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, November 23, 2013


In his book, Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism, author and scholar Henry Giroux connects the dots to prove his theory that our current system is informed by a “machinery of social and civil death” that chills “any vestige of a robust democracy.”

This week on Moyers & Company, Giroux explains that such a machine turns “people who are basically so caught up with surviving that they become like the walking dead – they lose their sense of agency, they lose their homes, they lose their jobs.”

What’s more, Giroux points out, the system that creates this vacuum has little to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. Under “casino capitalism,” the goal is to get a quick return, taking advantage of a kind of logic in which the only thing that drives us is to put as much money as we can into a slot machine and hope we walk out with our wallets overflowing.

A cultural and social critic of tireless energy and vast interests, Giroux holds the Global TV Network Chair in the English and Cultural Studies Department at McMaster University and is a distinguished visiting professor at Reyerson University, both schools in Canada.


Six folks turned up at various times yesterday during our 90 minute vigil at Bath Iron Works.  We were there when the afternoon shift knocked off and the evening shift began so we saw lots of workers drive by.

Our message was primarily about building something different at the shipyard.  BIW has been there more than 100 years and the city's whole identity is wrapped up in shipbuilding so its a hard sell.  But what we have heard from conversations with workers over the years is that as long as they have a job they wouldn't mind building rail systems or wind turbines.

The union though has got to come on board to help make that happen.  In the state of Connecticut the legislature passed a bill to create an economic conversion planning commission in their last session.  The Machinist union (IAM) strongly supported the bill understanding that there are going to be continuous cuts in military spending.  The public is tired of endless war and we can't afford it.  Getting ahead of the curve is a good idea.

So we recently had the Connecticut IAM resolution endorsing their conversion commission copied and hand-delivered to the IAM union president in Bath. 

In addition BIW management needs to buy into the idea of conversion planning.  And the city of Bath needs to make such a commitment as well.  Ideally we'd see the city create a local commission and then we'd get the state to follow suit.

In the end none of this will happen unless the public demands that the political class begin the process of converting the war machine to sustainable production.  So as activists we have to be working several levels at once: continually promoting this alternative vision; educating the public about the increased jobs we'd get by converting; bringing unions and management along; and getting local and state governments to take the issue seriously.  It's a big job and all hands on deck will be required.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Rolling Stone

On November 22nd, 1963, my uncle, president John F. Kennedy, went to Dallas intending to condemn as "nonsense" the right-wing notion that "peace is a sign of weakness." He meant to argue that the best way to demonstrate American strength was not by using destructive weapons and threats but by being a nation that "practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice," striving toward peace instead of "aggressive ambitions." Despite the Cold War rhetoric of his campaign, JFK's greatest ambition as president was to break the militaristic ideology that has dominated our country since World War II. He told his close friend Ben Bradlee that he wanted the epitaph "He kept the peace," and said to another friend, William Walton, "I am almost a 'peace at any price' president." Hugh Sidey, a journalist and friend, wrote that the governing aspect of JFK's leadership was "a total revulsion" of war. Nevertheless, as James W. Douglass argues in his book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, JFK's presidency would be a continuous struggle with his own military and intelligence agencies, which engaged in incessant schemes to trap him into escalating the Cold War into a hot one. His first major confrontation with the Pentagon, the Bay of Pigs catastrophe, came only three months into his presidency and would set the course for the next 1,000 days.

