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....

My Photo
Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Monday, July 31, 2006


I was in Brattleboro, Vermont yesterday for a regional activist meeting. People came from New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Over 50 folks (nine of us were from Maine) gathered to discuss how we could coordinate and expand our regional efforts to call for impeachment of Bush/Cheney and end the occupation of Iraq, stop the war on Lebanon and prevent an expansion of the U.S./Israeli war into Syria and Iran.

Some of the ideas people came up with were to hold Teach-Ins in the fall at colleges and universities; bird dog Democrats as they run for office this fall asking them tough questions about cutting the funding for the war and their stand on impeachment; support for Camp Democracy in Washington DC; counter recruitment; expanding direct action; holding a regional demonstration (a committee was created to work on this); and organizing speaking tours for Iraqi peace activists.

Following the networking meeting a public demonstration was held in Brattleboro where more than 300 people were in attendance. Following some great music, speeches were heard from various representatives of those who had attended the meeting. I was invited to be one of the speakers.

After a four-hour ride home I discovered that while I had been gone Israel had massacred 57 innocent civilians, including 37 children, in Qana, Lebanon with bombs provided by the U.S. government. The bombing had been launched in the dead of night while the targeted victims were asleep.

Former high-ranking Israeli military officer, now turned peace activist, Uri Avnery says this about Israel’s war on Lebanon, “It is the old story about the losing gambler: he cannot stop. He continues to play, in order to win his losses back. He continues to lose and continues to gamble, until he has lost everything: his ranch, his wife, his shirt.”

Avnery continues, “Condoleezza Rice's stubborn struggle against any attempt to stop the war shows that this is indeed the aim of the United States. From the first day
of George Bush's presidency, the neo-conservatives have been calling for the elimination of Syria. The deeper Bush sinks into the Iraqi quagmire, the more he needs to divert attention with another adventure.”

The deeper the U.S. and Israel (and make no mistake, the world sees the Lebanon war as a joint U.S./Israel war) get into this quagmire the worse it is going to get. There is no victory possible here - only a widening of war and chaos. This is what the U.S. and Israel want. This is the way to Condi Rice’s “New Middle East.” The U.S./Israel strategy is to destroy Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Iran and Iraq and start all over again. It is the strategy of insanity and it is being done in our name with our tax dollars. We must take responsibility for this madness and stop it now before it gets worse.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Thursday, July 27, 2006


 Israel is totally out of control - like a wild man on steroids rampaging through a neighborhood with a machine gun. Yesterday we saw Israel kill four U.N. peacekeepers at their post in southern Lebanon. The story is now out that the U.N. post called the Israeli military 10 times during the six-hour shelling of their post begging for it to stop. Each time the Israeli military promised they would end the shelling. They did not.

It is quite clear that this Israeli intentional killing of the U.N. peacekeepers was a message to the world. The message is that Israel, like the U.S., will not be restricted by the international community, international law, and particularly the U.N. This is the attitude of two outlaw nations.

Condi Rice's fake peace summitt in Rome is more evidence that the Bush team and Israel are playing with the international community. They have reluctantly gone through the motions of "discussing" a ceasefire in Lebanon and then quickly ruled it out. Outlaws don't do "no stinking treaties." Rice, as the U.S. chief diplomat, is really the gate keeper of the military agenda. Her job is to run cover for the blitzkreig, smiling and shaking hands, giving the American people the illusion that no diplomatic stone has been left unturned. Then once violence is used, as is now the case by Israel, Rice says to the American people, "Well, we tried. But these Arabs don't value life the way we, and Israel, do."

It's also been very instructive to watch TV news programs the past few days to see how the Democrats are handling this whole episode. Howard Dean, the head of the Democratic Party, said yesterday that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should not be allowed to speak before a joint session of Congress because he was "anti-semetic" for remarks he had made this past week criticizing Israel's attack on Lebanon. Puppets of the U.S. are not supposed to make such statements and al-Maliki has quickly turned back in line with U.S. policy. He either does so or he is gone. He got the message.

Other "liberal" Democrats have been heard on TV supporting the Bush program in the Middle East, which is code language for "we support Israel's attack on Gaza and Lebanon." Democrats fear they will lose the financial support of wealthy Jewish campaign donors unless they toe the Israeli line.

At this point Rep. Dennis Kucinich has only been able to secure 28 members of his own party as co-sponsors for his House Resolution 450 that calls for a ceasefire in Lebanon. The Democrats, just like we've seen over the war/occupation of Iraq, are too timid to stand up for what is right.

