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

Monday, January 26, 2009


Our Maine Veterans for Peace chapter held its annual retreat this past weekend at a nearby environmental teaching camp. Our chapter was the founding chapter of the national organization and is pound-for-pound the best peace group in the state of Maine.

About 25 folks turned out for the Friday-Saturday event that began with a pot luck supper on Friday evening. We sat around a roaring fire afterward in the main meeting hall of the camp and listened to one of our members sing some good songs with his guitar. Then we watched a great film about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 2006 national concert tour opposing the Iraq occupation. The best scene in the documentary was of those walking out in conservative Atlanta, Georgia after the band sang Neil Young's song "Let's Impeach the President" from his Living with War CD. Many of those filmed as they angrily left the concert were surprised that CSNY had played "political" songs. Hello?

We slept in yurts at the camp which had small wood burning stoves inside the round huts and in spite of very cold outside temperatures we stayed pretty warm. Going out for a pit stop in the middle of the night was a challenge though. Walking in the two feet of snow on the ground was a hazard when trying to locate a tree to lean on.

On Saturday we began with each member telling a story from their past experiences as a veteran or as an activist. We had members present from WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and during non-war years. The stories were moving and often humorous.

I talked about the time in Gainesville, Florida that retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf (also known as "Stormin' Norman") was given a honorary degree by the University of Florida. Our VfP chapter organized a protest outside the ornate campus chapel and some of us went inside, up to the balcony, to drop a banner and chant just as he began to speak. We chanted "Schwarzkopf lies, Gulf vets die" and security got onto us pretty quickly but had to bend our fingers back in order to get the banner from us that we had draped over the balcony railing. A few of us were arrested and banned from the campus for six months or a year - have forgotten the exact amount of time.

We also spent some time at the retreat doing an assessment of Obama and the likely direction he was heading with his foreign and military policy. The members of the chapter were clear that we must stand up strongly and speak out against Obama's plan to expand the war in Afghanistan. We have one member of the chapter that was a medic in Afghanistan and has become a key leader in IVAW.

Three of us in the Maine chapter are now on the national organizing committee for an upcoming conference called Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases that will be held Feb. 27–Mar. 2 in Washington DC at American University. Unless we begin to stand in solidarity with peace movements protesting American bases around the world we stand little chance of shutting down the empire.


Anonymous Vet said...

Great article

9/7/19, 11:45 AM  

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