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

Saturday, April 11, 2009


We begin our journey to South Korea tomorrow to attend the Global Network's 17th annual space organizing conference that will be held in Seoul. Mary Beth, and fellow Maine Veterans for Peace member Tom Sturtevant (who was in the Korean war), will be attending the confab as well and both will also be speaking at the event.

When we arrive in South Korea we will be met by friend Sung-Hee Choi who has come to the past four GN conferences that we held in Nebraska, Germany, New York City, and Maine. If it was not for the extraordinary efforts of Sung-Hee (who was an art teacher in New York City for many years until her Visa ran out) we'd not be meeting in Korea. Also instrumental in making it possible for us to meet in Korea is Lee Haeng-Woo who is the President of the National Association of Korean Americans and lives in New Jersey.

Things will get started on April 16 with a field trip to the DMZ which will be led by Lee Si-Woo, an internationally known photographer who is famous for documenting the scene along the heavily militarized border between the north and south.

April 17 will be our day-long conference with speakers from all over the world, most of whom are involved in local struggles against US space related facilities and "missile defense" systems.

On the morning of April 18 we will hold the GN's internal business portion of the conference where I give my reports and we have strategy discussions. Then that afternoon we all jump on a bus and visit Pyeongtaek which is the emerging hub of a major US military base now under construction. In order to build this base large tracts of land are being taken from local farmers. We will meet with local citizens and join a protest with them in front of Osan Air Force Base.

On April 19 we will take another trip to a community struggling against expansion of US military training areas. The Pan-Korean Committee against the Expansion of the Mugeon-ri Military Training Fields (pictured above) will host us for a look at the military expansion area, a dinner and shared words, and then a candlelight vigil.

All conference participants will be staying in the same location which will make it much easier for ongoing dialogue with everyone who has come from so far away for the event. Our Korean hosts have done a remarkable job putting this event together and we are very grateful for all their hard work.

I hope to be able to make a few blog posts from Korea so stay tuned.

Friday, April 10, 2009


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* Fourteen peace activists were arrested yesterday at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The arrests occurred during a ten-day vigil which sought to raise public awareness of the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) drones in the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Air Force personnel based at Creech control the Predator and Reaper drones being used in Central Asia. Eight activists were also arrested this morning after fifty people involved with the Holy Week Faith and Resistance retreat in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Jonah House and the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, had vigiled at the Pentagon.

In a related noontime action today at the White House during the "100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo" vigil, one activist, dressed in an orange jump suit and black hood, climbed up onto the White House sidewalk ledge and with his arms outstretched, was chained by two supporters to the White House fence. He was arrested by U.S. Park Police.

* Obama requested a special supplemental appropriation of $83.4 billion yesterday for Iraq and Afghanistan. In typical Bush-era nonsense Obama told Congress that, “The Taliban is resurgent and al Qaeda threatens America from its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border.” During Bush's reign-of-terror the peace movement would be howling about these massive war supplementals and many would be sitting in their Congress persons offices in protest of the funding. Now, except for the Catholic Worker community, things are pretty quiet out there.

Many "progressives" don't want to think about it - cognitive dissonance. Don't worry though, Obama has a secret plan to trick the military industrial complex and is just waiting to spring it on everyone - so relax and enjoy the show. We've got vegetable gardens on the White House lawn now which means something, right? It's sad how low our expectations have sunk.......

* The story out of Strasbourg, France is not encouraging. French and German police, by the tens of thousands, attacked anti-NATO protesters last weekend and the so-called black block anarchists were used as an excuse to smash up the protest. I am more convinced than ever that most of these "black blockers" are really paid government agents. One English friend who was at the protest wrote me today and said, "I saw clearly, in two different places carefully placed long rows of stones, local handy sized pebbles, along the side of the road. How could they have been there if not put there some time before? Why did the police not remove them or the obvious conclusion is that the police put them there?......The third matter was seeing a large group of police of whom about a third had blue jeans on instead of the black combat hard wearing trousers of police issue. This again seems like the only explanation is that they were protesters moments before and merely just put on there black police jackets."

