Organizing Notes

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

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011


By Glenn Greenwald

President Obama announced yesterday that all U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year, and this announcement is being seized upon exactly the way you would predict: by the Right to argue that Obama is a weak, appeasing Chamberlain and by Democrats to hail his greatness for keeping his promise and (yet again) Ending the War. It’s obviously a good thing that these troops are leaving Iraq, but let’s note three clear facts before either of these absurd narratives ossify:

First, the troop withdrawal is required by an agreement which George W. Bush negotiated and entered into with Iraq and which was ratified by the Iraqi Parliament prior to Obama’s inauguration. Let’s listen to the White House itself today: “’This deal was cut by the Bush administration, the agreement was always that at end of the year we would leave. . . .’ an administration official said.” As I said, it’s a good thing that this agreement is being adhered to, and one can reasonably argue that Obama’s campaign advocacy for the war’s end influenced the making of that agreement, but the Year End 2011 withdrawal date was agreed to by the Bush administration and codified by them in a binding agreement.

Second, the Obama administration has been working for months to persuade, pressure and cajole Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain in that country beyond the deadline. The reason they’re being withdrawn isn’t because Obama insisted on this, but because he tried — but failed — to get out of this obligation. Again, listen to the White House itself:

The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Iraq expires at the end of the year. Officials had been discussing the possibility of maintaining several thousand U.S. troops to train Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqis wanted troops to stay but would not give them immunity, a key demand of the administration. . . .

“The Iraqis wanted additional troops to stay,” an administration official said. “We said here are the conditions, including immunities. But the Iraqis because of a variety of reasons wanted the troops and didn’t want to give immunity.”

The Obama administration — as it’s telling you itself — was willing to keep troops in Iraq after the 2011 deadline (indeed, they weren’t just willing, but eager). The only reason they aren’t is because the Iraqi Government refused to agree that U.S. soldiers would be immunized if they commit serious crimes, such as gunning down Iraqis without cause . As we know, the U.S. is not and must never be subject to the rule of law when operating on foreign soil (and its government and owners must never be subject to the rule of law in any context). So Obama was willing (even desirous) to keep troops there, but the Iraqis refused to meet his demands (more on that fact from Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin).

Third, there will still be a very substantial presence in that country, including what McClatchy called a “small army” under the control of the State Department. They will remain indefinitely, and that includes a large number of private contractors.

None of this is to say that this is bad news (it isn’t: it’s good news), nor is it to say that Obama deserves criticism for adhering to the withdrawal plan (he doesn’t). It would just be nice if these central facts — painfully at odds with the two self-serving narratives that started being churned out before the President even spoke — were acknowledged.

I believe the country has not even gotten close to coming to terms with the magnitude of the national crime that was the attack on Iraq (I think that’s why we’re so eager to find pride and purpose in the ocean of Bad Guy corpses our military generates: tellingly, the only type of event that generates collective national celebrations these days). Needless to say, none of the responsible leaders for that attack have been punished; many continue to serve right this very minute in key positions (such as Vice President and Secretary of State); and (other than scapegoated Judy Miller) none of the media stars and think-tank “scholars” who cheered it on and enabled it have suffered an iota of stigma or loss of credibility. The aggressive war waged on Iraq began by virtue of a huge cloud of deceit and propaganda; perhaps it could end without that.


Occupy Wall Street: Washington Still Doesn't Get It

By Matt Taibbi

Rolling Stone

I'll have more coming out about this in a few days, but there have been two disgusting developments in the realm of plutocratic intervention on behalf of Wall Street that everyone protesting should take note of.

The fact that both of the following things took place in the middle of the full fever of OWS, when everyone is supposedly trying to placate anti-banker sentiment and Obama and the DCCC are supposedly pledging support of the protesters, shows how completely bankrupt this system is and how necessary street-level protests have become. Popular uprising is probably the only move left to stop developments like the following:

1) Bank of America is shifting a huge collection of Merrill Lynch derivatives contracts onto its own federally-insured balance sheet. This move of risky instruments off the uninsured Merrill balance sheet onto the commercial bank's balance sheet was done to prevent Bank of America's creditors from attacking the firm with collateral calls and other sorties. Essentially, an irresponsible debtor, B of A, is keeping a loan shark from breaking his legs by getting his rich parents to co-sign his loan. The parents in this metaphor would be the FDIC.

