Organizing Notes

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

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

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

Friday, June 08, 2012


Fascinating interview with Ray McGovern, former CIA intelligence officer about reasons behind Israel's attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967.

I learned alot listening to this video.


Sung-Hee Choi reports from Gangjeong village on Jeju Island:
[June 8] On the 2nd fierce day of struggle, clear oppression was held on religious events. Lots of police violence, a woman was carried to hospital then arrested. Eight people including two Catholic priests and two Protestant pastors were arrested. Many people were beat and injured including an arrested Catholic priest.  Forth caisson was put on the sea.

The village siren rang again around 1pm. Catholic priests, interrupted of their Catholic mass, started to stop construction (destruction) trucks. Fr. Mun Jeong-Hyeon lying again underneath a truck, Fr. Lee Young-Chan and Fr. Kim Seong-Hwan climbing onto the cement mixer trucks. Fr. Lee Young-Chan was soon arrested.

Meanwhile whenever people tried to stop other trucks, police’s brutal dealing of people was constant on the day. When two young woman activists stopped trucks, one of them entering underneath a truck, the police soon arrested her. The other young woman activist fell down when a police snatched her hair and severely pushed her back to the ground. She lost her consciousness so an emergency ambulance was called. However, as it was clear for people that the police wanted to arrest her, the people fought with the police. People carried her to their car, protecting her from the touch of police,
but the police eventually arrested her in the hospital after medical investigation (around 6pm). She was released from the police station around 9 pm, probably because of her weak health and the police being afraid of public opinion.
The police arrested Fr. Kim Seong-Hwan on a top of cement mixer truck by moving police bus close to the truck. They violently dragged him from the truck, making him severely injured on back .

The police also arrested two Protestant reverends violently. A young pastor fell on the ground and hit by a policeman, with his pants partially taken off from them.

Before that, the police had been violently interrupting a Protestant mass that was held in front of the naval base project building complex, moving pastors’ altar and cross etc.
The elderly villager who is one of advisory board members of the village and a former city council member was shocked by the police behavior. The police showing no respect to him arrested him under the false charge that he hit the policemen. It was not only him. Many villagers were brutally hit by the policemen yesterday.
Long day ended again. But we don’t know what will be today. With the government forcefully enforcing the naval base in the village, conspiring to make the whole village disappearing on the map with its attempt to designate military restriction zone in the village, people’s fiercer struggle is going on.

Please help us who are desperate.

Please refer to take action sections in our weekly newsletter and take some actions.


Local events are encouraged during Keep Space for Peace Week - October 6-13.  Help expand the public consciousness about how space is becoming increasingly militarized.  Satellites are the triggers that enable drones to fire their "Hellfire" missiles.  Satellites spy on us.  Military satellites make "Cyber warfare" possible.

When the Pentagon unleashed "shock and awe" upon Iraq in 2003, in the initial attack 70% of U.S. weapons were guided to their targets by military satellites.

The Pentagon brags that military satellites "enable the war fighter".  Enable is putting it mildly.

You can get a better look at the poster here


In Greece, the terrible state of the economy is stirring up the political scene.

A televised debate involving politicians from the far-right and left turned violent when a ultra-rightist Golden Dawn spokesman attacked another debater.

Big tough guys show they can beat up women and immigrants.  Bully boys.  We've got a bunch of them here in the U.S. too.


Secretary of Endless War Leon Panetta grits his teeth and threatens Pakistan.  What's next?  A full-blown U.S. invasion and occupation of Pakistan?

Keep looking at the map and the proposed pipeline routes in Central Asia.

The more enemies the U.S. makes in the region, the longer the Pentagon can make the case that they have to stay to bring "peace and stability".

I had a call early this morning from a radio station in South Africa that wanted to do an interview with me about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.  They called back around noon and we talked for 15 minutes.  They asked what the American people knew and thought about the Pentagon and CIA drone operations.  Sadly I had to report to them that recent polls show that high percentages of U.S. citizens support Obama's drone attacks because they see them as a way to "save American soldiers lives" in the war zone. 