Highly regarded journalist Diana Johnstone, reporting from the scene wrote, "In this cycle of provocation, there is no doubt who started it: NATO. The lavish celebration of NATO’s 60th anniversary, held in the Rhineland cities of Strasbourg, Kehl and Baden Baden over the weekend, was an insult to the citizens. After all, if President Obama and the other leaders of the self-proclaimed free world of democracies are so popular, why must their host cities be turned into heavily armed fortresses to receive them? If Europeans welcome NATO protection, why must they be held at gunpoint miles away from their benefactors?"

It's hard not to notice that the real message coming out of NATO's 60th anniversary "celebration" was no one should think for a moment about challenging the new offensive empire building strategy of the "alliance". Obama's new National Security Adviser, Gen. James Jones, was the former commander of NATO. In 2006 he told the Associated Press the following: "NATO is developing a special plan to safeguard oil and gas fields [Caspian Sea, Central Asia, Africa]...Our strategic goal is to expand to Eastern Europe and Africa....NATO is ready to ensure the security of oil-producing and transporting regions."

NATO is setting up the military infrastructure for resource wars and Obama put the right man, Gen. Jones, into the position of making it happen. In a related story Reuters also reported in 2006, "NATO's top commander of operations, US General James Jones, has said he sees a potential role for the alliance in protecting key shipping lanes such as those around the Black Sea and oil supply routes from Africa to Europe."

Anyone who stands in protest of the "new robust NATO" is the enemy and will be smashed - whether they are peace activists, Russia, or China does not matter.

* So the operative question is - where are the Democrats in all of this? They were put into power of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 to end these wars......but instead we see more of the same Bush plan. What is the difference between the two war parties now? Vegetable gardens?

Thursday, April 09, 2009


By Jeremy Scahill - (Jeremy Scahill is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine and a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now! Scahill has won numerous awards for his reporting, including the prestigious George Polk Award, which he won twice. While a correspondent for Democracy Now!, Scahill reported extensively from Iraq through both the Clinton and Bush administrations.)

Over the past several weeks, independent journalists and anti-war activists have tried to shine a spotlight on how groups like the Center for American Progress and MoveOn, which portrayed themselves as anti-war during the Bush-era, are now supporting the escalation and continuation of wars because their guy is now commander-in-chief. CAP has been actively pounding the pavement in support of the escalation in Afghanistan, the rebranding of the Iraq occupation and, more recently, Obama’s bloated military budget, which the group said was “on target.” MoveOn has been silent on the escalation in Afghanistan and has devoted substantial resources to promoting a federal budget that includes a $21 billion increase in military spending from the Bush-era.

What is clear here is that CAP and MoveOn are now basically psuedo-official PR flaks targeting “liberals” to support the White House agenda. This, though, should not come as a shock to those who have closely monitored these groups. They were the primary force behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), “a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war.” Now, according to John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the Center for American Progress is now running “Progressive Media which was begun by Tom Matzzie and David Brock in 2008 and now ‘represents a serious ratcheting up of efforts to present a united liberal front in the coming policy wars….’ [These groups] are working hard to push Obama’s policies, including rationalizlng or defending his escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan as “sustainable security.”

On Wednesday, Ben Smith at Politico reported on the latest development in this White House-coordinated campaign to use these think-tankers to whip up support for its agenda. It is a newly formed coalition, the Common Purpose Project, which blogger Jane Hamsher describes as “one of the many groups Rahm Emanuel has set up to coordinate messaging among liberal interest groups.” This one includes the direct participation of White House officials, according to Smith:

The Common Purpose meeting every Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol Hilton brings together the top officials from a range of left-leaning organizations, from labor groups like Change to Win to activists like, all in support of the White House’s agenda. The group has an overlapping membership with a daily 8:45 a.m. call run by the Center for American Progress’ and Media Matters’ political arms; with the new field-oriented coalition Unity ‘09; and with the groups that allied to back the budget as the Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America Now.

