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

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Floyd Red Crow Westerman talks about the consequences of the white man's way of living.

Westerman reminds us that we are all one family, that we are all one spirit....all things are related.

What we do to the water and the trees comes back to haunt us.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Yes there are actually a few Democrats trying to get their party to end war spending. One of them is Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Let's see if his party, that was so critical of Bush, will support this effort.

Here in Maine we are seeing push back from some inside the Democratic party against the peace movement's effort to get our two members of Congress to vote against any more war funding.

Let me state clearly that you can't have an independent peace movement unless you are willing to call on both political parties to stop wasting the national treasury on war.

There can be no such thing as a bad war (when Republicans are in power) and acceptable war (when Democrats are in power). We can't and won't be lackeys of any party. The wars must stop and war funding must end. Period.......

It is disingenuous of elected Democrats (local, state or federal) to say they agree with us about the need to bring our war $$ home but then they cower when it comes time to go on record on the issue.

The Democrats in Augusta, Maine and Washington DC are now in power and are essentially presiding over the dismantling of social progress. They don't want the peace movement to challenge them because they fear they will lose power. It appears to me that their priorities are misplaced. I'd rather see them fight against war funding and fight to hang onto social progress as hard as they fight to stay in power.

See this article about the left party in Germany that was kicked out of the Bundestag for protesting their growing role in the war in Afghanistan.

According to the article, "Some 69 per cent of Germans want soldiers to pull out, according to a December poll for ARD public television, up 12 per cent in three months."

Friday, February 26, 2010


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Even Better Than the Real Thing
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorVancouverage 2010

The power structure knows that in just a few years blacks and Hispanics will be the majority population in America. They fear that people of color could create a huge voting bloc that would change politics in this country in a big way.

That is why we saw the corporate oligarchy go out and recruit the weak-minded Obama who as president would give Mr. Big everything he wants (endless war, bank bailouts, nuclear power subsidies, more NAFTA, continued torture and detentions, continued destruction of civil liberties, continued social program cutbacks, corporate health care plan, and a whole lot more) but at the same time make people of color think that the nation was open to them.

Glenn Beck is being used by Mr. Big to whip up the angry white voters who are losing their jobs and seeing their middle class way of life collapse under their feet. They feel powerless and want to blame someone. Beck is being paid by Mr. Big to tell his TV and radio followers that the blacks and Hispanics and "progressives" are really at fault. The progressives have ruined the country because they believe in socialism and ideas like "community" and sharing our resources with each other.

Glenn Beck is an actor whose job is to create hatred amongst the people in order to distract them from the fact that Mr. Big is really their true enemy. Beck's job is to create the conditions for civil war in America.

The whole affair is being scripted by Mr. Big and his minions. Obama has a role to play as well. Beck and Obama are doing the dirty work of the rich people who pull the strings behind the curtains. The best thing we can do is pull the sheet from the modern day version of the KKK and expose those who are stirring the hatred and trying to destroy this country.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CPAC 2010 - Rage Within the Machine
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorVancouverage 2010


Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks on the House floor about assassinations of Americans by their own government.


The South Korean Navy Chief of Staff (center right) met with the governor of Jeju Island (center left) earlier this week. The bottom line is that the South Korean government wants to begin construction of the naval base on Jeju sometime in March.

The Yonhap news reported that the South Korean national defense minister said, “The Jeju naval base is essential for strengthening the control ability on the southern area.” [Southern area is basically the sea lanes that China uses to import 80% of its oil.]

“If the base is set up, it could become the tremendous special benefit to the Jeju Island people, such as population being increased by 10,000 and the economy being vitalized.”

The villagers are banking that a lawsuit they are now pursuing, centered around environmental consequences of the base construction, will help them stop the base from being established.

The U.S. and South Korean government are expanding their military alliance - what they are calling "strategic flexibility" - to make it a more mobile alliance.

Strategic flexibility is a transformation of, or critical departure from the traditional U.S. - South Korean military alliance, which was originally aimed at North Korea, stipulated in the US-SK Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953, right after the Korean war.

NATO will be utilized and expanded into East Asia to effectively surround and control China just as it is now being expanded eastward in Europe to surround Russia. Strategic flexibility also means that South Korean military forces will become more expeditionary as we today see them being sent to Afghanistan to augment the U.S. military occupation.

Thus the Navy base on Jeju Island will play a key role for the U.S. in its strategy of integrating the South Korean military into the broader U.S. imperial agenda. They call it "interoperability".

The villagers of Gangjeong on the island, who will suffer from the base, will now sit in the middle of a dangerous chess game as the U.S. makes a move to checkmate Russia and China in the region.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Michel Chossudovsky, who's from an independent Canadian policy research group called Centre for Research on Globalization, believes that what Iran says hardly matters, because the U.S. is planning for war.


The ants understand their role in nature. Perpetuate the species at all costs.

What does it mean to be a human being? What is our role in nature? Get the best job, the best house, the best car? Throw ourselves into the 'dog-eat-dog' practice that is the key to "success mythology"?

Should we not begin to reevaluate what our human role should be if we hope to live in harmony on our Mother Earth?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I had an email this morning from a very well intentioned activist in another part of the country urging people to turn out today for an "emergency" vigil to mark the death of the 1,000th U.S. GI killed in Afghanistan.

