Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Friday, May 22, 2009


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Rachel Maddow at MSNBC does a solid critique of Obama's "rule of law" speech inside the National Archives where he stood directly in front of the US Constitution and finished the job of ripping it to pieces.

This man has a pattern. He gives with one hand and takes with the other. It's called magic or illusion. Or deception.

The Washington Post reported: Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said employing preventive detention simply because some cases at Guantanamo are too difficult to prosecute would involve the kind of legal expediency that Obama said was a hallmark of his predecessor's policies.

"My question is not only what happens to those people who may be perpetually in prison but what kind of precedent does that set for the future?" Ratner said. "It's not one I find constitutional or acceptable. Opening that door even for a few Guantanamo detainees is anathema. He is closing Guantanamo physically, but he's repackaging it with a little more legal gloss."

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Peace activists will hold a protest vigil in Bath, Maine on Friday, May 22 beginning at noon in front of Bath Iron Works (BIW) on Washington Street.

Secretary Gates is expected to meet with BIW workers and tour the weapons production facility at that time.

According to Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Bath-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, "The Democrat and Republican politicians will line up to kiss the ring of Secretary Gates. This is what we do in America today - we build weapons of destruction. It's our #1 industrial export product. And when weapons are the number one industrial export product of a nation, what is your global marketing strategy for that product line? War, the more the better. We don't build rail systems, wind turbines, solar systems or other such useful technologies that we need to deal with climate change. But the politicians from both parties understand that the Pentagon has the big money these days so they are on their knees. We think that the time has come for our elected officials to get off their knees and say that we've had enough endless war. The people want health care, full education funding, our infrastructure fixed, and they want to see an end to spending more than $12 billion a month in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan killing innocent civilians."

In a recent article called "The Disease of Permanent War," former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges writes, "Citizens in a state of permanent war are bombarded with the insidious militarized language of power, fear and strength that mask an increasingly brittle reality. The corporations behind the doctrine of permanent war... must keep us afraid. Fear stops us from objecting to government spending on a bloated military. Fear means we will not ask unpleasant questions of those in power. Fear means that we will be willing to give up our rights and liberties for security. Fear keeps us penned in like domesticated animals."

Activists from all over Maine are expected to attend the protest. The protest will call for the conversion of Bath Iron Works to useful civilian production.


I included some words on the blog the other day from activists in Vicenza, Italy who were sending their solidarity wishes to the folks in South Korea. The US has two military facilities in Vicenza and wants to build a new base in that community which has created a firestorm of protest by the citizens. They have tried every "legal and legitimate" form of protest and have been repeatedly denied. Finally, after trying to hold a local referendum on the question, they were again denied by their national government. So they went ahead and organized the city-wide vote on their own and found that 95% of the people in the community are opposed to the base.

But why another base in Italy? What is the mission? Below please see an interview with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-California) who was recently in Vicenza and was interviewed by the local newspaper. She serves on the Military Strategies Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Sanchez: "The military policy of the United States is passed by Congress. That is why the position of the U.S. has not changed in the transition between George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But all the decisions have already been made."

Newspaper: Why does even President Barack Obama believe in the Dal Molin project? Why hasn't there been, as expected by opponents of the project, any changes in the plans?

Sanchez: "We're working on a plan to consolidate the presence of our troops in the world, to be ready to intervene in sensitive areas such as Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet republics in Asia. We believe that to give an effective response to these issues, to be closer to the places of possible tensions and conflicts, it is essential to reinforce our troops in Italy. For this reason we have chosen to unite the 173rd Brigade in Vicenza. There will be no second thoughts. All decisions have been made by the two governments. The plan and the allocation of the budget were voted by the Congress. It is no coincidence that Obama has confirmed the Secretary of Defense appointed by the Bush administration, that is Robert Gates."

Newspaper: Why is the role of Italy so important in the eyes of Americans, in the international arena?

Sanchez: "First, because Italy is geographically located close to areas most at risk, between Africa and the Middle East. And because Italy has been our longtime ally. The U.S. shares the same value system and lifestyle. We can count upon the Italian government, which from Prodi to Berlusconi has done everything that was needed to promote the alliance and the plan of consolidation of our troops at Dal Molin."

Newspaper: What type of military installation will be?

Sanchez: "I can guarantee that the project follows the most stringent environmental regulations. There will be no artillery, no aircraft. This will simply be a place where paratroopers will stay with lighter equipment and their families."

