up on in Fitzgerald's presentation was that from the Navy on down they are talking about squeezing everyone.  They (BIW) are squeezing the workers by announcing there will be no pay raises for about 18 months. They are laying off more workers.  While collecting signatures at the polls last week (during a special state senate election) one BIW worker who signed the petition opposing the corporate tax break said she was doing the work of "three people now".  They are squeezing the city and taxpayers here in Bath.  Who is not being squeezed?  The General Dynamics executives and shareholders.  Corporate profits trump everything else.

Fitzgerald went on alot about all the tax breaks that the Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi is getting.  One example he had in his PowerPoint jumped out at me.  It was a couple hundred thousand dollars in Hurricane Katrina relief Community Development Block Grant that Mississippi handed over to Ingalls. So money from the federal government directly to help poor communities rebuild after the hurricane was diverted for corporate welfare.

My feeling is that as the federal budget crisis grows, and some cuts happen to the Pentagon budget, the weapons corporations new strategy is to squeeze harder local and state governments (who are already strapped and are in fiscal crisis) in order to keep their profits at the highest level possible. They have no real concern for local conditions.  And the whole Ingalls-BIW "competition" feels like two professional wrestlers snarling at each other with the microphone inside the ring before the match begins where they crank the audience up. It's all a great show but usually scripted.

In Mississippi the city of Pascagoula recently granted Ingals a big tax break.  Here is a quote from an Ingals shipyard representative:  "In this day of shrinking budgets, we need every bit of help we can to keep our shipyard competitive and bring it back to being known as America's shipyard," he said. Almost the exact same words were heard last night from BIW at city hall here in Bath.

I was forced to leave the city council meeting at 10:45 pm because they went into "executive session".  The city manager seemed eager to get them to show their commitment to BIW.  The whole thing felt forced and hurried.  City Councilor Carolyn Lockwood (one of the few to ask a question) said she did not really understand TIF's and felt these late night meetings were not conducive to real public participation.  I sent her an email this morning thanking her for speaking up honestly in the meeting and she responded.  In her email she said, "Thanks Bruce and thanks for staying until that late hour. As you know, I wanted to move the workshop to a time that would be more productive for everyone. I lost that vote. This is a really important issue that many people know little about, or they think they know about it. I was hoping that last night's workshop would be a TIF 101 lesson, especially with our TIF attorney present. I do know some things about TIFs but this discussion was moving at such a pace that unless you worked with TIFs on a daily basis, there was no way you could keep up. The hard part about TIFs is that each one is different and what you think you know about one can be totally different for the next."

It's quite sad that our city government appears to fear having an accessible public process where BIW must provide us all with real pertinent information about their request for tax "relief".  As it turns out they are requesting, on top of $197 million in past tax breaks, another $250,000 each year for the next 25 years.  That kind of money would go a long way in our city for fixing our sewer system, our roads, and funding our schools.

It was not at all clear to me what the next steps in the process will be.  I don't even think the city council knew as of last night at 10:45pm. I've not heard, and maybe never will, because what happened in the "executive session" is not required to be public.  My guess is that BIW used the time to scare the city council with threats of moving the shipyard if they don't get their way.

OBAMA: "WHEN I RECEIVED THE NOBEL PRIZE I SAID I WAS UNWORTHY"



One of the few honest things the magician has ever said.........Rep. Grayson is a really good communicator.

LIFE IN AMERICA TODAY



Iraq Veterans Against the War activist Emily Yates is arrested and manhandled for playing a banjo under a tree in a park.  You figure it out, I can't.

Yes we live in a police state.  Yes we are losing our basic freedoms.  Yes the American people have become the enemy.  Yes the cops are out of control.

THE COMING BATTLEFIELD


OPERATION 'JUST THE TIP'

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

LOUD AND LOPSIDED - PUBLIC AGAINST MILITARY FORCE

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

ITALIANS TAKE DOWN US ARMY BASE FENCE



Peace activists in the northern Italian city of Vicenza take action against US Army Dal Molin base and the war on Syria. They cut the fence and entered the base and were met with tear gas by the US military.

The US base in Vicenza hosts the Army's Airborne Combat Brigade and the US Africa Command's (AFRICOM) "US Army Africa."

For last the several years Italians have organized large protests in Vicenza against the expansion of the base.  Just last weekend they hosted an international online conference to ban all US military bases around the planet.  Peace campaigners from Italy, Hawaii, Philippines, Diego Garcia, South Korea, Okinawa, and more took part.

DOWN TO THE WIRE - CALL CONGRESS

We are coming to the end point as Obama and the US war machine prepare to unleash a blistering attack on Syrian air defense systems, military outposts, airfields, missile sites and more.  Legions of innocent civilians will be slaughtered.

You need to contact Congress immediately by clicking here

Contact Obama at the White House: 
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Sign a petition here

Help spread the word please.  This is the time when we peace activists are called to stand with the innocents.  Dropping bombs is not making peace.

PREPARING FOR HOT WAR

The Israeli and US missile test yesterday is a troubling development in the impending war on Syria.  I've previously noted I believe one key goal of this Obama version of "shock and awe" is to create a pretext to hit Iran as well.

A Russian military expert told the ITAR-TASS News Agency yesterday that the U.S. and Israel actually wanted to watch the reaction to the launch on the part of Russia, China and Iran.

From 1996 through to 2001, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, Ret. was chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Department for International Defense Cooperation. He is President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems at present. He believes that the missiles were launched for the purposes of reconnaissance.

“Those who launched the two ballistic missiles towards Syria obviously hoped Iran would consider this launch as an attack on Damascus, its ally,” Gen Ivashov went on. “The Pentagon clearly wanted to see if the Iranians would respond to this by delivering a ballistic missile strike at Israel.”