The Dems though want the peace community to vote for them in November. They seek our votes because with our support they feel like they can take back the Congress. And if they did take back the Congress, could the peace community be confident that the Dems would (1) Cut the funding for the war? (2) Call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq? (3) Support a ceasefire in Lebanon? (4) End the massive redirection of federal tax dollars to the military industrial complex? The honest answer to all of these questions is NO. A LOUD AND CLEAR NO!

Why then do peace activists continue to think that the Democrats will change anything of substance if they take control of Congress? Of sure, if the Dems take control we might not have to worry about the flag burning amendment or school prayer being a top issue. But what about any key issue that impacts the global corporate military and economic empire? Will the Dems step on any toes in that regard? My experience tells me no.

What we see now from the Dems is what we get. In or out of power they are a corporate dominated party. The Dems have sold their souls to the devil for power and money. No amount of wishful thinking will change that. Why are peace activists so slow to face the music? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


  Posted by PicasaThe news reported last night, as I sat unable to go to bed, that Israeli bombing has now destroyed 80% of the highways and 95% of the bridges in Lebanon. Over 300 Lebanese are now dead, mostly civilians. It is being reported that 55% of the casualties inside Lebanon are children. Israel is now using cluster bombs and white phosphorous munitions on the people.

I read today in the UK Guardian that the U.S. is even supplying Israel's Air Force with the fuel for their planes. So the U.S. provides the planes, the bombs, satellite technology to guide the bombs, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) to identify targets, tanks and helicopters. I'm sure I'm leaving out many other weapons systems that the U.S. furnishes Israel. The American taxpayers need to know that this is our war on Lebanon and the people of Gaza.

The Israeli military has even been bombing the bomb shelters and according to Lebanese doctors this is how most of the children are getting killed and wounded. The big bunker buster bombs are generously provided by U.S. taxpayers, who can't afford to provide themselves with health care these days.

As this goes on Condi Rice plays at pretending to be doing shuttle diplomacy but we all know that the Bush administration is sitting back and cheering Israel on. In fact the U.S. military industrial complex is now working overtime to resupply Israel with more munitions as they are starting to run low after pounding Lebanon back into the stone age.

One million people in Lebanon are now refugees, that is 1 out of every 4 people in the entire nation.

The Democrats and the Republicans have passed a resolution. (All four members of the Maine Congressional Delegation voted in favor of the resolution. Clik on the headline link above to see how the Congress voted.) The resolution gives Israel the green light to keep pounding away. After all it makes sense. The number one industrial export product of the U.S. today is weapons. And the entire Lebanese slaughter is good for business back in the home districts. Keep the weapons assembly lines humming brother....we are making money back home! To hell with international law, human rights and the rest of it. We are selling product here! We are helping Israel defend itself from a hapless nation of 4 million people. Pound away Israel......manufacture away U.S. weapons workers!

I participated in a one-hour vigil today in downtown Portland at noon. My sign said the same thing that you see in the headline above. A few people walked by and stuck up their nose but not a negative word was said to us. Quite a few people were very positive. The sheen is wearing off the great myth of Israel being the noble nation. People are beginning to see that Israel, and the U.S., are killer cultures. We both thrive on endless war and violence. Bullies always do.

Monday, July 24, 2006


 This past weekend Mary Beth and I went to the Full Circle Fair put on by WERU radio in Blue Hill. WERU is a wonderful community radio station that covers most of the key political events in the Bangor/Belfast/Blue Hill part of Maine. When 18 of us were arrested inside the Bangor office of Sen. Olympia Snowe last December for trying to deliver a letter opposing the war that over 500 people had signed, it was WERU that was there recording the whole episode.

I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the fair this year. MB and I went up on Friday night and stayed with friends Dud & Jean Hendrick on Deer Isle and went to the fair for much of Saturday. The weather was bad the whole weekend and by Saturday evening it was pouring. Luckily they had a huge covered seating area by the main stage where the musicians were performing and we got to hear Emma's Revolution. They did one song about the choir. People are always saying, "Ah, were just talking to the choir here." They asked, Oh yeah, what's the choir doing about it? Good stuff. After Emma's Revolution we saw Tony Bird sing, a very original guy whose last song got us all going. The chorus was Don't vote for(fight for,listen to, etc)the dollar, the flag, and the cross.

