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, 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

Friday, June 30, 2006


 I finally made it home last night at 11:00 pm after a 28-hour return trip from Vancouver. Stormy weather throughout North America had caused massive delays in Toronto and Boston so my flights into each of those locations were delayed several times. I have never been much good at sleeping on planes so needless to say I was a bit worn out by the time I got home. And I was not particularly impressed with Canada Air's handling of customer relations along the journey. Basically they didn't go out of their way to provide information and help their customers get scheduled on other flights. It was literally "every person for themselves", a real dog eat dog situation.

So after a good sleep in my own bed last night I am back to work this morning with massive amounts of e-mails and postal mail to sort through. And a trip report to write as well but that will have to wait a couple days. On the July 4 holiday Mary Beth and I will drive over to New Hampshire where I will speak at the World Fellowship Center, a wonderful retreat facility in the woods that does progressive summer programming. Hopefully I will get a bit of a rest there as well.

The World Peace Forum in Vancouver was very good. We had quite a good number of Global Network members attending and we had excellent crowds in each of the workshops/panels that we organized on space. So our message got a good boost with some new folks from all over the world. In the end worth the trip.

Our friend Eric Herter from Brunswick, Maine filmed most of our space events and will create a one-hour documentary about the event. In about one month we will have that available to order. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 22, 2006


 Made it to Victoria, British Columbia at 10:30 pm (Pacific time) last night. After the eight-hour layover in Toronto I had a five-hour flight to Victoria. While in the Toronto airport I did a one-hour radio interview with a Victoria station that was a promotion for my talk here tonight. Richard Sanders, a Canadian peace activist with the Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, was also on the show and will be the co-presenter with me tonight in Victoria. He does alot of work trying to keep Canada out of Star Wars.

With the election of their Conservative prime minister Harper recently, keeping the Canadian aerospace industry out of the weapons in space money grab will be a tough haul. Canadians complain, like we do in the U.S., about growing corporate takeover of their government. Globalization is real for everyone these days.

I went for a nice walk this morning. The place I am staying is right on a bay so the views are quite beautiful. Islands can be seen in the distance, the air is wonderfully crisp and cool, lots of sun. A perfect day. I walked up a big hill that overlooks the ocean and then took a narrow path to a public beach where I sat and enjoyed the solitude for some time. I found myself just appreciating the great gift of travel that I have in my life. Meeting activists who are doing good work all over the world is the icing on the cake.

I leave mid-day on Friday for the trip to Vancouver. My host Susan Clarke is a leader of the Victoria Peace Coalition and she will drive us to Vancouver. We will take the ferry to get there. Should be a nice trip. Susan, and her husband Alan, have set me up with computer access, good food, and a great view. Can't ask for much more than that. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


 Early on Wednesday morning I will be taking a bus to the Boston airport and then fly on to Victoria, British Columbia. During that long flight, I will have an eight-hour layover in Toronto. It will turn out to be a long day.

I'll speak in Victoria on Thursday evening and then head to Vancouver on Friday for the World Peace Forum. The Global Network has coordinated the space track of workshops at the forum and we are looking forward to seeing many old friends from around the world at the event. Thanks to a Secure World Foundation grant we were able to provide significant transportation assistance to 16 people so they could come to the event.

At this point we are still waiting on the Bush administration to announce their new national space policy. It is expected that the new policy will give the green light to operational testing, and likely deployment, of anti-satellite weapons (ASATS) that so far Congress and previous administrations have restricted.

Also under development at this moment is the military space plane that would give the U.S. the ability to rapidly launch attacks on any part of the world from orbit. The space plane would descend from orbit, drop an attack, then fly back up into orbit. The Space Command has been war gaming this kind of attack for the past several years using computer simulation. The first-strike attack has so far been directed, during the war games, on China.

So we have much to discuss at the World Peace Forum as we gather our key peace in space organizers and work to share what we know with many new interested people. You can expect that the U.S. government will have their spies on-hand to take names and listen for any organizing plans that come forward. We know they are watching us, and in fact reading this blog regularly. The ACLU just last week launched a national lawsuit on behalf of 40 peace groups in the U.S. who are seeking the up-to-this-point secret files gathered on them. The Global Network is one of the 40 organizations that the ACLU is representing in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

I will try to post as often as I can while on this trip but I am not certain what kind of Internet connection I will find available.