In fact a vast majority of "liberal Democrats" support these drone strikes because their party holds the White House.  I can guarantee that if George W. Bush was still president, or if it was Mitt Romney in the White House, these liberals would be in the streets protesting drone attacks.  Hypocrisy to the max!

Thursday, June 07, 2012


The award-winning new documentary, "Five Broken Cameras," tells the story of a Palestinian farmer who got a video camera to record his son’s childhood, but ended up documenting the growth of the resistance movement to the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in. The film shows the nonviolent tactics used by residents of Bil’in as they join with international and Israeli activists to protest the wall’s construction and confront Israeli soldiers. Democracy Now speaks with the film’s directors, Emad Burnat, a Palestinian, and Guy Davidi, an Israeli.

Bil'in or Gangjeong village on Jeju Island.  It's a similar story.  Power, greed, corruption, militarism stealing the land from innocent villagers.  One of the most important things anyone can do with their life is to actively support such villagers in their epic struggle to hold onto their land and their culture.  I'm not talking about doing something for a day or a week and then moving on like so many activists do.  I am talking about making a real commitment to such a village and standing with them long term - no matter where you live.  That is real solidarity.


  • All the celebration of the Queen of England's 60 year reign of terror is enough to make one sick.  It's particularly sad to see the media in the U.S. going ape shit over the queen considering that this country was supposedly founded in opposition to the monarchy.  What a waste of money the monarchy is and a terrible distraction from building a real democracy that is controlled from below rather from the top.  The queen has spent the last 60 years promoting war to benefit the global oligarchy.  Enough already.

  • The Pentagon's plan to surround China continues at an accelerating pace.  Last month, U.S. Marines rebuilt and restored the 8,000-foot runway at the abandoned North Field air base on the island of Tinian and subsequently engaged in a military exercise in coordination with nearby U.S. forces based in Guam. Incidentally, the Tinian airbase is where the B-29s that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki took off from in 1945.

  • On Saturday we have our next meeting of the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home.  It will be held in Augusta from 1-4 pm.  It's an important meeting for us as we see efforts growing by both political parties in Washington to resist cuts in Pentagon spending.  All the doors to traditional activist reform are being slammed shut in our faces both in Washington and in our state capitals.  We've got to talk more with each other locally about how to deal with this arterial blockage of democracy.  


Another project I am working on locally is to organize a public showing of this film.  We are doing this on behalf of Maine Veterans for Peace and PeaceWorks will join as a co-sponsor.

This award-winning film will be shown at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick on Thursday, August 2 at 7:00 pm.

You won't want to miss it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


BBC documentary looking into the extent of poverty in America that has grown out of control to become an issue that U.S political parties blame each other for, rather than providing solutions. 40 million Americans are classified as being in poverty.

It would have been nice if this piece had mentioned Obama's war spending as an example of misplaced priorities.  The more than $10 billion spent every month in Afghanistan would go a long way to help folks back home who don't have the money for food, health care, or a place to sleep at night.  Otherwise it is an excellent documentary and I appreciate the outrage that you hear in the voice of the reporter.


Will Julian Assange's show make the Guinness Book of Records? Quite likely, especially if you think of all the people interrogated over their ties with the whistleblower before or after they talked to the WikiLeaks founder.

­"The FBI is apparently collecting evidence to indict Julian Assange before a grand jury. Sweden must not be the final destination of the designed extradition," sources close to the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange told RT.


Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in China to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Summit. It is the first time an Afghan leader attends this annual event, designed to be a counterweight to Western influence in the region.

China and the other Central Asian leaders have expressed concerns over the security vaccuum that will be created by the departure of Western forces in 2014.

Having watched NATO sustain a war that has cost billions of dollars and lasted more than a decade, China and Russia are aware of the dangers of becoming too involved on Afghan soil.

