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

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.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

WHICH NAVY WILL THEY CHOOSE?

My cabbage boat in the water

Preparing to sail
The ocean in the distance
Standing by the Aegis "missile defense interceptor" vertical launch hatches
I took a tour today of the Navy's USS Stockdale (DDG 106) that is still being worked on at Bath Iron Works (BIW). A friend and I went in during worker appreciation day to take a look at one of the ships that we are always protesting from outside the shipyard. They took us through the 7 or 8 deck Aegis destroyer and showed us the galley, the combat room where they use the radars to fix targets and computers to fire cruise and "missile defense" interceptors and finally the bridge. Then we went out on the main deck where these two photos were taken.

The photo of me standing by the hatches is where the missiles are fired from and the other picture has me flashing a peace sign standing in front of the five-inch guns. There were a bunch of people taking the tour along with several from the crew standing behind the camera operator watching me give the peace sign.

Most of the time while taking the tour I was thinking of our friend Becky Farley who was the officer on deck of one of these ships in 2003 when the U.S. launched the shock and awe invasion of Iraq. She was a Lieutenant and her ship, the USS Cowpens, fired the very first cruise missile at Baghdad in the attack. Becky's job in that moment was to keep the ship on course. After the attack was over she went below to watch the TV coverage of the attack and the crew cheered wildly as the missiles hit their targets causing explosions and fire. It was in those moments that Becky began to reevaluate her life in the Navy. Today she is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and participated in their Winter Soldier Hearings in the spring of 2008. I met Becky a couple of years ago when she attended a talk I gave in Boothbay Harbor just north of here. She hung around after the talk and went out for a beer with Mary Beth and me and we've been close friends ever since. Mary Beth accompanied Becky to the Winter Solider event.

Later this afternoon our housemates were invited to a party in nearby Georgetown along the estuary by Reed State Park. Each year our friend Rosie invites people to come and make little boats out of natures bounty and launch them into the water by her home. Then we have a big bonfire and a great potluck supper. Tonight it is severely cold outside - supposed to be 8 degrees - so it was a challenge to stay outside for long.

I made my little boat out of a cabbage leaf and added a few berries from a holly bush and a few pine needles. Very simple. We have a bit of a friendly contest to see whose "boat" stays afloat the longest. Last I looked many of the others were sinking and my cabbage leaf was bobbing along nicely.

Needless to say it was an interesting and moving day for me. I got a view of two kinds of navies. One where the Aegis ships, at the cost of $1.2 billion each, are being built to launch first-strike attacks. The other navy is the peace fleet of creativity, nonviolence, and good spirit.

During the tour, where many BIW workers and families came to see the final product, little kids sat in the captain's chair and I could imagine many of them seeing themselves as sailors one day.

We are taught in this country to glorify war and the expensive high-tech weapons.

I know this because when I was a kid I had a big framed photo my dad gave me of a bunch of Air Force planes on the base flightline. As we moved from base to base around the world I carried that photo with us and it always hung in my room just opposite my crucifix. After high school I too joined the Air Force just like my dad. I wanted to be a career man. But then I got turned around by the GI resistance movement in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and became a peace activist. Today I am a proud member of Maine Veterans for Peace.

Sometimes those making the wars have a change of heart. As I looked deeply at the members of the crew giving us the tour today, I wondered which of them will have a change of heart about their "mission". From my experience, and Becky's as well, I know it will happen as sure as the sun rises and the tides change.

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