Read the rest here


  • A new ABC News/Washington Post poll reveals that public belief that the National Security Agency (NSA) unnecessarily intrudes on privacy rights has grown, but so has the sense that Edward Snowden damaged U.S. security by disclosing the spy agency’s activities.  Forty-eight percent in the poll think the NSA intrudes without justification on some Americans’ privacy rights and 42 percent think it intrudes unjustifiably on their own privacy, both up by 8 percentage points since July.  Democrats, protective of the Obama administration, are less critical of the NSA; 37 percent say it “goes too far,” for example, vs. 47 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independents. And Democrats are a broad 18 points less likely than Republicans and independents to think the NSA intrudes unjustifiably on some Americans’ privacy rights.  See the whole poll here

  • Last month, a 102-page report by Human Rights Watch concluded that US drone strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Yemen’s branch of the global terror network, had a 70 percent civilian kill rate – or in other words, seven out of every 10 of their victims were civilians. Several days earlier, a UN investigator accused the US of drastically downplaying the number of civilians killed in anti-terrorist drone operations. On the same day the Human Rights Watch report was published, Amnesty International said US officials responsible for carrying out drone strikes may be responsible for war crimes.
  • Rick Rozoff from the Chicago-based Stop NATO writes:  After the [supposed] 2014 pullout from Afghanistan, NATO is set to stage huge European war games involving 40,000 troops, about seven times the size of the recent drills in the Baltic, with critics in the crisis-hit EU calling it a waste of money. Karl Rehbaum, a former officer with the East German security services, says that “there isn’t any need to put these troops in Europe. I think they would’ve ramped up operations even if Afghanistan wasn’t coming to an end… Instead of a defensive army, they want to make an army of intervention, of aggression. NATO is responsible for three-quarters of global arms spending at a time when many of its members are flat broke.” In Berlin, for example, a group of demonstrators, known as “Mothers against War,” were downtown recently, holding banners that said “No to Intervention” – a call for Europe to stop throwing money at the military and take care of the pressing economic issues afflicting the continent on a massive scale. Rainer Rupp, a former German intelligence officer, believes that the current exercises should be examined against the background of the Afghan experience and that the upcoming games have little to do with European security or keeping everyone ready for whatever scenarios may come. There, he explains, NATO “could test its interoperability” just as well. However, now, “with NATO countries – especially the United States – leaving Afghanistan beaten like a dog with the tail between its legs, they need to project and show the world that they still have their claws sharpened.” Rupp sees the games as nothing more than “part of a continued effort of…intimidating nations that don’t follow voluntarily the US and European lead [like Russia, China, or Iran].” 
  • Syria's chemical weapons could be processed and destroyed out at sea. Four days after Albania rejected a U.S. request that it host a weapons decommissioning plant, Western diplomats and an official of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at The Hague told Reuters the OPCW was studying whether it might carry out the work at sea, on a ship or offshore rig. Much of Syria's stockpile is of bulk "precursor" materials that were stored in order to manufacture weapons at a later stage. Burning these, or neutralising them with other chemicals in a process known as hydrolysis, would produce large amounts of toxic fluids and have obvious severe environmental consequences. 
  • Global Network board convener Dave Webb (Leeds, England) also serves as the web master for our web site.  He just did some major updating of the home page and has posted his wonderful report on the recent Indore, India conference that he attended on behalf of the Global Network.  The event was initiated and organized by another of our board members J. Narayana Rao (Nagpur).  I heard the attendance was around 600 people so Dave and Rao made sure that the issues surrounding space weapons and disarmament in general were heavily covered.  You can see Dave's report here.


Walking the Walk: A March Against Drone Warfare from Caneyhead Pictures on Vimeo.

In June of 2013 a group of peace activists set out for a walk across Iowa to protest the Predator drone control center planned for the Iowa National Guard Air Base in Des Moines. Beginning at the arms depot at Rock Island Illinois and ending at the National Guard Air Base in Des Moines, the intimate journey of 25 peace pilgrims is documented in the film Walking the Walk: a March Against Drone Warfare.

For two weeks and one hundred ninety-five miles, the walkers discuss their mission, their hopes, fears and outrage. Among the walkers are a man just released from prison for attempting to deliver a letter to the commander of a drone base, a businessman who has left a lucrative career to walk and witness for peace, veterans who have witnessed war first hand and a lawyer and former government official deeply concerned with the legality of the United States' drone strike program. In discussions with locals they meet and public presentations in libraries, parks and colleges we hear the issue of armed drone strikes and assassinations discussed in all their ethical complexity.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the world-wide peace action organization Code Pink called the film "Wonderful... Fantastic... Brilliant, it gets out so much info in such a humanizing way. And so beautifully filmed."