Without trying to put down this effort I must say I don't think it is the most effective way to organize to stop endless war. Why is it an emergency when the 1,000th soldier dies? What about the 500th GI or the 10,000th innocent civilian killed in that war torn country? And probably most importantly, in what way is the organizer of the "emergency" demo educating his fellow local citizens about the real impacts of these wars?

I'm not against demos, I love them and think they have their important role, I organize a weekly vigil in my town. But most peace vigils have not changed the message on their signs since the 2003 shock and awe began. By now the public has read the signs that read War is not the anwer, No blood for oil, or Bring Our Troops Home Now. OK, they get it. So let's adapt the message and advance the agenda to a new level.

We often in the peace movement are in a reactive mode. But in order to successfully achieve our goals of ending war we have to flip the switch and become more proactive and force those in power to be reacting to us. Unless we begin to have a strategic discussion within the peace community then this will not likely happen.

The Bring Our War $$ Home campaign is just one illustration of this proactive process. In the state legislature in Augusta, Maine there are now a couple of state representatives circulating a letter amongst their peers that calls on our Congressional representatives in Washington to vote against further war funding. We now have local peace groups all over the state urging their state senators and representatives to sign onto this letter. This is causing some intense reflection on the part of many of these folks as they are having to deal with two key issues. One is that local and state politicians like to maintain that foreign policy is not in their area of responsibility. The other is that some of them have a hard time asking a fellow Democrat to stand up and buck the president on war spending. So this puts all of these elected officials in a reactive posture.

Just today we heard that last night in Bangor, Maine an activist stood up during their town hall meeting and spoke about the Bring Our War $$ Home Campaign. About 20 others stood with him and his high school age daughter passed a petition through the crowd and had folks sign it. She and another high school friend have been widely circulating the petition which calls for funding things like public education and the girls intend to bring this to their congressman asking him to stop voting for war funding.

This is an example of bringing the war message right into the daily life of the public and connecting it directly to their concerns about declining local government services. These local organizers are connecting the war to the local "emergency" and people can begin to understand that link and they can react to it.

What is also happening is that our two Congresspersons from Maine that represent us in Washington are starting to feel the heat from this campaign and they are having to "react" outside of their usual boxes. So when we crawl outside our normal safe organizing boundaries, by creating a proactive anti-war campaign, it causes ripples that force everyone else down the line to readjust. That is what you would call a movement. It's physics really, every action out of the ordinary causes a reaction.

Yesterday fellow Veterans for Peace member Tom Sturtevant from Winthrop, Maine came by the house to borrow our Bring the War $$ Home campaign banner. He is introducing a resolution in his community and wants to hold the banner in front of the town hall for a week or so prior to bringing the resolution to the city. So he is ensuring that some new kind of debate is going to happen in Winthrop about the war - not just the old "bring our troops home" that by now is stale and lifeless. Instead its a new and vital message he is interjecting into the consciousness of his town - a message they are not used to seeing from the peace movement and they will now have to think about it.

This same kind of organizing is now happening in Portland, Brunswick, Bath, Windham, Augusta, Deer Isle, Solon, Showhegan, Freeport, Farmington, and many other communities across Maine. Letters are appearing in virtually all the newspapers across the state on this theme and people are being forced to think about the wars in a new way.

All of us, if we truly want to advance our peace movement, must reassess whether our local work is reactive or proactive. The sooner we begin to do that the less "emergency" demos we will have to organize when the numbers of dead U.S. GI's reach 1,500 or 2,000 or more.


Women met in Guam to share their resistance efforts to militarism all across the Pacific region

Monday, February 22, 2010


* We've learned of another Japanese community that PAC-3 "missile defense" systems will be likely deployed in. Called Kurume-City, activists there are now working hard to raise debate about the destabilizing nature of these deployments. I was asked to write a letter to the mayor of Kurume and I immediately did and the letter was sent to the local newspaper and they printed it. In my letter I told the mayor that the PAC-3 is part of the U.S. first-strike attack program now under development that is ultimately being aimed at China as the Pentagon surrounds them.

* I am fighting a bad winter cold that seems to be making its rounds here in Maine. Our weather is so messed up these days, very warm temperatures for this time of year and we have not had any snow in almost a month. Tell me climate change is not real.

* I will be participating in a national No U.S. Bases conference call tomorrow. This is the group that organized the excellent conference at American University last spring but since then all activity has been suspended. It is good that things might be picking up a bit. This No Bases work is extremely important as we see a tremendous amount of money being spent on expanding U.S. military outposts around the planet to the benefit of corporate globalization. The stories of the people, who are daily suffering as their lands are being stolen from them, must be shared with the people in the U.S. and the No U.S. Bases network is the right process to make that happen.

* I just finished an hour long interview with a couple of college age activists out in California using Skype. It was really exciting to hear these two guys have such interest in the space weapons issue and to learn that they have been following the work of the Global Network for some time. It seems that they had cut their teeth on our 2003 video Arsenal of Hypocrisy . Producing that video was the best investment the Global Network ever made as we have seen literally thousands and thousands of people over the years who have learned from that video and shared it with others to turn them on to the space issue.


