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

Thursday, October 01, 2009


* The Washington Post reports this morning that Obama could now be turning to the Republican Party to help support his war in Afghanistan. I immediately think of all those liberals who told me they had to vote for Obama to keep McCain from winning but I think now the evidence is pretty solid that Obama governs largely like a Republican.

* MB and I are heading to New York City today to visit my son. He moved there a couple of weeks ago to coach high school debate. He had lived in Texas for the past 10 years. It will be great to see him and its wonderful knowing he is now much closer to Maine. Although I'd prefer to take the train the bus turns out to be much cheaper. Be back Sunday for a drone public forum we are holding in Brunswick at the library at 7:00 pm.

* We are hearing from people across the state of Maine telling us not to trust John Richardson who runs the state economic development office for the governor. He was one of those on the MRRA who told us Monday night that there were "no proposals on the table" to test UAVs at the Naval base in Brunswick. One of the people we have heard from is a former state legislator and others who have worked extensively on progressive issues in Augusta are also warning us about him. He is rumored to be running for governor and it appears his ambitions trump everything else. Power and influence come before truthful dealings with the public. We don't expect human perfection in our politicians but would like them to at least be real with us.

* I watched a great interview on Democracy Now last night with Cornell West. If you don't know of him, you should. Watch it here

* My lowly Baltimore Orioles have lost 13 games in a row and are on course to lose 100 games this's hard to watch a game.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A few of the speakers at the Town of Brunswick and MRRA public hearing the other night.

Especially moving was the last speaker of the night, a woman we did not know who came from the Brunswick community. She told a heart breaking story about a father in Afghanistan holding his small daughter who had been killed by a drone, and concluded her words with a special surprise statement.


By Loring Wirbel and Bill Sulzman, Citizens for Peace in Space, Colorado Springs/Global Network board members

Peace groups internationally are putting the pressure on President Obama this fall, as he ponders the request from Gen. McChrystal for a “surge” troop escalation in Afghanistan. Thankfully, leading Democrats and even former President Clinton are urging caution, though few are taking the wiser step of recommending a pullout. But there is an additional decision Obama must make, one which the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space sees as a fundamental issue in the upcoming Keep Space for Peace Week.

As soon as CIA Director Leon Panetta was appointed in an acting role to his post, he asked Obama for a significant escalation in armed “drone” flights, utilizing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), over both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These robot planes are flown by ground-based pilots, either in-country or even in the United States, using space as the navigational medium. The UAVs can accurately send bombs to pinpoint locations, though this does not mean there is no “collateral damage” in terms of civilian human casualties.

The Global Network wants to remind people that standoff war using robotic technology is neither surgical, nor antiseptic, nor moral. It can be appealing to the White House and to the American public, because it is allows nearly infinite kill ratios – thousands of so-called adversaries can be killed with very little chance of U.S. casualties. With no American soldiers coming home in body bags, few U.S. citizens care about anything else.

Yet turning the Afghanistan-Pakistan war into a UAV turkey-shoot is little different from the assassination squads approved by former Vice President Dick Cheney. In fact, it is no accident that, on two successive days, the New York Times reported on Blackwater (now Xe) being assigned to Cheney’s death-squad team, and the same Blackwater group being used for outsourcing of armed UAV flights. One method of killing is being used to replace the other.

Not so long ago, UAV pilots used joysticks to control UAVs, emulating a video game. Now they use Google Earth on touch screens to point to a location they want a robot plane to bomb. Within a year, those Google Earth applications will be available for special iPhones and Blackberries made for U.S. troops. And all those means of delivering death use space. Many of the war-fighter tools that are employed from space also take advantage of the Pentagon’s new cyber-warrior tools, which have culminated in the establishment of a dedicated Cyber Command to control computer networks here and abroad.

Moral review of space policy is ruled out because the critic can never have access to the “secret information” needed for evaluation. Hiding the truth from the enemy means hiding it from the public. Real public discourse cannot happen, either, because the body politic cannot be trusted with all the facts.

