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. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Monday, August 31, 2009


Very interesting short Real News documentary report on the Reston, Virginia town hall with Dr. Howard Dean and Rep. Jim Moran and 2,000 pro- and anti-health care reform participants.


We had our monthly pot luck supper here at the Addams-Melman House yesterday. About 35 folks came to hear me report on my trip to Japan and South Korea. Lucky for us activist Kathy Kelly is in Maine, visiting some Iraqi families now living in Portland that she met some time ago in Jordan, so she joined us and talked a bit as well.

Despite all those who are trumpeting the death of the peace movement, I can attest to it still being alive, certainly battered and bruised, but still breathing and in many places inside the US and around the world, still kicking up a storm.

Many have not turned their back on the war machine on steroids and gone back to playing tennis and the local bridge club. Believe it or not, there are still many who are active and are pushing forward.

Cindy Sheehan just brought together folks on Martha's Vineyard to stand in the face of Obama while he was on vacation. The importance of her action was to lay claim to the fact that an alive peace movement must be able to criticize the Democrats when they are promoting war just as we criticized George W. Bush when he did the same.

I ended my story telling from Japan and South Korea last night by repeating the words of a 12-ish year old girl I heard speak at the Mayors for Peace conference in Nagasaki. She said, "We might be weak but we are not helpless."

That's right....the peace movement might be down, but we are not out. We might be soiled and battered but our cloth is still holding together and we are flapping our tired but determined wings in the late summer breeze.

The tide comes in and goes out......the peace movement will rise again......soon. Our rise will come when we offer an alternative vision for the future to a public who is casting about looking for answers to the fears of job loss and economic collapse. Endless war is not a viable answer and the people are beginning to understand that.....but what are we offering as vision in place of non-stop war?

We must all do more to connect militarism to economic downturn, we must show that military spending is indeed bad for the global economy. Conversion of the global war machine creates jobs and helps to solve for climate change.

We still have breath in our lungs and some bounce in our step. Let's keep using it to make sure the future generations have a chance on our Mother Earth.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Click to enlarge

The Blue Dogs, the conservative Democrats in Congress, are the ones holding up "health care reform". They, along with Obama, are obviously under the sway of the health insurance industry.

You can blame the Republicans all day long for obstructing the process but when it comes down to counting the votes you have to first count the cash. The Blue Dogs are the ones holding up this show. They claim they are "fiscal conservatives" but when it comes to taking $$$ from the corporations there is nothing conservative about them.

Money still runs Washington. The corporations don't mind funding the Democrats to get what they want. In the last election the military industrial complex gave Obama and the Democrats more campaign donations than they gave the Republicans. The result, Obama asks for and gets a 4% increase in military spending in 2010 from the Democratic controlled House and Senate. He gets more money for war in Afghanistan.

Until we get a third option for the voters nothing much will change in America. Until the public stops falling for the good cop - bad cop (Republican versus Democrat) game nothing much will change.

In these moments I like to remember what former professional wrestler (and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura) said about politics. I saw him on TV a while back saying that politics in America was like TV wrestling. While in the ring the two wrestlers snarl at each other and when the match is over they go about for a beer and a good laugh. The Republicans and Democrats, Ventura remarked, are pulling the same act - ultimately to the benefit of the big corporate money.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


As protests against the coup government in Honduras enter their 60th day, the international community has largely turned their attention away from the streets of Tegucigalpa. This lack of awareness, combined with heightened state repression, has done little to deter the ongoing disobedience campaign inside Honduras.

In the meantime the Obama administration says virtually nothing, in their silence giving a green light to the military coup to keep on repressing the pro-democracy movement. The rest of Latin America sees this US hypocrisy -- Obama and Hillary talk about change and hope but in the end we witness the same old US policy of supporting the right-wing oligarchs in the region.

Friday, August 28, 2009


This Air Force recruiting advertisement shows Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) and their connection to military satellites......these war-fighting satellites have to now be viewed as actual weapons in space as they direct warfare on the ground.

These UAV's, or drones as they are popularly called, are the theme of our Keep Space for Peace Week in 2009. They are the key link between Iraq and Afghanistan wars and understanding how space technology coordinates all modern warfare.


Click on image for larger view of this ad

Be sure to let us know what your plans will be. I am just now beginning to compile the international list of local events.

Each year we usually see over 100 actions happen in a dozen countries.
No Missile Defense
No Use of Space for Drone Wars
Stop Endless War
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Fund Human Needs

See the full space week poster here

Thursday, August 27, 2009


This appeared in the Weekly Kyunghyang newspaper in South Korea.

  • Sung-Hee Choi writes from Korea that, "Your interview in the Weekly Kyunghyang was selected by the popular website here. It is the site which most Koreans see it as the home Internet site. The letters underneath your photo says, 'Today’s Figure, Secretary, Bruce Gagnon Why Don’t Make the Voice Against the Rocket Naro?' How do you think? I should definitely try to translate the article. THANK YOU, YOU DID IT!!!!!!!!!!"

The rocket Naro is the name of South Korea's ill-fated first rocket launch that went awry a couple days ago. It appears I am one of the first to publicly speak out against the launch. Can't wait to see what the article said. We spent more than two-hours talking to the reporter. What Sung-Hee gets wrong is that I didn't do it. She did it. She was the one that made it all happen.

  • I have been dragging the last couple of days. When I travel on these trips only my strong will keeps me going when I get worn out. Once I get home, and allow myself to slow down, it takes 1-2 days for my body to accept the fact that it can now take a break. Once that happens the energy flows out of me like air out of a balloon. Last night I forced myself to join Peter Woodruff for our weekly radio show in Brunswick that airs on a local college station. The two-hours of playing good music and talking politics always helps refresh me and I'd missed the last 5 shows and didn't want to miss another. It's always great fun to be with Peter.
  • Today I will mow the grass with our old-fashioned push mower and work outside some in the yard. After weeks of global warming summer here in Maine, today is sunny and cool, just like Maine summers are supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Senator Russ Feingold from Wisconsin is one of the more thoughtful members of the US Senate. He thought about running for president last time around but bowed out. I think he is a decent man. Here he talks a bit about the need to get out of Afghanistan ASAP.

Deeper analysis on US Afghanistan plans from The Real News.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


South Korea's first home-grown rocket and satellite launch was a failure today. The $400 million rocket delivered its satellite payload far above its intended orbit. The cost of the satellite is not being mentioned in South Korean media, likely because they don't want the taxpaying citizens to be aware of the massive amounts of public funds lost on the failed mission.