Newspaper: Does the transformation of American command stationed at Camp Ederle to Africom [Pentagon's Africa Command] signify a change to the military targets of the Pentagon?

Sanchez: "No, it is the demonstration of an emphasis on the African continent. I spoke with Obama about it. Africa needs help, even if operations are guided by a military command, the objectives are not primarily military. My hope is that the military strategies can be enhanced while investing fewer dollars. I believe a lot in diplomacy and dialogue as President Obama."

So there you see how it works in Washington. The Democrats agree with the expansion of the US military into Africa, ostensibly for "humanitarian" purposes, but we know that the strategy is really about controlling the continent's vast resource base.

Sanchez is considered a "liberal" Democrat - that is until the question of US empire comes up. Then the two war parties link arms and maintain solid support for the corporate-military domination of the world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I posted these flowers today to cheer myself up. I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe sore throat and had a hard time falling back to sleep. Then this morning I had to drag myself out of bed because I was scheduled to interview Jerry Call on my cable TV show at 11am. He was in jail last week (arrested in Washington for speaking out during the Baucus Senate health care hearings) when we were supposed to do the interview so I had to get it done today. We wanted to promote his organization's May 30 statewide rally in support of single-payer health care that will be held at the capitol in Augusta. So we did the show, me with my deep voice, and by the time I got home I was really worn out.

I've spent the day sitting in a comfy chair in the corner of my room just doing emails. I was also supposed to do our weekly radio show at Bowdoin College tonight with Peter Woodruff but when I called to tell him I wasn't up to it he said the radio station's transmitter had a bad buzz so we were going to cancel the show anyway.........

Last night I did a half hour radio interview with a talk show host out of London, England who had seen our Arsenal of Hypocrisy video. Once again we find that video inspiring another person to dig into the space issue. I suggested that he next might want to have our GN chairperson Dave Webb, who is also national vice-chair of Britain's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), as a guest on the show to talk about US Star Wars bases in Yorkshire.

Spring comes late to Maine and we are having to wait til the end of the month to plant the rest of our vegetable garden. Things like tomatoes and some other items really can't go into the ground because our nights are still cold. Two nights ago we had a freeze across Maine. We've doubled the number of raised beds in our garden this year so it should be a busy summer of weeding, watering, and picking produce. But with five of us living here at the Addams-Melman House these days we have a heavy demand for veggies so the garden should bear many welcome gifts. We also planted a second apple tree and a pear tree this spring as well as three blueberry bushes. Even put two kiwi vines in the ground as well.

This torture story on the national level just keeps getting worse, and more interesting, with each day. Do you think Nancy Pelosi is telling the truth about never knowing about the extent of the Bush torture program? Or, is the CIA fibbing on this one?

Pelosi had another recent controversial statement on health care. I read that she had said, "Single-payer, single-payer, single-payer, that's all I hear about. Well, it isn't going to happen."

Oh boy, this woman is a trip!

I'm just going to lay in bed tonight and watch my Baltimore Orioles get beat by the New York Jankees again......the O's are in last place just in case you were wondering. Their pitching is getting worse by the day.......but I am eternally the optimist. Just wait til next season!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Bill Sulzman loves the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team and in the photo above (on the right) found his way onto their Arizona spring training bench this year, right next to manager Joe Torre, for a quick snapshot.

Bill lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado and coordinates the peace group there called Citizens for Peace in Space which has to be the longest standing peace group in the US that is dedicated to space issues.

In 1992 Bill was a co-founding member of the Global Network, along with the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice where I was working at the time. For some years before that the folks in Colorado, and those in Florida, had worked to support each other since at that time we were the only two grassroots groups in the country consistently working on space.

Bill was once a Catholic priest and during the Vietnam War was arrested for taking a protest into the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs. He eventually left the church but today still remains a faithful worker for the poor and for peace.

Bill belongs to a faith and resistance community in Colorado Springs that feeds the hungry, houses the homeless, grows food for their soup kitchen, and holds frequent protests at key Star Wars installations that are located in their city.

Colorado Springs has become a key center for space weaponization. Bases such as Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, and a host of Star Wars contractors are enough to keep the members of Citizens for Peace in Space busy year round. Each April the Space Foundation holds their annual space symposium which draws thousands to the city to promote war in the heavens. Bill and his fellow activists always hold a creative protest at this event and I've had the pleasure to be a part of it several times over the years.

