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, January 28, 2017

America's Deeper Truth and Challenge


THAAD - Missile Offense System



On January 20 the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific participated in the anti-Trump rally organized by the ANSWER Coalition in Washington DC

Will Griffin from Veterans For Peace speaks first about 'missile defense' in the video.

The Pentagon's so-called missile defense (MD) system is directed by the Redstone Arsenal based in Huntsville, Alabama.  The THAAD (Theatre High Altitude Area Defense) program is built in Alabama as are many of the other US MD programs.  Huntsville is often called the Pentagon of the South.

The Global Network will hold its 25th annual space organizing conference in Huntsville on April 7-9 and will feature missile defense and other space weapons programs during the event.  The conference brochure is available here

MD is actually an extremely provocative program as it gives one side an advantage over the other during a nuclear exchange and was outlawed for many years under the US-Russia Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001 he pulled the US out of the ABM Treaty and since that time Pentagon research, development, testing and deployments of MD have been on steroids.  In particular the US is encircling Russia and China with MD systems based on land and at sea.


MD is the shield that would pick-off nuclear retaliatory launches after a US first-strike attack on Russia or China giving the Pentagon a 'successful' first-strike.  Each year at the US Space Command they computer war game such a US first-strike against Russia and China.

As a result of flourishing US MD deployments around the world Russia and China have repeatedly stated that they cannot afford to reduce their nuclear retaliatory capability.  Thus real nuclear disarmament negotiations have ground to a halt and will not be restarted as long as the US continues to position MD near the Russian and Chinese borders.

Bruce

Friday, January 27, 2017

New U.S. Ambassador to United Nations: "We Are Taking Names"



The New York Times reports today:

The American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley [former Governor of South Carolina], issued a stark warning on Friday to allies and rivals abroad, saying in her first remarks at the headquarters of the world body that the Trump administration would hold to account those who do not back the United States.

“You’re going to see a change in the way we do business,” Ms. Haley said. “Our goal with the administration is to show value at the U.N., and the way we’ll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our back as well.”

“For those who don’t have our back,” she added, “we’re taking names; we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”

These kind of arrogant threats to other nations are just the sort of things I have been saying will further cause the fading US imperial project to unravel even faster.  People don't like being threatened and they won't enjoy being bullied by the former South Carolina conservative governor who has no real foreign policy experience.  The US does not run the world - even though Washington thinks it does.

The Trump team, already blustering around like a drunken sailor, is off to a bad start.  It is still proving hard to get a full reading of where Trump is going on many international issues but this statement today by Haley gives us a further indication that Washington will being doing much to undermine the trust of people around the world.

If the global community is smart they will quickly determine that blindly following the US is no longer a smart strategy if one is interested in a cooperative world at peace. Developing a fair international economic policy and dealing with climate change during the next four years will be a great challenge to say the least.

Bruce 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

U.S. Must Stop Supporting ISIS in Syria



Please note this is not an endorsement of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.  I have some issues with her for example on 'missile defense' as she is a big promoter of that provocative project.

But I've got to give her credit for standing up against US policy on Syria.

She just returned from a secret trip to Syria and told corporate CNN news what Vanessa Beeley and Eva Karene Bartlett have all been saying for a long time now!

"There are no moderate rebels."

Arrests at BIW on June 18



The jury will have to decide whether our Zumwalt 12 protest at Bath Iron Works during the 'christening' of a new more than $4 billion 'stealth' destroyer was a legal use of our first amendment rights of free speech.

The trial will be held at the Sagadahoc County Superior Court (752 High Street in Bath) on February 1-2 at 9:00 am.  

We will gather outside at 8:15 am to hold banners and signs for 30 minutes before entering the court room. We will provide signs and banners and invite the public to join us.
 
Please keep in mind that the bridge in Bath is now under construction and folks coming into Bath from the north should plan accordingly for delays.
 