Best wishes to all our readers. Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 19, 2006

'Wash Post' Obtains Memo from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Details Increasing Danger and Hardship

By Greg Mitchell

NEW YORK: The Washington Post has obtained a cable, marked "sensitive," that it says show that just before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, "the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees."

This cable outlines, the Post reported Sunday, "the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government."

It's actually far worse than that, as the details published below indicate, which include references to abductions, threats to women's rights, and "ethnic cleansing."

A PDF copy of the cable shows that it was sent to the SecState in Washington, D.C. from "AMEmbassy Baghdad" on June 6. The typed name at the very bottom is Khalilzad -- the name of the U.S. Ambassador, though it is not known if this means he wrote the memo or merely approved it.

The subject of the memo is: "Snapshots from the Office -- Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord."

As a footnote in one of the 23 sections, the embassy relates, "An Arab newspaper editor told us he is preparing an extensive survey of ethnic cleansing, which he said is taking place in almost every Iraqi province, as political parties and their militiast are seemingly engaged in tit-for-tat reprisals all over Iraq."

Among the other troubling reports:

-- "Personal safety depends on good relations with the 'neighborhood' governments, who barricade streets and ward off outsiders. The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced or coopted by militias. People no longer trust most neighbors."

-- One embassy employee had a brother-in-law kidnapped. Another received a death threat, and then fled the country with her family.

-- Iraqi staff at the embassy, beginning in March and picking up in May, report "pervasive" harassment from Islamist and/or militia groups. Cuts in power and rising fuel prices "have diminished the quality of life." Conditions vary but even upscale neighborhoods "have visibly deteriorated" and one of them is now described as a "ghost town."

-- Two of the three female Iraqis in the public affairs office reported stepped-up harassment since mid-May...."some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative." One of the women is now wearing a full abaya after receiving direct threats.

-- It has also become "dangerous" for men to wear shorts in public and "they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts." People who wear jeans in public have also come under attack.

-- Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions. No one takes home their cell phones as this gives them away. One employee said criticism of the U.S. had grown so severe that most of her family believes the U.S. "is punishing populations as Saddam did."

-- Since April, the "demeanor" of guards in the Green Zone has changed, becoming more "militia-like," and some are now "taunting" embassy personnel or holding up their credentials and saying loudly that they work in the embassy: "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people." For this reason, some have asked for press instead of embassy credentials.

-- "For at least six months, we have not been able to use any local staff members for translation at on-camera press events....We cannot call employees in on weekends or holidays without blowing their 'cover.'"

-- "More recently, we have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March, a few staff members approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."

-- The overall environment is one of "frayed social networks," with frequent actual or perceived insults. None of this is helped by lack of electricity. "One colleague told us he feels 'defeated' by circumstances, citing his example of being unable to help his two-year-old son who has asthma and cannot sleep in stifling heat," which is now reaching 115 degrees.

-- "Another employee tell us that life outside the Green Zone has become 'emotionally draining.' He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral 'every evening.'"

-- Fuel lines have grown so long that one staffer spent 12 hours in line on his day off. "Employees all confirm that by the last week of May, they were getting one hour of power for every six hours without.....One staff member reported that a friend lives in a building that houses a new minister; within 24 hours of his appointment, her building had city power 24 hours a day."

-- The cable concludes that employees' "personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials."

The final line of the Cable is: KHALILZAD

Thursday, June 15, 2006


This trip report covers the period of June 1-10 as I, along with my partner Mary Beth, made a working/vacation trip to Florida.

The trip was brought about when the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice (FCPJ) invited me to their "Weaving a Culture of Peace" statewide convocation in Gainesville. I worked for the FCPJ for 15 years and in 1992 we created the Dr. Benjamin Spock Peacemaker of the Year Award. Dr. Spock came to Florida that year and gave the first award in his name to the first recipient. Last week, I was invited by the FCPJ to come to their event to receive the Dr. Spock award, honoring my years of work to stop the nuclearization and weaponization of space.