Unlike those other groups, however, the Common Purpose meeting has involved a White House official, communications director Ellen Moran, two sources familiar with the meeting said. It’s aimed, said one, at “providing a way for the White House to manage its relationships with some of these independent groups.”

Common Purpose was founded by Erik Smith, a former aide to Dick Gephardt. The group’s political director is former Obama aide, Miti Sathe. “Common Purpose is formed as a 501(c)(4), which leaves it focused on policy, rather than electoral, work,” notes Smith. “Part of the group’s role is to enforce a kind of message discipline.” He tells the story of how last month “some of the more liberal members of the coalition” were launching a campaign against conservative Democrats under the banner “Dog the Blue Dogs.” The White House, Smith alleged, “was in the midst of discussions with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive is gone from CAF [Campaign for America’s Future, a participant in the Common Purposes calls]’s website.”

Hamsher, who wrote an interesting response to the Politico report with a different spin on the above story, concluded:

There’s a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don’t want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know…the money is gone. It’s already happened. Because that’s the way Rahm plays.


Awakening the Dreamer Symposium Trailer from Pachamama Alliance .

Quite a nice video really. Shows that the people around the world are coming together with a new vision and a new hope.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Let me first say this picture is not quite right for what I want to say here but after spending alot of time looking for just the right image it is all I could find that came close to fitting my message. Bear with me please.

Obama's proposed military budget for 2010 is getting lots of copy and most of it is headlined as "cut backs in military spending." Of course this is not at all correct as he is really seeking at least a 4% increase in Pentagon spending for next year. Some Democrats in Congress want to make it even more.

What Obama is doing is shifting some monies around. Delay or cut one program and move those funds into things like $2 billion more for Afghanistan war intelligence and surveillance and $500 million more for helicopters in that war zone. He also wants more special operations troops (trained killer teams) for Afghanistan and more unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones.

Just one local example is Bath Iron Works here in Maine. They presently are building Navy Aegis destroyers called the DDG-51 which cost $1.2 billion each. The politicians (Republican and Democrat alike) are pushing a new generation destroyer called the DDG-1000 which would cost $3 billion each. Secretary of War Robert Gates didn't want them because of the increased cost and their vulnerability to cruise missiles but they are now in Obama's new Pentagon budget. It should be remembered that Bath Iron Works is owned by General Dynamics and one of the major owners of this weapons corporation is the Crown family out of Chicago who were early big time funders of the Obama campaign. Is there a connection there? You decide.

So some things like the F-22 will be cut, but then the F-35 will be added in at a lifetime cost of about $1 trillion. They want to slow down on the airborne laser program at the Missile Defense Agency and are even going to cut just over $1 billion from that budget but the money won't be going into building rail cars or wind turbines. It will go into other Pentagon programs.

What breaks my heart is to see some so-called peace groups cheering for "Obama's military cuts" and misleading their memberships into thinking that the president is actually calling for cuts when overall we are talking about hefty increases.

One group, True Majority, sent around a message saying, "At last! Some of us wondered if this day would ever come. Today the Secretary of Defense explained to Congress exactly the points True Majority members have been making for years: wasting taxes on weapons which don't work and have no conceivable use against real-world enemies makes us LESS strong as a nation. Show Congress we're ready to invest in True Security -- sign the petition."

So their message seems to be: don't waste money on weapons that don't work but it is just fine to increase military spending for weapons "that do work." And here I thought the peace movement was trying to get rid of all these weapons systems that are killing innocent people by the legions in Iraq and Afghanistan and planning for wars in Africa and more.

My friend David Swanson sent around an email that I forwarded to my list this morning. In it he had this to say about True Majority's cheer leading: "But this is an activist group that drives giant displays of Oreo cookies around the country to illustrate the relative sizes of the military budget and budgets for schools and health care. An Oreo got added to the military stack, and 'True' Majority wants us to cheer instead of vomiting."

