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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The logo from the Navy's drone commander's office.  Gives you an idea what kind of folks we are dealing with these days.

It is a sickness.

See more here if you can stomach it.


Senate panel OKs $604 billion defense bill

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel has approved a $604 billion defense spending bill that reverses proposed Pentagon cuts in Air Force personnel and equipment.

The Appropriations defense subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote Tuesday. The measure would provide $511 billion for the base budget and $93.3 billion for the war in Afghanistan in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The bill is nearly $29 billion less than current spending.

The legislation provides $800 million to halt the Air Force's planned cuts.

In its budget proposal, the Pentagon called for a cut of 5,100 from the Air National Guard, 3,900 from active duty and 900 reservists as well as 134 aircraft. That proposal met stiff resistance from the nation's governors and members of Congress.

My Take:  The Pentagon is now our primary employment agency in America.  You want a job - then get on-board the killing train.  Yesterday I had a call from a "Small Business Association" staffer in California who heard me on KPFA radio.  He said he was interested in how the mega-aerospace corporations are getting the big bucks and what would the small business community need to do to get a piece of the action?

I told him they had the wrong strategy.  I took him to the UMASS-Amherst Economics Department study on the U.S. Employment Effects of Military & Domestic Spending Priorities. I wanted him to see that the real job creation his association seeks isn't going to come from corporations moving production oversees or from endless war contracts. It's got to come from domestic investment that is now being poured down the Pentagon rat hole.  I think he got my point.

My friend Andre Brochu from Sweden (who grew up in Maine and during Vietnam War went to Sweden as a war resister) writes today and closes with, "Take care!  Remember that the next mosquito could be a MAV (micro aerial vehicle).  A MAV swatter is like a fly swatter. I trust not too much damage would be done to the mosquito drone. Maybe none at all. Maybe I should put up some sticky fly strips instead. Less chance of hurting the darling.  If they track me down I might have to hide  in the embassy like Assange until they can find a diplomatic pouch big enough to get me out of  EU/NATO."

 Please remember that Keep Space for Peace Week will be October 6-13, 2012.


The opposition fighters in Syria might be getting help from a different source - in the form of training from the US private security firm, formerly known as the notorious Blackwater group (now called Xe - could it stand for "execute"?).

Security circles reportedly confirmed the information which was released earlier by Wikileaks - that the company is sending mercenaries from Iraq into Syria. RT discusses this with Christoph R. Horstel - who's a government and business consultant. He joins RT from Germany.
In general, there is a power struggle between Qatar and Saudi Arabia for influence in the Arab world following the fall of Mubarak, with Qatar backing the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudis backing more extreme Salafi parties and forces. In a leaked transcript of Kofi Annan's latest meeting with Assad, they actually shared a joke and laughed at the notion of Qatar as the leader of the Arab world, but it's no joke that the kings of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are each backing and arming factions within the FSA that are not accepting Annan's peace plan and are determined to keep fighting - and that they also have communications and logistical support from the US and NATO.

It was Qatari special forces who led the assault on the Bab al-Azizia military headquarters in Tripoli that effectively won the war in Libya for the NATO rebels, and we must not underestimate the importance of the fact that the Ameer of Qatar owns Al-Jazeera. AJ provided an important counterpoint to the Western media during the Iraq War, going to places literally and politically that they did not dare to go. Since Qatar has launched its bid for power in the Arab world, Al Jazeera is playing a different role, presenting one-sided views of the wars in Libya and Syria and generally serving an interest-based propaganda function similar to that of the Western media - and doing so with greater credibility in the Arab world because it has worked hard in the past to establish itself as a trusted source.

Sandy Davies,
Author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq


  • The Jeju Island grand march is now in its second day.  Imagine the logistics involved in feeding hundreds of walkers in two different marches going opposite directions?  It is hot and humid there so imagine the water they are going through?  And where are they all sleeping at night?  This kind of event is what organizers dream about.  It is a massive undertaking but the kind of event that has huge impact as most of the population of the island will come in contact with the walk.  It's a brilliant strategy.  A wonderful video about the entire feeding operation can be seen here
  • The walk is being sustained by hope, a fierce spirit of non-violent resistance, and music.  You can listen to a new album produced by the Gangjeong village band called Shinzzakkot (meaning ‘the elating and spicy flower band’).  The album is called ‘We’re from Gangjeong!’and you can listen to the whole thing here
  • You can also imagine that the walkers are going to have some sore feet with lots of blisters.  But that just makes the experience memorable.  They are building a mass community.
  • This is the kind of political action that changes lives - both the walkers and those who see the walk.  The best organizing strategies are the ones that are the hardest.  This grand march is a winner.  You can follow the walk closely on Facebook.
  • This grand march is just more evidence that Korean activists are the best political organizers that I have seen during my long career.  I bow to them.

Monday, July 30, 2012


More than 400 people began marching from Gangjeong village on the southern side of Jeju Island today and will walk in two directions, east and west.

On the last day, August 4, the people will meet in Jeju City on the opposite side of the island from Gangjeong, and express their will to stop the Jeju Naval base project and to realize Jeju as a true Peace Island.  Events will culminate with a peace concert.

You can help by boycotting Samsung and by spreading the word.  