The FDIC naturally is not pleased with this development, but the Fed, the supreme banking regulator, is apparently encouraging this move. Here's how Bloomberg characterized this move:

In short, the Fed's priorities seem to lie with protecting the bank-holding company from losses at Merrill, even if that means greater risks for the FDIC's insurance fund.

Again and again, the Fed proves it has no appetite for allowing Wall Street to eat its own pain, and continually encourages banks to stick the government with its losses and bad assets. This move will allow Bank of America to keep a Band-Aid over its disastrous financial situation far longer than it would be able to in a genuinely free market. People should be outraged at this development.

2) Barack Obama is apparently expressing willingness to junk big chunks of Sarbanes-Oxley in exchange for support for his jobs program. Business leaders are balking at creating new jobs unless Obama makes compliance with S-O voluntary for all firms valued at under $1 billion.

Here's how to translate this move: companies are saying they can't attract investment unless they can hide their financials from investors. So the CEOs and gazillionaires on Obama's Jobs Council want the politically-vulnerable president to give them license to cook the books in exchange for support for his jobs program. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"All you're going to do is have more fraud. The ultimate losers are going to be investors," said Jeff Klink, a former federal prosecutor whose Gateway Center firm helps clients prevent and detect fraud.

If the financial crisis proved anything, it's that Wall Street companies in particular have been serial offenders in the area of dishonest accounting and book-cooking. Sarbanes-Oxley is obviously no panacea, but removing it in exchange for a temporary, election-year job boost is exactly the kind of myopic, absurdly irresponsible shit that got us into this mess in the first place. For Obama to pull this in the middle of these protests is crazy.

If anyone thought OWS has already done its job, and Washington has gotten the message already, think again. They're not going to change until the protesters force them to change, it seems.

Friday, October 21, 2011


My latest public access TV show interview with Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald in a discussion of their new book "Crossing Zero: The AfPak War at the Turning Point of American Empire".


I am now at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington and will be staying here the rest of my time in this city.

This afternoon I head over to American University where the conference called Peace in Asia and the Pacific: Alternatives to Asia-Pacific Militarization will be held. I will speak about the growing movement against "missile defense" on the opening plenary panel. The conference will continue on Saturday.

On Sunday I'll head back to Freedom Plaza for more of the occupy events. Monday I'll join the weekly Catholic Worker morning vigil at the Pentagon. My trial for civil disobedience at the White House last spring opposing the Afghanistan war begins on Tuesday morning. There are 20 of us in the trial from the March 19 protest. Hopefully it won't be postponed again.


Thursday, October 20, 2011



Today I joined a protest at Citibank by Freedom Plaza occupiers. The bank had to close its doors for the hour we were there and customers had to be turned away.

Six of our folks went inside the bank and one at a time made statements and held signs. More than 40 of us then followed them inside the bank and were led in chants by a person with a megaphone. A film crew got the whole action. It took 20 minutes for the police to arrive to move us all out onto the sidewalk where we continued to chant, hold signs, and pass out flyers to people on the street.

Many in the public stopped to see what was going on but most of the "suits" passed us by refusing to take our flyers. It's interesting that these "fiscal conservatives," dressed in their pinstripes, don't seem at all troubled by the fact that Citibank hasn't paid any taxes during the last four years.

On November 5 a global day of action will be held to remove your money from the corporate banks and put it instead in small local banks and credit unions. Next we've got to figure out the credit card system as the big corporate banks control that market.

Here is a list of complaints against Citibank that was on the flyer we handed out:

1. Citigroup has paid ZERO corporate taxes for the last four years.

2. Citigroup has 427 subsidiaries in foreign tax havens to hide their profits.

3. Citigroup was the LARGEST recipient of federal bailout money-- $476 billion.

4. CEO John Havens receives $9.5 million annually, while paying their tellers $12.65 an hour.

5. Citigroup just posted a 3rd quarter net profit of $3.8 billion, a 74% increase over last year.

6. Their largest stockholder is the nephew of Saudi King Abdullah.

Speaking of banks and Wall Street $$$, today in the Washington Post there is a story that Obama has raised more money from the banksters and hedge fund types than any of the Republican presidential candidates. How can anyone doubt that Obama is not still seen as "the man" by the big Wall Street operators?