Graphic point but my sentiments exactly.

So here is how I see the connection to Indian reservations. Throughout my life I have read endlessly about US policy toward Native American people - the genocide and the policy to put the Indian people on reservations as one strategy to destroy their culture and take their lands.

Now and then there were some Indian leaders who grew weary of fighting the white man and who agreed to sign the "treaties" that gave their land to the government. There were Indians who collaborated with the US Army as spies and scouts to find and kill other "hostile" Indians. Often, after the successful "apprehension" of the Indians who refused to go onto the reservation, the collaborators themselves were arrested and jailed or even killed.

My point is that today there are some "leaders" in the peace movement who are so anxious for a "victory" that they are allowing themselves to be used to create the impression that military spending increases are some how victories for the peace movement. This is what I see as the grave danger of the Obama administration. If George W. Bush came out and said he was going to cut some military systems but still increase overall Pentagon spending, groups like True Majority would be all over that lie just like flies on a Sunday picnic. But when the Democrats do the same kind of shell game some groups become accomplices to this dangerous illusion.

So in a way I see some peace movement folks helping to bring us all onto the reservation as increases in military spending right now, during this fiscal crisis, mean less money for social and environmental programs that create more jobs than military production does.

I am not questioning motives of these folks but I am seriously questioning their strategy, their judgement, and their basic common sense. They are hurting the cause by becoming agents of a corporate dominated political program - in this case the Democratic Party.

I once again insist that the job of the peace activist, no matter which party is in power, is to challenge all moves to increase military spending and prepare for more war. To do otherwise only serves the interests of the military industrial complex.

Our job is to non-violently resist the cavalry - not to saddle their horses for battle.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I am only writing this because I know you all care so much about how my Orioles (O's in the future) did in the season opener yesterday.

Yes, it is true, they whupped them bad evil empire New York Yankees by the score of 10-5. The Jankees (not a typo) bought a new pitcher over the winter for $161 million and he couldn't handle them young spry O's. He didn't last long in the game. The Jankees don't listen to the Beatles - money can't buy me love.......or championships, but since when do the uber-capitalists listen to logic?

The big story of the game was light-hitting shortstop Cesar Izturis, best known for his glove, but he hit a home run over the left field fence that barely made it over to put the game out of reach. Izturis had only hit one home run the last two years but the collective breath of the O's fans, after 10 straight years of losing seasons, had to have helped carry the ball over the wall.

Next game is on Wednesday. I'm sure you can't wait!

Today is my media day. This morning I tape my cable TV show, called This Issue, which airs on eight stations across Maine. My guest will be Amy Dowley who works for Food & Water Watch and we'll be talking about water issues which are hot here these days in Maine. Nestle (via Poland Springs water which they own) is trying to take control of much of Maine's water supply. You can watch my TV show on-line by clicking on the TV screen that you see just below here on the blog.

Then tonight I do our weekly radio show at WBOR at Bowdoin College. You can listen via the Internet, show starts at 6:30-8:00 pm (EST). Just click on the link above and then hit the yellow "Listen Now" button at the top. Peter Woodruff, who I co-host the show with, and I will be doing our usual talking politics and playing political music. Tonight's show will be titled In the field of opportunity it’s plowing time again. Peter tells me he got that from Neil Young and I'm sure we'll play some of his stuff tonight as well as alot of other good music. Our show is called TRUE - Truth Radio Underground Experience.

See ya later and go O's!!!!!!!

Monday, April 06, 2009


Baseball season officially begins today. My Orioles play at 4:00 pm and I'll be watching the game via the Internet - one of my few extravagances in life.

But what is Exxon doing in the middle of the ball park in Washington DC?

The hardest part of being a fan these days is the incursion of corporate messaging into sports. But as you will see in this short video, the corporate link is also an organizing opportunity for folks who are willing to spend some time at the ball park.