The Global Network has had reason to see optimism in recent months: No true weapon in space has yet been fielded by any nation. Obama has canceled planned missile-defense ground-based components in Poland and the Czech Republic. The world’s leaders are pledging to work harder to banish nuclear weapons. And Obama has called for a review of the October 2006 National Space Policy that calls for virtual U.S. “ownership” of orbital space.

But like so many national-security realms where Obama has taken tentative half-steps, the struggle for peace in space is far from over. The U.S. military remains by far the largest user of orbital space. Its satellites for intelligence, communications, and navigation remain the key enabling components that allow the U.S. and its allies to conduct war. And Obama’s new sea-based missile-defense plans allow a more provocative stance in challenging the nations like Iran and North Korea that are trying to foil global management plans.

For Keep Space for Peace Week, we urge activists throughout the world to examine closely the claims for “sanitizing” warfare. We urge citizens to not be swayed into thinking that a war allowing more invisible means of killing others is somehow one that can be accepted better than bloody battles on the ground. Space is the ultimate commons, and no one has the right to dominate the planet through unilateral control.

October 3-10, 2009

Keep Space for Peace Week:
International Week of Protest to
Stop the Militarization of Space

No Missile Defense
No Use of Space for Drone Wars
Stop Endless War
Convert the Military Industrial Complex
Fund Human Needs