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The Bath, Maine City Council last night voted 7-1 to give Bath Iron Works (owned by the General Dynamics Corporation) a tax break for the next 15 years.  The council approved a 15-year tax rebate for BIW that is expected to save the company about $265,000 annually for the first 10 years and an additional $212,000 annually for the following five years.  The entire tax subsidy package is estimated to come to about $3.7 million.

The vote against the tax break came from the one member of the council who tried to dramatically rein in the tax break but was unsuccessful when he proposed two amendments to further shorten the years of the tax break and the amount given by the city.

Initially the city considered a tax break for BIW that would have given them more than $6 million over a 25-year period.  But the intervention by concerned citizens successfully trimmed the request by a couple million dollars.  To the struggling city, with a population of about 8,500, that is alot of money.

About 30 people from Bath spoke up during the final public hearing before the council made its decision.  The speakers were nearly evenly split with just a couple more opposing the tax break.  Virtually all of the speakers in favor of the tax break were BIW workers/management.

The first person to speak during the public portion of the meeting was a University of Southern Maine professor of finance who lives in Bath.  The professor said she studied the city budget and "strongly recommended against" giving the corporate subsidy.  She said it "Produced a tax shift that taxpayers must pay.  It is a regressive tax.  You need to say no to this proposal."

The point was frequently made that BIW doesn't really need this tax break as they have contracts to build multi-billion dollar destroyers for the next 10 years.  (Just as the meeting began last night a story appeared at the web site of the Portland Press Herald about BIW being in the running for a $20 billion contract to build destroyers for Saudi Arabia.  This clearly indicates that the Obama administration has extracted economic rewards for the US led campaign to destabilize Syria and Iran who are long-time foes of the corrupt monarchy in Saudi Arabia.)

BIW's strategy throughout this process has been to frighten the community about the boogeyman in some other state that just might steal the shipyard away if the city faltered in the "partnership" with the corporation.

During my time to speak to the city council I told the story about the Boeing Corporation in Seattle, Washington that has similarly threatened to pull out of that community unless they got more corporate welfare.  I said:

The latest big deal everyone is talking about is Boeing in Seattle where the company is threatening to move manufacturing of their new 777X airplane to an anti-union state in the south unless they get big tax breaks from the state of Washington and major health care and pension concessions from the Machinists Union.  Union leaders were quoted as calling the deal “crap” and in recent days union members voted to reject the Boeing proposal with 67% opposed.

But the state has voted to give Boeing the largest corporate tax break in US history. The tax breaks are expected to be worth $8.7 billion and would run through 2040. Despite this record tax subsidy, Boeing still hasn’t committed to building the 777X in Washington.

And guess what….Boeing has not been paying any federal corporate taxes in recent years…  

BIW's chief council, Jon Fitzgerald, told the council, "We are gambling that we can improve our productivity, not certain that we will build the new outfitting hall.... we need this [tax break]."

Most of the city council talked about how complicated and agonizing the decision was.  I'm sure that is true because the pressure on them from the public was heavy.  None of the councilors told stories about hearing from the public who opposed the tax break.  They only shared stories about those who said, "Give BIW the break."  But in spite of that public posturing by the council they still did vote to trim BIW's request by a couple million dollars.

They really didn't want to trim the subsidy.  Bath is fundamentally a corporate colony.  They trimmed it because they heard from residents all over the city and got more than 300 emails from people around Maine that opposed the tax break (thanks to Roots Action for the help).

Key in this public uprising was the door-to-door work that we did that enabled us to reach about 90% of the homes across the city.  It's not easy in Bath to speak out against BIW but many people found a way to make their voices heard.