But since China is eager to maintain good ties with Afghanistan, whose territory contains an estimated 1 trillion dollars in minerals, the country will likely be made a regular guest to this annual summit.


What to do now?

Yesterday's recall election in Wisconsin, which returns Republican Gov. Scott Walker to power, will embolden the right-wing across the nation.  The Democratic Party candidate, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, ran a weak campaign in what was a rematch of their 2010 race for the governor seat.  The outcome this time was nearly identical to the 2010 election as Walker again won with about a 7% margin.

Walker outspent Barrett 7-1 as big corporate money flowed into the state - more than $63 million was spent on the campaign.  The Republicans recognized that they had to defend their attacks on unions, voting rights, and social programs at all costs.  Republican leaders are already spinning the Wisconsin victory as evidence that voters nationally support these attacks.

In some respects it is true that large numbers of citizens do support these attacks on social progress.  My take on it is heavily influenced by the June 3 post below by philosopher Slavoj Zizek about Greece.  In the post he talks about how a small neo-fascist movement has been beating up immigrants who are being blamed for Greek economic woes.  Zizek fears that this blaming mood will spread throughout Europe.

The Wisconsin victory for Walker largely came from the suburbs and the rural parts of the state - mostly white people.  In many of Walker's TV commercials he kept reminding voters that his opponent Barrett was the mayor of "Milwaukee".  There was a hidden message there.  'Milwaukee means unions, blacks, and Hispanics.  They are the reason the economy is a mess.  Union wages and social programs.  If we just get rid of all that things will return to normal here in Wisconsin.'

The right-wing is good at divide and conquer.  They know they have to keep public focus off the corporate domination by the 1%.  So their strategy is to blame the poor and people of color.  Just like immigrants are being blamed across Europe for the ills of capitalism.

The U.S. has the highest income inequality of all the advanced industrial countries in the world.  Thirty-eight percent of African-American children and 35% of Hispanic children live in poverty today.

The Republicans knew their victory in Wisconsin would be ensured by suppressing the vote of these marginalized people.  So they took steps to try to restrict the rules for voting as well as taking steps to discourage voters.  Right-wing Robo calls went out across the state prior to the election telling voters that if they had signed the recall petition then they did not have to go vote.  As people in the cities were still in line after the polls had "officially" closed, conservative TV stations asked some voters why they were still on line to vote when NBC News had already called the election in favor of Walker.

The attacks on the 99% will continue but sadly some people within the working class still harbor hopes they will "win the lottery" and make it to the top.  I read this morning that 36% of union families voted for Walker which meant voting against their own interests.  The corporate colonization of the minds of many within the working class continues to be strong.

The organizing strategy now has to be to concentrate on our local communities - our neighborhoods - to help people break free of this corporate mind colonization.  This will only happen when we help people find a way to clearly see the writing on the wall.  We have to drive a stake through the heart of the "success mythology" which says that if you keep your nose to the grindstone and don't rock the boat you too can strike it rich.

The right-wing victory in Wisconsin largely resulted because legions of people still believe that the Republicans offer the best vision for the future.  Capitalism will offer you a chance to be a success.  What vision does the left offer?

It's evident that the Democrats keep entering the electoral ring with one arm tied behind their backs.  In many respects the Democrats are captives of the corporate system that their constituency is trying to challenge.  Democrats won't take on the issue of endless war and its implications on our economy.  They won't call for the conversion of the military industrial complex which would create millions of new jobs in home weatherization, building solar, building a national rail system, in education and health care and more.  That is an alternative jobs vision that would attract support and would directly challenge the agenda of the right-wing.

Some might argue that military spending and economic conversion are not state and local issues.  But I would make the opposite case.  Most acknowledge that our national fiscal crisis has been caused by endless war spending and tax cuts for the rich.  Thus many programs have been dumped on the state and local governments who can't handle these responsibilities due to their own budget problems.  So cutting Pentagon spending and creating local jobs doing good things will in fact help each state economy.  Therefore local and state elected officials must be be talking about these issues as key elements in a sane economic plan.