This story proves these endless wars mean the troops are worn out and the military is coming apart at the seams.


Is it any wonder that states are now in fiscal crisis? Is it a coincidence that local school boards are now talking about closing schools and firing teachers.

All across America public hospitals are closing and libraries are being shut down. The reason? You can't throw away hundreds of billions of dollars - trillions - on endless war and not have it come back to bite you in the seat of your pants.

We can't afford guns and butter anymore. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either telling you a lie or has no idea what they are talking about.

We've got no choice - either speak out now or face the music next week or next year.

Bring our war $$ home - now. This call has to go out to all elected officials at every level. War spending is indeed a local issue.

We've got to call for closing down the 1,000 U.S. military bases around the world. We've got to dramatically but the $1 trillion Pentagon budget. We've got to create real jobs in this country by converting the military industrial complex to peaceful production.

We've got to stop being fooled by politicians who tell us we can have social spending and continued funding for endless war.

See this important article entitled Bad Economies in States to Worsen here

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Friday, February 19, 2010


Vice-President Biden says that U.S. "missile defense" systems and new global strike systems will allow the U.S. to reduce some of our nuclear weapons.

The Obama administration delivered a budget request for 2011 calling for a full 10 percent increase in nuclear weapons spending, to be followed by further increases in subsequent years.

A 2003 study by Economists for Peace and Security called The Full Cost of Ballistic Missile Defense estimates that the total life cycle cost for a layered missile defense system could reach $1.2 trillion through 2035. The study can be found here

Greg Mello, Director of the Los Alamos Study Group writes about Obama's proposed nuclear weapons spending increase: "This proposed 'surge' responds to a December 2009 request from Senate Republicans (plus Joe Lieberman) for significant increases in nuclear weapons spending. Such increases, these senators said, were necessary (but not necessarily sufficient) to obtain their ratification votes for a follow-on to the START treaty (which expired in December)."

Mello continues, "Will Congress, especially the Democratic members of Congress, fund these increases? In part the answer depends on how seriously they take the several converging crises facing the country and the planet, and how seriously they address populist anger about the economy, especially in relation to their own reelection prospects.

"In many ways the proposed nuclear weapons budget, and the defense budget overall, can be seen as bold raids on a diminishing pool of resources, as well as very real commitments to fading imperial pretensions. Nuclear weapons compete directly with the renewable energy and conservation jobs funded in the Energy and Water funding bills."

It is obvious to me that Obama is trying to buy off Republican support for the very timid nuclear reduction treaty now being negotiated with Russia.

Coupled with increases in the "missile defense" budget it is clear that the signals to Russia and China are that the U.S. is not serious about ending the arms race any time soon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Gareth Porter is a historian and investigative journalist on US foreign and military policy analyst. He writes regularly for Inter Press Service on US policy towards Iraq and Iran. Author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.


Artists at work drawing inside state capitol
More images of how our war $$ could be spent here in Maine

Small booklets of the art work were delivered to each member of the Maine legislature and to interested people inside the capitol

We were back at it again today as about 25 artists, poets, and supporters showed up inside the State Capitol Hall of Flags in Augusta to deliver small booklets containing many of the war $$ home drawings created last Saturday at the draw-a-thon.

We found two sponsors in the Maine House and Senate that enabled us to put a booklet on the desk of each member of the State Legislature. Then we held a news conference (covered by only two newspapers) and we passed out literature and spoke with many people passing through the Hall of Flags over the three-hour period.

Having the artists right there, drawing during this time, drew many curious people over to see what we were doing.

A letter is now being circulated amongst the members of the State legislature that calls on our two representatives in the U.S. Congress to vote against further war funding. We found a couple legislators today who agreed to sponsor the letter.

So on we go with our campaign here in Maine to Bring Our War $$ Home. The next step is to deepen the amount of local activity that happens around this issue across Maine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


* I'm sort of going nuts this morning trying to find a church in the Lewiston-Auburn part of Maine where the peace walk can have a pot luck and sleep on the floor when it passes through that community on March 25. So far no luck and it's one of the few communities in Maine where the peace movement has very few active folks. Argh!

* I had my annual physical yesterday and all seems well. My doctor, who always talks politics with me for the first half-hour in his office, came in the door yesterday and asked me "OK, what do you think about Obama?" The doctor is very frustrated with Obama on health care "reform". A couple years ago he told me that virtually every patient he has supports single-payer - Medicare for all. He ended the exam by saying he wasn't going to charge me for the full exam - a contribution "for the cause," he said.

* I taped my latest public access cable TV show on Monday. My guest was Amory Weld from the Transition Town movement. They are the folks who are trying to get us to begin planning now for the severe impacts of peak oil, climate change, and economic collapse. I think it was an interesting discussion and should be loaded onto the Internet in about a week. Check the small TV set just below on the left side of the blog for many of my recent shows. The show is now into the seventh year.