Local Events

· Albuquerque, New Mexico (Oct 3) Protest at Kirtland Air Force Base (Truman Gate), 11:00 am
· Bath Iron Works, Maine (Oct 10) Vigil across from administration building on Washington Street, 11:30 am Smilin’ Trees Disarmament Farm & Maine Veterans for Peace (207) 763-4062
· Brunswick, Maine (Oct 4) Public talk and video about use of space technology for directing UAV (drone) attacks in Afghanistan/Pakistan war, Curtis Memorial Library, 7:00 pm
· Burlington, Vermont (Oct 6) Drones protest at Democracy statue, 199 Main Street, 3:00 pm WILPF
· Burlington, Vermont (Oct 6) Educational program 4-6 pm at Fletcher Free Library, 235 College St., Keep Space for Peace film and talk about US use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan WILPF
· Busan, South Korea (Oct 9) Bruce Gagnon speaks about space issues at YMCA, Korea Committee for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence
· Colorado Springs, Colorado (Oct 7) Public talk by Fr. Louis Vitale on morality of UAVs and standoff warfare
· Colorado Springs, Colorado (Oct 8) Bannering at Schriever AFB
· Creech AFB, Nevada (Sept 25-30) Peace encampment to ground the drones at key UAV base Code Pink
· RAF Croughton, England (Oct 3) March to, and demonstration at, main gate of U.S. Space Communications Base, 12-3pm Speakers: Bruce Kent, Susan Clarkson & Chris Cole
· Damascus, Syria (Oct 4) Issue news release in Arabic and web postings Dr.Ghassan Shahrour
· Fort Meade, Maryland (Oct 10) Protest at National Security Agency (NSA), Pledge of Eesistance-Baltimore
· Groton, Connecticut (Oct 5) Vigil at Groton Electric Boat shipyard, Atlantic Life Community
· Halifax, Nova Scotia (Oct 6) Film Screening and Discussion of Arsenal of Hyopocrisy, 7:00 - 9:00 PM Just Us! Café, 5896 Spring Garden Rd., Halifax Peace Coalition
· Incheon, South Korea (Oct 15) Bruce Gagnon speaks about space issues at Christian Solidarity for Life and Peace, Korea Committee for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence
· Jalgaon, India (Oct 9) Talk on space issues at North Maharashtra University
· Jalgaon, India (Oct 10) Talk on space issues at Nutan Marathi College
· Kimhae, South Korea (Oct 13) Bruce Gagnon speaks about space issues at YMCA, Korea Committee for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence
· Leeds, England (Oct 8) Talk by Professor Noel Sharkey (robot and artificial intelligence expert) on "Robot Wars, drones and teaching machines to kill, the ethical issues" at 7pm in LTB 3 at Civic Campus, Leeds Metropolitan University Sponsored by Yorkshire CND and The Praxis Centre
· Mahrashtra, India (Oct 5) Talk on space issues at University and MGM College of Computer Science
· Menwith Hill, England (Oct 3)Demonstration at NSA Spy Base in Yorkshire, Sponsored by CAAB & Yorkshire CND or 07766558833
· Mumbai, India (Oct 2) New book called “World Without Wars” to be released. Book will include chapters on space organizing issues.
· Mumbai, India (Oct 7) Talk on space issues at Mumbai University Department of Eurasian Studies
· Mumbai, India (Oct 8) Talk on space issues at S.E.S. College, New Mumbai
· Olympia, Washington (Oct 3 & 4) Tabling to preserve space for peace at Traditions Cafe 12-4 pm
· Oslo, Norway (Oct 14) Keep Space for Peace seminar featuring Karl Grossman & Roman Dolgov at Litteraturhuset, 6:00 pm
· Sacramento, California (Oct 8) Leafleting for International Week of Protest of Militarization of Space, 1:00-1:00 pm, Cathedral Square, 11th and K St., Co-sponsored by Sacramento Area Peace Action, Sacramento Valley chapter of WILPF, and Grandmothers for Peace International. Call 916-448-7157
· San Francisco, California (Oct 11) CodePink peace walk on the Golden Gate Bridge to Ground the Drones
· Seoul, South Korea (Oct 11) Bruce Gagnon speaks about space issues at Saegil Institute for Christianity and Culture, Korea Committee for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence
· Seoul, South Korea (Oct 16) Bruce Gagnon speaks about space issues at Lifepeace Fellowship, Korea Committee for the World March for Peace and Nonviolence
· Stockholm, Sweden (Oct 17) Sweden in NATO and the use of Space Conference with Claudia Haydt, Jan Tamas, Dave Webb, Kirsti Kolthoff, and Ingela Maertensson. Sponsored by Women for Peace, WILPF, No to EU, PAND Sweden, Swedish Peace Committe. Swedish Peace Council, World Peace March and Swedish Womens Left Association
· Sydney, Australia (Oct 8) Space video showing at University of Sydney Seminar Rm 365 Education Facility) 6:30 pm WILPF and AABCC For more info, ring Stefania 9960 2952; Denis 0418 290 663
· Sydney, Australia (Oct 9) Space for Peace stall at Town Hall, 12:30-2:00 pm WILPF and AABCC For more info, ring Stefania 9960 2952; Denis 0418 290 663
· Tacoma, Washington (Oct 7) Vigil & leafleting outside U.S. District Courthouse focusing on Keeping Space for Peace (12 - 1 PM) before the Federal Trial of Nicole Scott, who has twice been arrested for trespassing on Federal property during nonviolent actions at Trident submarine base Bangor. Sponsored by Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action ( Courthouse information at: Contact for more info.
· Tokyo, Japan (Sept 26) Talk on space issues and new National Defense Program guidelines
· Tucson, Arizona (Oct 3) Tucson WILPF Branch event "Ground the Drones!" 2 pm at Himmel Park Library, 1035 N. Treat. Speaker & video to promote awareness of two local businesses involved in Drone warfare: Raytheon Missiles (which makes drones) and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base that trains pilots.
· Tucson, Arizona (Oct 8) Peace Vigil at Raytheon Missile Factory from 6:30-7:30 a.m. at Herman's Road entrance, on Nogales Highway (3rd traffic light south of Valencia on Nogales Highway, extension of 6th Ave. south), Jack or Felice at 323-8697 or
· Valley Forge/King of Prussia, Pennsylvania (Oct 10) Peace in Space/Peace on Earth! Vigil at Lockheed Martin, Mall & Goddard Boulevards, Noon Brandywine Peace Community
· Vandenberg AFB, California (Oct 3) Vigil at front gate of Star Wars missile launch base, 1:00 pm Dennis Apel (805) 343-6322
· Washington DC (Oct 5) No good war, No good drones protest at White House, gather at McPherson Square (15th and I Streets NW) at 10 a.m.
· Washington DC (Oct. 9) Noon-1:00 pm Vigil at White House, sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Contact Art Laffin, 202-360-6416