Bill grew up on a farm in Kansas so it was not a big cultural step for him to begin working with ranchers in Colorado a few years ago who are resisting the expansion of the Army's Ft. Carson military training area into a huge portion of the state's ranch lands. Bill's been able to work with the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition as a peace movement representative showing the normally conservative ranchers that the "peaceniks" are not so bad after all.

Bill's one of the great organizers I've met over the years - steady as a rock, not ego centered, always ready to help others. We are all lucky to have him on our side.

Monday, May 18, 2009



Written by: Ray Davies


Now that you've found your paradise
This is your Kingdom to command
You can go outside and polish your car
Or sit by the fire in your Shangri-la
Here is your reward for working so hard
Gone are the lavatories in the back yard
Gone are the days when you dreamed of that car
You just want to sit in your Shangri-la

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You've reached your top and you just can't get any higher
You're in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-la
Sit back in your old rocking chair
You need not worry, you need not care
You can't go anywhere
Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la

The little man who gets the train
Got a mortgage hanging over his head
But he's too scared to complain
'Cos he's conditioned that way
Time goes by and he pays off his debts
Got a TV set and a radio
For seven shillings a week
Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la

And all the houses in the street have got a name
'Cos all the houses in the street they look the same
Same chimney pots, same little cars, same window panes
The neighbors call to tell you things that you should know
They say their lines, they drink their tea, and then they go
They tell your business in another Shangri-la
The gas bills and the water rates, and payments on the car
Too scared to think about how insecure you are
Life ain't so happy in your little Shangri-la
Shangri-la, Shangri-la la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You've reached your top and you just can't get any higher
You're in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-la
Sit back in your old rocking chair
You need not worry, you need not care
You can't go anywhere
Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la, Shangri-la

Sunday, May 17, 2009

McChrystal Wrong Man for the Job

Guest Editorial
By Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive)

Obama has just made a terrible choice in his new commander for Afghanistan.

By choosing Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Obama shows how indifferent he is to the serious allegations that have swirled around McChrystal, a darling of the Bush-Cheney regime.

It was McChrystal, after all, who approved a medal for Pat Tillman, the former NFL star, saying he fell under “devastating enemy fire.” But just a day later, McChrystal warned the White House that it might have been friendly fire, not enemy fire.

And, according to Seymour Hersh, McChrystal was the guy who was running Cheney’s assassination squads. From 2003-2008, McChrystal headed the Joint Special Operations Command, which Hersh called “an executive assassination wing” that reported directly to Cheney’s office.

What’s more, Esquire has reported that McChrystal authorized torture at a secret camp, where two detainees died under interrogation, and expressly prohibited the Red Cross from entering the camp, which would be a double violation of the Geneva Conventions.

McChrystal’s promotion mocks Obama’s rhetoric about making a clean break with the torture regime of Bush and Cheney.

The last we thing we need is a gonzo general in charge of Afghanistan.


The Korean people have been through hell and back. During WW II they suffered the occupation of fascist Japan. Then after the war, when the Americans "took control," the US put Korean collaborators with the Japanese occupiers in charge of the country which only served to continue the brutal repression of the people. Then came the dividing of the country into North and South and the Korean War. Since then there has been more right-wing control, firmly backed by the US, with an occasional periods of "liberalization".

The pro-democracy movements in Korea have been strong and determined. In the 1960's student demonstrations led to the fall of one dictatorship only to be replaced by another. In the 1980's another democratization movement rose up, including the Kwangju Uprising, which resulted in more than 2,000 citizens being killed by the government. (May 18 is the 29th anniversary of the Kawangju uprising.)

Many in South Korea are comparing the present crack down on democracy in their country to another period of dictatorship. The people in Korea cry out for international support.

The moving song in the video was written by the famous resistance poet Kim Chi Ha and is sung by Kim Kwang Suk, a popular folk singer who committed suicide.

It has been a long time since my mind has forgotten you,
It has been a long time since my footsteps have forgotten you,
Only a memory of a parched thirst in my burning heart
Makes me write your name secretly,
With a parched thirst, a parched thirst

--Long Live Democracy!

The recollection of vibrant freedom is coming back,
The image of bloody faces of friends is coming back,
Shivering hands, shivering heart,
With shuddering fury, I write on a wooden board with a chalk,
With a parched thirst, a parched thirst

--Long Live Democracy!