He's given them damn near everything they want and will keep doing so until the people rise up.

You can see that Post story here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Taped from inside the DC studio at lucky on this one....great timing.


I arrived at Freedom Plaza (Occupy DC) this morning in Washington. My cousin Bob drove me from his house in Maryland where I had been over the last few days for a family reunion.

There are an impressive number of tents on the mostly concrete surface of the plaza that sits between the White House and Congress. It's raining today so things seem slow. I went across the street to a coffee shop where I could check my emails and discovered I had an email from Russia Today TV wanting to interview me about Obama's new deal with Romania to put "missile defense" systems in their country. When they realized I was in Washington they told me to come right over to their TV studio which was just blocks away. I went and did a short interview which I should be able to upload onto the blog soon.

The occupy movement, which I've now experienced in Portland and here in DC, reminds me of the old Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton movie "Reds". There was one scene from the streets of Moscow where people stood around fires to keep warm and debated the need for revolution against the corruption of the czar.

Today at Freedom Plaza I sat and listened to several occupiers debating what was the best way to get out from behind the corporate capitalist black ball that blocks real democracy. This public ferment is now happening around the nation and while no one knows what will come next I think it won't be possible to put this restiveness back into a bottle.

While much of Washington appears on the surface to be humming along normally, I noticed one young activist at Freedom Plaza engaging a group of nearly 20 well-dressed young people about this new movement. I saw many people stopping by the information table on the plaza - asking questions, taking literature, dropping money into a donation jar, and taking photos. Clearly there are many mainstream people who are very interested in all this ferment.

Tonight at 6:00 pm the General Assembly will be held on Freedom Plaza. In the meantime I am trying hard to stay caught up with emails and phone calls.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Got to give Fox credit on this one.... the FBI has done a series of these fabricated terrorist episodes in order to keep the people afraid and in support of endless war. The Iran story being the latest example.

Good for Fox ..... this time.


Monday, October 17, 2011


The Washington Post reported last week that a Bring Our War $$ Home resolution that was being prepared to be passed by the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council was killed after intervention by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, the military contracting giant that employs more than 5,000 workers in the county.

The article revealed that Lockheed Martin contacted Democrats in Maryland and threatened to move their operations to neighboring Virginia if the resolution was passed.

The Post wrote, "Council members and county officials were called by one of Lockheed Martin’s top lobbyists, a state delegate, and the offices of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D)."

So the process of public discussion of local impact of war policy was interrupted by corporate pressure. This is a perfect illustration of the classic definition of fascism: the linking of government and corporations.

In this case corporate wishes trumped the public good, democracy, and the rule by, of, and for the people. The "people" never had a chance to even have a crack at the question at hand.

This is an example of an organizing strategy that likely had misplaced priorities. Had the organizers who brought this resolution to the Montgomery County Council first taken it to the public in a grassroots campaign of education and gathering support, the public might have had a chance to withstand the preemptive attack by Lockheed Martin. But by taking the resolution to the County Council without first doing the public campaign it is quite likely that the public was largely unaware of what came down.

These resolutions are most useful when they come out of a larger organizing campaign that first creates deep and wide public education, debate, and consciousness raising. Then, even if they fail to pass a legislative body, the resolutions have become part of the public discourse and the impact is still made.

It is always much more work to do the grassroots organizing around these resolutions but the real value of them is in the public debate. Local organizers should consider the campaign approach before putting these important questions into the hands of politicians. As this case shows, no matter how well meaning local elected officials are, the corporate interests prefer to shut down real democratic debate before it happens.

Sunday, October 16, 2011



This song in honor of the family reunion I attended yesterday in father's immediate family came together, the first time I had ever seen many of them. Very moving experience.