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. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, September 16, 2006


  Posted by PicasaI am now in my fifth day of fasting against the war in Iraq. We have a large group of folks in our town of Brunswick who have joined the fast, and others around the state as well are participating. Each weekday for an hour at noon we have been gathering downtown on the green to hold signs and hand out flyers calling for Congress to cut the funding for the war. It's been a wonderful community building exercise for our local peace group called PeaceWorks.

Today 60 of us went to Bath Iron Works (BIW), 10-miles north of here, where the latest Aegis destroyer is being "christened." We object to the reference of Christ's blessing for the war ship. The ship is being deployed throughout the Asian-Pacific region surrounding China, which will provoke them to build more nuclear missiles. Today China has only 20 nukes capable of hitting the west coast of the U.S. We have well over 7,500 in our own nuclear arsenal of hypocrisy. What makes the Aegis even worse is that they are being outfitted with Theater Missile Defense (TMD) systems that will be used to knockout China's missiles that they would launch after we "preemptively" attack them.

With the U.S. now being one of China's best customers in the world today they are not likely to want to start a nuclear war with us. But China knows that the Space Command has been war-gaming a first-strike attack on them for the past few years. Set in the year 2016 the war game envisions a preemptive attack on China with U.S. space-based "assets" like the new military space plane and more.

While standing just across from the main gate today at BIW we watched hundreds of Navy personnel and BIW workers file into the plant for the ceremony. Many of Maine's leading politicians were also inside to give their blessing. Early on I moved across the street to be closer to the gate though I was still on the sidewalk and thus still on public right-of-way. Very quickly a plain-clothed policeman approached me from the city of Bath who began to get in my face and threaten me with arrest if I did not move back to the other side of the street. I tried to talk to him but he would not stop haranguing me. Finally I got my chance and told him that I knew I had the legal right to be there and that I had stood in the very same spot during other such protests at BIW, and even had pictures to boot! So if he wanted to arrest me then I'd see him in court and I was sure I would win the case. I have had cops run this game on me many times over the years. I knew what my rights were. I was not going to be intimidated. I’ve already been discharged from the U.S. military and don’t have to take “orders” anymore.

Very soon after Dexter Kamilewicz came and joined me. Dexter is running for Congress here in Maine. His son was in Iraq for 11 months and is now home but suffering from depression and other medical problems after being blown up three times by IED’s in Ramadi. Mary Beth Sullivan then got about 25 other people in our group to move over with us making it clear that the Bath cops would now have to arrest them as well. Then our lawyer from the National Lawyers Guild came over and talked to the cop who had the bad attitude and I turned back to protesting. I, nor anyone else, got arrested.

The photo above is of members of the Japanese peace movement protesting deployment of Aegis destroyers in their ports. The Japanese peace movement understands just how provocative these ships are and how they will drive a new arms race in their part of the world. It is crucial for us to support them.

In the end we need to convert places like BIW and have them build mass transit systems, solar, and windmills. Let's use our tax dollars for a good purpose for once. But that will only happen if we keep calling for this new industrial policy over and over again.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


  Posted by PicasaBy Karl Grossman

For years NASA insisted it couldn’t be done. Beyond the orbit of Mars, NASA said, solar energy could not be used to generate electricity for onboard power on space devices.

So the agency used the extremely dangerous nuclear substance, plutonium, as fuel in electric generating systems—and people on Earth were put at great risk in the event of an accident.

For instance, in 1997 NASA launched its Cassini plutonium-fueled space probe and in 1999 had Cassini hurtle back at Earth in a “slingshot maneuver” to increase its velocity so it could get to Saturn. If there was what NASA called an “inadvertent reentry” of Cassini into the Earth’s atmosphere during the “slingshot maneuver” just a few hundred miles up, it would disintegrate and “5 billion…of the world population…could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure,” NASA admitted in its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission.

The death toll from a Cassini accident was put by Dr. Ernest Sternglass, professor emeritus of radiological physics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, at 20 million to 40 million.

And this is not a sky-is-falling story. Of 28 U.S. space missions using plutonium,
there have been three accidents, the worst in 1964 in which a plutonium-powered satellite fell back to Earth, breaking up and spreading the toxic radioactive substance widely.