Anyone wishing to come to Bath the night before can be provided with home hospitality but you need to let us know ASAP.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Op-Ed in Local Paper Today as We Move Toward Trial on Feb 1-2


Below is an Op-Ed I submitted to our local newspaper in the Midcoast of Maine called The Times Record.  Our local peace group has had a running bi-monthly spot on the editorial page for several years.  Lately the editor has told us we could only write about local issues which makes it rather hard for a peace group to address foreign policy concerns.  Clearly the paper is censoring us and likely because of the presence of Bath Iron Works in our community where Navy destroyers are built.  Below I've italicized the first paragraph (and one other place) in the Op-Ed that was cut out by the editor as it was printed in the paper today. Other writers from PeaceWorks have lately had entire Op-Eds rejected from the 'Opinion' section of the paper.
Bruce


Meet the Zumwalt 12 As We Head Toward Trial

I wrote this while on a plane returning home from a week long trip to Okinawa with 30 other American peace workers.  We were there to support 85% of the people of Okinawa who are actively opposing two environmentally destructive US military base expansions on their besieged island home where the US now has 32 bases.
 
My mind though is also on the upcoming appearance of the Zumwalt 12 before the Sagadahoc County Superior Court (752 High Street in Bath) on February 1-2 at 9:00 am for our jury trial after having been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience at Bath Iron Works (BIW) on June 18, 2016.  On that occasion we sat in the middle of Washington Street near one of the gates where people attending the ‘christening’ of a new Zumwalt ‘stealth’ destroyer were entering.


We sat in the road for about 10 minutes before the Bath Police Department (PD) arrested us and charged us with ‘Obstructing a Public Way’.  We were taken to the Bath PD station and processed and released with a date for an arraignment.  As we were leaving the PD station one of the policemen told one in our group, “You people are the conscience of the community.”


It is indeed conscience that motivated us as we see a collapsing US military empire, in massive debt, now recklessly invading and killing legions of innocent civilians around the planet – mostly on behalf of fossil fuel corporations who want to get their hands on declining supplies of oil and natural gas in the Middle East, Central Asia and on the African continent.


In particular the Zumwalt destroyer, costing more than $4 billion each (the standard Aegis destroyers built at BIW have been costing about $1.3 billion) will be used to sneak up on China’s coast and blast them with new electro-magnetic rail guns that can fire a shell the distance between Philadelphia and New York City.  (You may have heard that each shell costs $800,000 and the Navy does not have the funds to supply the Zumwalt with the expensive ammunition.)


What happened to all the fiscal conservatives who are concerned about the national debt as well as waste, fraud and abuse in the Pentagon?  Where are the voices of Maine’s congressional delegation?  The truth is that Collins, King and Pingree are eager to grab every dollar they can for our state just like every other politician in the land.


I’d like to introduce a few of the Zumwalt 12, who are mostly senior citizens, so that people in the MidCoast can get a feel for the people who were arrested on June 18 at BIW.


I grew up in an Air Force family and joined the Air Force myself in 1971 during the Vietnam War.  It was there that I became a peace activist – quite a transformation for a kid who in 1968 at the age of 16 was Vice-Chair of the Okaloosa County, Florida Young Republican Club volunteering for the Nixon for President Campaign.  I am a member of Veterans For Peace (VFP).


Dud Hendrick (74), a Deer Isle resident, was a Naval Academy graduate at Annapolis, an All-American lacrosse player for Navy and volunteered to serve in Vietnam.  Dud is also a member of VFP.


Connie Jenkins (68) lives in Orono and is a retired nurse practitioner and psychotherapist.  She is a devout Catholic who is inspired by the calls from Pope Francis to end war.  She is a member of Pax Christi Maine.


Former Catholic nun Joan Peck (69) from Brunswick is a retired Social Worker.  Her husband John Peck (75) registered as a Conscientious Objector during Vietnam and became a professor of English at Princeton, Mount Holyoke, and Skidmore.


Highly regarded Maine artist Russell Wray (61) from Hancock is co-founder of Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST) and holds deep affection for sea mammals that are continually mortally wounded by Navy sonar.


Another in our group is Richard Brown Lethem (84) from Bath.  He is a nationally recognized artist, retired university professor, a veteran and Quaker peace activist.


The youngest person in the Zumwalt 12 is Jason Rawn (42) from Camden.  He is a former healthcare worker and high school teacher and presently paints houses and engages in war tax resistance.


One could say that we are all pretty average Americans with a deep belief in the First Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees our right to peacefully assemble in order to petition for a governmental redress of grievances.  We have some serious grievances with Washington’s foreign and military policy and have repeatedly tried to bring these concerns to Congress and the public.  We were compelled to act on June 18 by conscience and a strong belief in the people’s role in creating democracy.