See video coverage of first day marching here


  • Citizens on Okinawa are very angry as the U.S. moves accident prone Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft to their island home.  The Osprey deployment is flying straight into the sorest point of the American-Japanese alliance. In October, the aircraft is scheduled to begin full operations at the Futenma air base, which occupies 25% of crowded Ginowan city in Okinawa. Locals have long demanded its closure, but a plan to build Futenma’s replacement off the fishing village of Henoko is stalled, perhaps permanently. “We think it is discrimination against Okinawa to send this aircraft here,” said Henoko resident Takako Shinohara. Like many Okinawans, she recalls a 1994 incident in which an American military helicopter crashed into a local university campus. “We cannot understand why the Japanese government allows this, but we are determined to fight it.”
  • Journalist Karl Grossman has a new article on CounterPunch called Nukes on Mars: NASA's Dangerous Alliance With the Nuclear Industry.  He's been the top writer on the nukes in space issue since about 1989.  He also serves on the Global Network's Advisory Board.
  •  NBC has created a new entertainment show that promotes war. "Stars Earn Stripes" will be co-hosted by retired U.S. general Wesley Clark and will also feature Todd Palin.  NBC is promoting the show during its Summer Olympics telecast as the next big sporting event.  On "Stars Earn Stripes," celebrities will pair-up with members of the U.S. military to compete at war-like tasks, including "long-range weapons fire." Only there won't be any of the killing or dying.  The message is that war is fun and games.  You can send a message to NBC opposing this corporate media brainwashing by going here
  • Just learned from friend Lynda Williams that Pacifica radio station KPFA in Berkeley will be replaying a speech of mine from my April west coast tour today at noon (Pacific time).  The station promo says, " Bruce Gagnon connects the dots between corporate capitalism and endless war." You can listen live by clicking on this link at noon (Pacific) or 3:00 pm EST.  I learned KPFA was giving away my book to people who made donations to the station today.  Quite nice of them to promote our work.
  • Maine Veterans for Peace will present a showing of the award winning film The Welcome: A Healing Journey for Veterans and their Families on Thursday, August 2.  The film will be shown at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick. It is free although the hat will be passed to cover rental of the cinema.  It's a film not to be missed.


Dud Hendrick is a member of Veterans For Peace-Maine. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a Vietnam Veteran. (He was also coach of the Dartmouth College lacrosse team for many years.)  After a 1,200 mile bike ride by veterans from both sides of the Vietnam War, Dud experienced a change of heart and became an advocate for peace. His story of that experience is moving and inspirational.

Dud explains the origins of Veterans For Peace which began here in Maine. It is now in all 50 states with over 5,000 members.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


  • While on vacation MB and I attended a talk by Eric Laursen about his new book "The People's Pension" at the Damariscotta library.  It was an early morning program that drew about 25 people.  He told us that 20 million people across the U.S. are kept out of poverty by Social Security.  Today 1/3 of all elderly in the country live in or near the poverty line.  Attempts to "trim" Social Security began during the Carter administration (but didn't get beyond his cabinet) and have continued through every president since then including Obama.  
  • Last year Obama came close to making a deal with Republicans to cut Social Security - but the Tea Party, who didn't think the deal went far enough, helped kill it in Congress.  Democrat leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were on-board with the proposed cuts.  Laursen told us that as more and more workers get paid bare bones minimum wages, when they reach retirement age, they will only qualify for the minimum benefits which won't even keep up with the cost of living.  (I am in this category.) The best way to safeguard the program would be to remove the cap on Social Security payments on the wealthy.  They now only pay Social Security taxes on the first $107,000 they earn - everything after that is not taxed.  
  • During the Q & A I suggested that with corporations moving jobs overseas future generations won't be able to qualify for much in Social Security earnings unless the government gets involved in creating jobs by converting the military industrial complex to peaceful production.  Laursen got the point and agreed and went even further to explain how doing so would create more and better paying jobs, thus helping to protect Social Security.


Saturday, July 28, 2012


Maine's Public Utilities Commission held its July deliberations and will investigate the health and safety of wireless "smart meters". Many Mainers attended and expressed their thoughts "on camera" after the commissioners spoke.

More than 8,000 customers of Maine's CMP have refused to accept "smart meters" - including our Addams-Melman House in Bath.  Our house has also been refusing to pay the $12 monthly "opt out" fee.  The Bath Town Council has twice voted in favor of a moratorium against the new controversial meters in our community.


Prof. Yang Yoon-Mo (who nearly died during two hunger strikes in the past year) was a featured speaker at a Save Jeju rally in downtown Seoul on July 27. He arrived in Seoul after a month long candlelight vigil relay to major cities across South Korea.
July 27 is an important date in Korean history.  It was the day 59 years ago that the Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed between the U.S. and North Korea which ended the fighting in 1953.  It was not a peace treaty but essentially a cease-fire and has yet to be replaced by a permanent settlement.
The lack of a permanent peace treaty is a fundamental source of conflict (the unresolved state of war) for both North and South Korea.  The controversial construction of a naval base on Jeju Island and the increasing U.S. military buildup in the region only intensifies the state of heightened insecurity for the people of Gangjeong village, the people of the island of Jeju and the whole country.
The environmental consequences of the Navy base are unfortunately lost on, or conveniently ignored, by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) whose conference this year (September 6-15) will be ironically held only 7 km's away from the base destruction site! One of the main sponsors of the conference is Samsung which happens to be the lead construction company doing the 'destruction'.
Beginning on Monday, July 30 there will be a 'grand march for peace' on Jeju where up to 10,000 people will walk in solidarity with the villagers and peace activists who have struggled against the Navy's plans to build this base during the last five years.
Please keep the participants of the 'grand march for peace' in your thoughts and prayers next week! After all the real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war.