That caused NASA to develop solar power for satellites—and today all satellites (and the International Space Station) are energized by solar panels. But, insisted NASA, in deep space sunlight is too weak and solar energy could not work, only plutonium would.

Now the leading space industry trade magazine, Aviation Week & Space Technology, reveals that solar energy is to be used by NASA to substitute for nuclear power in deep space. The July 17th article began: “Budget and technical realities have led NASA to put its once-ambitious space nuclear power plans on a slow track, but development in solar power generation should allow new scientific probes beyond Mars to operate without nuclear energy. The U.S. space agency is already planning a solar-powered mission to study the atmosphere of Jupiter, and has looked at sending probes as deep into space as Neptune using only the Sun’s energy for spacecraft and instrument power…It is all but certain the next U.S. deep-space missions will be solar-powered.”

The piece went on describe the new giant solar energy systems that will be used to harvest solar energy at record efficiencies vast distances from the Sun.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, comments that “for years NASA said that the Global Network didn't know what we were talking about when it came to solar power working in deep space. Now NASA is planning to do what we've been saying all along they could do. It just goes to show that our protests have been right on the money and have pushed them in this direction more than anyone realizes.”

“Our next step is to shut down the entire space nuclear power program for good and press on with our efforts to keep weapons out of space,” said Gagnon. “This admission by NASA that solar will work in deep space is a victory for all of our supporters around the world who have been resisting the launch of nuclear power in space for the past 20 years. It just goes to show that if you are willing to stay on top of an issue for a long time that something good can come from your hard work."

Jeremy Maxand, executive director of Idaho’s nuclear watchdog, the Snake River Alliance, that has been challenging the U.S. Department of Energy’s plan to use Idaho National Laboratory to produce plutonium, says, “It’s good to see plutonium space batteries following in the steps of the now demoted planet Pluto. We've said since day one that plutonium is unnecessary and dangerous, and that we can do the same job a better way, and now we're seeing what that better way is—solar."

What’s going to happen now concerning plutonium production at Idaho National Laboratory? Probably, DOE will claim, what with the space function downgraded, it’s important to continue another use—a so-called “national security” use—of the especially nasty isotope of plutonium, Plutonium-238, to be fabricated at the facility.

What DOE is referring to is the use of plutonium in surveillance devices the U.S. has through the decades left in far-flung areas of the world.

Here, too, solar panels could harvest the needed energy safely. And, post-9/11, scattering plutonium-fueled surveillance devices around the planet is asking for it. All it would take is “a terrorist with a Phillips head screwdriver” to take plutonium from one of these devices and fabricate a super-dirty bomb, as Maxand has pointed out.

As to the safety record of these systems, most of it is hidden in secrecy but an illuminating book, just-published, is An Eye at the Top of the World by Pete Takeda (Thunder’s Mouth Press). It reports on how the CIA installed a plutonium-powered surveillance device in the mid-1960s in the Himalayas, which was subsequently swept away by an avalanche. The device fell and sunk into a glacier and was lost.

The plutonium it contained is now “moving ever closer to the source of the Ganges River”—a sacred river for a billion people.

We don’t need plutonium in space, at Idaho National Laboratory, spreading into the Ganges—or any place on Earth.

And, as in space, so should it go on the Earth below.

Maxand notes: “The window of opportunity to fool the public into going nuclear, in energy and space travel, is quickly closing. While DOE and big nuke contractors like Lockheed Martin are rushing to secure funding and policy to keep nuclear around, alternative energy developers are running laps around the nuke industry.”

We don’t need to take the enormous risk of atomic energy. The Bush administration and nuclear industry’s plans for a “revival” of nuclear power must be stopped. There’s no need to have atomic power plants—or nuclear poisons over our heads. Safe energy technologies are here.

- Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, is the author of The Wrong Stuff (Common Courage Press) and narrator of the TV documentary Nukes In Space (

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


  Posted by PicasaThe military is saying they should test new microwave-weapons against people in the U.S. in "real world situations" before they use them on people overseas.

Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions in the international community over any possible safety concerns, says Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne.

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

The new weapons, being developed at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, N.M., would fire a microwave beam, which is supposed to heat skin and to cause pain but no physical damage. The "Active Denial System" beam causes pain within 2-3 seconds and it becomes intolerable after less than 5 seconds. People’s reflex responses to the pain are expected to force them to move out of the beam before the skin can be burnt.