Our trial might land us in jail or with serious fines but we feel we had few other alternatives.  We are worried that America is rushing headlong into a war with China and Russia as we currently encircle both those nations with our mega-military machine that is oriented for offense rather than the defense of our own shores.


We humbly speak out trying to honor the best traditions in America and pray the public will hear our pleas for peace.


- Bruce K. Gagnon is a member of PeaceWorks and lives in Bath, Maine   

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Some History of U.S. Interference in Russian Affairs



The increased aggression towards Russia from US politicians and media is made more clear when taking into account the real history of the post-Soviet period. The hidden story of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency explains how deeply the US government, along with Western capitalist institutions, cheered, shaped and exploited the country after the fall of the Soviet Union, paving the way for the political system they all condemn today.

To uncover just how much the US Empire has interfered in Russia’s political evolution, Abby Martin interviews Mark Ames, an American journalist who spent a decade reporting from Yeltsin’ and Putin’s Russia and witnessed the country’s transformation from an American “colony” to it’s “number one threat.”

Planting Seeds During the Great Unraveling


I fear the unraveling
of the social fabric
of human society

We see it in
war zones
and across
the pot hole filled
roads of Maine
that lead to worn out
homes
lacking safety and comfort
full of holes
that occupants
can't afford to repair

The corporate plunderers
unravel our sacred
Earth
extracting every last
oily dime they can
blinded by greed
with no care
for life

Our own families
are fraught with fear
rage and sadness
as the social web
is torn
like an old sweater
ripped apart
the threads separating
no longer joined
in their warm unity

The Native people
across America
were the first
to experience
the unraveling
as sacred lands
culture
food
community
were taken from them
at the force of Washington's
sword, gun and cannon

Now in America
the rest of us
are being cast
onto reservations
in cities
towns
and barren
rural villages
where work
has left
to ensure corporate
profits
can be maximized
in far away places

How do we
survive this
hard time?
It feels
like a
prison sentence
without
a trial
nor a jury of
our peers
to hear our
cries
for justice
and peace?

We must
hold on
to each other
standing together
all with one
and one for all

we will fail
but we must
get up
and stand again
in the streets
and offices
of the rotten
hacks who pretend
to lead us

This is the code
and oath
we must honor
as we
fight for all life

We must keep
planting our seeds
in the midst
of the hell
coming our way

Bruce

Monday, January 23, 2017

Challenging 'Missile Defense' in the Age of Trump


The Fight to Stop U.S. THAAD Deployment in South Korea

Webinar/Teach-in open to the public:
Featured Speakers - JJ Suh and Ray McGovern

Monday, February 13, 2017, 8 pm EST, 5 pm PST

**RSVP to no-thaad@mail.com for log-in info

On July 7, 2016, the U.S. and South Korean governments announced a joint decision to deploy the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea. The two governments assert, without serious evidence and contrary to expert opinion, that the THAAD system will protect South Korea from the threat of North Korean missiles.

The U.S. THAAD deployment in South Korea is part of the U.S. “pivot” to the Asia Pacific. It expands the already significant network of U.S. “missile defense” systems encircling China and Russia. These systems give the U.S. military the potential to neutralize an opponent’s ability to retaliate and appears to reflect a broader U.S. decision to change its military posture from one of deterrence to that of first strike.

The determination of the US government to use an expanding regional military presence to boost its regional political influence comes at high cost. It intensifies regional military tensions, fuels a new arms race, and increases the possibility of a new war on the Korean peninsula. It also undermines the national sovereignty and democratic aspirations of people in South Korea.

South Koreans are fighting to block deployment of the THAAD system in their country. They fear that its deployment will draw their country into an anti-Chinese alliance with the United States and Japan, embolden militaristic and anti-democratic political forces in their own country, and exacerbate tensions between North and South Korea. They also worry about the negative health effects associated with the operation of the THAAD radar system.

Also of concern is the cost of the THAAD system--estimated at $1.3 billion, plus an additional $22 million each year for operating and sustainment--which will be borne by South Korean and U.S. taxpayers. The continuing development of new and more destructive weapons systems draws precious resources away from needed domestic social programs in both countries.

Join us to discuss how to fight missile defense in the age of Trump and stop THAAD deployment in South Korea.

Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific
www.stopthaad.org  @STOPTHAAD

Where Does the U.S. Now Go with Russia?