“The provocation would have thus played into Binyamin Netanyahu’s hands and would have helped him to convince his nation that Israel should throw its shoulder into a joint aerospace operation conducted by the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia against Syria,” he said.

“Had Iran responded to the challenge, the U.S. would have gotten weighty reasons for attacking Syria by way of support for Israel as its ally, since Barack Obama still doesn’t have congressional support for an operation against the Syrian government either among the rank-and-file Americans or in the Congress. In the meantime, the necessity of defending Israel would offer an important argument for shaping up public opinion in favor of ousting the Bashar al-Assad regime.”

“From the angle of view of military strategy, the launch of ballistic missiles compels Syria and Iran to bring into full-scale action all the tracking systems they have,” Gen Ivashov said. “Air defense systems, too, start reacting to missile launches.”

“When this happens, the U.S. warships, aircraft, and ground-based tracking systems immediately do the computerized identification of all the locations in Syria and Iran where combat operations control is exercised from - their working frequencies, the places where radar stations are deployed, their coordinates, technical characteristics, and so on.”

“Right after that, radio-electronic jamming of the enemy’s combat control networks goes into action. It is followed by a string of missile strikes, with the data on location of the enemy’s control and command systems loaded into the programs.”

“As a result, the Syrian and Iranian Armed Forces should lose control and coordination and lose the war eventually,” Gen Ivashov said.

This is a technological side of the provocation but there is a political side to the missile launch, too.

“Israel is demonstrating blatant disregard for the norms of international law,” Gen Ivashov said.

“The Israeli Defense Ministry did not issue a warning to the countries, the ships of which were cruising in the Mediterranean at the moment."

“Nonetheless, the Israeli government was prepared to set the machine of a major war in the Middle East into motion Tuesday - with support from the Pentagon,” he said.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

ISRAEL & US RAMP UP MILITARY ACTIVITIES IN REGION



If the US does attack Syria I'd bet my life that Israel will be involved in some substantial way.  And if that happens all hell is likely to break open - which is what the US and Israel really want.  They are both itching to have a reason to expand this war into Iran.  The potential to draw Russia into a shooting match is also very high.

Leave it to the Democrats to lead us into such an escalation - they talk peace, demobilize the peace movement, and expand our wars.  LBJ did the same thing with Vietnam.

Don't buy the war talk from the magician and his team.

Monday, September 02, 2013

WAY UP IN NORTHERN MAINE


I left Bath at 6:30 am this morning with Jeanne from Portsmouth, NH to make the five hour drive to Limestone, Maine.  We've come way up to what Mainers call "the County", Aroostook County, the biggest county in the state.  It's potato farming territory and the place where many politicians in our state want to put a "weaponized drone test area".

As we approached our destination in Limestone just after noon we saw a couple Amish with horse and buggies along US Hwy 1A.

Limestone is where we will start our Maine Drone Peace Walk on October 10.  I've come up here, being driven by volunteer Jeanne, to begin mapping the walk route.  We drove from Limestone to Caribou where we met with a person from a local church to seek a place for walkers to sleep the first night of the walk.

Next we drove from Caribou to Presque Isle - it was the representatives from the airport in Presque Isle who came to the capital in Augusta last spring to speak against the drone bill I was working on with the Maine ACLU.  The airport folks opposed the bill and asked to be allowed to bring a drone test bed to their community.  Maine's Attorney General Janet Mills (Democrat) took their side and tried to kill the drone bill which would have required police to have warrants before they could snoop on us with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.  (The bill eventually passed the state legislature, except an exemption was added to allow weaponized drone testing in the state.  Our right-wing Gov. LePage vetoed the bill because he wanted no restrictions on the police.)

I also took a flyer this afternoon about the drone walk to the local newspaper in Presque Isle so they would have advance notice about the event.

Tonight Jeanne and I are invited to dinner at the home of local folks in Presque Isle.  I hear they vigil on the bridge every Sunday come rain, snow, or shine.

In the morning we head south to continue mapping the rest of the walk.  The walk will wind its way through many towns and end at the state capital in Augusta on October 18 where we will hold a ceremony in the Hall of Flags at 3:00 pm that day.  On October 19 walkers will head to Bath for a 10:00 am protest at BIW when the first Zumwalt class "stealth" destroyer will be "christened".

The walk will be led by Buddhist monks and nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji order.  Long-time peace activist Kathy Kelly will join the walk for the last few days and others from various states will walk along with many from Maine.  See more details about the walk here.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

PORTLAND PROTEST AGAINST SYRIA ATTACK



There was a protest yesterday in Portland, Maine where several groups joined together to stand against a Syria attack.  We marched a bit through the city and concluded with a closing circle where folks were asked to do something each day in the coming week to stop this coming attack.

Sadly the top columnist from the Portland Press Herald wrote a slam peace that appeared in the Sunday edition of the paper. I believe the columnist was trying to do a couple things with his piece.  One was to provide cover for Obama and our congressional delegation to support war by showing peace movement support for "limited strikes".  Secondly was to make us look a bit wacky so as to ensure that the reading public steers clear of us.  He accomplished both of his nefarious goals.

When interviewed by any reporter you have to measure your words very very carefully.  Sadly some of those interviewed in this piece didn't do so. It's also helps to know the tendencies of any particular journalist.  The one who wrote this hit piece is a long-time mouthpiece for the Democratic party.

It also doesn't hurt to know that the newspaper is owned by a Wall Street hedge fund billionaire whose wife, Chellie Pingree (a Democrat), is our congressional representative. In the old days they called this kind of stuff feudalism.

RISE OF THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY



Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle" (2009), "I Don't Believe in Atheists" (2008) and the best-selling "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" (2008). His book "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.

SUNDAY SONG