The electoral arena will offer very limited results as long as the weak-kneed corporate linked Democrats remain our flag carriers.

Our survival will come by connecting the dots and recreating the picture on the wall so that our neighbors can find new vision and new hope to rally around.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Last weekend Veterans for Peace held a meeting at our house in Bath to begin organizing a protest.  The A.F. Thunderbirds flight team will "perform" on Aug 25-26 at the recently closed Brunswick Naval Air Station (now called Brunswick Landing) in another air show.  I have volunteered to coordinate the organizing.
We believe these air shows are essentially military recruiting exercises and promotional events for the "privatization" of Brunswick Landing.  The folks who run the Brunswick Landing would be thrilled to bring a military aerospace contractor (to make drones or other war machines) to this facility.  Thousands of people, particularly young children, will be brought to the air show. 

Our theme for the protest will be Stop Recruiting Our Children for War.  Sub-themes include:  War is not a family value; Air shows - Expensive, Polluting, Propaganda, Idolatry, False Patriotism, Glorify War, Violent Entertainment.

F-16's are fighter planes that have been used in every U.S. and NATO war since 1976.  The photo above is from the U.S. attacks on Iraq.

You can watch a short video about T-bird pilot who bakes cookies with his children here
On Saturday, Aug 25 we will gather in Brunswick by Bowdoin College at the Joshua Chamberlain statue on Main Street at 9:00 am.  From there we will walk along Bath Road to Brunswick Landing, arriving by 9:30 am.  (Those who cannot walk are asked to meet us at the front gate of the former Navy base at 9:30 am.)  We will vigil on both sides of Bath Road as the tens of thousands of cars "scream" into the base.  We urge people to make signs/banners using the themes above.  At noon we will gather for a closing circle.
The planning committee will meet again on Saturday, June 16 at 1:00 pm at the Addams-Melman House (212 Centre St) in Bath to continue work on this important protest.  All are invited. 

Protest sponsors now include Maine Veterans for Peace,  CodePink Maine, Maine Green Independent Party, Peace Action Maine, Pax Christi Maine, Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Maine Chapter, and the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.
Veterans for Peace is particularly motivated to organize this protest because this air show was something that burned our recently departed member/leader Tom Sturtevant deeply.  Last year he took charge of organizing the air show protest.  He was most concerned about the event as a military recruiting "gimmick" in addition to the enormous cost in tax dollars and to the environment.


We've had what seems like an eternity of rain here in Maine.

Since we are on the coast there are many unused boats around so few are talking about the need to build an arc.  But the rising rivers and flooded streets are forcing us to think more about Noah and the need to climb into those boats.

Our record setting rainfall, 8 inches in the last three days, is twice as much rain as we normally get in June. 

My vegetable farmer friend Richard Rhames from Biddeford, Maine has been saying for a couple years that under climate change some places will be dryer and some wetter.  He predicted Maine would be wetter.  It looks so far like he is right about that.

Joke of the day:  When the U.S. attacks China who is going to make the "Support Our Troops" magnets people put on their cars? Bah-boom!

Monday, June 04, 2012


U.S. Secretary of War Leon Panetta is making a tour of the Asia-Pacific where he is pumping up the next military conflict.  Yesterday I heard he was in Vietnam trying to close a deal to allow the U.S. Navy to once again have access to the base at Cam Ranh Bay.

Before leaving on this trip Panetta made the speaking rounds back home to consolidate U.S. media and build public support for Obama's "pivot" into the Asia-Pacific.  "One of the key projects that your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing American strength across the great maritime region of the Pacific," he told graduates of U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland last week.

"China's military is growing and modernizing.  We must be vigilant.  We must be strong.  We must be prepared to confront any challenge," Panetta said.