Friday, July 27, 2012


As the divide between people and power in the US widens, protest movements are getting more exposure than ever before. RT talks to Bill Ayers - radical activist, author and former Professor at the University of Illinois.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Yesterday we took a one-hour boat trip out to Monhegan Island where we spent the day walking the trails around this beautiful place.  The weather was hot but inside the woods that cover much of the island the cool sea breeze and the shade felt quite nice.

We've been having a nice time doing lots of walking, cooking, and reading.  I've already finished two good books and am onto my third.  Today we are visiting nearby Damariscotta where I am able to get an Internet connection at a local cafe.

Tomorrow is my birthday - my 60th - and we plan to attend a talk at the local library on the creation of Social Security by the first woman cabinet member Frances Perkins who was from Maine.  She was FDR's Secretary of Labor. 

We go home on Saturday and on Sunday will be my birthday party at our house at 1:00 pm.  It will be a potluck Italian Fiesta - all are invited.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Here's an in depth look at why the U.S. military needs a massive overhaul. Aside from the way it's misused and abused by political leaders, it's causing tremendous environmental harm every year. Based in part on the book "The Green Zone," by Barry Sanders.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Loring Wirbel of Citizens for Peace in Space sends a message of solidarity from the CPIS organization in Colorado Springs, US, to activists on Jeju Island, Korea. 

Loring is a board member of the Global Network.


There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places "sacrifice zones," and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.

"These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We're talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed," Hedges tells Bill. "It's the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings... And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from creating essentially a corporate oligarchic state."

The broadcast includes images from Hedges' collaboration with comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which is an illustrated account of their travels through America's sacrifice zones. Kirkus Reviews calls it an "unabashedly polemic, angry manifesto that is certain to open eyes, intensify outrage and incite argument about corporate greed."

A columnist for Truthdig, Hedges also describes the difference between truth and news. "The really great reporters -- and I've seen them in all sorts of news organizations -- are management headaches because they care about truth at the expense of their own career," Hedges says.


Kyle Kajihiro, a leading peace activist from Hawaii, sends solidarity greetings to Gangjeong villagers on Jeju Island.  Kyle knows what damage the Navy can do to a pristine island environment.

Before going to Jeju last February for the 20th annual meeting of the Global Network, three of us (Dave Webb, Lynda Williams, and I) went to Hawaii and were taken on a tour of Oahu by Kyle who shared with us the toxic consequences of the military occupation of his island.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Turkey straddles two worlds, Europe and Asia, but its relationship with the West has always been troubled. Once dubbed the sick man of Europe, this founding member of NATO has sought membership of the European Union, but always been denied.

Today, roles have been reversed. Turkey is booming, with economic growth at 8.5 per cent while its nearest European neighbours are going broke.

This economic success has earned the country international respect. Turkey is now acting as a broker with its turbulent neighbours in the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Syria.

Is Turkey a weather vane reflecting the global shift of power? And can the new Ottomans strike a balance between the country's modern, secular aspirations and its deep-rooted Islamic identity?

The Cafe travels to Istanbul, a secular city in an increasingly religious country that is trying to break free from its past.

Joining the conversation in The Cafe in Istanbul are guests:

Nursuna Memecan, a senior member of parliament representing Turkey's ruling party, the AKP; Mehmet Karli, a lecturer at Galatasaray University and a human rights activist; Andrew Finkel, a journalist & author of 'Turkey what everyone needs to know'; Gokce Piskin, a rising star in the CHP, the main opposition party in Turkey, and chairwoman of its youth wing; Merve Kavakci Islam, a professor at Georgetown University and a former member of the Turkish parliament who was prevented from taking up her seat due to her wearing of the headscarf; and Abdulhamit Bilici, the head of Cihan News Agency, a columnist at Zaman; and author of 'Why Turkey'.


Friday, July 20, 2012


These are some photos I found online of New Harbor, Maine where we will be heading tomorrow for our week-long vacation.  Looks like an interesting place and the weather looks good - sunny and cool which is just the way I like it.

I'll be back in the office on July 30. 

I will likely be posting from time to time while away. 


Police have used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse angry protesters thronging the streets of Spain. Dozens of people were injured and a number of activists detained during the latest nationwide anti-austerity demonstrations. In a major show of strength, hundreds of thousands have been taking part in the protests.

People marched in 80 cities across the country to protest against more suffocating austerity which is to come. That's after the German Parliament gave the green light to the 100-billion Euro bailout for the country's battered banks. The EU's finance ministers are now expected to approve the conditions for the financial lifeline to Madrid.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