I concluded my remarks last night with this:

This truly is a race to the bottom of the barrel as taxpayers are being squeezed left and right.  Its no wonder when I was helping take flyers door-to-door in Bath virtually every person I spoke with opposed these tax giveaways to BIW.  I heard over and over again that people were going to have to sell their homes because they couldn’t afford to pay property taxes anymore.

Not only taxpayers get squeezed by these corporate subsidies but workers do as well.  The Boeing workers in Seattle are refusing to go along with the program.  Workers at BIW are seeing their health care being cut and continuing layoffs at the shipyard are forcing many workers to do the jobs of 2-3 others.  In order to increase profits corners get cut during production and quality and safety gets impacted.  At the same time General Dynamics profits are at record highs and top CEO compensation is larger than the municipal budget of Bath.

In the end this was a victory for the struggling citizens of Bath.  They made it happen and they should be proud that their collective voices forced a reluctant city council to make serious adjustments to BIW's tax break request.

Our local committee, called Bath Citizens for Responsible TIF Action, did a great job on this campaign.  Many of us had never worked together before but we all became friends and I would imagine we'll find other local work to focus on in the future.  One of the members last night, a former BIW worker, called for the city to establish an economic conversion commission to begin planning for a new way of providing jobs in the community.

The work goes on......

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


JFK is a 1991 American political thriller film directed by Oliver Stone. It examines the events leading to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and alleged subsequent cover-up through the eyes of former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner).

The film was adapted by Stone and Zachary Sklar from the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs. Stone described this account as a "counter-myth" to the Warren Commission's "fictional myth."


These good people are right now languishing inside the jail house on Jeju Island, South Korea.  And there are more on the way.

Their crime?  Trying to non-violently block the construction vehicles from entering the Navy base "destruction" site in Gangjeong village.  In the case of Yang Yoon-Mo he got an 18 month sentence.  And many people are being given severe fines to pay.

One activist from Hawaii, who spent considerable time in Gangjeong village in solidarity with the villagers, has reported: "There is no heat for male prisoners (I do not know about the women's section of the jail) during the frigid months of winter. The conditions are inhumane."

We can't ever forget these good people who are fighting for peace, the environment, and human rights.  See more at the official Jeju web site Save Jeju Now.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013



  • The mainstream media is promoting the inevitability of Hillary Clinton's nomination for president as representative of the Democratic Party.  The oligarchy likes Hillary knowing that she would help keep much of the left demobilized (like Obama has done) while giving Wall Street and the military industrial complex virtually everything they want.  She would also continue the austerity cuts on the poor and middle class.  I'll never forget watching Bill and Hillary on TV sitting in the front row of conservative evangelical minister Billy Graham's last big "crusade" before he retired.  He stopped in the middle of his sermon, leaned over the podium, and said, "Hillary, you are going to make a great president."  The next day I noticed that the former president Bill Clinton flew to Kennebunkport, Maine to play golf with daddy Bush.  Sort of like going to see the godfather to get his blessings. 
  • Our campaign here in Bath to oppose tax breaks for the General Dynamics Corporation (that owns Bath Iron Works - BIW) is growing as we approach the Wednesday evening city council public meeting.  We've been hearing from more and more local citizens that are contacting city councilors with their opposition to the tax break.  The public hearing begins at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, Nov 20 at city hall.  Should be very interesting to see how it all goes.
  • On Friday, November 22 Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is coming to BIW to inspect the new Zumwalt "stealth" destroyer and we will hold a vigil in front of the administration building on Washington Street from 3:00 - 4:30 pm as the workers leave for the day. 
  • Then the annual Advent Vigils for Disarmament (led by Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm), to be held in the same spot at BIW, are scheduled every Saturday from 11:30 am - 12:30 as the weekend shift leaves work. These vigils will take place November 30 and then again on December 7, 14 & 21.  Advent is a time to prepare for peace and in that spirit we hope you will join us in opposition to war and in hope for conversion of the military industrial complex to peaceful and sustainable production. It's good to remember the words of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass - "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will".  We'll never see a release from our addiction to militarism and war unless the public, the military production worker unions, courageous elements within management, and the peace movement make the conversion demand over and over again.  The politicians will then begin to hear our voices. 