* Today I will join an Ash Wednesday vigil for disarmament outside of Bath Iron Works (BIW)here in town. A group of Christian activists will hold the vigils each Saturday all during Lent. These Lent and Advent vigils have been held at the shipyard for more than a decade. BIW builds the Aegis destroyers that are now being outfitted with "missile defense" systems. There will also be peace vigils in front of the offices of our two Maine members of Congress at noon today urging them to stop voting for $$$ for endless war.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Need investment again in America if we are to have jobs. When corporations send jobs overseas we have to look to the federal government for investment. Sadly the Obama government, like Bush, only wants to grow the military budget and make more weapons.

Time to call for conversion of the military industrial complex. We should be making rail systems, solar, wind turbines, weatherizing homes, funding education, rebuilding our collapsing infrastructure (have you seen the New York City subway system lately?), and creating a real health care system.

We will become a third world nation if we don't immediately demand that we stop fighting endless war and invest that $12 billion a month now wasted in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan back here at home.

Stop trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to argue for fundamental change in America.

We need your help to make it happen.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Plant more community gardens

"We believe that the primary functions of government are to enhance community, protect the environment, care for the unfortunate, provide education, and always tell the people the truth. Otherwise, we will have no democracy. One truth we've learned is that we can't have guns and butter. When the government feeds the Pentagon our money, feeds the people fear, the people are starved. Maine taxpayers have paid 2.5 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost security abroad, security at home, and faith in their governments. Maine artists offer these drawings as suggestions for wiser and healthier uses of our tax dollars. Lets work together to bring our war dollars home and build the beloved community that we all desire."

Robert Shetterly

Sunday, February 14, 2010


The kitchen help
Program MC's Hana Maris (left) and poet Henry Braun (right)
Rob Shetterly (Americans Who Tell the Truth) interviewed for cable TV
Hana and her son Tucker doing war $$$ song they wrote

Free-range chicken in every pot

Health care

Our Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME)

Maine roads need fixing


By Joan Wile

The Granny Peace Brigade, shocked and outraged at the transformation over the years of the relatively benign toy soldier, G. I. Joe, into a vicious killing machine, will launch an attack on Hasbro, the manufacturer, in the belief that such an emblem of militaristic overkill distorts the sensibilities of kids into violence and war lust.

"Let's face it -- the increasingly violent nature of toys and games these days is militarizing our children to a dangerous degree, Our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus our drones in Pakistan, exemplify the escalation of the U.S. into a nation more interested in making war than peace," said 94-year-old Lillian Pollak, one of the active Brigaders." "G.I. Joe and other such ferocious toys help foster these harmfully aggressive tendencies."

The grandmothers' first strike will occur on Saturday evening, Feb. 13, when the grannies ambush with fliers, signs and an enormous banner the people streaming into the 10th annual "Toy of the Year Awards" ceremony at the Chelsea Piers, at which Hasbro has been nominated in two categories. While peppering the gala attendees with their paper weapons, they will sing revised lyrics to old songs around their anti-war-toys theme, assisted by the Raging Grannies. For Instance, to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat":

(partial lyric) HASBRO, CANCEL G.I. JOE

The Brigade will repeat the action at the Javits Center (New York City) on Monday, Feb. 15, 11:30 a.m., targeting all attendees to the Toy Fair held there.


Students from Unity College created this piece
Former Navy Lt. Becky Farley reads her poem about driving the Aegis cruiser that fired the first cruise missile at Baghdad during "shock and awe"

About 100 folks turned out for the pot luck and poetry reading to end the day

One artist creates "what they really think & what they really say" piece about one Maine Congressman's position on war spending

Lisa Savage (CodePink) helps load the art into computer for eventual production of booklets to hand to state legislators in Augusta on February 18

It was about a 13-hour day of hard work, inspiration, and joy for me and the many others who gathered in Bath yesterday for the draw-a-thon to create images and words about bringing our war $$ home.

Things began just after 9:00 am as about 40 artists and poets from all over Maine (and even an artist from Canada) came for the event. Natasha Mayers and Kenny Cole (two artists who do alot of political art) organized via their Union of Maine Visual Artists to get the creative folks there. Included in the group were five students from Unity College.

My job was to organize the kitchen, make sure the artists had coffee, tea, snacks and then lunch. I also was responsible for getting folks from throughout the community and state to come to the evening potluck supper to honor and celebrate the work done throughout the day by the artists and poets.

The art was hung on the wall for all to see as they arrived for the supper and following the bountiful meal we heard music, poetry, and words about the three-month long Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home.

One new poet that I was particularly proud of was Becky Farley. She was a Navy Lieutenant at the time of the March, 2003 launch of Bush's "shock and awe" of Baghdad. Becky was assigned to an Aegis Cruiser that fired the first cruise missile in the attack and at that moment she was the officer on the deck who was actually driving the ship. In her poem she talked about the "dark, dark night" and the dark forces of power and greed behind the attack. Since getting out of the Navy she has struggled with depression but has joined the Iraq Veterans Against the War and wrote her poem just for the event last night.

It was an inspiring day and evening and a wonderful testimony as to what happens when activists all across the state come together for a short-term campaign to focus energy and attention on a particular subject. In the case of war $$ we are already seeing much organizing activity spring up around the state. Resolutions will be taken to town hall meetings and city councils. People are speaking up at school board meetings about making the links to cuts in education and funding for war. Lots of letters to the editor are being written to newspapers across Maine.