  • Our bought-and-paid-for-Congress voted today for another $606 billion to fund the Pentagon in Fiscal year 2013.  The vote in the House of Representatives was 326-90.  Democrats voted in favor of the spending bill by a margin of 101 in favor and 79 opposed.  Our two house members in Maine (Pingree and Michaud) voted against it.  You can see the official vote tally here.  
  • When you add in the "off budget" funds at the Department of Energy, NASA, NRO, NSA, secret black budget, Homeland Security, CIA, etc the annual appropriation for endless war is well over $1 trillion per year.  That's alot of cheese. It's called corporate welfare-warfare.  We could create a solar society with that kind of money along with a national rail system but the fossil fuel industry says nix.  We need to keep asking the public which they'd rather have - jobs building mass transit or endless war?  Last week here in Bath housemate Karen asked a worker from Bath Iron Works if he'd rather build something besides destroyers.  He told her yes.  We hear that all the time.  The workers need to start speaking up more.  The peace movement can't make this happen alone.  Would be nice if the environmental groups said something on the subject as well.  They don't like to talk about military spending - in spite of the fact that the Pentagon is the biggest polluter on the planet.  Unless we cut the Pentagon budget how in hell are we going to deal with climate change?  Come on folks - get on the friggin ball.
  • I went to a Maine Veterans for Peace leadership meeting today at the home of one of our members who lives near Augusta.  We are trying to set up our new leadership team for the coming year.  Our chapter is getting older and slowing down a bit.  I made the point that we need to do less "business" at our monthly membership meetings and make them more issue based and have some social time more often.  Not everyone is attracted to groups and meetings where people sit and talk for two hours about who is going to make the copies and who is going to send out the news releases.  That kind of work should be done in committees outside the meetings.  Our monthly meetings should be more focused on educating and inspiring people.  
  • On the way home from the meeting VFP member Herb Hoffman (Ogunquit) told me that he was talking to a lobsterman the other day who told him that one of the guys caught a multi-colored tropical fish off the coast of Maine recently.  The ocean is warming up fast.
  • MB and I go away for a week vacation on Saturday.  Since she drives to Portland every day to work we decided not to do alot of driving during our time off.  So we rented a cottage in New Harbor, Maine which is just about 45 minutes north of here.  It's a working harbor and should be an interesting place to walk and rest.  I doubt that I will get many chances to get online during the week so the blog might be kind of quiet for a bit.  We'll see.  There might be an Internet cafe around there where I can get a cup of tea and do a quick post now and then. 


These posters are now available for sale from the Global Network.  They are  $3 each or five for $12.  Send check to GN at PO Box 652, Brunswick, Maine 04011 or pay online using this link.

Help us spread the word about how military satellites guide and direct modern warfare - particularly drone attacks that kill so many innocent civilians and are now being introduced inside the U.S. to spy on the public.

To get a full view of the poster click here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012



In the US, Occupy protesters have descended on a quiet California redwood retreat - where some of the world's elite gather every year. Demonstrators say the two weeks, officially portrayed as a time of rest and relaxation, is really a chance to discuss plans for the world's future. RT's Abby Martin at Bohemian Grove to see what triggers those rumours and growing protests.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Sung-Hee Choi writes from Jeju Island in South Korea:

A map indicates a possibility of militarization of the Jeju.

Fr. Mun Jeong-Hyeon has suspected of the possibility of the militarization of the southern part of the Jeju Island, considering two airfields in the east and west parts of the Island.

The Alttre airfield ( 1.2 km runway), constructed during the Japanese imperialism and currently unused but owned by the Ministry of National Defense, and the Jungseok airfield (2.7 km runway) built in Pyoseon in 1998. There have been government arguments for long years on the need of a new airfield (expansion) which has officially been told as the civilian use. But would it be purely civilian use?

The map indicates that if a naval base is built in the Gangjeong village, at least the southern part of the Jeju could be easily militarized with the links to the two airfields in its both sides.

I think this speculation about an air base should be taken seriously.  Especially because it is an isolated Navy base on an island the U.S. military could want Air Force access for two reasons.  One would be to have fighter planes there to "protect" the U.S. warships that are docked at the base.  Secondly the Navy officers will want to have a runway nearby where they can frequently fly in and out of the base on Jeju.

The fact that Gangjeong villagers only recently learned that the Navy wanted more of their land for housing Navy personnel indicates that the whole plan is only being unfolded piece by piece.  It's what they call in the military "need to know".  The Gangjeong village, and quite possibly large portions of Jeju Island, are being sacrificed to U.S. plans for "containment" of China and the people on the island are obviously being spoon fed the real story on a "need to know" basis.


At the Green Party’s 2012 National Convention in Baltimore over the weekend, Massachusetts physician Jill Stein and anti-poverty campaigner Cheri Honkala were nominated the party’s presidential and vice-presidential contenders.

Democracy Now airs the convention’s keynote address delivered by Gar Alperovitz, a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative. Alperovitz is the author of, "America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy."

In his remarks, Alperovitz stressed the importance of third-party politics to challenge a corporate-run society. "Systems in history are defined above all by who controls the wealth," Alperovitz says. "The top 400 people own more wealth now than the bottom 185 million Americans taken together. That is a medieval structure."


Regis Tremblay interviewed me the other day for his Truth TV program here in Maine.  We talk about the ever expanding political and economic reach of the military industrial complex.

Monday, July 16, 2012


I interviewed three Maine activists who oppose the East-West Transportation and Utility Corridor. Updates on the issue can be found at www.