The proposed new "Eco-Friendly" Navy base at Jeju Island in South Korea
The brilliant coral reefs Jeju residents want to protect

I leave on October 6-25 for another speaking trip to South Korea. I'll be traveling this time to several cities and near the end of the tour I will be visiting Jeju Island which is just off the southern tip of South Korea, very near the Chinese mainland.

In 2002 the South Korean government announced the intention to build a Naval base on Jeju Island and since that time people have been organizing to stop the construction of the base.

According to one South Korean peace organization (Solidarity for Peace And Reunification of Korea- SPARK), “Setting the Aegis [destroyer] in Jeju Island and operating the ships as an element of constructing an Asian missile defense system is part of the U.S. military program. From the geographical point of view, the naval base in Jeju Island cannot have been anything else but the U.S. missile defense base on the sea. Jeju Island is at the center of conflict structure of northeast Asia in reference to missile defense system. The island is located at the gateway of East Asia. Recently, the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea military alliance led by the U.S. is an unstable fact. Under the circumstance, the naval base in Jeju Island would become a stepping-stone for the U.S. navy. It would also be inevitable that Jeju Island would turn to be a focal point of an arms race in Northeast Asia.”

Local protests against the base have even been organized under the ocean in order to show the world the precious coral reefs that would be in danger of destruction from the militarization of their island.

Construction will begin in December and the base is slated to be completed in 2014. The Jeju base will serve as the home port for the Navy's strategic mobile fleet of two Aegis destroyer-led squadrons to be initially operational beginning next year.

The Navy's Aegis combat system, built by Lockheed Martin, is the same missile defense system that Obama has declared he intends to deploy throughout Europe. These Aegis-based missile defense systems will take the place of the controversial systems Obama recently decided not to deploy in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The Korea Times reports:

"Jeju has long been considered a tactical, strategic point to secure southern sea lanes for transporting energy supplies and to conduct mobile operations in the case of an emergency in the region," the Navy official said.

"Following the construction, the Navy will be able to successfully conduct long-range operations to protect our commercial vessels in blue waters, including the Malacca Strait, as well as carry out full-scale operations around the Korean Peninsula," he said.

China imports the majority of its oil through the Malacca Strait and the U.S. strategy is to put in place the ability to choke off this transit route thus giving the Pentagon the ability to control the keys to China’s and the world’s economic engine. The opening of a Navy base, and homeporting Aegis missile defense systems on Jeju Island, will be a major provocation toward China. It will ensure an even larger regional arms race.


Two of my favorite progressive journalists talking to each other about health care. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report being interviewed by Paul Jay of The Real News Network.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Last night nearly 30 peaceniks attended the joint meeting of the Brunswick Town Council and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA). The MRRA has been tasked by the state with the responsibility to plan for what will happen at the local Naval Air Station after it closes in 2011.

At the beginning of the meeting one town councillor said she had never seen so many people at one of their meetings since she began serving on the council. Most of those in the packed audience had come because of the flurry of news articles and letters to the editor in the local paper about using the base as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Flight Test Center.

One of the first things that was stated by the leadership of the MRRA was that the town council would have no authority over any decisions made by the redevelopment agency. The members of the MRRA are all appointed by the governor and as one member told the audience, "We are appointed for four-year terms and have no constituency."

Yeah, right.