On Sunday we went back to the fair and I spoke to a crowd of over 120 folks. Not bad considering all the good music happening at the time. Most people don't come to these events to listen to speakers. The radio station says they will re-play the talk on the air and make it available on-line as well.

The best part of the event was seeing friends, and even two folks that I knew in Florida years ago. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 20, 2006


These two photos above tell us alot. The top picture, taken by the Associated Press, shows Israeli children proudly writing notes on tank shells that are being fired into Lebanon. War is made into a game. Over 300 civilians are now dead in Lebanon since Israel began its bombardment.

The bottom photo is what happens on the other end of exploding bombs. A Palestinian child is dead, more than 100 civilians have been killed since Isreal has reentered Gaza.

People can talk all they want to about terror, but war is terrorism. And in modern times it is civilians, on all sides, that end up paying the price.

There is no excuse for this kind of shock and awe attack by Israel today on Gaza and Lebanon.

This war of indiscriminate killing must stop.

The U.S. has vetoed a U.N. resolution, sponsored by France, that called for a ceasefire in Lebanon. Rep. Dennis Kucinich has introduced a ceasefire resolution in the U.S. Congress but his own Democratic party won't support it.

This cycle of war and chaotic violence must end. The militarists are destroying humankind. They are the real enemy of the people.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


 Whether we are talking about global warming, the U.S. devastation and occupation of Iraq, the effort by the military-industrial complex to move the arms race into the heavens, or the now ugly Israeli invasion of Lebanon, it is clear that the U.S. political system is broken. Flat out busted.

Corporate domination of the Congress and the White House now ensures that the U.S. will continue on its deadly course of policies that encourage endless war and environmental degradation. The only way out now is for the American people to send a shock to Washington in November by refusing to support candidates from either war party currently running America into the ground.

Just yesterday in New York, Sen. Hillary Clinton was given a big fundraising party by Rupert Murdoch and then she held a news conference to express her unwavering support for Israel's illegal and immoral policy of "collective punishment" in Gaza and in Lebanon. (Murdoch's empire covers television, filmed entertainment, cable network programming, book publishing, direct broadcast satellite television, magazines and newspapers operating in the United States, Australia, Continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia and the Pacific Basin. It was Murdoch who helped to put Bush's lap dog Tony Blair in power.)

It was a classic case of a "soul for sale" as Hillary accepted Murdoch's big $$$$ and then looked the other way as a humanitarian crisis develops before the world's eyes. But Hillary, and the Dems, don't care. All they care about is taking power. And they are now showing the oligarchy, that holds control of the world's wealth, that they will play along. The reality is that Hillary and the Dems are neutered.

The Dems House leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi announced a couple of days ago that if they take power of Congress in November, that they will probably scrap the senority system. This is a signal that the Dems will not pursue impeachment investigations if they win the House. Rep. John Conyers, the leading impeachment hearings advocate, would be in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee because he is the most senior Democrat on the committee. But Pelosi is showing the elite that if the Dems can win, they will screw Conyers and put someone else, more complaint, into the chairmanship of that important committee. What is the message to black activists when they are ready to throw John Conyers, a distinguished black political leader, on the scrap heap of history? No wonder the Dems are losing ground in black communities all over the country.

If people seriously want change, and I think they do, then they must begin to boycott the Dems because the Dems are not going to deliver. For my entire adult life I have heard the words, "Work inside the Democratic Party and try to change things from the inside-out." I've seen a succession of Democratic national candidates, from Jimmy Carter to John Kerry, sell out the progressive movements during their campaigns. How much longer will people hang onto the Dems coat tails in hopes that they will deliver us from the right-wing agenda? I became convinced some years ago that it just AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!

The sooner we wise up, the better. Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 17, 2006


Over 600 people protested against Israel's bombing of Lebanon yesterday in the streets of Tel Aviv. As one Jewish anti-war protestor said, "That's exactly how it happened after Ariel Sharon's invasion of Lebanon. On the first day of the war we were a hundred, after a week we were a thousand, after three weeks we were 10 thousands and after two months, following the Sabra and Shatila massacre, we were 400 thousand."

Together with Gush Shalom, members of all the consistent Israeli peace organizations took part, including Yesh Gvul, Anarchists Against Walls, Ta'ayush, Women's Coalition for Peace, Courage to Refuse, Hadash, Balad, The Committee Against House Demolitions and The Center for Alternative Information. They shouted in unison: "Return to the Negotiation Table!", "All the Ministers are War Criminals!", "We shall Neither Kill Nor Die for the Settlements!" and more.