"Since the 100kg scientific satellite does not have any on-board propulsion systems, if it fails to enter proper orbit there is no way to correct its trajectory," one expert said. He declined to say whether the satellite was lost or if it went into orbit, but cannot be found.

Not enough people in the South Korean peace movements are yet knowledgeable about space issues to the point where they were actively tracking this mission. After my recent trip there, and this failed launch, I would imagine that will begin to change.

One of the interesting things about this South Korean rocket launch is the hypocrisy connected to it. When North Korea recently launched a rocket and attempted to put a satellite in orbit both the US and South Korean governments went ballistic - pardon the pun. But when the shoe was on the other foot, no problem at all is proclaimed. This double standard is the reason that so many people around the world have such little respect for the US and its allies these days.

My mother always used to say, "What's good for the goose, is good for the gander."

On August 23 the US test-fired another Minuteman nuclear missile from Vandenberg AFB in California into Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Then South Korea launches its first rocket. In both cases these two "good guy" countries are doing the same thing they scream at North Korea for trying to do. You can't have it both ways.

Why is testing nuclear rockets and putting satellites in orbit wrong for one country but OK for another? I guess the answer is: which side of corporate capitalism are you on?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Here is a photo of Sung-Hee Choi taking me to a palace in Seoul. She would not let me post photos of her while I was there, not wanting any attention given to her outstanding, yet humble, efforts to coordinate my trip to her country. Now that I am home she can't scold me. She lives two hours from Seoul and took a train back and forth home each day during my trip. She made extraordinary efforts on behalf of the Global Network.

Made it home about 10:00 pm last night. Got up at 4:00 am this morning, wide awake, so began sorting through all my mail and messages. By 8:00 am I'd run out of gas and feel like I am ready to go back to bed. Legs feel very heavy right now.

Had a suitcase full of gifts to give to housemates and others. This Sunday we have our Addams-Melman House monthly potluck supper (5-7 pm if you are in the neighborhood) where I will layout on the table a bunch of the gifts I was given in Japan and South Korea and will talk about the trip.

Just going to do the bare essentials during the next couple of days. I am told we have an Afghanistan war veteran staying with us the next couple of nights. I'd love to get him in the studio for an interview on my public access TV show if we can schedule the studio time.

Our garden has grown enormously in the month that I've been gone. So much to get caught up with.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD is a screwball true story about two gonzo political activists who, posing as top executives of giant corporations, lie their way into big business conferences and pull off the world's most outrageous pranks.

From New Orleans to India to New York City, armed with little more than cheap thrift-store suits, the Yes Men squeeze raucous comedy out of all the ways that corporate greed is destroying the planet.

See the film trailer here

Saturday, August 22, 2009


South Korea's most popular president ever just died. Kim dae-Jung (left) made two trips to North Korea in order to move toward reunification. He won the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. South Korea's current president is trying to roll back the progress Kim made during his five years in office

South Korea's most popular president died while I was in their country. Kim dae-Jung served as president from 1998-2003. One peace activist in South Korea told me Kim was a "stepping stone to democracy."

Kim was almost killed in August 1973, when he was kidnapped from a hotel in Tokyo by South Korean CIA agents in response to his criticism of then President Park's yushin program. Although Kim returned to Seoul alive, he was banned from politics and imprisoned in 1976 for having participated in the proclamation of an anti-government manifesto and sentenced for five years in prison, which was reduced to house arrest in 1978.

Kim was arrested again in 1980 and sentenced to death on charges of sedition and conspiracy in the wake of a popular uprising in Gwangju, his political stronghold. The sentence was commuted to 20 years in prison and later he was given exile to the United States. Kim temporarily settled in Boston and taught at Harvard University as a visiting professor to the Center for International Affairs, until he chose to return to his homeland in 1985.

His policy of positive engagement with North Korea has been termed the "June 15 joint statement". In 2000, he participated in the first of two North-South presidential summits with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il, which later led to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Kim actively called for restraint against the North Koreans after they detonated a nuclear weapon and defended the continued warming towards Pyongyang.

One South Korean academic wrote about the deceased former president, "Kim's life was like a flower that endures a harsh winter but blooms in the early summer, giving a sliver of hope to people deep in despair."

In addition to Kim's historic opening to North Korea, while in office he also implemented a law to guarantee minimum standards of living for the people of the nation.

The current president of Korea, Lee Myung-bak, is trying to roll back the social and foreign policy progress South Korea made during Kim dae-Jung's time in office. The progressive movement in South Korea is currently mobilizing at a vigorous pace to resist the right-wing policies of Lee Myung-bak. His presidential approval ratings have now plummeted to the mid-20% range. A member of Korean Veterans for Peace told me that the current President Lee "is the greatest liar in South Korean history."

On my last day in Seoul we drove past an area where huge numbers of people were lined up to participate in official mourning ceremonies for Kim. The Korean people have long suffered - first from the 35-year Japanese occupation of their country, then the deadly Korean War, forty-some years of US sponsored right-wing dictatorship in South Korea, and now the occupation of the Korean peninsula by the US military.

Kim dae-Jung gave all the people of Korea hope that reunification of the divided country was indeed possible.


Having been away a month now most of my news about the US has come from the Internet. I've regularly checked my favorite progressive web sites and I try to read the Washington Post regularly to get an idea what the "mainstream media" is saying. The issue that has fascinated me most while I have been away is Obama and health care.

I watched Obama move from the "public option" to now crawling into bed with the insurance corporations and leaving the public option far behind, just as he previously did with single-payer health care.

My early reading of Obama is turning out to be pretty accurate. He will not stand up to the corporations on any issue and fight on behalf of the American people. He is betraying the legions of progressive voters who put him into office who thought they were voting for "hope and change".

On this trip I've been asked many times about Obama as you would imagine. My response is: George W. Bush was a bad cowboy. Obama is a good cowboy, but still a cowboy. He is an agent of the corporations. I usually get a good laugh with this one.

Now that Obama has betrayed those on the "left" that voted for him, he is dropping steadily in the polls. He is losing his base. His base will not stand with him as he brazenly crawls into the sack with the corporations. The independents who voted for him will see that he is just another "say one thing, but do another politician" and they will abandon him. The right, of course, will never support him - except when he is pushing endless war.

So Obama, almost nine months into the job, has proven to be just another Democratic Party corporate hack - posing as a progressive to get elected and then bailing out once in office.

At this rate Mr. "hope and change" can count on being a one-term president.

