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: Brunswick, 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, April 06, 2019

Biden role in engineering coup in Ukraine



The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine how former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden may have leveraged the Maidan coup and war in East Ukraine to strike lucrative oil fracking deals in East Ukraine, along with a John Kerry family friend.

Limassol, Cyprus based energy firm Burisma Holdings, collected large energy contracts in the East of Ukraine, with Hunter Biden, Devon Archer and oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi, closely tied to the energy production company, which pushed for fracking exploration on land owned by East Ukrainian residents. 

Joe Biden was largely in charge of the 2014 coup in Ukraine orchestrated by the Obama administration.  After the 'successful' take down of the elected government in Kiev, Biden made sure that his son profited from the illegal US intervention in Ukraine's sovereignty. 

Friday, April 05, 2019

No to NATO - No to War Witness at the MLK Memorial


On this solemnity of Rev. MLK's martyrdom, as well as NATO's 70th anniversary commemoration in WDC, there was a protest early this morning [April 4] at the State Dept. where NATO Foreign Ministers were meeting. This was followed by a spirited March to the MLK Memorial and a program. I offered an abbreviated version of this below reflection at the MLK Memorial. As I was speaking early in the program, group organizers were informed by police that because they did not have a permit the group would have to move away from the King Memorial to the street. As some creative negotiating took place, speakers were asked to modify their remarks. The group persisted and were able to get through a somewhat altered program without further police interference. I ended my reflection with a reading of the King's Bay Plowshares solidarity statement. In these difficult times, let us continue to do all we can to heed Dr. King's exemplary nonviolent ethic as we nonviolently resist the US/NATO war making alliance and  strive to create a disarmed world and the Beloved Community. With gratitude,  Art

No to NATO - No to War Witness at the MLK Memorial--April 4, 2019 

Reflection by Art Laffin (Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, Washington DC)

My friends, as we gather here today on this sacred land, which originally belonged to the Piscataway Indians that was stolen, we call into our presence all the holy cloud of witnesses, all the peace and justice makers throughout history, as well all the victims of U.S. empire who have gone before us.

Today we remember and honor one of the greatest prophets of justice the world has ever seen--the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.-- on this the 52nd anniversary of his extraordinary "Beyond Vietnam--A Time to Break the Silence" speech and the 51st anniversary of his assassination. We also are here to renounce and resist the evils of militarism and war as NATO foreign ministers gather for NATO's 70th Anniversary. Twenty years ago I joined with others to resist NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit here in D.C. I am honored to be with all of you great peace and justice makers who are continuing that resistance and saying NO to NATO--NO to War!

The powers that be would like to keep Dr. King's life-giving witness set in stone, confined to a memorial monument. They want us to embrace a sanitized version of Dr. King and not face the fact that he named the U.S. government as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. The powers, don't want us to confront the sins of white supremacy, systemic racism and inequality, or work to bring about nonviolent change as Dr King did.

The powers also want us to believe that Dr. King was killed by a lone assassin. They do not want us to come to terms with the fact that after four weeks of testimony from over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on 

December 8, 1999  that Dr. King was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict saying, “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband...And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. The King family stands firmly behind the civil trial verdict!"

My friends, those forces who conspired to kill Dr. King thought that by doing so they could silence his message. To the contrary, Dr. King’s spirit is very much alive and his mandate for racial and economic justice, nonviolence and peace is just as relevant and urgent now as it was 51 years ago. No matter what the powers do to distort and manipulate the life, message and even death of Dr. King, his life stands as an eternal testament of truth, courage and hope in resistance to the forces of evil and death.

In his Beyond Vietnam speech, Dr. King declared: "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values...A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just...A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Dr. King's words aptly describe our current national plight. We, who are here today, along with countless others, decry the policies, exorbitant expenditures and war profiteering that drive the U.S. and NATO war machine. We denounce every aspect of the U.S. war machine, including the 2020 U.S. military budget which is now approaching $1 trillion; the over $1 trillion that has been earmarked over the next twenty years to upgrade the U.S. nuclear arsenal; the killer drone program; the new U.S. Space Force and deployment of missile defense systems encircling Russia and China! We denounce U.S. intervention around the world, including its continued support for the Saudi regime's brutal war in Yemen and it's illegal efforts to overthrow the Venezuela government. We decry the U.S. commitment to maintain some 800 foreign military bases and spend over $225 million this year on its AFRICOM military intervention operations in Africa.