The FCPJ became friends with Dr. Spock in 1987 when he came to Cape Canaveral to speak at a protest we organized opposing the first test launch of the Trident II nuclear missile. When over 5,000 people marched to the front gates of the space center, it was Dr. Spock who was the first one to climb over the base front gate into the waiting arms of the military police in a symbolic act of opposition to the launch. In his final book, called "Spock on Spock", Ben had a photo of himself climbing the Cape Canaveral fence.

When Mary Beth and I arrived in Jacksonville on June 1 the first thing we did was rent a car and drive south to St. Augustine to visit our 95 year-old friend Peg McIntire. I have worked with Peg for about 20 years and she is fondly known as the "Grand Dame" of the Florida peace movement. Peg has been arrested at the space center more times than most people and remains active in her beloved Grandparents for Peace group that she still ably coordinates.

We moved on to Gainesville to attend the FCPJ convocation on the weekend of June 2-4. The keynote speaker for the event was David Korten, the author of the highly popular book called "The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community." In his talk to the FCPJ Korten talked about the coming hard times due to peak oil and global warming. "Communities that fare best will be the ones that begin now to plan for the coming changes. Building true community means moving beyond competition and empire to cooperation," Korten said. We must break the silence and end our isolation, Korten suggested, if we hope to save democracy.

I spoke at a workshop on organizing during the FCPJ conference with old friend Joy Towles Ezell who has been working to stop the Pentagon from moving a bombing range into her north Florida rural county. I suggested that we begin the workshop by having people go around and say why they came to this particular workshop and what they were looking to learn. They key themes on people's minds were how to sustain a peace group over time, how to expand our base and how to connect issues in our work.

On the evening of June 3 there was a formal dinner and Peg McIntire presented the Spock award to me. In my talk I reminded the assembled how the FCPJ had played a key role in the creation of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space when it was formed in 1992. I shared stories about the work I am doing today and concluded by offering a transformative vision for an end to this cycle of endless war that we find ourselves in today.

From there I would travel to speak at the Sunday service of Peg McIntire's Unitarian Church in St Augustine and then back to Gainesville to do a June 6 speech at the Civic Media Center in Gainesville. This event was sponsored by the Gainesville Chapter of Veterans for Peace which I belonged to for many years before moving to Maine. It was wonderful to see old friends there like Julie Netzer, Miriam Elliott, Bill & Sally Warrick, Bill Gilbert, Joe Courter, and Eve & Richard MacMaster. All of these folks I had worked closely with on campaigns in Gainesville around issues like the Patriot Act and the local cost of the Iraq war.

In between talks I was able to visit my mother in Titusville and to return to Peg's home on St Augustine Beach. Long walks on the beach and a couple swims in the ocean were nice breaks from the otherwise hectic but exciting visit to Florida where I had lived for 30 years before moving to Maine three years ago.

Our last day took us back to Jacksonville where I was invited to speak by the local peace group called Waging Peace. They held a community supper at their beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright-style church where I had spoken many times over the past 20 years. Old friends like Al & Wendy Geiger, Mary Claire VanderHorst and Doris Marlin made Mary Beth and I feel at home again.

At each of my talks on this trip I continued to emphasize the theme that the peace movement needs to provide a positive, alternative vision to endless war. America's economy is addicted to military spending, I said, and until we offer another way to create jobs for military industrial complex workers we will never be able to break the cycle of weapons production and war. Why, I asked over and over again, can't the peace movement create a national political demand that calls for our tax dollars to be used for production of public mass transit systems, windmills and solar technology instead of weapons of war? Imagine what would happen if the peace movement, the environmental movement and the labor movements all began to create a unified demand to convert the military industries to peaceful and sustainable technological development. Think of the good jobs created. Think of the lessening of our demand for oil as our nation turned to mass transit, wind energy and solar. Think of the positive impacts on global warming as we helped create this shift in national industrial policy.