Are you ready yet to talk third party?


Little Buddha figures at the graveyard. Mothers will make aprons and dress these figurines to bring good luck to their children (dead or live.) Some even knit little hats for the Buddha.
This is the largest rock garden in Japan, the design is of a pair of dragons emerging from a sea of clouds. I visited this with friend Atsushi Fujioka who took me to Koyasan which is a mountain Buddhist monastery that was build in 816 about two hours train ride from Osaka. We spent the night in a spa hotel run by the Buddhist sect called Shingon. It's quite a place.

We walked around the huge cemetery (top picture) which has enormously old trees and very elaborate grave markings, many from long ago. A spectacular place.

After four hours of visiting Koyasan today we took the train back to Osaka and I headed for the airport hotel where Atsushi had booked me a room for tonight. My flight leaves in the morning for Tokyo, Detroit, and then back to Portland, Maine.

It's been a month now on the road, you could say I am just a bit tired. Ready to be home and return to a bit of normal life for awhile. Living out of a suitcase for a month can be a challenge but what a lucky man I am to have such a great job, working with great people, doing work that needs to get done.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Some of the church leaders gathered for photo after my talk
Veterans for Peace- Republic of Korea accept the banner I delivered on behalf of Maine VfP leader Tom Sturtevant

I began my last full day in South Korea with a meeting at the office of Veterans for Peace-Republic of Korea (VfP-ROK). About eight leaders of the group were waiting to greet me. Sa-Mook Choi, a former tank squad commander, welcomed me on behalf of their organization and quickly pointed out the enlarged 2006 "Memorandum of Understanding on Exchange and Cooperation" between their group and the national Veterans for Peace in the US that was taped to the wall.

Sa-Mook Choi told me that in the 1950's, when he commanded a tank squad, the US brought 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons into his country and taught the South Korean forces how to use them. He said that he kept thinking to himself, "Who was the only country to ever use nuclear weapons?"

The VfP-ROK has about 4,000 members in 73 local chapters across their country. They have nine national co-chairs in the organization and their top co-chair is a former military general who founded the organization in South Korea.

The VfP-ROK was created four years ago and is still today not a "legal" organization as the current law in the country only allows one veterans organization, a right-wing group, to exist.

Before leaving their office for a lunch together, I presented them with a Veterans for Peace banner sent by Tom Sturtevant who is one of the leaders of the Maine Veterans for Peace chapter that I belong to. Tom served on a Navy aircraft carrier during the Korean War and tells sad stories about the US bombing North Korea so badly that there was virtually nothing left standing in the country. In return the VfP-ROK presented me with their banner and asked that I give it to the Maine chapter upon my return home.

In the evening I was taken to a dinner in a traditional Korean restaurant by a team of Christian church leaders who were organizing my final talk in Seoul. Following dinner 70 people, from about 30 different churches/organizations, came to hear my talk at the historic Presbyterian Church that is considered the only progressive church in the city. I was told that in the early days of the democracy movement, much of the organizing was done from this "sacred" site. Church leaders from many different denominations were present at the event including two officers from the Salvation Army.

During my talk I stressed the moral and ethical questions that are naturally raised when we consider the consequences of moving the arms race into the heavens. I suggested that there was no better time than now, just as South Korea was poised to launch their first space rocket, to begin a discussion about space inside the churches of the country.

After the talk a large group took me out to a local bar for snacks and beer. We parted remembering that I will return in October during the time of Keep Space for Peace Week and the World March for Peace & Non-Violence. On that trip I will visit some other parts of the country to spread the message about our efforts to prevent the arms race from moving into space and the need to convert the global war machine to peaceful production.

South Korean activists have been good to me. I told the folks tonight, that despite the language difficulties we have, they have all made me feel at home.

I now fly back to Japan for two days of restful time and information sharing with Global Network board member Atsushi Fujioka. On August 23 I will make the final leg of the trip home. Without a doubt this month-long journey to Japan and South Korea has been the most successful organizing trip during all my years with the Global Network. I am grateful to Global Network board Sung-Hee Choi who has done a remarkable job of coordinating the South Korea portion of this tour. She says that she is an artist, not an organizer, but she has shown real talent at bringing many people from different paths together. In my view, that stands for something good.


This is what US plans for space dominance will bring us, a new arms race in space and on the Earth as well. No world nuclear power will strip itself of nuclear forces as long as America pursues global military dominance and wars like Yugoslavia and Iraq, says Andrey Kokoshin, former First Deputy Minister of Defense in Russia.

In the modern high-tech warfare age there can be no real security as long as any country is trying to achieve dominance. The only way to real peace is reducing conventional, nuclear, and space weapons. Anything else is a prescription for disaster.

Let's spend our resources dealing with our real crisis which is climate change.

The world needs to speak out loudly now that moving the arms race into space is unacceptable.

Please join us by organizing a local event during the Global Network's annual Keep Space for Peace Week which will be held during the period of October 3-10. Download the poster here

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Cheong Wooksik (on left) brought together a group for me to speak with last night
Young-Je Kim (left) directs the Reunification program at the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, (translator on right)

I learned alot yesterday in my meeting with folks from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). In addition to Young-Je Kim, who is the Director of the Reunification Unit, the meeting also included the editor of the KCTU newspaper, a reporter, and a translator to help Sung-Hee with that task.

The union bi-weekly paper, called "Work in World," which has a circulation of 30,000 is planning to do a full-page story about my visit.

The KCTU is the largest "democratic" union in the country and represents more than 525,000 workers in 1,144 unions. Most impressive of all the KCTU is an integral part of the progressive movement in South Korea and sees its success by being a part of the larger movement for peace, justice, democracy, and reunification.

I was first asked to brief them on the space issue and after I finished I asked for them to tell me more about the aerospace industry in South Korea.

Kim told me that their aerospace industry plays a subordinate role to the US military industrial complex. The big South Korean corporations have set up "component shops" in the southern part of the country where workers get "special treatment" such as being exempt from the military draft. In return the workers are not allowed to strike. They build low-tech component parts for US space technology systems. The South Korean government gives tax incentives to these huge conglomerates.

Kim told me a story to illustrate how the US twists arms in South Korea to keep control of the military sales market. When South Korea was preparing to scrap some older American-made fighter planes, a Korean Air Force study found that French jets would be a better deal for them, both in price and technology. The Korean Air Force officer who made this recommendation was fired, under US pressure, and the government agreed to buy the US-made jets. The former Air Force officer is now working in the peace movement.