How the Pentagon Is Quietly Transforming Its Overseas Base Empire and Creating a Dangerous New Way of War
 By David Vine
The first thing I saw last month when I walked into the belly of the dark grey C-17 Air Force cargo plane was a void -- something missing. A missing left arm, to be exact, severed at the shoulder, temporarily patched and held together.  Thick, pale flesh, flecked with bright red at the edges. It looked like meat sliced open. The face and what remained of the rest of the man were obscured by blankets, an American flag quilt, and a jumble of tubes and tape, wires, drip bags, and medical monitors.
That man and two other critically wounded soldiers -- one with two stumps where legs had been, the other missing a leg below the thigh -- were intubated, unconscious, and lying on stretchers hooked to the walls of the plane that had just landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. A tattoo on the soldier’s remaining arm read, “DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR.”
I asked a member of the Air Force medical team about the casualties they see like these. Many, as with this flight, were coming from Afghanistan, he told me. “A lot from the Horn of Africa,” he added. “You don’t really hear about that in the media.”
“Where in Africa?” I asked.  He said he didn’t know exactly, but generally from the Horn, often with critical injuries. “A lot out of Djibouti,” he added, referring to Camp Lemonnier, the main U.S. military base in Africa, but from “elsewhere” in the region, too.
Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.
These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”
Disappearing are the days when Ramstein was the signature U.S. base, an American-town-sized behemoth filled with thousands or tens of thousands of Americans, PXs, Pizza Huts, and other amenities of home. But don’t for a second think that the Pentagon is packing up, downsizing its global mission, and heading home. In fact, based on developments in recent years, the opposite may be true. While the collection of Cold War-era giant bases around the world is shrinking, the global infrastructure of bases overseas has exploded in size and scope.
Unknown to most Americans, Washington’s garrisoning of the planet is on the rise, thanks to a new generation of bases the military calls “lily pads” (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies.
Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia’s tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can. Although statistics are hard to assemble, given the often-secretive nature of such bases, the Pentagon has probably built upwards of 50 lily pads and other small bases since around 2000, while exploring the construction of dozens more.
As Mark Gillem, author of America Town: Building the Outposts of Empire, explains, “avoidance” of local populations, publicity, and potential opposition is the new aim. “To project its power,” he says, the United States wants “secluded and self-contained outposts strategically located” around the world. According to some of the strategy’s strongest proponents at the American Enterprise Institute, the goal should be “to create a worldwide network of frontier forts,” with the U.S. military “the ‘global cavalry’ of the twenty-first century.”
Such lily-pad bases have become a critical part of an evolving Washington military strategy aimed at maintaining U.S. global dominance by doing far more with less in an increasingly competitive, ever more multi-polar world. Central as it’s becoming to the long-term U.S. stance, this global-basing reset policy has, remarkably enough, received almost no public attention, nor significant Congressional oversight. Meanwhile, as the arrival of the first casualties from Africa shows, the U.S. military is getting involved in new areas of the world and new conflicts, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Transforming the Base Empire
You might think that the U.S. military is in the process of shrinking, rather than expanding, its little noticed but enormous collection of bases abroad. After all, it was forced to close the full panoply of 505 bases, mega to micro, that it built in Iraq, and it's now beginning the process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan. In Europe, the Pentagon is continuing to close its massive bases in Germany and will soon remove two combat brigades from that country. Global troop numbers are set to shrink by around 100,000.
Yet Washington still easily maintains the largest collection of foreign bases in world history: more than 1,000 military installations outside the 50 states and Washington, DC. They include everything from decades-old bases in Germany and Japan to brand-new drone bases in Ethiopia and the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean and even resorts for military vacationers in Italy and South Korea.
In Afghanistan, the U.S.-led international force still occupies more than 450 bases. In total, the U.S. military has some form of troop presence in approximately 150 foreign countries, not to mention 11 aircraft carrier task forces -- essentially floating bases -- and a significant, and growing, military presence in space. The United States currently spends an estimated $250 billion annually maintaining bases and troops overseas.
Some bases, like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, date to the late nineteenth century. Most were built or occupied during or just after World War II on every continent, including Antarctica. Although the U.S. military vacated around 60% of its foreign bases following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Cold War base infrastructure remained relatively intact, with 60,000 American troops remaining in Germany alone, despite the absence of a superpower adversary.
However, in the early months of 2001, even before the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration launched a major global realignment of bases and troops that’s continuing today with Obama’s “Asia pivot.” Bush’s original plan was to close more than one-third of the nation’s overseas bases and shift troops east and south, closer to predicted conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Pentagon began to focus on creating smaller and more flexible “forward operating bases” and even smaller “cooperative security locations” or “lily pads.” Major troop concentrations were to be restricted to a reduced number of “main operating bases” (MOBs) -- like Ramstein, Guam in the Pacific, and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean -- which were to be expanded.
Despite the rhetoric of consolidation and closure that went with this plan, in the post-9/11 era the Pentagon has actually been expanding its base infrastructure dramatically, including dozens of major bases in every Persian Gulf country save Iran, and in several Central Asian countries critical to the war in Afghanistan. 
Hitting the Base Reset Button
Obama’s recently announced “Asia pivot” signals that East Asia will be at the center of the explosion of lily-pad bases and related developments. Already in Australia, U.S. marines are settling into a shared base in Darwin. Elsewhere, the Pentagon is pursuing plans for a drone and surveillance base in Australia’s Cocos Islands and deployments to Brisbane and Perth. In Thailand, the Pentagon has negotiated rights for new Navy port visits and a “disaster-relief hub” at U-Tapao.
In the Philippines, whose government evicted the U.S. from the massive Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base in the early 1990s, as many as 600 special forces troops have quietly been operating in the country’s south since January 2002. Last month, the two governments reached an agreement on the future U.S. use of Clark and Subic, as well as other repair and supply hubs from the Vietnam War era. In a sign of changing times, U.S. officials even signed a 2011 defense agreement with former enemy Vietnam and have begun negotiations over the Navy’s increased use of Vietnamese ports.
Elsewhere in Asia, the Pentagon has rebuilt a runway on tiny Tinian island near Guam, and it’s considering future bases in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, while pushing stronger military ties with India. Every year in the region, the military conducts around 170 military exercises and 250 port visits. On South Korea’s Jeju island, the Korean military is building a base that will be part of the U.S. missile defense system and to which U.S. forces will have regular access.
“We just can’t be in one place to do what we’ve got to do,” Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel Locklear III has said. For military planners, “what we’ve got to do” is clearly defined as isolating and (in the terminology of the Cold War) “containing” the new power in the region, China. This evidently means “peppering” new bases throughout the region, adding to the more than 200 U.S. bases that have encircled China for decades in Japan, South Korea, Guam, and Hawaii.
