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

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WAR VETS AND CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES

Mary Beth left early this morning for the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Winter Soldier hearings with our friend Becky Farley. Becky was a Lt. in the Navy and was the officer on the deck of the Aegis cruiser that fired the first cruise missiles in the 2003 shock and awe invasion of Iraq. Becky has been suffering from the experience and for a long time did not want to talk publicly about it. But the call for Iraq and Afghanistan GI's to come to DC for Winter Soldier inspired her to step forward.

This morning, on the way north, they stopped in Portland to tape an interview on Maine Public radio. Then they took a bus to Boston where they will switch to a train to DC. The Winter Soldier hearings will run from March 13-16 in the DC area. If you don't get Free Speech TV (which will be airing the hearings live) then you can listen over the Internet. Check this link at IVAW website for more details: http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier/howtowatch

Last night we went to Portland for a candidates forum sponsored by Maine Veterans for Peace, the Global Network, and ten other peace groups in Maine's first congressional district. We had all six of the Democratic party candidates who are running for the seat at the event. About 150 people were there throughout the three-hour event.

None of the candidates stood above the rest but I'd say that three did do better than the others. Mike Brennan, Mark Lawrence, and Chellie Pingree each had excellent moments. Brennan called for a 10% cut in military spending (still far too low considering that Bush has increased military spending by 50% during his time in office) and promised to call for conversion of the military industrial complex with the funds cut. Lawrence is strong on impeachment and made the case several times that we'd never get out of the Middle East until we develop a real energy policy at home. Pingree spoke out against any war with Iran although she did use the expression "we need to reinvest in our military" which could likely mean major increases in military spending over time.

Ethan Strimling, a state senator from Portland, who is good on impeachment, was the only one of the six who refused to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian question from the audience. He is also proposing a bill to have Maine disinvest from Iran and has used some provocative language to describe Iran. Many fear that he is under the sway of AIPAC.

In the end I came away from the forum with a couple thoughts. One is that there will probably be some improvement after this election in our congressional representation over what we have now - Rep. Tom Allen who has continually voted to fund the Iraq occupation and refuses to consider impeachment or single-payer health care. (Most of the six last night support single-payer.)

Second, I can see that none of the Democrats are really willing to take on the concept of empire. The Democratic party is committed to U.S. "global dominance" and none of them were willing to even address the issue last night when Mary Beth offered them the chance by asking them "What are you going to do about it?")

For me it reenforces my decision to register as a Green and to support Cynthia McKinney for president. It is abundantly clear that we need an outside political force to speak truth to power and to organize new political structures that give more electoral options to a public who have become increasingly discouraged with the Democratic party.

To their credit, Chellie Pingree and Mark Lawrence both admitted last night that their party was not listening to the public and had not delivered the kind of opposition that they had promised the nation before the last election. Sadly, I have little confidence that the Democrats will do much to confront the real challenges facing America after the 2008 election.

Without taking on the idea of U.S. military global dominance, and the economic consequences of preparation for endless war, the Democrats will have little to offer the public outside of flowery rhetoric. Unless the military budget is dramatically scaled back, by say 60-75%, there will be no money for health care, education, or funding of new sustainable technologies to help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and effectively deal with climate change.

We need real jobs in America and military spending eats up funds that could be used to create good jobs doing the things we need to repair our declining human and physical infrastructure.

The days of being able to afford guns and butter are over. The candidates last night didn't have the courage to say that in public.

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