Kim asked me to explain what the US peace movement was doing to better understand the North Korea perspective. I told him that little is being done, largely because of the "anti-Communist" climate that still exists in our country. He said that North Korea feels they need "insurance for survival". His union began cultural interactions with North Korea ten years ago. They send South Korean union workers to the north to play soccer games against workers there. North Koreans were considered "demons" by South Koreans, but these trips have helped KCTU members to see the humanity of the workers in the north and contributed to lessening of tensions.

Kim suggested that the Global Network pursue organizing trips to North Korea. He said that the North Koreans are very interested in having discussions with peace movement people and suggested that the KCTU could help the Global Network organize such trips. I told him I was eager to work with him on this idea.

Following our meeting Kim took me for a tour of the ten-story KCTU building. The biggest KCTU member union is the metal workers and they are the ones that recently settled the 77-day strike at Ssangyong Motor factory. One of the issues in the strike settlement agreement was that leaders would not be arrested after the strike ended. Key leadership of the union though were arrested immediately after the union concluded the strike and the president of the union is now on a hunger strike inside prison in protest of the corporation and government rescinding of the agreement.

In the evening I spoke at an event put together by Global Network board member Cheong Wooksik from the Peace Network. A good group of young people listened to my presentation and then had many good questions afterwards. I told them that the founders of the Global Network were getting grey in the hair and we needed a younger generation to come along and help us prevent an arms race in space.

Just yesterday South Korea was to launch its very first space rocket but it had to be scrubbed when problems arose during the final minutes of the countdown. I am told that very few are paying attention to the space issue in South Korea but I think that after this trip that is going to begin to change.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Yesterday, after my trip to the prison, I had a meeting with key leaders and staff of the group called SPARK (Solidarity for Peace And Reunification of Korea). SPARK is the group that organized the news conference and protest two days ago at the HQ of the US-South Korea military war game. They are one of the most active peace groups in the country and have been a Global Network affiliated member for the past couple of years.

They first wanted to talk about the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that will be held at the United Nations in May of 2010. At this time there will be intense global pressure on the US and other nuclear powers to honor their promise under the NPT that if non-nuclear countries would not develop nuclear weapons then the nuclear biggies would get rid of their own. So far the nuclear giants have been very slow to dismantle their nuclear forces while lecturing the rest of the world about the evils of nukes.

A coalition of peace groups from around the world will hold an international conference and protest in New York City on May 1-2, 2010 to try to enliven the NPT process. The SPARK representatives were glad to hear I am on the planning committee for the conference and asked that I relay their concerns that some attention at the event be given to the dangerous US nuclear "umbrella" that now exists on the Korean peninsula and in nearby Japan. In other words the US harshly condemns North Korea for trying to develop nuclear weapons but the US has had nukes in this region since the end of WW II and is the only country that has used them. On top of that the US is now expanding its "conventional" military capabilities in this part of the world which only makes North Korea and China feel more insecure.

I promised that I would pass on their concerns and have already sent an email to the chair of the conference planning committee with their suggestions.

They also expressed deep concern about NATO expansion into East Asia. Using the term "Global Partnership," rather than full NATO membership, the US has recently brought Japan, South Korea, and Australia into NATO which is becoming a global military alliance that is being used to surround Russia and China and wage war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Another key point they stressed was the concept of "Strategic Flexibility" which is a new agreement between the US and South Korea which gives the US military the right to use bases in South Korea to help wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally, the US was only allowed to use its military bases in South Korea as a "defensive shield" to protect against attack from North Korea. Strategic flexibility opens the door to using South Korea as a jumping-off-base to wage aggressive war in other parts of the world. This agreement further testifies to the colonial status
of South Korea.

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon is from Korea and prior to heading the UN was the Minister of Foreign Affairs for South Korea. It was Ban Ki-moon who helped push this new "Strategic Flexibility" agreement into action.

The fear on the part of SPARK is that the next step to follow "Strategic Flexibility" will be to have the military forces of South Korea used in US and NATO global interventionary missions. SPARK is fighting a lonely battle inside South Korea as few are talking about these dangerous developments.

At the end of the meeting SPARK leaders said they would like to explore ways to expand the working relationship with the Global Network in the near future. That is a good sign for us. We need a much closer relationship and some members of the Global Network board have been requesting that we do this very thing. So it will be good to report to them that this relationship will be flourishing.


Click on photo for better view

Another busy day in Seoul began with the visit to Eun-A Choi of the Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification (PKAR) at the detention center. Sung-Hee and I took a cab and about halfway there we heard an air raid siren come over the car radio. That familiar frantic voice warning of danger, even though in Korean, was distinguishable to me. Sung-Hee began to translate that it was an instruction for all life in the city to halt for the next five minutes. Traffic came to a grinding halt and the radio voice explained that this was "like a sports team that must practice defensive exercises" together. The voice went on to say that this test, linked to the US-South Korea war games that began yesterday, were being done as part of globalization to protect us from terrorist attack. "Stay at home and save water," the voice instructed.

I was completely flummoxed and asked Sung-Hee to question the driver about his feelings about this incredible happening. It reminded me of the "crawl-under-the-desk" nuclear war drills we did in the 4th grade at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.

The cab driver told us that he supported these exercises and that they are done each month. We have to be prepared in case of a North Korean attack, he claimed. The public is losing their intensity about the exercises though as they are not so afraid of war because they know North Korea is weak and the US will protect South Korea, the driver said.

I asked Sung-Hee to tell the driver that I thought this was a brainwashing of the whole country all at once, psychological operations (psy-ops) in action. Make the people fearful and they will agree to be in a constant state of war with North Korea for sure.

As we neared the prison I told Sung-Hee to tell the driver that I was an American and that I thought these exercises were intended to keep South Korea buying military hardware from the US weapons industry. Weapons are the #1 industrial export product of the US, I said.

Amazingly the cabbie then replied that I was right. He said the public understands this and not everyone likes the Americans these days. The public knows that the weapons industry is getting rich from all of this. But, he insisted, we must be prepared anyway.

Sung-Hee summed it up well as we got out of the car: the public understands more than we think they do but the people are still confused.

Once in the prison we had to wait for about 45 minutes before three of us (one PKAR staff member was with us) were allowed into the visiting room. It was a small room with three chairs on our side of the glass and a microphone on each side of the window. Eun-A came in and a woman jail attendant sat behind her at a little table and began taking notes of the conversation. Eun-A looked good, seemed positive considering she has been behind bars since May 7, and was wearing a short-sleeved green cotton jail uniform that had her #221 right above the front pocket.

