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 14, 2014


55-foot silos going into ground at Ft. Greeley, Alaska, a GMD base similar to the one being proposed for the east coast of the US.  Public hearings are now under way in four states, including Maine, as potential basing sites.

Yesterday I made the drive to Rangeley along with fellow Maine activist Jason Rawn. The occasion was the "public hearing" put on by the Pentagon's "Missile Defense Agency" (MDA) - better termed missile offense agency. The corporation Black & Veatch was contracted to organize the hearings to help determine where the MDA should build an "east coast" missile interceptor base and they sub-contracted with some other company to actually do the work. So when Jason and I walked in the door just before the 9:00 am start time we were swarmed with about 40 Army Space Command personnel (Huntsville, Alabama), MDA staff and sub-contractors.

In order to avoid having a real public hearing, where citizens can hear and learn from one another, the MDA plan was to have display boards on easels throughout the Rangeley regional school gymnasium. This set up allowed for the atomization of the public voice as folks were forced to go from easel to easel and be literally surrounded by 2-3 MDA types who would immediately ask, "Do you have a question?"

The truth is that most of the 50-some public citizens we saw during our two-hours were mostly stunned. They have no clue what "missile defense" (offense) really is and they have no idea what it means to have a new base plunked down inside Maine's environmentally sensitive western mountains. Sixty interceptor missiles are envisioned at the base as a result of the Congressional mandate that public hearings be held in Michigan, Ohio, New York and Maine to decide which state gets the 'lucky prize' if Congress ultimately decides to further fund this expensive and destabilizing program.

This particular version of "missile defense" is called the Ground-based Midcourse (GMD) system and has had the least successful testing regime of all the various MD systems. GMD has the most difficult task of having a bullet hit a bullet in deep space while "enemy rockets" would be travelling at 15,000 mph. The few "positive" tests came when they put beacons on the dummy missiles helping the GMD system to locate them - what is called a "strap down rabbit test". The program was in serious trouble because of cost and technology hurdles but primary contractor Boeing Corp. marshaled their vast congressional resources and the combined influence of New England's congressional delegations got Maine into the final four. Raytheon, a key sub-contractor in the program, is headquartered in nearby Massachusetts.

One local environmentalist was "shocked at the scale of the project" that could bring anywhere from 1,000 to 1,800 people into Rangeley to build the base and/or staff the missile installation. Current year round population of Rangeley is about 1,100 and the kindergarten to high school student population is presently only 260 kids. Expect a dramatic change in local culture if this site is picked. The sleepy summer lake and winter mountain ski culture would be infused with bars, pawn shops, and other signs of military "outside the gate" culture so familiar around the country and world where US bases are located.

The sixty interceptors would be trucked to the mountain region after huge holes were blasted into rocky mountain surfaces. Inside the holes would first go 55-foot long black silos that would also be trucked to Rangeley. Once installed the interceptors, key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack planning, would be filled with hydrazine. Hydrazine is a hazardous toxic pollutant and will be used to fuel the final stage of the "hit-to-kill" kinetic warhead. The lower stages of the interceptor missiles will be fueled by solid fuel. The primary ingredient for the solid fuel is perchlorate which has been found in water tables throughout the US. The Colorado River, used to provide water for crops in California, is loaded with perchlorate and the toxin is showing up in lettuce and milk among other food products. 

I learned that the "pure water" bottler Poland Springs (owned by Nestle) has 1,000 acres at the very edge of this proposed missile base. The local water aquifer would thus be very close to fuel storage tanks holding the hydrazine that would also be trucked in from away. The opportunities for serious water contamination are more than certain.  We know that the Pentagon is the largest polluter on the planet.

This particular wilderness site has also recently been in consideration for being set aside as a wildlife refuge. The Appalachian Trail Club is deeply concerned about the environmental impacts as are other environmental groups in Maine.

Jason stood by the door and handed local citizens entering the hearing a flyer from Maine Veterans For Peace about our October 11-20 Walk for Peace & A Sustainable Future. The walk will begin in Rangeley and end in North Berwick and is intended to connect various communities in Maine that are increasingly reliant on military spending/production. Nearly 10% of Maine's gross domestic product derives from military spending because it is the only real government job creation program going these days. It's important to remember that the Pentagon has long been saying that America's job under corporate globalization of the world economy will be "security export".

Politicians from both parties are eager to bring the military to our state and jobs is always the reason given. They know that there isn't going to be any real money for anything else so their philosophy is get what you can - the path of least resistance.

As we were leaving the hearing Jason and I talked with one of the MDA staff who told me that he has been reading my blog regularly for many years. I can only hope he, and others from the military industry complex who read it, are learning something.

Public comments from US citizens are due by September 15 and you can access the MDA web page here.

Ridgely Fuller from Belfast, Maine hands a Maine Walk for Peace flyer to one of the MDA's officers at today's public hearing in Farmington.  She has on her pink Bring Our War $$ Home t-shirt.


Anonymous Bosco Fantaglio said...

Super article! We need to boycott killer corporations, then produce our own vastly superior products.

8/15/14, 12:01 AM  

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