And Asia is just the beginning. In Africa, the Pentagon has quietly created “about a dozen air bases” for drones and surveillance since 2007. In addition to Camp Lemonnier, we know that the military has created or will soon create installations in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, South Sudan, and Uganda. The Pentagon has also investigated building bases in Algeria, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria, among other places.
Next year, a brigade-sized force of 3,000 troops, and “likely more,” will arrive for exercises and training missions across the continent. In the nearby Persian Gulf, the Navy is developing an “afloat forward-staging base,” or “mothership,” to serve as a sea-borne “lily pad” for helicopters and patrol craft, and has been involved in a massive build-up of forces in the region.
In Latin America, following the military's eviction from Panama in 1999 and Ecuador in 2009, the Pentagon has created or upgraded new bases in Aruba and Curaçao, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Peru.  Elsewhere, the Pentagon has funded the creation of military and police bases capable of hosting U.S. forces in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and even Ecuador. In 2008, the Navy reactivated its Fourth Fleet, inactive since 1950, to patrol the region. The military may want a base in Brazil and unsuccessfully tried to create bases, ostensibly for humanitarian and emergency relief, in Paraguay and Argentina.
Finally, in Europe, after arriving in the Balkans during 1990’s interventions, U.S. bases have moved eastward into some of the former Eastern Bloc states of the Soviet empire. The Pentagon is now developing installations capable of supporting rotating, brigade-sized deployments in Romania and Bulgaria, and a missile defense base and aviation facilities in Poland. Previously, the Bush administration maintained two CIA black sites (secret prisons) in Lithuania and another in Poland. Citizens of the Czech Republic rejected a planned radar base for the Pentagon’s still unproven missile defense system, and now Romania will host ground-based missiles.
A New American Way of War
A lily pad on one of the Gulf of Guinea islands of S­ão Tomé and Príncipe, off the oil-rich west coast of Africa, helps explain what’s going on. A U.S. official has described the base as “another Diego Garcia,” referring to the Indian Ocean base that’s helped ensure decades of U.S. domination over Middle Eastern energy supplies. Without the freedom to create new large bases in Africa, the Pentagon is using S­ão Tomé and a growing collection of other lily pads on the continent in an attempt to control another crucial oil-rich region.
Far beyond West Africa, the nineteenth century “Great Game” competition for Central Asia has returned with a passion -- and this time gone global.  It’s spreading to resource-rich lands in Africa, Asia, and South America, as the United States, China, Russia, and members of the European Union find themselves locked in an increasingly intense competition for economic and geopolitical supremacy.
While Beijing, in particular, has pursued this competition in a largely economic fashion, dotting the globe with strategic investments, Washington has focused relentlessly on military might as its global trump card, dotting the planet with new bases and other forms of military power. “Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations on the Eurasian mainland,” Nick Turse has written of this new twenty-first century military strategy. “Instead, think: special operations forces... proxy armies... the militarization of spying and intelligence... drone aircraft... cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarized ‘civilian’ government agencies.”
Add to this unparalleled long-range air and naval power; arms sales besting any nation on Earth; humanitarian and disaster relief missions that clearly serve military intelligence, patrol, and “hearts and minds” functions; the rotational deployment of regular U.S. forces globally; port visits and an expanding array of joint military exercises and training missions that give the U.S. military de facto “presence” worldwide and help turn foreign militaries into proxy forces.
And lots and lots of lily-pad bases.
Military planners see a future of endless small-scale interventions in which a large, geographically dispersed collection of bases will always be primed for instant operational access. With bases in as many places as possible, military planners want to be able to turn to another conveniently close country if the United States is ever prevented from using a base, as it was by Turkey prior to the invasion of Iraq. In other words, Pentagon officials dream of nearly limitless flexibility, the ability to react with remarkable rapidity to developments anywhere on Earth, and thus, something approaching total military control over the planet.
Beyond their military utility, the lily pads and other forms of power projection are also political and economic tools used to build and maintain alliances and provide privileged U.S. access to overseas markets, resources, and investment opportunities. Washington is planning to use lily-pad bases and other military projects to bind countries in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America as closely as possible to the U.S. military -- and so to continued U.S. political-economic hegemony. In short, American officials are hoping military might will entrench their influence and keep as many countries as possible within an American orbit at a time when some are asserting their independence ever more forcefully or gravitating toward China and other rising powers.
Those Dangerous Lily Pads
While relying on smaller bases may sound smarter and more cost effective than maintaining huge bases that have often caused anger in places like Okinawa and South Korea, lily pads threaten U.S. and global security in several ways:
First, the “lily pad” language can be misleading, since by design or otherwise, such installations are capable of quickly growing into bloated behemoths.
Second, despite the rhetoric about spreading democracy that still lingers in Washington, building more lily pads actually guarantees collaboration with an increasing number of despotic, corrupt, and murderous regimes.
Third, there is a well-documented pattern of damage that military facilities of various sizes inflict on local communities. Although lily pads seem to promise insulation from local opposition, over time even small bases have often led to anger and protest movements.
Finally, a proliferation of lily pads means the creeping militarization of large swaths of the globe. Like real lily pads -- which are actually aquatic weeds -- bases have a way of growing and reproducing uncontrollably. Indeed, bases tend to beget bases, creating “base races” with other nations, heightening military tensions, and discouraging diplomatic solutions to conflicts. After all, how would the United States respond if China, Russia, or Iran were to build even a single lily-pad base of its own in Mexico or the Caribbean?
For China and Russia in particular, ever more U.S. bases near their borders threaten to set off new cold wars. Most troublingly, the creation of new bases to protect against an alleged future Chinese military threat may prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: such bases in Asia are likely to create the threat they are supposedly designed to protect against, making a catastrophic war with China more, not less, likely.
Encouragingly, however, overseas bases have recently begun to generate critical scrutiny across the political spectrum from Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul to Democratic Senator Jon Tester and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. With everyone looking for ways to trim the deficit, closing overseas bases offers easy savings. Indeed, increasingly influential types are recognizing that the country simply can’t afford more than 1,000 bases abroad.
Great Britain, like empires before it, had to close most of its remaining foreign bases in the midst of an economic crisis in the 1960s and 1970s. The United States is undoubtedly headed in that direction sooner or later. The only question is whether the country will give up its bases and downsize its global mission by choice, or if it will follow Britain’s path as a fading power forced to give up its bases from a position of weakness.
Of course, the consequences of not choosing another path extend beyond economics. If the proliferation of lily pads, special operations forces, and drone wars continues, the United States is likely to be drawn into new conflicts and new wars, generating unknown forms of blowback, and untold death and destruction. In that case, we’d better prepare for a lot more incoming flights -- from the Horn of Africa to Honduras -- carrying not just amputees but caskets.