Eun-A said she very much appreciated the international solidarity that we helped build for the six who had been arrested for trying to bring reunification to the country. She said that she had read the paper this morning and seen that I had spoken at the news conference yesterday. She explained that she was now preparing for the trail and was happy to see the growing support in her country for reconciliation.

Sung-Hee asked about the size of her jail cell. It is about the same size as the interior of most cars. She is allowed outside for one hour each day to exercise. She is allowed to subscribe to newspapers.

Before we knew it our 10 minutes was up and we had to say good-bye. On the way out of the building, just above the front door of the prison were the words "Justice 1st" in Korean and English. Yeah, I thought, she is facing up to 3-5 years for wanting to reunite her nation. That is real justice.

Yesterday we heard that Amnesty International is considering taking on the case of the PKAR six. If they deem it worthy it would surely be a boost to efforts to build international support to free these peace workers from the inside of a South Korean jail. Isn't it amazing how much publicity the two women journalists got when North Korea locked them up and Bill Clinton went and busted them out? But no international media is interested in the PKAR six. Why not?

As we were leaving I told Eun-A that since Bill Clinton was interested in getting women released from Korean jails maybe I should see if he'd help get her out. After she laughed at the joke she shook her head NO and waved her hand as if to say, thanks but no thanks.

Eun-A, and the other five now in prison, will have to do it without the support of the fat cats.

Their release will only come when the people of the world demand real justice - justice 1st, justice last, and justice always.

Monday, August 17, 2009



Stop the US-South Korea war games
Speaking at the news conference today
At the office of PKAR with photos of the six who were arrested behind me

I began the day by joining a news conference and protest at the headquarters that is in charge of the joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States that began today. The exercise, called 2009 Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), is the world's largest computerized command and control war game which mainly focuses on a US-South Korea attack and occupation of North Korea. The exercise was initiated in 1976 and is conducted annually in late summer.

There were about 40 activists at the event from many of the key peace and reunification organizations. I was asked to speak for five minutes as part of the news conference. US military helicopters were circling overhead and US-South Korea military personnel drove in and out of the base in a steady stream.

I counted 14 different media people at the event, something that we rarely see in the US. One of the news photographers was a young man named JiHo Park who lived with Mary Beth and I in Florida for six-months around 2002 before we moved to Maine. He came as an intern to work with the Global Network and has visited us in Maine since we moved there. We last saw JiHo in April when we came to Seoul for the Global Network's annual space organizing conference. Imagine the surprised look on his face today when he saw me at the news conference.

Following the news conference I was taken to lunch with leaders of the Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification (PKAR). This is the group that had six of their top leaders arrested in May under the National Security Law for working to reunify Korea.

One of those arrested, Choi, Eun-A, Chief of the Publicity team of the PKAR, had just the month before chaired the panel discussion that I spoke on during our Global Network conference in Seoul. PKAR was one of about a dozen South Korean groups that had co-sponsored and helped to organize our annual space conference.

There was no doubt that I felt we had to do something to support the six who had been arrested. What was their crime? All they had done was to want to see the US-created barrier taken down that divides their country.

Lee, Kyu-Jae, Chairman of the PKAR, at the beginning of their trial (that is still on-going) said, “The measure of the National Security Law has been differently applied according to the changing governments. On same cases, the Roh Moon Hyun government legally permitted us to trip back and forth to the North Korea but now the Lee Myung Bak government is arresting us. I can hardly erase the suspicion that the [government] is trying to manipulate the national security case to overcome its crisis."

So after hearing about their arrest last May I immediately wrote up a petition and sent it around to the Global Network mailing list and very quickly more than 700 people and organizations from all over the world signed the petition. I then sent the names, along with a cover letter, to the South Korean consulate in New York City. In the letter I said the following:

Enclosed please find many pages of signatures of people from throughout the world who are outraged about South Korea’s arrest of six leaders of the Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification.

It is obvious that your government has decided to crack down on those who believe in and practice the democratic right of citizenship. This is a troubling development for all of us.

We pledge that we will continue to spread the word about your government’s unjust action all over the world.

This situation is a test of South Korea’s commitment to human rights. If your country truly practices democracy and human rights then these six people will be immediately released and apologies will be given.

It should not be considered a crime to peacefully work for reunification of a fractured nation.

One cannot help but wonder if the hands of the U.S. are also in this bowl of disunity. It appears to us that the U.S. intends to keep South Korea and North Korea apart as a way to justify further militarization of the Asia-Pacific region.

It is sad to see your government fall for this dangerous and destabilizing strategy.

We look forward to your official response, which we will widely share.

I am still waiting for a reply from the South Korean consulate. I sent it to them on May 14, 2009.
After the very fine lunch today I was invited to the office of PKAR for a two-hour meeting to further discuss these issues. Sung-Hee Choi of course translated for me. At the meeting were two older men who had been jailed by the right-wing South Korean government for their efforts to fight against the former Japanese occupation collaborators who the US put in charge of Korea after the end of WW II. One of them spent 36 years in jail and the other spent 26 years in a South Korean prison. (It is vitally important to remember that the Korean War was really an attempt by the US to extend this right-wing Korean rule to the whole country. The Korean resistance movement that had been fighting against Japanese occupation then had to next fight against the US-backed elite former Japanese collaborators. Essentially the war still goes on inside of South Korea today.)

For 50 years after the country was divided by the US, on August 15, 1945, it was virtually impossible to even talk about reunification. The National Security Law, a successor the Japanese colonial occupation laws, made it illegal to even discuss reunification. PKAR was created in 1989 and many of its members were arrested for joining the organization. Today there are still 550 political prisoners in South Korea from various reunification, peace, union, and social justice movements.

During the meeting we talked about the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative) that the US is using today to stop North Korean ships on the high seas on the pretext that they might be carrying weapons of mass destruction. The PSI violates the basic United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty that gives every country the right of free passage in international waters. The US has pulled 94 countries into this program that was created by former Vice-President Dick Cheney and right-winger John Bolton. The US, Japan, Australia, and the UK are the biggest participants in the program today.

My own take on the PSI is it is part of the US effort to expand the NATO alliance into a global military interventionary force that will be the military arm of corporate globalization. Using North Korea as an excuse, the US is pulling as many countries into this program as possible. The US does not fear the military might of North Korea. It is over-hyped. North Korea is used as an excuse to justify massive military expansion in the Asian-Pacific region that will ultimately be used to surround China.