With decry, too, NATO’s expanding war machine as evidenced by its $1.5 billion budget.   

These gross expenditures are about one thing: to assure global military domination of earth and space and control strategic resources. This criminal looting of public treasuries, while vital social programs continue to be cut, constitutes a direct theft from the poor of our society and world. Here in the U.S., the new Poor Peoples Campaign-A National Call for Revival, has brought to light this horrific reality. An estimated 140 million Americans are poor and low income.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist has turned its Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight due to the climate crisis and the nuclear threat. This threat has been exacerbated by the provocative actions of a reckless U.S. president and his advisers. We implore Mr. Trump and the entire political, military and corporate establishment to listen to and heed what Dr. King proclaimed: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men...This is where we are. (Human)Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to (human)mankind... It  is no longer a choice... between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence." Now is the time for all the nuclear nations, beginning with the U.S., to join with the 22 countries who have to date ratified the UN Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.

My friends, now more than ever, we need to continue to exorcise and resist what Dr. King called “the tragic death wish possessing our nation” and actively promote his prescription for revolutionary change! Imagine for a moment how different our nation would be if every person in government and in every sector of society, read and acted on Dr. King's Beyond Vietnam speech. Instead of being the greatest purveyor of violence in the world, we call on the U.S. government and corporate power structure to truly embrace Dr. King's nonviolent ethic, renounce empire and violence, make reparations to its victims and become the world's greatest purveyor of nonviolence and force for racial, economic and environmental justice. And we implore NATO to do the same and follow the example of nonviolent resisters in Germany and other European countries who are acting to remove U.S. nuclear weapons from their soil. 

History has shown that social change occurs when people make great sacrifices in order to bring it about. Seven friends, known as the Kings Bay Plowshares (KBP), have made such sacrifices. On this day last year they carried out a plowshares disarmament action at the King’s Bay Naval Base in St. Mary, Georgia. Carrying hammers and small baby bottles containing their own blood, they sought to symbolically disarm weapons of mass murder. The base is the Navy’s Atlantic Ocean port for six Trident submarines which have the capacity to cause the devastation of 3,600 Hiroshima-scale attacks. 

They are currently being charged with two felony counts and a misdemeanor and are awaiting trial. Liz McAlister and Fr. Steve Kelley have been jailed for one year now. Mark Colville has also been jailed most of the last year while the other four, Carmen Trotta, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, (Dorothy Day's granddaughter) and Patrick O'Neill are out on bail and ordered to wear ankle bracelets. They face long prison sentences if convicted.

I would like to share a solidarity statement that the KBP have sent to us titled: We Withdraw Consent from NATO’s Seventy-Year Death Grip on the Planet

"On April 4th, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of the state killing of Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. seven Catholic peacemakers walked onto the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, to expose the epitome of Dr. King’s “triple evils” of racism, materialism, and militarism. We remember his words in the speech he delivered, “Beyond Vietnam”, a year before his assassination. We continue to say no to NATO, “the greatest purveyor of violence” in the hands of the United States military. We continue in the tradition of nonviolent, direct action to support true democracy and the rule of law for all peoples on Earth. We want the massive cost of the weapons industry to be converted for human and environmental needs. We are grateful for the voice of the people that is being raised to end this endless war making."

Please keep the KBP in your thoughts and prayers and check out their web site: KingsBayplowshares7.org for updated info.

My friends, through God's amazing grace, I once had the opportunity to be on a Trident sub. On Labor Day, 1989, I, along with six other friends, carried out a plowshares action in New London, CT directed at the 10th Trident submarine. After hammering and pouring our own blood on the sub, three of us, myself included, were able to beach our canoe and climb aboard. There, in full view of armed security who were on a nearby pier, we prayed and read from Scripture, before being arrested and jailed. While atop of the Trident, I realized I was participating in a sacred act that was nothing short of a miracle. We were truly enfleshing God's dream for the human family to beat swords into plowshares. True disarmament was occurring. I believe now, as I did then, that if we have the faith to believe that a disarmed, nonviolent world is possible, and act on that belief, miracles can happen. Just as the Berlin Wall came down so, too, can the oppressive walls from Palestine to the U.S./Mexico border! The Pentagon, the military-industrial complex and NATO can be abolished and transformed into life-giving enterprises. All the swords (weapons) of our time can be turned into plowshares. War can be forever abolished! 

