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, November 17, 2018

America is addicted to war, violence & chaos



Our real problem these days is climate change. Why are we wasting hundreds of billions of tax dollars each year building weapons for endless war when we could be building rail, offshore wind turbines, tidal power systems, solar power and more?

Each of these types of sustainable technologies creates many more jobs than does military production.  See the Brown University study that reveals these truths here.

Friday, November 16, 2018

First snow of season


We had our first snow of the season here in Bath, Maine last night and continuing into today.  Got about five inches.

It's been our experience since moving to Maine in 2003 that the snow does not usually come until after Thanksgiving (Nov 22) but the last two years it has been different.

Climate change to me means that the weather has become unpredictable and I'd say that is the way things are stacking up here in Maine these days.

Last summer we had the hottest weather in Maine's recorded history.  It often felt like Florida - hot and humid.  I recall the first summer we moved to Maine using a fan only once.  Each summer since has been worse.  Last summer we used fans all the time.

It's always a pleasure (and hard work) to get out and shovel doorways and rake the snow off one part of our roof where two sections of the house meet.

A photo from years past but you can see the second floor porch where two sections of the roof come together.  That is the area that has to be raked or else we get ice dams.

The thought that we will be moving once we sell the house is bitter-sweet.  I will miss the shoveling.  It's always a beautiful thing to go outside right after (or during a snow) and just experience the silence.  Virtually all human outside activity stops.  I cherish those moments.

Likely we will be first moving into an apartment where my shoveling responsibilities won't be very great.  I might have to go out and find someone to help in the neighborhood when future snows come.
The snow is a major reason I wanted to move to Maine.

When I was a kid living in South Dakota for nearly three years I walked to school in blizzards.  I learned to love the hard weather.  It's a beautiful thing.

Bruce

'Stop talking so much about democracy'


To understand the importance of such subordinate elites, look back to the Cold War's early days when a desperate White House was searching for something, anything that could halt the seemingly unstoppable spread of what Washington saw an anti-American and pro-communist sentiment.

In December 1954, the NSC [National Security Council] met in the White House to stake out a strategy that could tame the powerful nationalist forces of change then sweeping the globe. Across Asia and Africa, a half-dozen European empires that had guaranteed global order for more than a century were giving way to new nations, many--as Washington saw it--susceptible to "communist subversion." In Latin America, there were stirrings of leftist opposition to the region's growing urban poverty and rural landlessness.

To make it "absolutely clear we will not tolerate Communism anywhere in the Western Hemisphere," influential Secretary of the Treasury George Humphrey advised his NSC colleagues that they should "stop talking so much about democracy" and instead "support dictatorships of the right if their policies are pro-American." At that moment, Dwight Eisenhower interrupted to observe, with a flash of strategic insight, that Humphrey was, in effect, saying: "They're OK if they're 'our' s.o.b.'s." The secretary agreed, adding: "Whatever we may choose to say in public about ideas and idealism, among ourselves we've got to be a great deal more practical and materialistic."

It was a moment to remember. The president had just articulated, with crystalline clarity, the system of global dominion that Washington would implement for the next fifty years--setting aside democratic principles for a tough realpolitik policy of backing any reliable leader who backed us, building a worldwide network of national (and often nationalist) leaders who would nonetheless put Washington's needs above local ones. To consolidate its dominion, Washington would build a worldwide system of subordinate elites that became nothing less than an Archimedean lever to shift the globe in its direction.

~ Alfred McCoy, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Freezing and broke in Ukraine



Ukraine is on the verge of a utility crisis. Several cities have already declared a state of emergency.

There's no heating in Cherkasy, Khmelnitsky, Dnepropetrovsk, Kirovograd, and Kherson Oblasts.

The situation in Krivoy Rog is critical where more than 2,000 apartment buildings, dozens of schools, kindergartens, and hospitals are literally freezing.

Desperate residents are taking to the streets.  

See also this story:   Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers Indirectly Admitted That There Is No Money to Pay Pensions here

Thank the US and NATO for their 2014 coup d'etat that has turned Ukraine into a failed state where Nazis are flourishing.