In the meeting today with PKAR we all agreed that a successful reunification of Korea would go a long way in helping to blunt US plans to deploy "missile defense" systems as the Korean Peninsula is now host to PAC-3, THAAD, and Navy Aegis destroyer systems outfitted with interceptor missiles. I told them that the Global Network had two major priority areas for our work: getting "missile defense" out of the Asian-Pacific and stopping US plans to deploy similar systems around Russia. We see both those regions as key triggers for expanded war.

In the morning Sung-Hee will take me to the prison where I will be able to have a meeting with Choi, Eun-A from PKAR. It will be an honor to meet her there.

I feel so good about everything I have been doing in Japan and South Korea. I am in the middle of an intense situation and can't think of anyplace that I'd rather be than on the side of people who are giving their full lives for peace, real democracy, and reunification.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Another of my favorite journalists, John Pilger is an Australian journalist and documentary maker. He has twice won Britain's Journalist of the Year Award, and his documentaries have received academy awards in Britain and the US.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


These "health care fairs" are popping up all over the country as currently almost 50 million Americans have no real health care. Is this the kind of reform the health insurance corporations suggest we have?

Last night at the cultural rally in Seoul one of the songs had a chorus line that went: "Say good-bye to the world you thought you lived in"......a fitting way to describe America's race to the bottom of the barrel.

Isn't it past time that we began to demand more and to fight for it?

We have become a colonized people in the US by the corporate powers but we still seem to suffer from the illusion that we are a democracy and that the people are in charge. The sooner we wake up from this misbegotten dream the better for us all.


The big finish, it was hot standing by the flame
The MB behind me refers to president Lee Myung Bak "out". The flag I am holding is of a reunited Korea with no US created lines of division.

A wonderful performance by a workers dance troupe about their struggle for justice

Last night's Peace Unification cultural event in Seoul had to be the best political rally I've ever seen. It was part variety show and rally at the same time. It had everything - dance, songs, flashing lights, old people, college students, children, loud music, and effectively used traditional Korean culture as well as contemporary culture to unleash a blistering condemnation of South Korea's right-wing president Lee Myung Bak (MB).

The past government had negotiated agreements for a positive path toward reunification with North Korea but the MB government has ignored these important milestones and is heating things up on the Korean peninsula. In addition, the MB government has unleashed the police (see yesterday's blog) in attacks against unions and progressive organizing that is reminiscent of past South Korean right-wing dictatorships.

Mr. Oh Jong Ryol, the honorary president of the event committee, told the 10,000 people who were at the rally, “ 64 years ago, the country was divided on the liberation day by the United States. Unless we peacefully recover it, we will fall in the pot of fire. To live, we must achieve the unification."

I was invited to speak to the crowd in the early part of the rally. Here is what I said:

The US challenges and criticizes North Korea for testing nuclear weapons and missiles while the US hypocritically has more nuclear weapons than any other country. At the same time the US and South Korean military continue their aggressive military war games. The US is also now expanding its deployments of "missile defense" systems in South Korea and Japan which will create a new arms race.

The US is moving the arms race into space saying that which ever country controls space will control the Earth. My organization is working internationally to build a movement to prevent this new arms race in space.

We must abolish the South Korea-US-Japan nuclear military alliance.

We must end the colonial occupation of Korea by the US military empire.

I hope we live to celebrate the reunification of Korea.

It seemed that I got a nice response. Sung-Hee Choi was very pleased and that is good. She has been working so hard on this tour for me I was happy for her as much as anything.

Earlier in the day a protest rally was held in another part of the city. The government had refused to give the coalition of groups holding the rally a permit and the police tried to prevent the event from happening. Fifty students were arrested, the most arrests in South Korea since June 15, 2000.

One young college-age woman at the cultural rally spoke about her sadness that even though North Korea is so close to Seoul, the people can't see each other. Several songs noted this theme, the lyrics to one song mentioned that cab fare to the north was cheaper than cab fare to some other cities in the south. The power of emotion was evident throughout the event which reflects the intense longing to see the nation reunited. One out of every four South Koreans has relatives in the North.

The visceral disgust with the new president MB, who is completely under the control of major corporations and the US government, was displayed in both song and imagery. People describe him as looking and acting like a "rat" and at the end of the rally the flame was taken from the stage and used to light on fire a huge hanging banner near the stage that had MB portrayed as the rat lording over the nation and his injustice to the workers, the poor, and the peace and reunification movements. After the banner burned away and fell to the ground you could see the words "The people" emerge. Very dramatic.

Just after WW II the US occupying Army gave the task to a couple military officers (including Col. Dean Rusk who became Secretary of State under JFK) to come up with a "dividing line" in Korea. This artificial boundary has separated the Korean people ever since. Korea had been occupied by the imperial Japanese and once the war ended, and Japanese occupation ended, the US put right-wing Koreans into power who had been collaborators with the Japanese. To this day these wealthy elite right-wingers still largely control South Korea. It was North Korean leadership that essentially fought against the Japanese occupation and were made to suffer by the US that fought them in the Korean war which was an attempt by the US to hand full control of the nation to the rich right-wing collaborators.

Even though the Korean war cease-fire was declared on July 27, 1953 the war has officially never ended. No peace treaty has ever been signed and the US and South Korean military at this very moment are doing war games to practice an invasion of the north. Thus to the majority of Koreans, there will never be peace on the Korean peninsula until the present colonial occupier, the United States, closes its military bases and withdraws the nearly 40,000 troops stationed here.

But the US is not wanting to do so anytime soon. The bases here are hugging the borders of China and Russia that the US is working overtime to militarily surround today. It's all part of the US empire building "great game of chess" and sadly the Korean people are made to suffer as their nation serves as a key pawn.

The peace movement in the US could learn much from the movements here. They use culture to educate and involve legions of people in their struggles. It is also time for the peace movement in the US to learn more about the Korean reunification struggle and to more actively give support to it.


Outside the "media center" in Yongsan
Eating along the busy Seoul sidewalk with Father Mun (with beard) and other activists just outside protest "headquarters" where five men were killed by police for trying to save their building.

The wife of a killed man, me, and Kim the union organizer

Wow, what a day I had yesterday.

It began with a news conference at a church center where reporters from three religious and progressive newspapers interviewed me for about an hour.