Vigils at the offices
of our two Maine Congressional representatives will be held February 17 in conjunction with similar actions across the country. On February 18 the artists will head to the state capitol in Augusta for a draw-in where they plan to give their images to state legislators and encourage them to call for an end to war funding as one important way to deal with Maine's current fiscal crisis.

One man brought his wheelchair bound wife to the event last night who suffers from multiple sclerosis and now faces cutbacks in her home treatment program. When I got home last night I had an email from her husband saying he wants to help us during our statewide action weekend (April 10-11) when we will drop pizza-style doorhanger literature across the state urging people to let the politicians know we want our war $$ brought home to Maine. This morning he wrote me again saying he wanted to order 150 of the doorhangers to pass out in his neighborhood.

This is how we build real movements. We link the war spending issue to the real life concerns people have and we help find ways for a broader segment of the population to express their outrage over war and social dissolution. This is the job of all good hearted folks (what a Seminole Indian spiritual leader in Florida used to call the "special people").

Our task is now to keep reaching out beyond our normal boxes in which we typically do our political work. As we each stretch ourselves we expand our base and build a real fire under this call to Bring Our War $$ Home.

Friday, February 12, 2010


And when the rains come where will the people get shelter? Why is the U.S. military eating up so much of the aid funds?

Thursday, February 11, 2010



It's one of those days where I am trying to tie up many loose ends on several different projects. This Saturday we have Maine artists and poets coming together for a Draw-a-thon to create images and words about how our war $$ could be spent here at home. The evening pot luck supper is shaping up to be big. See the promo flyer here

Sunday our Addams-Melman House is holding an open house for Green Party members in Bath so they can come and meet Lynne Williams who is the Green candidate for governor in Maine. She must collect a couple thousands petition signatures from Greens to get on the ballot so we've invited folks in town to come to our house to sign her petition.

I am close to having all the local coordinators set for the Walk for a New Spring (for a nuclear free future and conversion of the military industrial complex) that will pass thru Maine from March 24-April 1. The walk is one of four nationally that will converge in New York City in time for the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May. This walk is creating alot of excitement around Maine and beyond. I organized four walks while in Florida and love to work on them.

The NPT International Peace Conference and rally (April 30 - May 2) in New York is still being organized and today I sent a check from the Global Network for $200 to help defray conference expenses.

I'm starting to get registrations in for the Global Network's annual membership meeting on May 9 in New York City. It will be great to see our folks again and to hear from them about what is going on in their part of the world around space and "missile defense" issues. See more info here

At the same time work is beginning to pick up for our October 9-12 International Space Organizing Conference that will be held in Nagpur, India this year. Our board member J. Narayana Rao reports that he has been traveling all over India in recent months promoting the conference and is already developing great interest amongst students, peace activists, university professors, and others. This conference is going to really be ground breaking for us. See details here

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


What would you say?

The great Abolitionist Frederick Douglass said power concedes nothing without a demand.

What are our demands?


* I had an email this morning from a Catholic nun in the Midwest who shared her frustration with the media and Obama. "I am so frustrated with all the news media, even public radio which I usually like, in the way they present our country's actions as great and other countries as wrong. It's the same words about Iran's nuclear ambitions without mentioning or admitting our own that are worse -- about our working for 'peace' and everyone else wanting war when we are guilty of most of it ourselves."

My first phone call this morning was from a woman in Central Maine who is helping us with the New Spring Peace Walk (I volunteered to coordinate the Maine portion of the walk) that will pass through the state from March 24 - April 1 on its way to New York City in time for the international conference and protest prior to the start of the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. The woman also expressed her utter frustration with Obama and we both concluded that those who put party before movement issues are doing us all a great disservice.

* It appears to me that the NPT Review Conference is in big trouble as we see Obama's 2011 military budget calls for increases in funding for the nuclear labs across the country and his expansion of "missile defense" in Eastern Europe. In spite of this the U.S. continues to arrogantly lecture Iran and North Korea about building nuclear weapons. While in the U.S. Senate Obama voted in favor of the U.S.-India Nuclear deal that will help that country build more nukes in a very unstable region of the world. Talk about hypocrisy!

Russia’s military Chief of Staff, General Nikolai Makarov, yesterday said that the new START treaty with the United States on nuclear arms limitation was being hindered by US plans to deploy missile defenses along the Russian frontier. General Makarov’s comments echoed those of Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov over the weekend, who insisted that “it is impossible to talk serious about the reduction of nuclear capabilities when a nuclear power [the U.S.] is working to deploy protective systems against vehicles to deliver nuclear warheads possessed by other countries.”

I have never believed that Obama and the U.S. was serious about these negotiations. I have always been convinced that Obama's now famous "Prague speech" calling for elimination of nukes was just international posturing. If negotiations do break down the U.S. will blame it on Russia just like today we see Obama saying, "I tried to talk to Iran but they wouldn't listen. Now we are going to have to squeeze the hell out of them."