I've always seen Ukraine as a bell weather for where the corporate oligarchy in the US is taking us.  Be forewarned.

Bruce

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Okinawa: The island of resistance



Hiroji Yamashiro’s message in this film is profound. And the support by internationals, especially US citizens and veterans for the resistance in Okinawa is a critical component of the struggle for peace.

These are not just words. If the resistance in Okinawa is successful in stopping this US military base construction, and there is a good chance of that, it will be a huge victory for world peace. It will send a signal world-wide that US militarism can be resisted, can be held at bay.

The film will be shown at the International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases in Dublin, Ireland this coming weekend. You can watch live streaming from the event here

Veterans For Peace activism and our four Peace Team delegations to the island, have made a difference in Okinawa. I wish you all could have been there when Mike Hanes, a former Force Recon Combat Marine who was stationed there, spoke (for all of us) to a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 3,000 Okinawans. VFP has formed a powerful bond of friendship and solidarity with the Okinawa people.

Tarak Kauff
Veterans For Peace
Woodstock, NY

Shame on Bush!





This Veterans Day, post 9/11 veterans members of About Face: Veterans Against the War disrupted a ceremony honoring George and Laura Bush for their "commitment to veterans."  [The award was presented to Bush by former Vice-President Joe Biden.]

The vets held a blockade of one of the entrances, spoke out recounting their experiences to the $1,000 a plate attendees, and made so much noise that during George W. Bush’s speech the sounds of their voices shouting “shame” carried throughout the event space and left the former President visibly shaken.

For more information on how to support: https://bit.ly/2RNgM4H

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Wild thing....another day in the empire

Art by Suzanna Lasker

Wild thing
you make everything
a fucking mess

the whole world
has to be yours,
the arrogance reeks
with suffering
and rage

Day after day
they gather outside
your bases
to shout go home America,
and take your McDonald's
with you

The repression
and devastation
you create with your
cruel exceptionalism
is heart breaking
and must end.

The beast churns on
in Washington
tis all about jobs now

Republicans and Democrats,
both at the feeding trough
inside the dark walls of
the corporate masters

Our #1 job these days?
Promoting 'freedom' via
'security export'

It's another day
in the empire
bought and sold
the religion of
money

Freedom now!

Bruce

Protesting the Bush award & Reclaiming Armistice Day


Maine Veterans For Peace at the Veterans Day parade in Portland reminding the public what the day was originally called - Armistice Day


Accountability, History, Identity

By Robert Shetterly
Americans Who Tell the Truth

I begin every talk I give with the creation story of the portrait project --- telling the story of the propaganda, lies, fear, racism, and jingoism that  the George W. Bush administration proclaimed to make the preemptive attack on Iraq seem necessary to the American people. I recite it over  and over because public and legal accountability are absent, the truth has been erased from history. Neither the war makers nor the corporate media wants this truth told. The media shares responsibility for not having questioned the lies, choosing cheer leading for war instead.

Without accountability, textbooks can’t --- or feel  no obligation --- to investigate. That’s not their responsibility.  It would be impossible to tabulate the cost and horror perpetrated of this ongoing  war. The most severe judgment, if any, made in the US press is that the war was a mistake. There is a profound difference between a mistake and a crime. One apologizes  for a mistake. Nazi’s were hung for a similar crime. On Veterans’ Day this year (November 11, 2018) George and Laura Bush were awarded the Liberty Medal for their service to US veterans. In reaction to such an award one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But there is no doubt about the intention of the award --- to further obscure the truth, to violate history. George Bush betrayed US soldiers  by sending them to kill and die for imperialism. Neither this country nor its Constitution was ever in any danger from Iraqi aggression. [The award was presented to Bush by former Vice-President Joe Biden.]