Then Sung-Hee Choi introduced me to Kim, Seong-Whan, the General Union Chief of the Samsung workers. Kim has been organizing the workers for 10 years; the company has a no-union policy. Kim was jailed for two years after he revealed that Samsung was spying on the workers electronically….he was charged with "dishonoring" the corporation and "disrupting" their operations. While in prison he held many hunger strikes and his case was taken up by Amnesty International and by a famous Korean progressive Congressman who held a one-man protest on Kim's behalf in front of the president of Korea's "Blue House" – the equivalent of our White House.

The Samsung Corporation is also an investor in an effort to destroy a large downtown Seoul neighborhood called Yongsan that they want to "redevelop" for towering high-rise buildings. But the people in the neighborhood have fought back hard against this plan and about seven months ago five men were killed by the police when they refused to leave one of the buildings. The police raided it in the dark of night, a fire started, and the men were hacked to death by the raiding cops.

Kim took us to meet those now involved in this fight, including one of the wives of the dead men. Currently the gutted building where the men were killed, four-stories tall, remains as headquarters for the movement to demand an apology from the government and payment for the financial losses of the families. A nationally famous activist Catholic priest (Father Mun) has joined the permanent vigil at the now legendary spot and he has succeeded in getting the Catholic Priest Association for Justice to send priests from all over Korea to take part in the daily vigil. While I was there I saw at least a half-dozen priests sitting under a tent, right along the busy sidewalk, in the heart of a bustling Seoul.

Organizers took me for a walk in the neighborhood, much of which is now abandoned but adorned with protest banners, paintings, cartoons, and messages of solidarity. One now empty building has become a media center; local artists are turning another into a library and prayer hall. Police were all around the area watching our every step. But activists say that since the Catholic priests began their vigil the frequent brutal attacks by the police have stopped.

I had a great conversation with Father Mun who was very interested in hearing more about the work of the Global Network on the space issue. He heard that I will be coming back to Korea in October during our annual Keep Space for Peace Week (October 3-10) and hoped I could visit his home city where a US military base is located.

After we left this intensely heart grabbing place the labor organizer Kim guided us to a retreat center about an hour west of Seoul, out in farm country surrounded by mountains. There we joined a weekend retreat of a group called "Workers Institute of Social Science" which is a socialist organization that was going to be discussing the recent seventy-seven day occupation of the Ssangyong Motor factory by more than 600 workers who faced lay-offs. The company said it was going to lay-off the workers because their profits were down so the workers began their occupation. The government threatened the workers and the company sent in hired thugs to try to chase the workers from the factory. Eventually the police did a major raid to attack the workers, who had by then been labeled as "terrorists", but they held on. Ultimately the workers settled the strike but people say that a boycott of Ssangyong products has now begun and the strike has helped to contribute to a further weakening of the right-wing government's image in the eyes of the public.

The 20 people gathered at the retreat center invited me to speak about space issues and ended up changing their program to give me more than an hour to talk. We spent the night at this place before heading back to Seoul this morning.

One of the women in the meeting last night, after my talk, said, "The power of the US is decreasing." After answering their many questions I wanted to ask them a few. To my question, "What do you expect to see from Obama?", several of them quickly replied in broken English, "Nothing!"

Tonight I am to have a few moments to speak at a cultural event here in Seoul that will celebrate the 64th anniversary of Korea's August 15, 1945 liberation from Japanese colonialism. The rally will also denounce the right-wing South Korean regime of Lee Myung-Bak who comes out of the corporate world and is seen an as agent of the US.

UPDATE: I just got in my emails today a link to an interview I did while in Japan for a TV program. It is in English with Japanese sub-titles. You can see it here

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I arrived late tonight into downtown Seoul, South Korea after being met at the airport by Global Network board member Sung-Hee Choi. We took a long bus ride into the city and she brought me to a traditional Korean boarding house that looks much like the photo above. My simple room is just beautiful and lucky for me it has Internet connection.

Yesterday I had a day off as a wonderful man named Kouichi Toyoshima, who teaches physics at a nearby university, took me for a swim in the ocean and then to a spa hotel. Koichi came to our Global Network conference last April in South Korea and was instrumental in helping to set up some of my talks in Hiroshima with different groups.

The natural spa was just beyond my wildest dreams as we sat in a couple different outdoor baths as they are called and then went inside two different steam rooms. By the time we were done we both spread out on a mat looking up into a full tree canopy above us. I found that after three weeks on being "on" near full-time, and delivering a dozen speeches (of varying lengths) and numerous media interviews, my body was on over-drive. The spa bath just took all the road weariness right out of me and I found that I was so relaxed that I could not get up when it was time for us to leave. I had trouble walking back into the locker room at the spa.

After the spa was over Kouichi left and said he'd be back today to pick me up. This morning I did the spa bath-steam room again before going to breakfast. Kouichi arrived about 10am and drove me to visit a Buddhist temple and then a Shinto shrine where we had lunch before he took me to the airport in Fukuoka for my flight to Korea.

Sung-Hee has organized a full schedule for me over the next week here where I will be meeting with leaders from different unions, peace groups, and reunification organizations. In the morning I start with a media interview and then will be heading out of town for an overnight visit with folks in another location....don't remember all the exact details. I'll do two formal talks before leaving South Korea on August 21 to return to Japan for two more days and then back home.

Needless to say I will be well taken care of while I am here as my "agent" Sung-Hee will ensure that my old bones move from one place to the other on time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Last night I spoke to 70 people in Fukuoka. The people came from several different local groups including those who are working to oppose the US-Japan deployments of PAC-3 missile defense systems; working to stop the US Iraq-Afghanistan war; and organizing to stop another nuclear power plant in the region. After I spoke each of the groups was asked to make some comments about their issues and afterward we had an open question and answer session.

I was particularly moved by the comments of a woman who is organizing to stop the PAC-3 deployments which are justified as defense against North Korea but most peace activists in Japan and South Korea believe they are really being deployed against China.

By Hiroko Watanabe

I am Hiroko Watanabe of Tsuiki, where we have the Tsuiki ASDF Base. We locals founded a small grup named 'Circle watching for Peace and all lives' in 1987, opposing the joint exercise by the US force and Japan's ASDF at Tsuiki Base. On April 2, 1989 we made a demonstration of surrounding Tsuiki Base with 2,500 people, in opposition of F-15 deployment there. In order not to forget the feel of the firm grips on that occasion of 'human chain,' and also so as to aim at 'continuation of the struggle,' we have conducted, for these 20 years, monthly 'anti-base sitting-in' at the front gate of the base. This August 2 saw our 243rd return, and 40 people participated in the sitting-in.