* We had our weekly peace vigil here in Bath last night and as I was walking home with Karen Wainberg a pickup truck drove by and the driver yelled out, "Why don't you move to Canada?" I told Karen that in all my years as an activist I'd often been heckled while holding a sign on the street but had never been heckled while walking home. I take it as a compliment that our vigil, which began on December 15, is starting to have an effect.

The sad thing is that the pickup truck driver is likely one of those who complains about the collapsing economy and the nation's growing debt. He is probably an anti-tax guy who often grouses about "big government spending" yet like many "fiscal conservatives" never goes near the issue of military spending. He should get himself one of those T-shirts that my next door neighbor wore last summer that said, "The hippies were right".

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

HE'S BACK.....

Davis Fleetwood returns with another segment of reality....


Kseniya Simonova is a Ukrainian artist who just won Ukraine's version of "America's Got Talent." She uses a giant light box, dramatic music, imagination and "sand painting" skills to interpret Germany's invasion and occupation of Ukraine during WWII.


Yemen and The Militarization of Strategic Waterways

Securing US Control over Socotra Island and the Gulf of Aden

By Michel Chossudovsky

"Whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean would be a prominent player on the international scene."
- US Navy Geostrategist Rear Admiral Alfred Thayus Mahan (1840-1914)

The Yemeni archipelago of Socotra in the Indian Ocean is located some 80 kilometres off the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometres South of the Yemeni coastline. The islands of Socotra are a wildlife reserve recognized by (UNESCO), as a World Natural Heritage Site.

Socotra is at the crossroads of the strategic naval waterways of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It is of crucial importance to the US military.

Among Washington's strategic objectives is the militarization of major sea ways. This strategic waterway links the Mediterranean to South Asia and the Far East, through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

It is a major transit route for oil tankers. A large share of China's industrial exports to Western Europe transits through this strategic waterway. Maritime trade from East and Southern Africa to Western Europe also transits within proximity of Socotra (Suqutra), through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. A military base in Socotra could be used to oversee the movement of vessels including war ships in an out of the Gulf of Aden.

"The [Indian] Ocean is a major sea lane connecting the Middle East, East Asia and Africa with Europe and the Americas. It has four crucial access waterways facilitating international maritime trade, that is the Suez Canal in Egypt, Bab-el-Mandeb (bordering Djibouti and Yemen), Straits of Hormuz (bordering Iran and Oman), and Straits of Malacca (bordering Indonesia and Malaysia). These ‘chokepoints’ are critical to world oil trade as huge amounts of oil pass through them." (Amjed Jaaved, A new hot-spot of rivalry, Pakistan Observer, July 1, 2009)

Sea Power

From a military standpoint, the Socotra archipelago is at a strategic maritime crossroads. Morever, the archipelago extends over a relatively large maritime area at the Eastern exit of the Gulf of Aden, from the island of Abd al Kuri, to the main island of Socotra. This maritime area of international transit lies in Yemeni territorial waters. The objective of the US is to police the entire Gulf of Aden seaway from the Yemeni to Somalian coastline.

Socotra is some 3000 km from the US naval base of Diego Garcia, which is among America's largest overseas military facilities.

The Socotra Military Base

On January 2nd, 2010, President Saleh and General David Petraeus, Commander of the US Central Command met for high level discussions behind closed doors.

The Saleh-Petraeus meeting was casually presented by the media as a timely response to the foiled Detroit Christmas bomb attack on Northwest flight 253. It had apparently been scheduled on an ad hoc basis as a means to coordinating counter-terrorism initiatives directed against "Al Qaeda in Yemen", including "the use [of] American drones and missiles on Yemen lands."

Several reports, however, confirmed that the Saleh-Petraeus meetings were intent upon redefining US military involvement in Yemen including the establishment of a full-fledged military base on the island of Socotra. Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh was reported to have "surrendered Socotra for Americans who would set up a military base, pointing out that U.S. officials and the Yemeni government agreed to set up a military base in Socotra to counter pirates and al-Qaeda." (Fars News. January 19, 2010)

On January 1st, one day before the Saleh-Petraeus meetings in Sanaa, General Petraeus confirmed in a Baghdad press conference that "security assistance" to Yemen would more than double from 70 million to more than 150 million dollars, which represents a 14 fold increase since 2006. (Scramble for the Island of Bliss: Socotra!, War in Iraq, January 12, 2010. See also CNN January 9, 2010, The Guardian, December 28, 2009).

This doubling of military aid to Yemen was presented to World public opinion as a response to the Detroit bomb incident, which allegedly had been ordered by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

The establishment of an air force base on the island of Socotra was described by the US media as part of the "Global war on Terrorism":

"Among the new programs, Saleh and Petraeus agreed to allow the use of American aircraft, perhaps drones, as well as "seaborne missiles"--as long as the operations have prior approval from the Yemenis, according to a senior Yemeni official who requested anonymity when speaking about sensitive subjects. U.S. officials say the island of Socotra, 200 miles off the Yemeni coast, will be beefed up from a small airstrip [under the jurisdiction of the Yemeni military] to a full base in order to support the larger aid program as well as battle Somali pirates. Petraeus is also trying to provide the Yemeni forces with basic equipment such as up-armored Humvees and possibly more helicopters." (Newsweek, Newsweek, January 18, 2010, emphasis added)

US Naval Facility?