Leading scholar on US-Russia relations addresses the claim being trumpeted by politicians and media on both sides of the political spectrum that Russia is now the "number one" threat to the United States. Given the proxy wars in Syria and Ukraine, Dr. Cohen tells host Abby Martin that the real alarming danger today is "a new, multi-front Cuban missile crisis."

Dr. Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus at Princeton University and New York University where he taught Russian Studies. He has been a noted author and commentator on US-Russia policy for decades.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pictures on the Wall


LumenARRT! Celebrates MLK Day from Geoffrey Leighton on Vimeo.

On January 16, 2017, LumenARRT! created a large-scale video projection in downtown Portland, Maine to celebrate the NAACP's annual Martin Luther King Day event. See more of their projections at lumenarrt.org

Share the Links as We March.....


I joined the women's march yesterday in Brunswick, Maine where several hundred in this relatively small community turned out.  That was in addition to 10,000 in nearby Portland and around 10,000 in Augusta.  Those were excellent numbers for Maine which only has 1.3 million people across our large state - we have alot more trees than people.

I felt good about the overall national (and international) day of protests.  The photos from these events are fun to look at - see some here

A friend sent around pictures from the Augusta, Maine event and I noticed photos of some Democratic party politicians working the crowd.  The Dems are in big trouble and they want to ride this national surge as hard as they can.  People need to watch that the Dems don't lead this movement down the rabbit hole.

I've noted that the George Soros Open Society Foundation funded about 40 of the groups organizing these protests.  Soros is not only a major Democratic Party donor but he is a primary funder/director of the 'color revolutions' - particularly in Eastern Europe.  Soros is a major Russia hater.  Thus it makes sense that Soros wants to knock Trump around in order to punish him for daring to say the US and Russia should get along - one of the few of Trump's positive statements.

So in some ways the events yesterday carried some features of a Soros sponsored 'color revolution' - this one in pink.

I was motivated to stand with women who have every right to be afraid and angry about Trump, his hateful talk, and a resurgent right-wing.  But I wanted to help broaden the message for those at the event and those in the public passing us by.

I carefully selected the red banner above made by an art collective in Maine that produces banners for many different issue events.  This one was made to order for our Maine Peace Walk last October that was entitled Stop the War$ on Mother Earth.  Connecting the dots is always important to me.

People at the protest were very drawn to the banner and many took photos of it.  Many of the women would verbalize the connections by saying things like: "Yeah, education!" or "Yeah, health care".  Lots of cars going by honked and waved at the protesters and at the banner.

With the help of local artist and activist Ed McCarten I was able to stand in the street to help maximize the banner's visibility.  This also forces cars to slow down a bit which allows the driver and passengers to have a better look at the entire protest.

I observed that a good number of the people who came to the protest had no sign with them.  Many of them flashed in and out and didn't stay for the whole hour-long event.  But in a way this is a good omen as many fence sitters (likely loyal Democrats) did come out and felt the great community spirit at a 'happening' event.  I heard one woman remark that this was her first protest ever - and she was not a spring chicken.

But the real test is time - and we will soon enough find out about the creativity and staying power of those who turned out across America yesterday.  On one side many of them came out of the Occupy movement and understand the need to stay focused.  But many new folks who attended the protests will quickly confront the hard reality that change will come slowly in our new America - as we are near totally under the thumb of corporate forces in Washington.


We will need to be more determined than ever and have more stick-to-it-ivness than ever.  That ultimately means our own lives must change because real commitment to sustained resistance translates to changing our patterns and our values - and most difficult of all - often having to change our social groups.

(I'll always remember speaking to a group in Daytona Beach, Florida back in the 1980's about space weapons issues.  A woman raised her hand during the Q & A and said:  "You expect me to go to my bridge club and talk about this?!  I would lose all of my friends."  With that said she got up and walked out of the room.)

The dominant and aggressive patriarchy now in command does wish to control women's lives - and people of color - and they want to drill-baby-drill on public lands - and they want to grab declining resources from nations on the other side of the planet.  They are planning for endless war and massive on-going military expenditures.  They want to drain the swamp of all social spending - including Social Security and Medicare to help pay for militarism.

We can't defeat the corporate oligarchies by going for half the loaf and only half the articulation of the problem.  We've got to understand the links and bring them into events like yesterday.

Cheers to all who turned out.

Bruce

Sunday Song