It is one thing to say NO to war in Iraq and Iran. That we must do. But as I travel to places like Jacksonville, Florida or Colorado Springs, Colorado, what I see are communities dominated by the military industrial complex. If we wish to create the "Great Turning" that David Korten speaks of then we must also change the stories of our communities. Right now the military culture - the death culture - is the prevailing story of America. If we are to weave a culture of peace then we must begin to offer the public another vision of a society that can provide their families with jobs, hope, and a real possibility of a positive future for their children.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006



1) Gallstones in the Belly of the Beast (A musical/comedy performance)
Featuring Singer/Songwriter, and Global Network member, Holly Gwinn Graham
Saturday, June 24
6:30 p.m.
The Roundhouse Community Arts Center (181 Roundhouse Mews, Davis & Pacific)
Vancouver, BC, Canada

2) Weapons in Space: Should We Extend the Arms Race Into the Heavens?
(A panel discussion)
Speakers: Mel Hurtig (Canadian author/activist), Dr. Rebecca Johnson (Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, UK), Dr. Jurgen Scheffran (Int’l Network of Engineers & Scientists Against Proliferation, Germany), and Holly Gwinn Graham (Singer/Songwriter, Olympia, Washington)
Sunday, June 25
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
University of British Columbia (UBC), Theas Lounge, Graduate Student Centre

3) Global Network Annual Membership Meeting & Dinner
Sunday, June 25
4:00 – 8:00 p.m.
UBC, Theas Lounge, Graduate Student Centre
(Please RSVP to Global Network before June 20 for dinner)

4) No Means Yes: Canadian Complicity in the “Missile Defense” Weapons Development Program (A workshop)
Speaker: Richard Sanders (Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, Canada)
Monday, June 26
11:00 – 1:00 p.m.
UBC, Student Union Building (SUB) Room 205

5) Space Weapons & Canada: Strategies for Citizen and Government Action
(A workshop)
Speakers: Steven Staples (Polaris Institute, Canada) and Mike Wallace (Professor of International Relations, UBC)
Monday, June 26
3:00 – 5:00 p.m.
UBC, Student Union Building (SUB) Room 205

6) Star Wars Organizing: Activists Reports from Around the World
(A workshop)
Speakers: Dennis Apel (Guadalupe Catholic Worker, California), Robert Anderson (Stop the War Machine, New Mexico), Sarah Estabrooks (Project Ploughshares, Canada), Bruce Gagnon (Global Network, Maine), Regina Hagen (INESAP, Germany), Tamara Lorincz (Halifax Peace Coalition, Canada), Bill Sulzman (Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado), Dave Webb (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, UK), Alice Slater (GRACE, New York)
Tuesday, June 27
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
UBC, Student Union Building (SUB) Room 205

7) The Space-Military-Industrial Complex: Connecting the Dots and Acting on the Picture (A workshop)
Speakers: Bill Sulzman & Loring Wirbel (Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado)
Tuesday, June 27
4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
UBC, Student Union Building (SUB) Room 205

Monday, June 12, 2006


Mary Beth and I made it home last night but first we made a stop at Fenway Park in Boston to see the Red Sox play. Childhood friends of MB (she grew up in Cambridge) had tickets and took us to the game. It's a beautiful old ball park and it is virtually impossible to get into a game these days because they are sold out well in advance for every game.

I actually am a Baltimore Orioles fan, they are mired in 4th place with 8 straight years of losing seasons. But a fan is always a fan!

Back at work today I had a ton and a half of things to get caught up with. Among my big jobs on the to do list is getting ready for the Vancouver World Peace Forum at the end of this month. The Global Network is coordinating the track of space issues at the forum. All have been organized for several months but the forum staff keep changing the meeting room venues of our events. Each time I think I can confidently advertise them, another change comes. Very frustrating. So if you are planning to come to Vancouver check with me about the location of the events.

The news brings the sad story about three prisoners at Guantanamo hanging themselves. What is most sickening is the "spin" the U.S. military has put on this story. A Pentagon spokesman had this to say about the suicides: "They are smart, they are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." -- Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander, Joint Task Force, Guantánamo

Can you believe this? Here Bush has been holding these people, without charges or a legal avenue to challenge their incarceration, and the Pentagon says the captives are waging war by killing themselves. Such cynical people. These desperate prisoners clearly see no end in sight and prefer to die rather than live in such inhuman conditions. And they are the ones who don't value life! It makes me furious.

So even after going to a baseball game for one day, escaping a bit, I am now back in the middle of the fight for justice and to end this insane war. I read today that the Bush team wants to keep 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq forever. We are in for a long struggle to try to end this war. This Iraq war is going extra innings I am afraid.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I am in St Augustine, Florida visiting 94 year-old friend Peg McIntire. She lives in a condo village right on the beach. This time of year many of the condos are rented as vacationers from the region come for a week of sun and fun.