However, as for the PAC-3, which is soon to be deployed at this base in my hometown in this fall, local people have no, absolutely no, interest in it.

It is every body's knowledge that PAC-2 is already here in this base, having deployed in May, 1994. At the time of its deployment, we locals voiced our opposition and also acted against it, with the local government and assembly and the labor union together with us. We conducted the same kind of human-chain demonstration of surrounding the base where they had the air defense artillery's. Even those who were non-committed to these opposition movements must have paid heed to what was going on at that time.

So, what a contrast between then and now! There are no public concerns nor oppositions. For us locals around Tsuiki Base, the problem of Patriot missiles are all over as a result of our loss in the struggle against PAC-2 deployment. The imminent deployment of PAC-3 is only the matter of a new type of missiles taking over the current one.

I myself is at a loss what to do with that. I assume you all here tonight know what has become of the labor union, which was our strong ally in the past two opposition movements including the human-chain. The labor union has stopped its systematic participation in our continued monthly sitting-ins named 'Every 2nd day Action.' So, we locals are now the only player in the town of Tsuiki in dealing with almost all the social issues deriving from the ASDF base. I know this sounds defensive, but we cannot handle such problems by ourselves while being engaged in our daily work, as there are too many.

However, I am not in despair. One example of good signs: Although Japan's Ministry of Defence and the SDF had been proceeding their 'Expansion Plan of Tsuiki Base' in order to reinforce the functions of the base according to the global transformation of the US forces, the association of local residents living next to the area planned for the expansion had strongly been opposed against this plan, finally forcing the Ministry of Defence recently to withdraw the current expansion plan. This is a remarkable victory by local citizens.

Local residents, who had been in the opinion of 'co-prosperity with the base,' never saying NO to the base, seem to be changing. I think we, local activists, can self-praise ourselves for our 22-year-long struggle, as it may have raised the consciousness in such people.

I know our power is limited and we cannot stage a big opposition action in Tsuiki, regarding the forth-coming PAC-3 deployment, but I want to carry on what I and we, as a group, can do in our daily life, never giving it up.

Now I believe it most important for us to have a strong will in ourselves: such will as 'I shall not to retreat,' 'I shall never give up,' 'I shall not to obey.' Only from such wills can we derive solidarity with comrades and true social reforms for the sake of citizens. This is my conviction obtained through my struggle during these 22 years. Thank you.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Three weeks into a month long trip, bound to get a bit homesick. Times like this I turn to The Kinks......Long Distance, such a long way from home. In my case it is the emails.....are they getting through?


Mayors for Peace wrapped up their conference yesterday. Early in the day I was approached by the Eritrea Ambassador to Japan who asked me to send him my speech. He said my coverage of the big picture, the wide angle look at US military strategy, was most helpful to him in understanding the direction things are going. He acknowledged that much of US policy toward Africa today was motivated by desire for oil and resource extraction.

He said that most African nations were concerned about the new Pentagon Africa Command (AfriCom) and I shared with him a story of seeing the head of the US National Guard on C-SPAN a couple years ago with a huge map of the African continent behind him. The commander of the US Guard was telling the right-wing Heritage Foundation that the military was now assigning all 50 state National Guard units to establish a relationship with one of the 54 African nations on the continent. Each state Guard, the commander said, would build a lily-pad base in their assigned host African country to be used for quick strike intervention in the event of any "out of the box" behavior.

One of my favorite speakers at the mayors conference was the representative from the Republic of Burundi. Burundi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world. Cobalt and copper are among Burundi's natural resources. He said, "If everyone does his or her bit then we can all live in harmony with our Mother Earth, everyone of us share the responsibility to ensure the well-being of all life."

I had really nice contacts with Africans from Ethiopia, Senegal, Eritrea, South Africa, and Sierra Leone.

I also had wonderful connection with with the group of mayors from Bangladesh and they gave me a copy of their constitution and several of them had their photo taken with me. A wonderful mayor from Sri Lanka gave me a gift of ginger tea from his country and also lined up several fellow mayors from his country for pictures with me. Their sincere and open-hearted offerings of friendship were more than humbling.

One of the best moments of the final day was a speech by two school girls (probably about 12 years old) who spoke from the floor of the meeting hall describing their efforts to gather 500,000 petition signatures to end the nuclear arms race. One of them concluded her remarks by saying, "We are weak but we are not helpless." That is wisdom beyond their years. We should all take that to heart.

Today I will tour around Fukuoka a bit and then do my last Japan talk this evening. In 1984, when I made my first trip to Japan, it was in Fukuoka that I had my first speech in this country. Even though I had attended meetings in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki I was not invited to speak in any of those places. I was a relatively unknown at the time. But after the Nagasaki events I was asked if I would return to Fukuoka with the local peace group and of course I said yes.

Once in Fukuoka they invited me to lunch with the matriarch of their group, a woman who had been a peace activist since Japan's occupation of Manchuria. They took me to visit a local worker supported hospital and had a good-bye dinner for me the night before I returned home. At the dinner they asked me to sing peace songs and when I returned to the US I got a call from the New York City office of national Mobilization for Survival, the group that I had represented in Japan, and they told me that I had gotten rave reviews for my singing in Fukuoka. So I just might be inspired to sing again tonight.


This is the powerful message of a hibakusha (survivor of the US atomic bombing in Nagasaki), Ms. Shimohira.

I am now in Fukuoka and will write more in the morning about the last day at the Mayors for Peace conference. Right now I need to go through my many emails and then get some rest. I am a bit worn out today.

I am hearing that many of my emails to friends and family back in the US are not getting through to them. I recommend looking in your spam filter box. If not there they must be lost in space.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

At the tail end of this fake health care story is a short bit about Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) abruptly resigning from the US Senate. Mel and I go back to early 90's in Orlando, Florida where we coached our sons Little League baseball team together. We used to debate Cuba policy while throwing batting practice to the kids. He was a nice guy but had a huge desire to climb the political ladder and sadly was willing to do and say most anything to get to the top of the heap.

Maybe his leaving early indicates he discovered that life on top isn't so great after all. I actually think the reason he is quiting is because with the Democrats in control of Congress now he has no power. He will likely return home and cash in on his name and become a multi-millionaire and return to his real love - the baseball field where he can coach his youngest kid.

My advice to Mel, don't be afraid to have the kids bunt now and then.


A fascinating interview about the Christian fundamentalist group in Washington where many members of Congress rent a room and belong to "prayer cells". Maine's current Gov. John Baldacci (Democrat) lived there while serving in the House of Representatives years ago.