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.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Nuke Boys Like Alcohol

This chair is at an  ICBM launch control facility near Minot, N.D., on the Minot Air Force Base. There has been a series of firings of commanders lately - take a close look at the words on the patch on the chair.  Click on the photo if you need a larger view. 

I was up earlier than normal this morning in order to help set up our table at the Bath polling station.  Selma Sternlieb took the first two-hour shift so I came home and immediately did an interview with PressTV in Iran.  They wanted my comment on a story about nuke silo commanders being fired that was published in the military newspaper called the Stars & Stripes.  I read the story which you can find here.  I came to only one conclusion - alcoholism.

I told Press TV that I grew up behind the barbed wire fences.  One primary military retention strategy is alcoholism.  You make the GI dependent on the booze (and the military job) and then you have them in a position where they must carry out your orders.  Often their conscience is drowned in the drink.  It happened to my step-father who was in the Air Force.  From about three years old until I was 18 I lived in the military culture.  Then in 1971 I joined the Air Force.  I witnessed first-hand how the military pushes booze on the troops.  And think of the profits for the alcohol industry.  Can you imagine organized crime connections here?

My Air Force bosses would come around to our office early on a Friday and say that if you would go to the Prop Shop (Airman's club) at noon and drink until 5:00 pm you could leave work.  If you didn't want to go to the 'club' then you had to stay in the office until quitting time and must look 'busy'.  So of course everyone goes to the club and by 5:00 pm are drunk.  It's the one place where lower grade airmen (like me) got to tell their immediate bosses how they really felt about stuff.  The drink helps eliminate inhibitions.  So run that game over a 20-year career for many in the military and you can see how drinking becomes an epidemic.

As long as the GI can function at work there is no problem.  A drunk can hang on until full retirement.  That is what happened with my step-father.  I saw many people like this when I was in the Air Force.  It's the biggest welfare program going today - damn near full socialism - except you have no voice and the morals tend to lag.

So reading the Stars & Stripes story I came to the conclusion that most of these nuke button pushers underground in North Dakota (cold and increasingly fracked) were wanna-bee jet jockeys.  For whatever reason they washed out of flight school and were sent underground...the booby prize.  These folks are deeply resentful and are very susceptible to alcoholism.  The patch on the commander's chair in the photo is clear evidence of alcohol's role in the military culture.

Reading the description in the article about one of the commanders who was fired was illustrative in itself:

The most recent incident involving Jones was in September and occurred at a thrift store operated on F.E. Warren by volunteers, Sheets said. According to the investigation report as described by Sheets, Jones went to the shop, called Airman's Attic, to discuss shopping hour policies.

"He hit the sign on the Airman's Attic door and repeatedly hit the shop's front counter while raising his voice, using profanity" and threatening to shut down the place, Sheets said.

It was this incident which prompted a complaint to the 90th Missile Wing's inspector general, leading to the investigation and the decision by Hayes to remove Jones.

Three other incidents of allegedly inappropriate behavior on base by Jones during 2014 were substantiated in the investigation, including one in May in which his behavior was described by one officer and a witness as shocking.

When you feel powerless and miserable you want to strike out.  The military likes that in their GI's but it is supposed to be kept under wraps.  This North Dakota story broke out into global media.  The nukes boys are now being watched and they damn well should be.  The whole nuclear weapons system needs to be shut down.  Instead Obama and a bi-partisan Congress are upgrading the nuclear weapons program.  In a sadly cynical way this story helps force Congress to kick more money into the nuclear mess.  Properly timed in the Stars & Stripes.


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