This story about growing protests in Israel will not make it into the media in the U.S. Instead the American people will continue to be told that "100%" of Israeli people support the war.

Back here in the USA several thousand "Christian fundamentalists" conveniently planned to descend on Washington DC today to lobby Congress to support Israel. David Brog, former chief of staff for Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, has gone to work for the Rev. John C. Hagee, organizer of the "lobby crusade." Brog, who is Jewish, says he works for the Rev. Hagee's evangelical enterprise because "we're bringing into a pro-Israel camp millions of Christians who love Israel and giving them a political voice. Israel's enemies are our enemies, and this group instinctively understands that."

Christian fundamentalists want to see the "rapture" happen, the sooner the better. They believe that when the "end times" come that Jesus will return and they will go to heaven. The rest of us "sinners" will be left behind here on Earth to fry in eternal damnation. And so it goes in Washington these days. Our foreign policy is now being directed by the right-wing fanatics and the Bush administration is quite happy to have their active support to expand this madness into a wider war. The weapons corporations and oil corporations are cheering the whole show on.

In the meantime growing numbers of innocent people in Lebanon are dieing as they are hit by Israel's high-tech weapons, most of which came from the U.S. military-industrial complex. The collective punishment of civilians, as is now underway in Gaza and Lebanon, violates international law. But the fascists now running this country, and Israel, don't give a damn about that.

Most American peace activists are afraid to speak out against Israel for fear they will be called anti-Semitic. But they must speak out, especially in support of Jewish activists who are now in the streets protesting the enlarging circle of violence. This is the moment where we find out who are the real peaceniks of courage.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


 This morning I was watching NBC TV's Meet the Press Sunday Morning news show. Tim Russert had a live report from a correspondent in Israel. Russert asked the reporter if there was opposition to Israel's bombing of Lebanon and the reporter replied, "No, there is 100% support inside Israel for this military action."

This of course is an outright lie and the reporter knows it. Israel has a strong and long established peace movement. Within hours of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon protestors gathered outside of the Israeli "Defense" Ministry to protest the action. They are now planning a large national demonstration to protest the war. NBC knows all this.

Why then does NBC lie to the American people? The reason is because NBC, and all the American power structure, want the American people to support Israel's effort to now expand this war. The American people must be made to think that if the Israeli people "all" support this war then it must be all right.

Newt Gingrich was also on Meet the Press calling this World War III and easily throwing in the names of Syria and Iran as likely next targets in this Israeli attack.

Let me make a prediction. Israel will continue to bomb Lebanon, they will move into Southern Lebanon, a refugee situation will arise, 25,000 Americans are reported to be in Lebanon, the U.S. Marines will be sent into Lebanon to "rescue" the Americans, Israel will bomb Syria, Iran will be further blamed for supporting Israel's enemies and the U.S. and Israel will attack Iran. Bush will get his Middle East war that he has been spoiling for. Who knows what will follow?

The American people are being played like a fiddle right now. We'd better wake up fast. Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 14, 2006


  Posted by PicasaThis trip report covers the period of July 9-12 as I traveled to western New York to speak at the Chautauqua Institution.

My hosts for this trip, Karen and Roy Harvey of Snowshoe Films, suggested I might consider taking the train from Maine rather than flying. I am glad I followed their advice as the trip turned out to be relaxing and incredibly rewarding.

I boarded the train in Portland, Maine and made changes in Boston and Albany, New York. I arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania about 2:00 am on July 10 and as I got off the train I noticed Karen filming me. She would film virtually everything I did during my stay.

After a sleep, Karen and Roy took me to the grounds of Chautauqua to do a radio interview that promoted my talk, set for the next evening. Chautauqua was founded in 1874 and today welcomes over 170,000 people each summer. Located in the southwestern corner of New York State, near the Pennsylvania border, Chautauqua is a 783-acre village. By 1880, the Chautauqua lecture platform had established itself as a national forum for open discussions on domestic and international issues. A newspaper is published on the grounds, reporting on the daily events, and my hosts arranged for me to be interviewed in advance of my talk. The story was published the day of my speech on “the necessity for the conversion of the military-industrial complex.”

