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.

Monday, August 15, 2016

More Photos from Seoul Events

Just arrived at the US military base Yongsan in downtown Seoul yesterday for rally and march near the base gates.  This THAAD prop was later set on fire by the protesters and the police immediately came and extinguished it which created a toxic cloud that was not fun to breathe. (CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR A BETTER VIEW)

As we marched by the US base a long line of police stood on one side of the road for as far as the eye could see.  Some even stood on top of the long rows of police buses parked on the opposite side of the street. 

I think most of the police were relieved that nothing happened - they are largely drafted for 18 months and get to choose between being in the Army or the police.  We were told they prefer the police because they have an easier time but then have to increasingly pull duty going up against protests.
One of the leaders from Seongju where the US wants to deploy the THAAD 'missile defense' system at the huge rally last night. The formally conservative community of Seongju voted 85% in favor of the right-wing dictator (President Park, daughter of former brutal dictator) in the last election.  Since they learned about THAAD the community of 10,000 has overwhelmingly resigned from the right-wing political party.  They now say that THAAD should not be deployed anywhere in South Korea and that the dangers of 'missile defense' must be understood throughout East Asia.  Seongju residents have become heroes to the peace movement in South Korea. 

Near the end of the rally last night, standing on the stage before the crowd of 10,000 people (here I am next to the leader of the progressive KCTU labor federation) they put on the screen behind us a rally of thousands happening at the same moment in Seongju.  We heard a speaker there and then both crowds - in Seoul and Seongu sang the same song together.  It is things like this that lead me to repeatedly say that Koreans are the best organizers that I have ever seen.  They really know how to put on a show.  
After attending another rally and march this morning honoring National Liberation Day from Japanese Occupation we marched through the center of Seoul.  Then we were taken to the National Assembly building where the Korea International Peace Forum was held.  I was proud of Will Griffin from Veterans For Peace who spoke on behalf of our two-person American delegation to an audience of Korean and Japanese activists.  A Chinese professor was not allowed into the country nor were our two Korean-American guides/translators from New York City.  One woman said during the event that "The three being stopped from entry shows how afraid the South Korean government is of growing solidarity with the movement against THAAD."
A photo of the international guests and peace forum organizers at the end of the event today. A proposal was made to establish the International Network for Peace in Korea and I pledged to take this initiative to the Global Network to get our organization's support for this new organization.  One South Korean organizer said, "We don't really expect anything from the US - we do expect people in East Asia to work together in solidarity to prevent war."  It is my hope that activists in the US will quickly learn that since no peace treaty was ever signed after the Korean War Armistice (ceasefire agreement) it means that the Korean peninsula remains a serious trigger for WW III. The US is the one that refuses to sign a peace treaty with North Korea.  I believe the reason is fairly simple - as long as the war is officially still on with North Korea then the US can 'justify' its occupation of the peninsula which ultimately is aimed at China and Russia.

Han Chung-mok (Standing Representative, Korean Alliance of Progressive Movements) concluded the peace forum today with these words:  "Solidarity and unity is the way we have to confront the endless wars of capitalism."

Solidarity must be active and on-going to be effective against those suffering under the boot of US military repression and war.  The Korean people know suffering deeply as they were ravaged by the US-led assault on their nation during the Korean War.  Since 1953 the US military presence in Korea has been nonstop and as we've repeatedly seen on this trip (and previous ones) the Pentagon continues to grab the lands of the Korean people for US base expansion as Washington prepares for war with China and Russia.

Korea is on the front-lines of this war preparation and will pay a tremendously heavy price should war break out.  Already the Pentagon has put into motion military plans to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea that could trigger nuclear war.

Will the American people continue to sit on the sidelines and let our country devastate Korea a second time?  Will the American people ever move beyond calling for a vague and relatively uncontroversial 'peace' on their protest signs and move into active solidarity which would change the very nature of our protests at home forcing us to spell out the real steps that would being true peace and reunification to the Korean peninsula.

NO THAAD in Korea!
Close US Bases in Korea!
No Anthrax in Seoul and at Osan AFB!
Stop US Military Exercises in Korea!
No Navy Base on Jeju Island!
Sign a Peace Treaty with North Korea!
End US Nuclear Hypocrisy - Cancel Obama's $1 Trillion Nuclear Weapons Upgrade Program!



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