Recently the Texas board of education decided to remove slavery from its school textbooks. When a story isn’t told, or its truth is altered, it slips from memory, slips from the accumulated identity  people internalize by knowing their common history. As strong as the desire is for all of us to deny the worst we do, if we eradicate the worst, we have no idea who we are. All the social facts, customs, conditions, injustices, ramifications still deriving from that past  are now free-floating, causeless. What, then, is the explanation for lynching, Jim Crow, segregation, racism if slavery never happened? Maybe, then, racism doesn’t exist? What, then, was the reason for the Civil War? Was it really states’ rights? Where did all these African Americans come from and why are they  struggling socially? Must be their fault.

And why is Iraq a failed, decimated, chaotic state? Something in the DNA of Arabs? Muslims? Where did ISIS come from? What’s wrong with these people that they can’t embrace the democratic model so generously offered by the US?  Why is their relationship to oil so unstable compared to the stability of their great neighbor Saudi Arabia? Don’t they know the US sacrificed a lot to rid Iraq of its evil dictator Saddam Hussein, so why don’t they pull themselves together. Out of gratitude.

If we don’t repeat real history, the fabric of history has its most important threads removed.  We keep the threads that tell about symptoms, but discard the ones that explain cause. No one is guilty then; no one caused these things, no one need be held accountable. The symptoms must have spontaneously generated from the flaws of the victims.

By selectively removing the causal threads from the historical fabric, we enable a mythic story to be told. It’s like telling the story of purple without mentioning red and blue. Or telling the story of smoke, but denying fire. Like reporting a story of a multi-car pile up on the freeway, but neglecting the snowstorm.  Who benefits from such selective telling? Perhaps, in the story about smoke, the arsonist gets away. The arsonist gets a medal for treating people for smoke inhalation? Institutions, think tanks --- academic and political --- gather enormous support so they might endlessly discourse on the phenomenon of fireless smoke.  The fabric wears mighty thin.

A story without causation promotes innocence where there is guilt, makes history into a contest of competing advertisements that disguise and replace the truth. The search for identity becomes a trip to the costume shop or the plastic surgeon.  America, like a celebrity, comes strutting down the street. People say, “Hmmm…. Did she have work done? Chin lifted? Teeth whitened? Birthmark removed? I hardly recognize her.”
When the people are gone who remember the truth, the next generation will accept the makeover at face value.

It’s for this reason that Bryan Stevenson opened  the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama this year. It tells the story  of racism in the US from slavery to mass incarceration with a special section as a Lynching Memorial. How would the Texas School Board explain the purpose of this museum? Stevenson’s intent is not simply to say, These were real people, we need to remember them. It  also says that these were real people who risked their lives to make the professed ideals  of this country real for them (and all of us) and they were tortured and murdered for their trouble. They believed in the inherent dignity and rights of their people and were murdered by  other people who insisted that dignity and rights belonged only to them. We all need to know their story or we don’t know who we are. Bryan Stevenson believes it’s only by telling this story that we finally escape being imprisoned by it, that we can transform it into a story of mutual healing because we tell the same story.  Our story.

Slavery doesn’t go away if we deny it. The Iraq War doesn’t become a Noble Cause if we lie about it and give George Bush a medal. We sure as hell don’t know who we are if we refuse to admit the truth. And people who  insist they do no wrong, will continue to commit atrocities and call them good.

I wonder if George and Laura really think they deserve the Liberty Medal? I mean, really? Will it be framed and hung in a special place in the Bush Presidential Library? I guess it should be. The core of the Bush presidency was a lie. The sheer enormity of  the lie deserves a medal. Neither the law nor the corporate media nor religious institutions called them on it. And because they didn’t, the history books won’t. Artesian springs of misery  will endlessly flow from that lie. Americans will continue to claim we are great because we are good. Trump will want to be as good as Bush so he might qualify for the next Liberty Medal. Trump’s lies, although multitudinous, have not yet killed as many people as Bush’s, so he’s got work to do. Meanwhile we are all imprisoned in the tomb of the Unknowable American.  Well, not quite unknowable; other people in the world see through our mask of exceptionalism. That’s OK. We wear it to fool ourselves.