In closing, Dr. King said: "We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. We still have a choice today, nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation... Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one's enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problem of our world...Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism!" And now we must add environmental destruction. My friends, let us recommit ourselves today to live and act in this hope as we seek to create the Beloved Community!

Thank You!

Photo by Susan Crane

Courageous words from RFK that got him in trouble.....


Sen. Robert K. Kennedy showing support for striking farm workers in California led by Cesar Chavez.


Robert F. Kennedy, from a speech. “I don’t know whether you're going to like what I’m going to say today," Kennedy warned students at the University of Kansas before delivering this speech in March 1968, early in his presidential campaign. Three months later he won the California primary and was soon after shot and killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic Party nominee in August and lost in the general election to Richard Nixon.
 
1968: Lawrence, Kansas

Exchange Value

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product now is over $800 billion a year, but that GNP — if we should judge America by that — counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs that glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Notes from No to NATO events in Washington


I was in Washington DC five days at various No to NATO events.

The photo above is from a rally and march through the city to protest the NATO foreign ministers meeting in DC this week.

I attended two different No to NATO conferences. Sadly it was not possible for some groups to work together and put on one big event.  While I was invited to speak at both conferences (I try to work with everyone as long as it is a principled relationship) I'd still rather have seen one big event instead of two smaller ones.

The reasons competing groups don't always work well together are complicated but these points stand out:

  • Egos and internal power dynamics.  (Keep in mind all these groups are comparatively weak in comparison to what is needed to stop these endless wars and violence.) Some will say 'why can't the left get along' but I think it is more about human frailty.  Notice how many churches are in most communities.  People on the right-wing don't all get along either.  It's hard to unite people.
  • Different interpretations about what non-violence means.  Some groups support struggles in places where they are defending themselves from attacks by US agents and allies.  (For example in the Donbass in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, etc.  The UN charter says it is legal to defend your nation when it is under attack - like it was in the former Soviet Union during WW II when Hitler's German Army killed 28 million Soviet citizens during that invasion.)  As a result some groups are reluctant to work with organizations 'that refuse to renounce violence' when all they are actually doing is supporting liberation struggles that are defending themselves.  One obvious historical example is Nelson Mandela and the ANC in South Africa when they were struggling - sometimes violently - against the apartheid government.  Or the Palestinian people today - armed with slingshots, rocks and make-shift rockets.
  • Alliances to particular political parties - such as organizations/individuals who are in some ways linked to the Democrats or are funded by foundations that are tied to the Democratic Party.  These groups often don't really like to work with Socialist or Communist affiliated organizations and vice versa.
  • Competition for funding, media or volunteers.

While in DC I also took part in a protest outside of the Organization of American States (OAS) which is trying (under US orchestration) to kick Venezuela out of the OAS.  Actually Venezuela quit the OAS but it won't be official for a couple more weeks so Washington wants the OAS to kick Caracas out now just to make a public relations point.


While in the city I also did the RT interview on space issues that is posted here.

Here are a few items from my notes during my time in DC:

  • The US military is the world's largest single generator of climate changing emissions.
  • The manufacturing of weapons burns up over $300 billion worth of oil annually.
  • A planned $1.7 trillion upgrade (approved during Obama) of nuclear weapons makes them more likely to be used.
  • The profiteering US war budget is an attack on the health and security of everyone - especially our fragile planet.
  • Trump proposes to spend $13 billion on the 'Space Force' in the next five years.  This must be approved by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.  Let them hear from you.
  • Pentagon deployments of 'missile defense' launch platforms in Romania and Poland will allow the US to reach Moscow with missiles in 10-12 minutes.  Imagine if the reverse was happening with Moscow putting missile launch bases in Canada or Mexico.  Washington would go ballistic!
  • 1999 was the last time NATO 'celebrated' an anniversary in DC.  It was then that Bill Clinton directed US-NATO attacks on Yugoslavia that used depleted uranium bombs and shells.  Significant parts of Serbia are now contaminated with radioactivity for thousands of years and severe cases of cancer are breaking out in these areas. US-NATO also bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and said, "Oops, sorry, that was a mistake.  We used an old map."  Sure...
  • 2.5 million housing units have been built for the poor in Venezuela by the Chavez/Maduro governments which helps explain why the US wants regime change there - along of course with their massive oil deposits - the largest in the world.
  • NATO is the finger that pulls the trigger on behalf of corporate capitalism.
  • The US Air Force announced that B-52 bombers conducted flights from a base at Fairford, England, to Poland and the Netherlands on April 1.  The objective was to point a loaded gun at Russia's head.
  • 41 million people in the US go to bed hungry every night - more than the entire population of Venezuela.  Should someone invade the US to protect our food deprived and homeless populations?
  • Trump has rescinded an executive order that required the intelligence community to disclose information about drone strikes outside of declared war zones.  It's a secret privatized war.
  • US-NATO wanted Crimea as a NATO base in the Black Sea region - thus another reason for the non-stop anti-Russian demonization in the west these days.
  • Russian people view their nation's nuclear weapons as valuable for national defense against an ever expanding US-NATO war machine.
  • The US refuses to renounce the 'first use' of nuclear weapons while Russia and China have done so.
  • US sanctions against other nations are an act of war designed to foment an uprising of the people in a particular nation (Venezuela, Iran, Russia, Syria, etc) against their government.  Washington calls this 'soft power'.
I could go on much longer but you get the drift I am sure.