- David Vine is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 U.S. military bases located outside the United States. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Vine discusses his experiences with the Pentagon’s empire of bases, click here or download it to your iPod here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


We've not had rain here in Maine in about two weeks which is very unusual.  The temperatures have been very high and the ground is becoming hard and dusty.  I'd call it a drought.  In the next 10 days the weather forecasts predict one day of rain if we are lucky.

When we moved to Maine in 2003 I remember with great pleasure that we only had to use a fan one time our entire first summer.  Since then each summer we've had to use fans more and more often.  Now we are using fans every day and often at night.  Sometimes in the past we had to wear long pants and sweaters after sundown but not these days.

I've already written that we had virtually no snow here in Maine last winter.  Most lakes and ponds never froze enough for ice fishing.  The ski industry was hit hard.

Our right-wing Tea Party Gov. LePage (always in the news for saying stupid and cruel things) is a climate change denier.  He has yet to stick his toe into the topic of Maine setting record high temperatures this spring.  It's amazing that so many people don't want to talk about the obvious.

While walking the dog today I mentioned the heat to one neighbor.  He said he didn't care about global warming because he was going to die soon anyway.  I asked about the future generations.  He replied, "That's their problem."

It reminded me of many years ago speaking to a group of senior citizens in Florida about nuclear weapons.  Many of them had the same response - I am going to die soon so what does it matter.  People are losing their sense of responsibility to the coming generations.  The "me-me-me" centered culture in this country has broken that link between the old and the young.  Very sad indeed.

Update:  We got some much needed rain in the middle of the night.  I could hear our garden plants cheering.


Saturday, July 14, 2012


Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967)


  • U.S. weapons makers sold $60 billion worth of arms on the international market this past year, compared to just $12 billion in 2005.  So global instability pays off for the corporate mafia.  The Obama administration has made no secret of its plan to more actively promote sales of U.S. weapons internationally.  Weapons exports are encouraged both as a national security tool "to help build alliances" and as employment generators.  Obama in 2009 announced the start of a comprehensive review of the U.S. export control system, which American corporations contend is "too cumbersome and out of touch with today's globalized market."
  • Greenpeace is planning to send boats into Arctic waters off the coast of Alaska this month in order to dramatize Shell Oil's plan to drill exploratory offshore wells.  Due to global warming the Arctic ice is melting at a faster rate than expected thus making it possible for oil and natural gas extraction.  The Coast Guard has warned Greenpeace to stay away from Shell's drilling and has announced a "500-meter safety zone" around the planned operations.  Kumi Naidoo from Greenpeace has responded to threats by the Coast Guard by saying, "We have been warned there will be severe penalties but I now serve notice on Shell that we are at the point where, if needs be, we will break the injunctions and pay the price of that...We have to intensify civil disobedience."
  • While recently in Philadelphia for the national Occupy gathering I picked up a leaflet called "Reclaim the Money Power with Publicly Owned Banks."  During my April speaking tour along the west coast, in Oregon, a woman came to a couple of my talks and during the question period spoke quite eloquently about the need to take power away from Wall Street by creating state owned banks.  The Occupy Banks flyer quotes Prof. Carroll Quigley, Georgetown University, and author of Hope and Tragedy: "The powers of financial capitalism had another far reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole."  
  • As the states’ credit crisis deepens, four states have initiated bills for state-owned banks, and candidates in seven states have now included that solution in their platforms. The Bank of North Dakota, currently the nation’s only state-owned bank, is the model (with variations) for all the other proposals on the table. The Bank of North Dakota acts as a “bankers’ bank,” including doing “participation loans” with other banks, allowing them to compete with larger banks. In a participation loan, the community bank originates the loan and takes responsibility for it, while the participating bank contributes funds and shares in the risk and profits. The Bank of North Dakota also makes low-interest loans to students, farmers and businesses; underwrites municipal bonds; and serves as the state’s “Mini Fed,” providing liquidity and clearing checks for more than 100 banks around the state.