Karen is a fourth-generation Chautauqua devotee. In fact, she and Roy live within walking distance of the heavily-guarded gates of the institution. Admittance is strictly regulated, and people are charged for each activity they wish to participate in. Karen informed me that in recent years Chautauqua has become more conservative, with the Brookings Institution and the conservative Heritage Foundation influencing programming. My talk, Karen said, would be a radical departure from standard operating procedure. Karen and Roy don’t participate much at Chautauqua anymore. They like the place the best when winter comes and they cross country ski through the deserted grounds.

Before doing the July 10 radio interview, they warned me that it might be very short, but I ended up getting about 15 minutes of radio time. I told my former Republican-military story and the talk show host’s ears perked up. By the time I said that America was addicted to war and violence the host seemed to like me.

As we walked back to their home, in the rain, Karen pointed out the Packard mansion on the edge of the Chautauqua grounds. She told me how the stately residence was built after the Packard automobile family had drained the worker pension plan. The family now gives away big grants to the arts community and other notable charities with the money stolen from the working stiffs.

Next, Roy interviewed me on his local cable TV show, and I soon learned that Karen had been broadcasting “commercials” about my coming talk at Chautauqua on the cable station, using tiny bits of previous speeches of mine that she had taped. That evening, they had a house party, inviting people to come share food at their home and talk politics with me.

Shortly after I arose on the morning of July 11, I did a half hour phone interview on a Buffalo, N.Y. radio station. It is a station now owned and run by the local activist community, called Niagara Independent Media. It also broadcasts Air America content.

From there we went to nearby Jamestown where I was to do another radio interview with local talk show host Ray Hall whose show is called “The Hall Closet.” It was to be a half-hour segment but Ray was having fun with me, and his phone lines lit up with calls from folks on the left and the right. After the first-hour he asked if I’d stay for another. I ended up being on the show for 2 1/2 hours. At the end he discovered he had forgotten to do the commercials for his sponsors. He apologized to them, saying he’d make it up to them in the future.

One young man called in to say he was enjoying the show. He said he was in the Army and had been to Afghanistan twice and was soon to go to Iraq. He said he’d talked to over 1,000 GI’s during his time in the military and had yet to meet anyone who agreed with George W. Bush. One older woman called in and suggested that Ray and I leave the country if we did not support the government. I asked the woman if she could give me one example of something that she did not agree with our government about. There was a long silence…… She could not think of a single thing.

That evening we gathered at the Hall of Philosophy on the Chautauqua grounds. The weather was threatening and I wondered how many people would show up. The venue was an open-air facility with a roof covering the seats. Large white pillars held up the roof, giving the place a feel of ancient Greece. Over 350 people came to hear my talk and I gave them all I could in my allotted one hour, covering the Pentagon’s plans for “control and domination” of space and endless war. I concluded with a call for conversion of the military-industrial complex, asking again, as I do now at every speech, why we can’t build rail systems, solar, and windmills rather than weapons for war in our local communities.

Following my talk, we went back to Karen and Roy’s for another house party. Fifteen people gathered, folks from Erie, Buffalo, Syracuse, Florida, and local activists as well. We had a wide-ranging discussion and we came to this question: What do we do if in this November’s election, and in 2008, the Republicans once again cheat and steal races across this country? At what point do we begin to organize a boycott of federal elections? Try that one on for size.

Karen and Roy woke me up at 4:00 am on July 12 for the one-hour drive to Erie so I could catch the train home. I was to get back home at 11:00 pm that night. Once again the train ride home was a pure joy. I spent much of my time reading a wonderful novel someone had recently told me about. Written by award-winning Canadian author Ann-Marie MacDonald, the book is called “The Way the Crow Flies.” It tells the story of Operation Paperclip, the secret U.S. (and Canadian, I learned) program to smuggle former Nazi scientists into North America after WW II. These Nazi scientists helped to create the U.S. space program, all 100 of them former members of Hitler’s V-2 rocket team.

While reading I noticed that a young man in the seat in front of me was also reading. It was right-wing writer Ann Coulter’s book, “How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must).” I began to ask him about the book and discovered he was the son of Russian Jewish parents who had immigrated to Israel in the 80’s. The young man, now 21 years old, was born in Israel; his family moved to Ithaca, New York when he was two. He is now in graduate school. For the next four hours we debated the war in Iraq, Israel-Palestinian issues and the current Israeli occupation of Gaza, Star Wars, and much more.