But in an interview in the New Scientist, Neil Davison, coordinator of the non-lethal weapons research project at the University of Bradford in the UK, said controlling the amount of radiation received may not be that simple. "How do you ensure that the dose doesn't cross the threshold for permanent damage?" he asks. "What happens if someone in a crowd is unable, for whatever reason, to move away from the beam? Does the weapon cut out to prevent overexposure?"

The answer is NO. The U.S. military has already been testing and using these systems in Iraq on civilians. Reports already indicate that these weapons basically fry people to death. The reason the Air Force is now saying they should be fair, and use them first in the U.S., is pure propaganda.

I am now convinced, more than ever, that the Bush pirate crew is going to pull another 9-11 before the November elections. I think they are going to declare martial law. Then when the public hits the streets in protest, they are going to trot out these "active denial" microwave weapons for crowd control. And if anyone stands around too long they will be killed, just like is happening today in Iraq.

They will use these weapons in order to "dissuade" the American people from thinking that we can non-violently protest to save our country from fascism. They are then hoping that activists will either give up and go home, or turn violent and then the military will be given the go-ahead to take people out - just like we see them doing in Iraq today.

The clamp down is coming. Folks had better come alive now before it is too late. The Bush team has decided that they do not intend to give up power. They are going to make a play for total control of the oil in the Middle East and Central Asia and will not be slowed down by elections.

There is too much money to be made by controlling the world's oil and by having endless war. Profits of the oil corporations and weapons industry have gone through the roof since 2001. They are not about to return to business as usual - back to the days prior to 9-11.

I hope my prediction on this is wrong. But from where I sit all the strands are coming together. Who would seriously doubt that at some point Bush/Cheney, who obviously do not believe in democracy, would not play their cards out all the way?

Sunday, September 10, 2006


  Posted by PicasaOur local Brunswick-based peace group, PeaceWorks, begins our 10-day fast at noon on Monday with a vigil at our downtown green. We purchased a full-page advertisement in our local newspaper last Friday with 125 signatures on it inviting the community to join our "Fast to Bring the Troops Home Now." The advert also asks the public to Call on Congress to Cut the Funding for the Occupation of Iraq, No War on Iran and to Promote Justice Globally.

Each weekday from September 11-21 we will gather on the green at noon for an hour to hold signs, pass out leaflets, and share with each other about the fast. Some will fast for a day, others for longer, and a few of us the whole time. I've never fasted for more than three-days in my life so a 10-day fast will be a new experience for me.

While I was in Washington DC yesterday, speaking at Camp Democracy, I was touched by the father of Alex Arredondo who had set up the elaborate display in the photo above in honor of his son who was killed last year in Iraq. He called it Camp Alex. I could see in his busy energy, as he put the site together, his need to keep moving as a way to deal with his enormous pain and anger of his family's loss. We talked for a while and he told me that Alex's death has broken his whole family apart. At a time when family needs each other the most, the tragic loss had sent a lightening rod of division right through their family. We've heard similar stories of other families being torn apart as a result of this war.

In today's media we hear the story about Dick Cheney saying that those who oppose the war are aiding the "enemy". Cheney says U.S. allies in Afghanistan and Iraq "have doubts" America will finish the job there. "And those doubts are encouraged, obviously, when they see the kind of debate that we've had in the United States," he said. "Suggestions, for example, that we should withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, simply feed into that whole notion, validates the strategy of the terrorists."

Cheney is also sending a lightening bolt through the heart of the American people and doing his best to divide us from one another.

Talk like this from Cheney, and seeing the mourning eyes of Alex's father yesterday, make me more determined than ever to do more to end this war. We all live inside of a box of sorts. We all have our political boundaries - we only do so much, we only go so far in our anti-war work. As Ray McGovern said yesterday at Camp Democracy, not enough of us are "sticking our necks out" to end the occupation of Iraq. Necks, McGovern said, are useful to hold our heads up. But necks are not worthy of being worshipped and if we are unwilling to take some actions that for us are new and risky behavior, then we have begun to idolize our necks.

I know the fast won't change things in and of itself. I am not that naive. But I do think that the idea of going beyond our normal personal barriers is a good example for us all to set. We need to show our families, our communities, and ourselves that we are serious about ending this madness both in Iraq and here at home.