In his first major interview since he was ousted, Paraguay's former president Fernando Lugo has told RT he was forced out - after the opposition threatened widespread violence if he didn't go. Full interview at

Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar talks to RT. He believes impeachment was orchestrated from outside Paraguay for economic interests.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Dredging barge now operating just off sacred rocky coastline of Gangjeong village.  Endangered soft coral reefs are just below the surface and will surely be destroyed

We appeal to you to
Join an International Action Week For No Naval Base
2-9 September 2012

We appeal to the people of the world who are opposing warfare and are concerned with making the world peaceful and sustainable community.

Please take part in an International Solidarity Action (2-9 September 2012) during the World Conservation Congress 2012 which will be held in Jeju Island.

The 2012 World Conservation Congress, which is an environmental conference held every 4 years by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is to take place from 6-15 September in Seogwipo city, Jeju Island. Jeju Island is located in the southern part of South Korea, adjacent to China, Taiwan, and Japan.

However, in Gangjeong village, which is only 7 km far from the congress site, construction to build a massive naval base is being enforced. The total size of the naval base is 490,000 square meters and it will not only harm the environment but also ignite military tensions despite the opposition of a great number of villagers.

Gangjeong village in Jeju blessed with a natural environment should be preserved for the future of mankind.

Gangjeong village is a coastal town with a sacred environment and high value preservation not only in Jeju Island, but also in the world.

The Sea of Gangjeong village is designated as a national cultural treasure (natural memorial No. 442) by the Korean Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea and is adjacent to Beom Island, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Gangjeong village is God’s blessing natural heritage. The sea of Gangjeong is one of the major habitats of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, one of the species listed by the IUCN. It is estimated that there are only 114 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Korea.

Gangjeong village is located between the two biggest creeks in Jeju Island and has the biggest freshwater fish habitat on the island. It provides 70–80% of drinking water to southern residents in the island. As Jeju Island lacks water due to its porous basaltic land, this uncommon village is nicknamed as ‘Il-Gangjeong’ which means the best Gangjeong village. Due to this character, it has been the ‘heartland of agriculture’ from ancient times. Artifacts from prehistoric times showing the transformation of housing culture have been also discovered in Gangjeong. For such reasons, Gangjeong was appointed as a limited development district until the Jeju naval base construction plan was drafted.

Gureombi rock, located at the Jeju naval base construction site, is a broad flat rock with 1.2 km in length and 250m in width and it forms a greatly peculiar bedrock wetland where spring water comes upward. As Gureombi rock is a part of absolute preservation area by Jeju local government, it is home to the Government designated endangered species such as sesarma intermedium, small round frogs, Jeju saebaengi (native freshwater shrimp of Jeju Island), and clithon retropietus v. martens.

However, the Government is unilaterally enforcing the construction of the naval base without appropriate eval!!uation and even by easing regulations expediently or ignoring them illegally. It is clear that the naval base will not only destroy the environment of the sea of Gangjeong village, but also cause the serious destruction of the environment of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve located just 2 km away from the construction site.

There is no doubt that this construction is entirely contrary to the principals of the World Conservation Congress. The efforts of the South Korean government and Jeju local government to promote Jeju island as a world environmental city, while unilaterally enforcing the construction of the naval base, is deceiving global citizens.

Actions Suggested

1. Please choose at least one day during the International Action Week (2-9 September 2012) and organize any individual or collective actions to oppose the Jeju naval base.

1. Please inform the world that the construction of the naval base in Jeju is fully contrary to the principal of 2012 World Conservation Congress. Please make calls to the World Conservation Congress member organizations and member states to express concerns about the Jeju naval base construction.

1. Please ask the South Korean government and Jeju local government to stop building the military base, revoke the naval base project, and make Jeju Island develop intact as an island of world peace.

1. It is hypocritical for Samsung, the main contractor of the naval base project, to support financially the largest environmental event in the world. Please urge Samsung C&T and Daerim, two main contractors, to stop constructing naval base in Jeju.

1. To spread this amazing event widely, please send your endorsement (with your organization’s name) and your action plans to the Gangjeong international team ( in advance. After your actions, please kindly send your photos and videos with a simple explanation to the team as well.

1. There are many events being planned in Jeju Gangjeong village during the international action week (2-9 September 2012). If possible, please come to the village and be part of our nonviolent struggle which has continued over the last 6 years.


We greatly appreciate for your solidarity. 

The following South Korean national groups endorse the action:

  • Gangjeong Village Association
  • Jeju Pan-Island Committee for Stop of Military Base and for Realization of Peace Island (26 organizations)
  • Korea Environment NGO Network (36 Korean environmental NGOs) 
  • National Network of Korean Civil Society for Opposing to the Naval Base in Jeju Island (125 Korean civil society organizations)