At first he told me he was a moderate-conservative and gets his news from the Wall Street Journal. By the end of the long conversation he revealed to me that he had recently read “My Enemy, My Self” by Yoram Binur, which is the story of a young Jewish man who disguised himself as a Palestinian and went to live in Gaza to find out what it would be like to be a Palestinian. My new friend said the book’s author learned that the Palestinian people loved each other, took care of each other in a wonderful way, and were human in ways that he had never before realized. (The photo above was taken at the Rafah Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza in the last few days during Israel's re-occupation.)

We shook hands as we left the train in Boston. I told him I would write about him in my trip report. (He was very pleased to hear that.) I told him that despite the fact that we did not agree on many issues, we had for a moment found peace with one another in the midst of this violent time in which we live. I told him, that for me, being a peace activist meant that I had to try my best to live in each moment in such a way. I saw the emotion in his eyes. All I could think of was my son, Julian, who is just a couple years older than this sweet young man. They even looked a bit alike. I felt fatherly and I felt good that we had such a wonderful exchange.

I am sold on riding the train now. I will do so more often, that is if Bush does not kill the funding for Amtrak as he is now trying to do. Help us out. Demand your tax dollars be used for rails not jails…..trains not Star Wars and the illegal occupation of Iraq to the tune of $8.5 billion a month. Let’s have conversion….of the military-industrial complex — and our hearts as well.

While at Karen and Roy’s, during one of the house parties, a man gave me this quote. I don’t know where it came from. It seems to me to represent what I do on these trips. “The seed, hidden in the heart of an apple, is an orchard invisible.”

Thursday, July 13, 2006


 Just back from my trip to Chautauqua, New York. Took the train all the way there and loved the ride. Had a really excellently organized experience there. Will write up a report in the next day or so.

News is bad as Israel going on a rampage last few days. They are trying to expand the war in the Middle East knowing that the U.S. will ultimately support them as they move closer to attacking Iran and Syria. Very dangerous times.

Was nice to return and find that the Global Network's new Administrative Assistant, Mary Beth Sullivan, had been working in my absence meaning that I did not have a zillion things to catch up with when I came back. Very grateful to the Wallace Global Fund for making her part-time work possible with us. It will help alot.

I've been invited to deliver the keynote speech at the WERU Fair in Blue Hill, Maine on July 23. A real honor as this progressive community-based radio station has been very supportive of the work of our organization since arriving in Maine three years ago. Should be an exciting experience. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 08, 2006


 Yesterday, for eight full hours, members of Maine Veterans for Peace and Peace Action Maine read the names of dead American GI's and innocent Iraqi civilians at a downtown park in Portland.

When we first began reading these names inside Congressional offices 1 1/2 years ago, it took four hours to finish. Now 2,539 American soldiers have died in Iraq and 18,786 have suffered serious injury. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Iraqi people have died since the U.S. illegal war began in 2003.

Throughout this reading time our volunteers handed out over 800 leaflets explaining our action to the public. Many people would sit on nearby park benches and listen for a time as we read an American name and then an Iraqi name. A bell was rung after each name and an X was marked on the "Chaos cloth" that was widely spread out.

In spite of the fact that many were positively impacted by our action, you could see a significant number of people who tried to act as though this was nothing to be concerned about. Many, many people went about their Friday afternoon and early evening getting their ice creams, watching the fire twirlers and rope walkers just across the way from us. Entertainment is always a good salve for the aching soul of a nation at endless war.

But not everyone was so mindless.

One black man on a bicycle, with his son riding by his side, pulled their bikes up close to us and I listened as he explained to his son what we were doing. He talked harshly about the "horrible president" that we have in the U.S. today and compared the Iraq occupation with the Vietnam war.

One older woman sat on a bench intensely watching us for almost an hour. You could see the expressions on her face change when we called about the names of children, age 2 or 6 months old who had been killed in Iraq. Another woman approached me and bent down as she wept about the sadness of the war.

Other moving moments were when Dexter Kamilewicz read the names of American GI's who had been stationed with his son Ben in Ramadi, Iraq. As a member of the Vermont National Guard, Ben escaped death several times. As Dexter read the names of Ben's fellow soldiers, one could hear the heartbreak in his voice as familiar names reminded him of the agonizing year he spent closely following every report of casualties from units in Ramadi.

We will continue to read the names. And the time it takes to finish them will continue to grow as the list of the war dead increases. The war will not end until Congress votes to cut off the funds for the war. So far our congressman and senators (Democrat and Republican) continue to vote in favor of war funding.