Again the MRRA, sensing that there was deep concern in the audience about the drone issue, launched a preemptive strike when one member declared, "UAV's are consistent with our aviation feasibility study" that recommends "aviation and aerospace" as potential uses of the closing base.

In my words to the town council and MRRA I shared conclusions from a recent study by three UAV experts to the Welsh government where they suggest that drones testing is not safe.

I said: Airworthiness standards are insufficiently mature to allow their use over populated areas; the need for segregated airspace for drone testing will impact civilian air operations; they will invade our privacy because they are outfitted with surveillance cameras and there will be no real controls over who gets the information; they will pollute and make unwanted noise; AND PROBABLY MOST IMPORTANTLY because of intermittent communication and loss of contact arising from terrain shielding and the absence of on-board pilots to deal with emergency situations they will not be immune to crashes – it would be like your cell phone temporarily being out of reception range, drones fly by receiving radio signals from satellites; termination of flights will not be controllable.

In the last month two UAV's crashed in Iraq and one crashed in Wales.

Several other strong presentations were also made that appealed to these two government bodies to create a positive sustainable presence at the closing base. One speaker, reminding the MRRA that they had just said the redevelopment plans included a world-class resort hotel and two different college facilities, questioned the logic of having drones buzzing around these heavily populated institutions. That one drew a hearty laugh from the assembled.

After a while the council chair tired of hearing from the great unwashed in the audience and determined that no one else wanting to talk about drones (at this advertised public hearing) could speak. Only local residents with something else to say (and obviously more important) should address the be-knighted, she concluded. That didn't work out well as still a couple more anti-droners took to the podium.

We got a spirited lecture from John Richardson, former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives who now sits on the MRRA board. He was appointed by the governor as his Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. Mr. Richardson did a long bloviation about how he opposed the war in Iraq and led the effort to have the Maine House pass a resolution against it. Very commendable.

But then Mr. Richardson, and MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque, launched their final strike against us by saying that at this time there was really no issue about drones. There was no need for concern, they warned. At this time there were "no proposals" to use the base as a drone flight test center.

Of course these guys think we just fell off the back of the pumpkin delivery truck. It was like listening to Bill Clinton give a definition of what "is" is.

My reaction to all this? Why, if there would ultimately be no plans for drone testing in Brunswick, did Mr. Richardson feel the slightest need to tell the local newspaper on September 1, "There are many adaptive uses of UAVs that could be very helpful to the nation and then the world. I wouldn't cast out of hand UAV research or testing, because of the potential benefits to the nation in the areas of search and rescue, air and water quality, homeland security and even forest fire prevention."

Some people will do and say anything to make a buck.

Tonight I drive south to Portland to attend a meeting of the Maine State Rail Plan Technical Advisory Committee. In my early years as an organizer I co-founded a group called the Peoples Transit Organization in Orlando, Florida that fought against more and wider road building and instead pushed for bus expansion and construction of light rail in the community. One of our first acts was to suggest to the City Council of Orlando that they put a free trolley line in the downtown area. They laughed us out the door. Last time I visited Orlando I saw a free trolley line carrying folks from one end of downtown to the other.

It would be great if tonight, instead of driving to Portland, I could take a light-rail line just like the one in the video above now being used in San Diego, California. It could be built at Bath Iron Works or at a new facility on the grounds of the closing Brunswick Naval Air Station. Research shows that more jobs would be created for local workers than we will get from testing drones or building Aegis destroyers in our community.

But sadly these ideas were not very welcome last night. The MRRA and their courtiers have their own plans afoot - and remember, they are beholden to no one.

Monday, September 28, 2009


There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East producing plutonium which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.

It is Israel's ongoing nuclear weapons production that drives the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saddam wanted a bomb because Israel had one. The Iranians were then worried both about an Iraqi and an Israeli bomb. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others are annoyed at their geostrategic helplessness in the face of Israeli nukes.