While in Singapore Panetta stated, "By 2020, the Navy will re-posture its forces from today's roughly 50/50 percent split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about a 60/40 split between those oceans.  That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and project power and operate in the Asia-Pacific."

He told an audience of Asian military officials that the U.S. planned new investments in capabilities needed "to project power and operate in the Asia-Pacific," including radar-evading fighter jets, a new long-distance bomber, electronic warfare and missile defenses.  The message to them is essentially - play along with us and we will share a piece of the action with you.

The Pentagon has a name for this new strategy - its called the AirSea Battle fighting "concept".

This strategy is of course the primary reason that the South Korean Navy, at the behest of the Pentagon,  is building the Navy base on Jeju Island.  The U.S. Navy needs more ports to dock their warships.

Not everyone though is getting on-board this dangerous, provocative, and expensive Obama plan. "AirSea Battle is demonizing China," retired Gen. James Cartwright, former vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said last week. "That's not in anybody's interest."

While Panetta was speaking at the U.S. Naval Academy, Obama was at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado (also home of the Air Force Space Command).  He was explaining the "pivot" to the future leaders of the Air Force.

V-P Joseph Biden got the West Point gig and he told the Army cadets that the U.S. would now "rebalance" its foreign policy with greater emphasis on the Asia-Pacific.

The Obama team is making the rounds to sell this new policy.  They know the American people are "war weary" so they must begin to create the fear of a growing new threat in the Asia-Pacific - namely China.

Panetta put the name to it when he spoke to the Naval cadets in Annapolis.  He called this new mission a "great challenge" and a "security burden to advance peace".

It's the old white man's burden stuff once again.  American exceptionalism to the rescue.


Sunday, June 03, 2012


Save us from the saviours

Slavoj Žižek on Europe and the Greeks

Imagine a scene from a dystopian movie that depicts our society in the near future. Uniformed guards patrol half-empty downtown streets at night, on the prowl for immigrants, criminals and vagrants. Those they find are brutalised. What seems like a fanciful Hollywood image is a reality in today’s Greece. At night, black-shirted vigilantes from the Holocaust-denying neo-fascist Golden Dawn movement – which won 7 per cent of the vote in the last round of elections, and had the support, it’s said, of 50 per cent of the Athenian police – have been patrolling the street and beating up all the immigrants they can find: Afghans, Pakistanis, Algerians. So this is how Europe is defended in the spring of 2012.

The trouble with defending European civilisation against the immigrant threat is that the ferocity of the defence is more of a threat to ‘civilisation’ than any number of Muslims. With friendly defenders like this, Europe needs no enemies. A hundred years ago, G.K. Chesterton articulated the deadlock in which critics of religion find themselves: ‘Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church … The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them.’ Many liberal warriors are so eager to fight anti-democratic fundamentalism that they end up dispensing with freedom and democracy if only they may fight terror. If the ‘terrorists’ are ready to wreck this world for love of another, our warriors against terror are ready to wreck democracy out of hatred for the Muslim other. Some of them love human dignity so much that they are ready to legalise torture to defend it. It’s an inversion of the process by which fanatical defenders of religion start out by attacking contemporary secular culture and end up sacrificing their own religious credentials in their eagerness to eradicate the aspects of secularism they hate.

But Greece’s anti-immigrant defenders aren’t the principal danger: they are just a by-product of the true threat, the politics of austerity that have caused Greece’s predicament. The next round of Greek elections will be held on 17 June. The European establishment warns us that these elections are crucial: not only the fate of Greece, but maybe the fate of the whole of Europe is in the balance. One outcome – the right one, they argue – would allow the painful but necessary process of recovery through austerity to continue. The alternative – if the ‘extreme leftist’ Syriza party wins – would be a vote for chaos, the end of the (European) world as we know it.