How long can the American people avoid dealing with the war? Now costing us $8.5 billion per month, how much longer can we afford to drain the national treasury and cut already meager programs for education, health care,infrastructure repair,and the like? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


  Posted by Picasa This trip report is for the period of June 21 - July 5, 2006 as I traveled to Vancouver, Canada to attend the World Peace Forum and ended with a short visit to New Hampshire over the July 4 holiday.

On June 21 I made my way to Boston in order to fly to Victoria, Canada. Like my last two trips to Canada, as I switched planes in Toronto, I was held for over an hour by Canadian immigration because of my past history of arrests for non-violent civil disobedience in the U.S. Each time I now enter Canada they run a computer printout of my arrest history and then claim they can't tell if I have any outstanding warrants for my arrests. They question me about why I was arrested in each case and what the outcome was. This time, while reading their computer printout up-side-down I noticed that they had me listed with an alias: Joe Nagasaki. In 1987 at a large protest in Florida at Cape Canaveral about 250 people were arrested for climbing over the base fence in protest of the first flight test of the Trident II nuclear missile. When we went to jail many of us refused to give our real names for several days. I said my name was Joe Nagasaki. The jail guards near the space center called me Joe Nag-ask-i as if I were of Polish origin. Eventually the Canadians let me pass into the country, but with only a nine-day pass. The message is clear - I am not welcome in Canada.

My first stop was to go to Victoria to speak at an event organized by the Victoria Peace Coalition just before the World Peace Forum began. I was joined in Victoria at the talk by Richard Sanders who heads the Ottawa-based group called Coalition Opposed to the Arms Trade. Richard has done extensive research on how Canadian aerospace corporations have long been involved in developing technology for the U.S. Star Wars program. In spite of Canada's very public claim last year that they "would not" get involved in Bush's "Missile Defense" program, they in fact have been, and still are, helping to build the program to move the arms race into space. One bit of information Richard pointed out was how the Canadian Pension Plan formerly invested heavily in national infrastructure development, but now increasingly invests in military production and Star Wars research and development. In recent times the Canadian government has cut $5 billion from its budget for global warming research; it plans to increase military spending by $15 billion. Social services, including national health care, are being cut as Canada follows the U.S. into global militarism.

My trip to Victoria was coordinated by Susan Clarke. Following my talk in Victoria we took the beautiful ferry ride to Vancouver. I did two interviews with Victoria radio stations while on this leg of the trip.

The World Peace Forum (WPF) in Vancouver drew over 4,500 people from about 100 countries to the campus of the University of British Columbia. The Global Network (GN) was asked by the WPF to coordinate the "track" of five space issue workshops and panels during the event. We were able to bring 15 of our key GN leaders to the event from around the world thanks to a generous travel grant by the Secure World Foundation. In addition, many other GN members came to participate in the Vancouver events. (We videotaped the various space events and GN member/filmmaker Eric Herter will be developing a one-hour documentary video that should be available for sale in a month or so.)

Things began at the WPF on June 24 with a large peace march through downtown Vancouver at mid-day followed by a festival at a park by the harbor. During the march, Canadian peace activists were visibly outraged at their government's participation in the war in Afghanistan through Canada's membership in NATO. While at the WPF, we heard the news that six Canadian soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan.

I was told that the Vancouver Sun newspaper ran a critical editorial days before the WPF began saying, "Let the hate fest begin."

That first evening in Vancouver several of us from the GN went to a local community center to hear one of our friends, Holly Gwinn Graham, perform as part of a musical show. In her part of the evening, Holly entertained her audience with a couple of songs related to space issues and had an overhead slideshow running with many photos of past GN activities.

We held our first GN space event at the WPF on June 25. At our first panel discussion, well-respected Canadian author/activist Mel Hurtig spoke about U.S. plans for control and domination of space. Also speaking were Dr. Rebecca Johnson (Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, UK), and Dr. Jurgen Scheffran (Int’l Network of Engineers & Scientists Against Proliferation, Germany). Despite a tremendous amount of competition at the WPF with legions of events concurrently scheduled, we had good turnouts for each event we organized. Following our first panel discussion on June 25, we held our GN annual business meeting at which we presented our annual Peace in Space Award to GN co-founders Bill Sulzman (Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado) and Karl Grossman (Journalism professor, New York).