The US is an outlaw regime - violating international norms.  The US is building NATO into an international alliance in order to circumvent the United Nations and international law.  The only law that NATO is pledged to uphold is the law of the gun.

You can sign a petition calling on the US Senate to oppose NATO expansion here

Bruce

Zumwalt arrives in Hawaii - protest next one at BIW April 27



This is one of the three new Zumwalt 'stealth' destroyers made at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Maine.  The ships cost $7 billion each.

The 3rd Zumwalt, to be named after former president LBJ, will be 'christened' in Bath, Maine on April 27. A protest will be held at the shipyard starting at 8:30 am.

How could the billion$ wasted on these warships been better used? Wouldn't it be a great idea to build commuter rail systems, tidal power and offshore wind turbines instead of these boondoggle war ships?

The Gulf of Maine has more wind capacity than any other place in the US.  Thus building wind turbines for the Gulf of Maine would dramatically help us reduce the coming hard impacts from climate change.

Our #1 enemy is not China, Russia, Iran or Venezuela.  It is global warming.

Help us demand the conversion of BIW to build sustainable technologies that will help give the future generations a chance to live on our Mother Earth.

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper demanding the conversion of BIW.  Write to our congressional representatives making the same demands.

Come and stand with us at BIW on April 27.  Let others know as well.

Bruce

Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler's book against war



LibriVox recording of War Is a Racket by Smedley Butler.

Read in English by John Greenman (Orland, Maine)

Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler's expose of American Corporate Imperialism.

Butler said, “I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to Major General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of the racket all the time. Now I am sure of it.”

- Summary by John Greenman and https://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/major-general-smedley-butler

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Gagnon talking space issues on RT



The Trump administration and previous ones have long been interested in exploring the possibilities of weaponizing space.

To discuss this topic, RT America’s Ashlee Banks is joined by Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Bring this war to an end....


Film Clip #10 “BWSN 3min Tease” from Boys Who Said NO! on Vimeo.

While the war in Vietnam raged on, one of the largest and most successful nonviolent resistance movements in American history was growing at home.
 Hundreds of thousands of young men opposed to the war said NO to being drafted into the military, risking up to five years in prison. Their actions helped end the draft and an unjust and immoral war.

Directed by Oscar nominated filmmaker Judith Ehrlich, The Boys Who Said NO! will tell for the first time the inspiring story and impact of the Vietnam War draft resistance movement.

See more here

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday song





Confined to 9 feet



Albert Woodfox is a former political prisoner who was held in solitary confinement for 43 years until he won his freedom just over three years ago.

Now he is traveling the world and joins Democracy Now in studio to discuss his new memoir, “Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement. My Story of Transformation and Hope.”



In it, he writes about his childhood and how his mother struggled to keep the family cared for, how as a teenager and young man he was in and out of jails and prisons, and how he became radicalized when he met members of the Black Panther Party and went on to establish the first chapter of the organization at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, to address horrific conditions at the former cotton plantation.

Not long after this, he and fellow prisoner Herman Wallace were accused in 1972 of stabbing prison guard Brent Miller. The two men always maintained their innocence, saying they were targeted because of their political activity.

Woodfox, Wallace and and a third man, Robert King, became collectively known as the Angola 3. For decades Amnesty International and other groups campaigned for their release. “Solitary confinement … is the most horrible and brutal nonphysical attack upon a human being,” Woodfox says.