So lets play ball!

Sunday, April 05, 2009


Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

The night before King was killed he made this speech - it was as if he knew he would soon die.

Never backing down MLK knew that only by standing firm for civil rights and peace could the people ever be free from the tyranny that surrounds us today. Let that be a lesson for all of us.

Get off your knees and rattle your chains - while you still can.


Prague, Czech Republic

A friend wrote this morning, "The headline should read - Obama talks peace and plans for war."

At the 60th anniversary NATO celebrations President Obama begged for more troops in Afghanistan from alliance member nations. They urged him forward but few countries offered help.

Then in Prague Obama called for the world to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Very commendable.

The Washington Post reported this morning that, "For those worried about a unilateral American disarmament, Obama promised that the country would keep enough nuclear weapons to defend itself and its allies as long as the weapons existed in other nations....He also reiterated his pledge to install a missile defense system in Eastern Europe as long as Iran poses a possible nuclear threat to the region."

Iran? We know Iran is no threat and scientists have long been telling us that Star Wars bases in Poland and the Czech Republic would not be capable of intercepting missiles from Iran....but they could intercept missiles from Russia.......

So the crucial message was delivered.....Star Wars technology will still likely be developed and put into Poland and the Czech Republic, using Iran as the excuse to cover larger US ambitions of surrounding Russia with the technology.

Here is the deal....

* Some years ago Gen. Charles Horner (the former commander of the US Space Command) became an advocate for getting rid of US nuclear weapons. His rationale was that they were an "outdated military technology" that would never be used thus wasting alot of money that could be put into other kinds of useable new weapons systems like Star Wars.

* The US has a public relations problem as we lecture Iran and North Korea about the evils of nukes but we have plenty of our own. So to regain some semblance of credibility around the globe the US has to show some movement. This is why Henry Kissinger became a proponent of getting rid of nukes.

* US strategy to surround Russia and China with "missile defense" systems only works if you first get those countries to get rid of a bunch of their nukes thus lessening their ability to have a "robust deterrent capability" after they are hit with the US first-strike system now under development. And it is obvious from Obama's words in Prague that he intends to continue developing the "missile defense" system that Bush proposed to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic. According to French media, " U.S. President Barack Obama reassured Warsaw over concerns that Washington might scrap a planned missile base in Poland which has angered Russia, Polish President Lech Kaczynski said Saturday."

* I worked on Jimmy Carter's successful campaign in 1976 largely because he said over and over again that "the nuclear arms race was a disgrace to the human race." Also very commendable. Then as president Mr. Carter proceeded to build the Kings Bay Naval submarine base in St. Marys, Georgia for the Trident II nuclear system.

* So I've been somewhat tempered by promises from politicians over the years. I now listen for the nuances in their language.....things like this from Obama in Prague, "This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence." And it certainly won't be reached in President Obama's lifetime if he insists on moving forward with Star Wars and "missile defense" systems - especially deployed upon Russia and China's doorstep. Let's face the facts here, Obama is not a stupid man. He understands that these space technology systems very well could be show stoppers. With that in mind, then why would he still pursue them?

In the end the question remains how much will really change? Obama is doing an effective job of "changing the tone" and showing "humility" on the world stage as a way of atoning for Bush's more hard-edged bad cowboy talk. But at the same time Obama is skillfully revealing that he has the ability to repackage US empire building policies in a new kinder and gentler way, but still achieving the same results. One Brookings Institution analyst told the Washington Post, "the 'hard edge of policy' in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where unlike some European allies Obama has not signaled a willingness to talk to the armed Islamist group Hamas, the president's policy and goals have not changed much from those of his predecessor."

So for me this is what I am watching and trying to interpret - yes I see the rebranding of the product going on, but I am also watching the actions that follow the nice talk.

In words that Mr. Obama would understand, I am keeping my eyes on the bouncing basketball.