The prophets of doom are right, but not in the way they intend. Critics of our current democratic arrangements complain that elections don’t offer a true choice: what we get instead is the choice between a centre-right and a centre-left party whose programmes are almost indistinguishable. On 17 June, there will be a real choice: the establishment (New Democracy and Pasok) on one side, Syriza on the other. And, as is usually the case when a real choice is on offer, the establishment is in a panic: chaos, poverty and violence will follow, they say, if the wrong choice is made. The mere possibility of a Syriza victory is said to have sent ripples of fear through global markets. Ideological prosopopoeia has its day: markets talk as if they were persons, expressing their ‘worry’ at what will happen if the elections fail to produce a government with a mandate to persist with the EU-IMF programme of fiscal austerity and structural reform. The citizens of Greece have no time to worry about these prospects: they have enough to worry about in their everyday lives, which are becoming miserable to a degree unseen in Europe for decades.

Such predictions are self-fulfilling, causing panic and thus bringing about the very eventualities they warn against. If Syriza wins, the European establishment will hope that we learn the hard way what happens when an attempt is made to interrupt the vicious cycle of mutual complicity between Brussels’s technocracy and anti-immigrant populism. This is why Alexis Tsipras, Syriza’s leader, made clear in a recent interview that his first priority, should Syriza win, will be to counteract panic: ‘People will conquer fear. They will not succumb; they will not be blackmailed.’ Syriza have an almost impossible task. Theirs is not the voice of extreme left ‘madness’, but of reason speaking out against the madness of market ideology. In their readiness to take over, they have banished the left’s fear of taking power; they have the courage to clear up the mess created by others. They will need to exercise a formidable combination of principle and pragmatism, of democratic commitment and a readiness to act quickly and decisively where needed. If they are to have even a minimal chance of success, they will need an all-European display of solidarity: not only decent treatment on the part of every other European country, but also more creative ideas, like the promotion of solidarity tourism this summer.

In his Notes towards the Definition of Culture, T.S. Eliot remarked that there are moments when the only choice is between heresy and non-belief – i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform a sectarian split. This is the position in Europe today. Only a new ‘heresy’ – represented at this moment by Syriza – can save what is worth saving of the European legacy: democracy, trust in people, egalitarian solidarity etc. The Europe we will end up with if Syriza is outmanoeuvred is a ‘Europe with Asian values’ – which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia, but everything to do with the tendency of contemporary capitalism to suspend democracy.

Here is the paradox that sustains the ‘free vote’ in democratic societies: one is free to choose on condition that one makes the right choice. This is why, when the wrong choice is made (as it was when Ireland rejected the EU constitution), the choice is treated as a mistake, and the establishment immediately demands that the ‘democratic’ process be repeated in order that the mistake may be corrected. When George Papandreou, then Greek prime minister, proposed a referendum on the eurozone bailout deal at the end of last year, the referendum itself was rejected as a false choice.

There are two main stories about the Greek crisis in the media: the German-European story (the Greeks are irresponsible, lazy, free-spending, tax-dodging etc, and have to be brought under control and taught financial discipline) and the Greek story (our national sovereignty is threatened by the neoliberal technocracy imposed by Brussels). When it became impossible to ignore the plight of the Greek people, a third story emerged: the Greeks are now presented as humanitarian victims in need of help, as if a war or natural catastrophe had hit the country. While all three stories are false, the third is arguably the most disgusting. The Greeks are not passive victims: they are at war with the European economic establishment, and what they need is solidarity in their struggle, because it is our struggle too.

Greece is not an exception. It is one of the main testing grounds for a new socio-economic model of potentially unlimited application: a depoliticised technocracy in which bankers and other experts are allowed to demolish democracy. By saving Greece from its so-called saviours, we also save Europe itself.


While on my west coast speaking tour in April I was often asked if I had seen the documentary Thrive yet.  I had not.  Last night I finally watched it and highly recommend that you do the same.  This trailer gives just a bit of the taste.

This film connects all the dots concerning corporate control of the planet and you will surely learn something from it.  You can watch it online and it now comes in 10 languages.

To watch the film click here