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

Friday, March 28, 2008


Yesterday I drove north to speak at the University of Maine in Orono. The Philosophy Department is having a speaker series and my topic was "A Leftist Analysis of Elections". It was fun to prepare for this talk, not one I normally give, and I think it went well. Of course I was critical of the Democrats and Republicans, the two corporate war parties, and read from the 1918 speech by Eugene Debs when he opposed WW I and was later tried and sentenced to 10 years in jail for violating the Sedition Act.

In the speech Debs said, "Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine [River in Germany] concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war.

"The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another's throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose--especially their lives.

"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people."

In the morning I will get up early and take the bus from Portland to the Boston airport. From there I will head to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where I will speak at the annual dinner of the peace group called LEPOCO. My talk is advertised as Swords into Plowshares: Transforming the Military Industrial Complex - my favorite topic these days.

Pennsylvania is the state next up to vote in the Democratic party election primary season. So it is likely many of the questions I get after my talk will be focused on the upcoming elections.

I will get home on Sunday evening and will unfortunately miss the next Mainers for Cynthia McKinney meeting and our monthly Addams-Melman House potluck supper - both events scheduled to be held at our house in Bath that day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Tonight I was invited by some concerned parents to attend a meeting at the nearby Woolwich Central School to discuss a controversial "Adventure Program" being offered by the Maine Army National Guard (MANG).

The parents have a daughter in the 7th grade and kids at the school in grades 7-8 will next month be subjected to two days of a program called "Maine Counter Drug Task Force" that is now in its third year of operation. In 2006 the MANG visited 47 schools and had contact with 4,700 kids.

It's a two-stage program. First MANG comes to the school in uniform for a two-day "anti-drug and alcohol" program where they "facilitate" goal setting and talk about why it is bad to hit one another. They ask the kids "Who is out there to support you?" Is it possible that they are planting the seed in the kids minds that the Army will support them when they can't find a job or need to provide for their families?

The second-step is an overnight camp out in rural Maine at a MANG training facility. As the MANG Sergeant showed photos and described the "experience," all I could see was a mini-boot camp where they teach the kids "teamwork" on ropes courses and repelling walls.

The school guidance counselor kept talking about how much fun the kids have and how parents are invited to come along. In past years, to get the schools hooked, MANG said it was all free to the schools. Now the parents are being asked to raise funds for the bus transportation to the boot camp.

I kept thinking about the Pentagon's growing need for access to young minds as they plan endless war and a future of "security export" for our nation. The military knows that because we won't be having industrial jobs anymore in the U.S. working class kids at schools like Woolwich Central School will have no real job future. So the MANG becomes the rich uncle and offers to take the kids away for the weekend for some fun and frolic in the woods. It's all harmless they tell us.

The pump is being primed. Anyone who has any doubts that our culture is being militarized just needs to take one fast look at our schools. And what makes it really sad is that the school administrators and the classroom teachers are also being recruited to serve as agents to funnel working class kids into the war machine.

As local schools face growing fiscal crisis look for the rich uncle, dressed in camouflage fatigues, to come knocking on the school house doors alot more often. After all it's MANG who has access to the big money these days.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


This morning I was planting seeds in little pots with housemate Karen Wainberg. We have a sunny window seat on the first floor where our house plants live during the winter. We've moved them all from their light filled perch and have put the starter pots there so we can get a head start when spring finally comes to Maine.

We still have snow on the frozen ground outside. The weather forecasts more snow this weekend. But we have confidence, the spring will come again....someday, and we intend to be ready.

Yes it is a matter of faith, but a faith informed by experience and by the law of nature. (Which admittedly is now under some adaptation due to climate change.) But still we believe that the ground will at some point thaw and little green things will pop up and flowers will bloom. Even here in Maine.

It is like that in the political world too. Last night I did a radio interview on a progressive show in Connecticut and right afterwards an 82 year old man called to ask to be put on our mailing list. He said his children think he is politically nuts and he knows "no one" who agrees with him politically. "Call me when the revolution starts," he concluded. He is losing faith fast but hangs on just a bit, knowing that his radio brings him voices each week of those out planting seeds.

I have learned over the years that many people plant seeds but few stay with them to water and tend them after they are in the ground. There will be no good garden, or revolution, without this necessary tending of the seeds that we sow.

Fruits come to the gardeners that remain steadfast in nurturing the plants in the garden.

Sunday, March 23, 2008



Reports of a possible U.S. air assault against Iranian nuclear facilities have been circulating in the media for more than a year and a half now. Former CIA agent Philip Giraldi (The American Conservative, 8/1/05), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh (New Yorker Magazine, 4/17/06) and most recently, investigative reporter Craig Unger in the March 2007 Vanity Fair, have all warned of the White House's plans for an air- and sea-based strike against Iran.

But such an assault has been in the planning since before November 2003, when U.S. Strategic Command near Omaha, Nebraska completed its preparations for waging offensive and preemptive strikes against Iran and North Korea (William Arkin, Washington Post, 5/15/05). Under "CONPLAN 8022" (Contingency Plan 8022), the Omaha-based command center is now commissioned to strike anywhere in the world within minutes of detecting a target deemed a threat to the United States' national security. And the projected attack against Iran--which could well include nuclear as well as conventional weapons--will be planned, launched and coordinated by StratCom.

For over half a century, the seemingly remote Omaha Air Force Base in the American heartland served exclusively as the command center for the U.S.'s nuclear deterrent. After 9/11, however, StratCom underwent a significant transformation of its role and mission, becoming in effect the war room' for waging the White House's "War on Terror." StratCom retained its historic responsibility for overseeing the largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. But it acquired the additional charges of "full-spectrum global strike" (staging offensive, preemptive attacks); combating weapons of mass destruction; space and computer warfare; ballistic missile defense; and surveillance and reconnaissance (the "warrantless wiretaps" conducted by the National Security Agency, for instance, were a StratCom project).

According to the Vanity Fair article, StratCom could be ready to launch a "massive" aerial attack against the hundreds of nuclear facilities in Iran as soon as the end of this month (February). The possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons to penetrate the reinforced bunkers protecting the Iranian nuclear research facilities is also apparently real.

Today, U.S. Strategic Command in Bellevue, Nebraska (a suburb of Omaha) is the most dangerous place on the face of the earth. To thwart this wrong-headed and potentially catastrophic assault on Iran by StratCom will require nothing less than a mobilization by the world community. The Bush/Cheney Administration must be publicly challenged in the court of world opinion, and international media coverage of StratCom's leading role is integral to rallying opposition.

Can you imagine the public reaction--particularly in the Muslim world--if the war plans taking shape at StratCom were common knowledge?

Here we have the command center for the world's largest nuclear arsenal orchestrating an unprovoked attack (possibly even with nuclear weapons) on a non-nuclear Muslim nation, in order to prevent that country from even developing nuclear power for civilian purposes, for fear it might someday make a bomb.

StratCom's policy promotes a morally repugnant double standard. And it is begging to be turned into a bully pulpit,' from which opponents can expose its hypocritical behavior.

Under international law, were the United States again to launch an unprovoked attack against a Muslim nation-- as it did with Iraq--it would be acting illegally. But if the U.S. were also to use tactical nuclear weapons on Iran, it would be only the second time in over 61 years that a nuclear weapon has been used militarily. And on each of those occasions, it will have been the United States that used them.

The role and mission of StratCom has changed so dramatically in the past five years that most of the world has little idea of what is currently going on there.

Tim Rinne is State Coordinator, Nebraskans for Peace, the oldest statewide Peace & Justice organization in the United States, and has been working for more than 35 years to alert the public about U.S. Strategic Command.
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