Isn't it more than interesting that no one in the US political class ever talks about the nukes in Israel. And Israel refuses to sign the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Please note that no American politicians are suggesting that Israel should allow international inspections of their nuclear facilities or that they should be bombed for remaining secret.

Why is this double-standard at work?


In Pittsburgh last week a G 20 protester was snatched by the cops (or was it the military?). One might call it a kidnapping. Was this done to send a message to the protest movement in the US? Was it a sign of things to come?

One should remember that this happened during the Obama administration. If it had happened under the Bush regime all holy hell would be sounded.

The Washington Post reported: Obama brushed off demonstrations in the city. He said they were mild compared with some in the past at international gatherings.

"I fundamentally disagree with their view that the free market is the source of all ills," he said. "Many of the protests are just directed generically at capitalism. ... One of the great things about the United States is you can speak your mind."

Yeah Mr. Obama, we sure do have the right to speak our mind in the US. Just tell that to the guy that got dragged into the car........what happened to him anyway? Did he get released? Was he a government agent and was this whole thing a set-up just to create fear? What's the story Mr. President? You believe in democracy, don't you?


John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods has argued that American workers do not deserve a health care system. We believe that health care should be affordable for everyone, not just rich people. So Mr. Mackey, this video is for you!

This action was organized in Oakland, California.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


I had a wonderful day yesterday at the Common Ground Fair just outside of Unity, Maine. The weather was a perfect fall day, sunny and cool, and the crowds were enormous - 26,000 in fact.

I worked for several hours at the Veterans for Peace table gathering signatures on the petition opposing the plan to create an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flight test center (the drone zone the local paper calls it) in nearby Brunswick. Under another of the huge tents the Peace Action Maine table was doing the same thing so between us we reached many people on the topic.

At 2:00 pm about 15 fellow peace activists from around the state gathered by one of the fair entrances where we dressed ourselves in black capes and put on white masks. We hung big black sandwich-board signs over our shoulders that in white letters raised the issues of endless war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two of us with drums, one in front and the other near the rear, pounded a slow and steady heartbeat as we walked throughout the huge fairgrounds for more than 30 minutes in a solemn single-file. The crowds would stop what they were doing and watch us though many more than we would have expected at such a "progressive" fair stood with blank stares on their faces. Of course we received many positive messages too but following our second time around the fair, after we had removed our costumes, all those participating agreed that many people in the public are in emotional shutdown.

It reminds me of the book called Art of Loving by Eric Fromm. He told the story about pre-Nazi Germany where psychology students went out onto the streets and queried the public about their reasons for virtually ignoring the warning signs of a coming fascism. The students found that the public did not want to think about it nor did they wish to act.

In his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Fromm wrote:

To have faith means to dare, to think the unthinkable, yet to act within the limits of the realistically possible; it is the paradoxical hope to expect the Messiah every day, yet not to lose heart when he has not come at the appointed hour. This hope is not passive and it is not patient; on the contrary, it is impatient and active, looking for every possibility of action within the realm of real possibilities. Least of all it is passive as far as the growth and liberation of one's own person are concerned....

The situation of mankind is too serious to permit us to listen to the demagogues - least of all demagogues who are attracted to destruction - or even to the leaders who use only their brains and whose hearts have hardened. Critical and radical thought will only bear fruit when it is blended with the most precious quality man is endowed with - the love of life.

At about 4:00 pm yesterday Maine Veterans for Peace president Dud Hendrick and I did a one-hour talk with about 25 people under one of the small workshop tents provided by the fair. We spoke about the growing US military empire and told some stories about how US bases in places like Diego Garcia, Marshall Islands, Greenland, and South Korea have stolen land from the peoples of those countries. We asked why the American people are not more engaged about the many thefts that result when one nation builds an empire?

My bottom line message was conversion, beating the swords into plowshares, and the need for all of us to find ways in our everyday lives to enflesh, to give life, to that demand if we hope to successfully bring home the empire.

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