On June 26 and 27 we held other space events at the WPF, including an excellent panel called "Star Wars Organizing: Activists Reports from around the World." GN board member Loring Wirble (Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado) did an excellent presentation showing how satellite technology is used by the Pentagon to direct all warfare on Earth. Thus, he said, we need to talk about how space satellites promote the "militarization of space" and have in a way become weapons systems themselves as they direct "conventional" weapons to their targets on Earth. It is hard, Loring reminded us, to say that military satellites are benign these days.

During the WPF I ran into old friend Al Marder from New Haven, CT. Al was in Vancouver representing the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities and we had a good talk about the increasingly difficult political conditions in the U.S. I asked Al, given the fact that polls reveal most Americans are against the war in Iraq, why do we not see more vocal opposition to the war? Al's response was instructive. "We in the U.S. are paying for our historic inability to develop independent political voices to speak for us," he said, obviously referring to the lack of commitment to peace from the two corporate dominated political parties in the U.S. today. We must begin to link our disarmament and anti-war work to social progress here at home and development issues in the Third World, he reminded me. Al has been organizing for a long time, he is a wise elder, and I listened closely to his good advice. "We must develop public outrage everywhere," he concluded.

During the WPF, in between our space events, I went to hear a panel of international activists talking about U.S. bases in their countries. I heard activists from Canada, Turkey, Cuba, England, Korea, Puerto Rico, Okinawa, Japan, Greece and Ecuador. They described in detail the environmental contamination resulting from U.S. military installations, the anger of their citizenry, and showed photos of protests against the bases. (It is estimated that there are more than 750 U.S. military bases around the world today as part of the U.S. empire.) One Japanese activist told the audience that, "If we keep silent now we will be silent forever." I turned to GN board convener Dave Webb (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in England) and said, "The U.S. is catching hell everywhere these days."

I left Canada on June 28 and it took me 28 long hours to make it back home to Maine due to cancelled and delayed airline flights caused by bad weather along the way. When I got home I had one day to rest before we held an important Iraq war organizing meeting in Portland to continue to develop our statewide campaign against endless war. Maine State Senator Ethan Strimling (D-Portland) showed up and asked our meeting to support his efforts to build a coalition of state legislators in Maine who are beginning to speak out against the war. So far Strimling has organized 26 of his fellow "Legislators for ending the war" and they are focusing on the cost of the war to taxpayers in our state and the loss of federal revenue due to war spending. (See for details of how much the war has cost your local community.)

On July 2 Mary Beth Sullivan and I attended a funeral in Boston for a relative of hers that unexpectedly died. We then drove north again to the White Mountains of New Hampshire where I spoke on July 4 at the World Fellowship Center on the topic of "Rockets Red Glare: Militarism & Citizenship." ( The center is directed by Andy Davis and Andrea Walsh. They do a great job of running this educational/vacation center that offers a beautiful rustic environment to renew body, mind and spirit.

On July 5 we made it home and I am ready for a rest before hitting the road again on July 9 to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in New York.

A belated happy Inter-dependence day to everyone.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


 We had a networking meeting in Portland, Maine today of our ad-hoc group that organized the successful town hall meeting last April that drew over 400 folks. We've met twice now following that event to make future plans for anti-war work across the state.

We had good attendance again today with people coming down to Portland from around the state. Also showing up today was Maine State Senator Ethan Strimling who has organized 26 Maine state legislators in a group they are calling "Legislators for ending the war." They are emphasizing how much the war has cost Maine (our share is now over $800 million)and talking about how social services and infrastructure in our state are suffering as a result of endless war spending.

We thanked Sen. Strimling for taking the leadership and challenged him to ask our Maine Congressional Delegation (Snowe, Collins, Allen & Michaud) to vote against all future war funding requests in Washington. We also suggested that the 26 state elected officials talk with the governor about refusing to send the National Guard to Iraq anymore. We also suggested that they might begin to call for conversion of the military industrial complex rather than continually begging for more federal money to keep building weapons. Strimling asked us to help get other Maine state legislators to join their coalition and we agreed to do that.

We are also planning Teach-Ins at colleges and universities around the state this fall and can already report that the University of Southern Maine (Portland) and the University of Maine (Orono) now have people working on these events.

On July 7 we read the names again of dead American GI's and innocent Iraqi civilians - this time it will be done outside in a downtown Portland park. Then on September 20 there will be a town hall meeting in Portland on the topic of impeachment of Bush.

Our next meeting to plan the anti-war movement in Maine will be August 26 in Portland. Posted by Picasa