The proposed US Socotra military facility, however, is not limited to an air force base. A US naval base has also been contemplated.

The development of Socotra's naval infrastructure was already in the pipeline. Barely a few days prior (December 29, 2009) to the Petraeus-Saleh discussions (January 2, 2010), the Yemeni cabinet approved a US$14 million loan by Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) in support of the development of Socotra's seaport project.

The Great Game

The Socotra archipelago is part of the Great Game opposing Russia and America.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a military presence in Socotra, which at the time was part of South Yemen.

Barely a year ago, the Russians entered into renewed discussions with the Yemeni government regarding the establishment of a Naval base on Socotra island. A year later, in January 2010, in the week following the Petraeus-Saleh meeting, a Russian Navy communiqué "confirmed that Russia did not give up its plans to have bases for its ships... on Socotra island." (DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia), January 25, 2010)

The Petraeus-Saleh January 2, 2010 discussions were crucial in weakening Russian diplomatic overtures to the Yemeni government.

The US military has had its eye on the island of Socotra since the end of the Cold War.

In 1999, Socotra was chosen "as a site upon which the United States planned to build a signal intelligence system...." Yemeni opposition news media reported that "Yemen's administration had agreed to allow the U.S. military access to both a port and an airport on Socotra." According to the opposition daily Al-Haq, "a new civilian airport built on Socotra to promote tourism had conveniently been constructed in accordance with U.S. military specifications." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania), October 18, 2000)

The Militarization of the Indian Ocean

The establishment of a US military base in Socotra is part of the broader process of militarization of the Indian Ocean. The latter consists in integrating and linking Socotra into an existing structure as well as reinforcing the key role played by the Diego Garcia military base in the Chagos archipelago.

The US Navy's geostrategist Rear Admiral Alfred T. Mahan had intimated, prior to First World War, that "whoever attains maritime supremacy in the Indian Ocean [will] be a prominent player on the international scene.".(Indian Ocean and our Security).

What was at stake in Rear Admiral Mahan's writings was the strategic control by the US of major Ocean sea ways and of the Indian Ocean in particular: "This ocean is the key to the seven seas in the twenty-first century; the destiny of the world will be decided in these waters."

Michel Chossudovsky is Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, which hosts the award winning website: . He is the author of the international best-seller "The Globalisation of Poverty and The New World Order". He is contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, member of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission and recipient of the Human Rights Prize of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM), Berlin, Germany. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages.

Monday, February 08, 2010


I attended a public meeting about Maine's state rail plan a couple months ago in Portland. The government study process reported to the impressive crowd of people in attendance that major traffic congestion is forecasted in Maine during the next 15 years as well as worsening road deterioration, pollution, and delays in shipping.

They told us that the Obama stimulus included $8 billion for rail nationwide (not much when you consider we are spending $12 billion a month in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan.)

Most rail lines in Maine are owned by corporations. The 1920's were the height of rail use in Maine and today our state is 40th in the country in the number of rail lines per mile that exist.

Most (60%) of the rail lines in Maine are used to haul pulp paper products. Presently there are not enough rail cars to handle the freight demand which likely keeps shipping prices rather high.

A town councilman from Standish, Maine was at the meeting and told us that due to fiscal problems in their town they had cut $1 million in their road paving/repair budget. The state, trying to dump road responsibilities on the towns, have just put 11 miles more of road maintenance on their town's back. Their roads, he told us, are beat to death by truckers along the highway that runs through their community. They want to see freight rail expanded in the state so they can get some relief.

Maine politicians held a big media event last week in the nearby town of Brunswick to announce that Amtrak will extend their service from Portland, heading north to Brunswick, in 2012. The problem is that this service will do little to help commuters who really need a light-rail system that offers frequent trips to to the big city of Portland where many folks work.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) has just come out with a new national transit study. Here are a few of the key points in the study:

* China is currently in the midst of building a $293 billion, 10,000-mile high speed rail system.

* On average, an Amtrak passenger uses 23 percent less energy per mile than an airplane passenger, 40 percent less than a car passenger, and 57 percent less than a passenger in an SUV or pickup truck.

* The task of building out the nation’s high-speed passenger rail network is estimated to create up to 1.6 million construction jobs, and can provide a needed shot in the arm for America’s struggling manufacturing sector.

* It is estimate that a national high-speed rail network would reduce global warming pollution by 6 billion pounds, the equivalent of taking almost 500,000 cars off the road.

* Over the last decade, Amtrak ridership has increased by 26 percent, with an additional 5.6 million passengers per year riding intercity rail.

It is more than clear that the public in the U.S. wants expanded public transit funding but the current snail's pace of expanding rail is not coming close to meeting the need or the potential demand.

As we look for ways to create jobs and deal with climate change it is obvious that building mass transit rail systems is one good way to go. But the problem is funding.

Here is but one more illustration why we should be calling for cuts in war spending so we can invest in rail here at home.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


Obama recently announced that he would be cancelling NASA's Constellation moon mission program and would instead turn those responsibilities over to private industry. So in the future NASA will see itself as a prime research developer of space technology and once these new applications become advanced they will privatize the operations.