Last night we were sitting in the jacuzzi talking with a Baptist preacher from southern Georgia. I asked him what he thinks about the Iraq war. He said that the Muslim people want to destroy America. He said "they" do not value life the way we do here in the U.S. He said the U.S. should wipe the whole region out. I asked him if he meant with nuclear weapons. Her said yes. He told us that the sooner Armageddon comes the better, because that would mean that Jesus would return and we'd have the rapture where the Christians would go to heaven and the rest of us sinners, those not born again in Christ, would die here on Earth in the resulting fire.

I told him I was confused by this kind of talk. I said that I thought Jesus was the prince of peace and had taught that we should love our neighbors and turn the other cheek. In response the preacher said that the Iraqi people are just killing each other in a civil war rampage of evil violence. I reminded him that in our own civil war in the U.S. we'd done a pretty horrible job of resolving our internal conflicts. In fact I said we killed an enormous amount of our fellow citizens. How was this different from Iraq, I asked?

The preacher was actually a very nice man. He was friendly, had a kind and warm smile, and was thoughtful and polite to Peg as she strained to keep up with the conversation without the use of her hearing aide. But when it came to talking politics he quickly reverted to the script that institutions like the church, the military, and southern educational system have effectively trained him in.

I must admit that when I would challenge his thinking, and he reverted to script, I could tell that even he saw that he had no real answers to my questions. He is not a stupid man like many people would say of someone living in a "Red" state. He has just been brainwashed and is not often given the cultural opportunity to be around people who think differently. Thus his thinking largely goes unchallenged in his day-to-day life and he becomes comfortable with his doctrines.

Today I head back to Gainesville to speak at the Civic Media Center. On Friday I speak in Jacksonville at the Unitarian Church. In between I’ll visit my mother again in Titusville and then return for a quick visit with Peg again in St Augustine.

Last Saturday night I received the Dr. Benjamin Spock Peacemaker Award from the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. In 1992, while working for the FCPJ, I had asked Dr. Spock if he would allow us to give an annual award in his name. He came to that 10th anniversary event of the FCPJ, and presented the first such award given in his name. So it was a real nice feeling to be given the same award that I had created many years ago.

This past Sunday I delivered a talk at Peg’s St. Augustine Unitarian Church service. In between the work I’ve had a chance to walk on the beach and swim in the ocean. It has felt nice to be able to relax a bit on this working trip to Florida.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I am writing from Titusville, Florida. My partner Mary Beth and I arrived here today, flying into Jacksonville and paying a quick visit to our long-time dear friend Peg McIntire in St. Augustine. Peg is 94 years old and will introduce me on Saturday evening in Gainesville when I receive an award from the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice (FCPJ). I worked for the FCPJ for 15 years and it was there that I became involved in organizing around space issues.

From St. Augustine we drove further south to Titusville where my mother lives. We took mom out to dinner at a local restaurant overlooking the Indian River. Just across the river from our dinner we could see NASA's vehicle assembly building where the space shuttle is prepared for each mission.

I told mom and Mary Beth a story about my first big space event back in the early 1980's. I organized a space conference for the FCPJ and we had a Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut Edgar Mitchell as speakers for that event. It was the first time that a Russian and U.S. space traveler had ever been together on the same stage. They both came to speak out against weapons in space.

I had called NASA and asked if the cosmonaut could get a tour of their facility. At this time we were still in the midst of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union so this was a big deal. NASA invited me to bring the cosmonaut to the vehicle assembly building for a tour. As we entered the huge building, with a shuttle standing on end inside, the workers all stopped what they were doing and watched us as we were shown around the complex. It must have been quite a site to see the Russian and the peacenick getting the tour.

And today we now hear that NASA is reassuring people that the next shuttle launch will be only in "minimal" danger due to orbiting space debris that could impact and destroy the shuttle. Just as we face global warming due to earthly pollution, we also face the problem of pollution of space due to our thoughtless use of space.

As I retrace my footsteps during this 10 day trip to Florida I will see many old friends who helped build the momentum that launched the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. The issues are more important than ever.