This is something that has been in the works for years. NASA has long maintained that when the day came that it would cost effective to begin mining operations on the Moon and other planetary bodies that they would privatize the program and let corporations make the profits.

The federal government will still use taxpayers dollars to subsidize space colonization but they will largely put the money into the hands of the corporations.

In an important way, by privatizing space colonization operations, the taxpayers will have even less influence over the space program in the years ahead.


I visited Vieques, Puerto Rico in 1999 during the time of the protest movement to stop the U.S. bombing of the island. Protest camps were set up all over the island and activists came from around the world to join the peaceful occupation.

At the time I wrote this in my trip report:

As we walked here and there we saw the enormous evidence of years of destruction on the island. Bombs -- exploded and unexploded - were everywhere. Wetlands were drained and bombed. Trucks, tanks, and planes were scattered everywhere as targets. One tank is now being used to hold up a tarp for shelter at one hill-top camp. As we looked out over the beautiful ocean beyond Vieques we saw a U.S. navy submarine in the near distance probably sending a warning to the occupiers.

When it was time to leave the island to return home our fishing boat anchor got caught on a bomb on the ocean floor. Our captain very carefully worked the anchor free and you could see the fear on the faces of the passengers. We saw bombs sticking up out of the water near the shore and we saw tiny islands just off Vieques that had been blasted to bits. In fact, endangered coral reefs are being destroyed all around Vieques from the years of bombing by the Navy.

There was a complete lack of respect for the human and environmental consequences of what they did to the island.

You will see in this video there is now a severe toxic legacy in Vieques that the U.S. does not want to take responsibility for.

As we look ahead to the construction of a Navy base on Jeju Island, South Korea we know that the pristine waters will be polluted and the coral reefs will be negatively impacted by the presence of military ships - both the South Korean and U.S. navies will utilize the base. The military is the biggest polluter in the world today.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Two nights ago I joined Peter Woodruff in attending the Regional School Unit-1 (RSU-1) Coalition on Education Funding meeting here in Bath. It was the first meeting of the new coalition that is being created to try to save our local public schools from devastating cuts mandated by our Governor John Baldacci (Democrat). Baldacci has ordered $438 million of cuts in education and social spending this year.

RSU-1 covers the towns of Arrowsic, Bath, Phippsburg, West Bath and Woolwich here in the midcoast of Maine. At the meeting we were told that in addition to cuts already ordered in 2010 the state is now ordering another round of cutbacks in the 2010-2011 school year in the amount of $895,000. And in the 2011-2012 school year it is projected the cuts will be around $1,647,000. According to school officials that will mean the closing of some schools, major classroom size increases, likely cuts in bus transportation and more. Already the teachers in RSU-1 are working without a new contract because of the funding crisis.

The meeting on Thursday night was attended by one state senator and three members of the state House of Representatives. Teachers, principals, parents, businessmen, and concerned citizens were present. When it came time to open the discussion to the public my hand was the first one to go up.

Earlier State Rep. Peter Kent had said there was a "white elephant" in the room that needed to be talked about - revenues. In other words, he was saying that we need to raise taxes to cover these cuts. But our governor has already said he would veto any tax increases and even though members of his own party are angry with him, they are not inclined to stand up against him and the angry voters who largely oppose more tax increases. So there are few real options out there to increase "revenues".

What is essentially happening is that the federal government is passing on social spending responsibilities to the states and the states are passing it down to the local governments. The message is clear - if you want good schools you are going to have to raise local property taxes to pay for them. Otherwise you will have inferior local education.

Some wealthy communities can handle that. But in most Maine towns, working class communities like mine in Bath, there is little margin for increased taxes. We already have a 10% unemployment rate in the state and it is getting worse by the day. Right now 9,700 teaching jobs in Maine are in danger of being lost by school cutbacks. There is virtually no way to replace those jobs. It's a race to the bottom.

When I spoke up I said, "While we are talking about elephants in the middle of the room we have to talk about war spending." I then referred to the figures put out by the National Priorities Project for what states and local communities across America have spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. In the case of Bath we have paid $19.9 million as our share of war spending. When I mentioned this I noticed the reaction of the the RSU-1 superintendent of schools. I could just see the calculator in his mind figuring that those funds could have helped to solve his school budget crisis for years to come.

The local news paper had a reporter at the meeting and yesterday's edition of the paper carried his article on the front page. In the article the reporter wrote this:

Bruce Gagnon, a Bath resident and the coordinator for the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, told his fellow coalition members to expand their thinking beyond the state’s budget crisis.

Gagnon said that, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began more than eight years ago, Bath residents have paid $19.9 million in federal tax dollars to fund those wars. He said Mainers as a whole have contributed $2.5 billion to war spending.

“Ask yourself how that money could be used at this time of fiscal crisis in Maine,” he said. “These wars are killing us.”

You can see the full article here

I told the folks in the meeting that they were going to have to get engaged in this issue if they hoped to solve this problem.

There will be another meeting next week. Peter and I are going back.

If the peace movement wants to stop these wars we have to get out and talk with the people who are concerned about issues like education, health care, and other social program cuts.

We've got to say it's beyond time to Bring Our War $$ Home.