Monday, November 18, 2013


Iowa Peace Network reports: Warfare being waged from our backyard in Des Moines, Iowa. This must not pass. Down the drones. Bring an end to war. Peace in the world. Folks from central Iowa, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City joined in the protest.


  • I am heading home after the weekend drone conference here in DC.  Yesterday I spoke in a workshop along with David Swanson and Clare Hanrahan who I've know since my Florida days.  Clare is doing some great organizing in the south educating people about the environmental impact of military production sites across the region.
  • During my time in the workshop I talked about how space technology coordinates all Pentagon warfare these days.  I read the words of former Air Force Maj. Gen. James Poss (he helped oversee the Predator drone's development) who told Atlantic magazine a couple of months ago that he was "tired of the fascination with the drone vehicle itself" and wants people to understand that cut off from its satellite links and its data processors the drone is basically worthless.  I ended my words with a suggestion that we call for the nationalization (take the profit out of war) and the conversion of the military industrial complex.
  • Particularly moving was the testimony of people from Pakistan and Yemen during the conference.  One woman, who comes from an oil rich region of Yemen, said the people there had never heard of Al-Quida until the US began launching drone strikes at them.  "If you are for drones then you are for terrorism," she said.  Similar remarks came from Pakistani delegates who reminded us that drone strikes actually increase militancy.  "Stop these strikes or we will never be able to have peace," one man said.  
  • Entesar al Qadhi from Yemen told the assembled at the drone summit that the US was "testing the drone technology in Yemen for use on Americans at some point."  Knowing that Congress and the Obama administration have ordered the FAA to prepare for 30,000 drones to be flying in US airspace, beginning in 2015, gives strong support to this claim.  As part of the US drone program Congress has mandated that six drone test centers be established across the nation.  Some 37 states have applied.  All six drone sites will make their own privacy rules - allowed by the FAA who doesn't want to establish a national standard.  At this point there is no federal mandate saying these domestic drones cannot be weaponized.  According to one legal expert at the conference the domestic drone program will be secret, pervasive and unchecked.  Thus the great need for local and statewide organizing against drones.
  • Clearly drones, and other robotic warfare technologies, are being created to infuse the military industrial complex with new proftis but are also a strategy to keep war going "out of site and out of mind" of an increasingly war weary public.  Anti-drone organizer Chris Coles from the UK made this point saying his government saw drones as a way to get around "a casualty averse public."
  • It appears that an international coalition against drones will be formed coming out of the summit.  I was unable to fully participate in the meeting that discussed this as my workshop was scheduled at the same time.  But I sat in for a few moments and pledged the support of the Global Network for the growing efforts to oppose drones worldwide.  It's an issue that the Global Network has worked on for many years although it is not our singular focus.  Clearly there is growing interest and organizing energy around drones and we are thrilled to see that.
  • On the subway to the airport in Washington this morning I read two important pieces in the paper about Afghanistan.  One said that despite Obama's announcement that the US would be leaving Afghanistan, his administration is signing new agreements with the government there to allow US military bases indefinitely.  The second article was a report about hospitals closing in Afghanistan for lack of funds.  Tied together these two stories reveal once again that the US never had the interests of the people of Afghanistan in mind - it's always been about establishing permanent military presence in the region for control of local resource extraction and pipeline routes for Caspian Sea oil and natural gas.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


From Moyers & Company:

Have you ever dreamed of quitting your day job to work on something you really believed in? That’s exactly what this week’s guests, Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers, did when they left their careers behind as medical doctors.

Both saw that holding political office largely depended on how much money you have, which in turn enabled injustices to be fashioned into law and public policy. Outraged and angry, they decided to stand up and take action.

“When people ask me ‘what kind of medicine are you practicing?’ I usually say, ‘I’m practicing political medicine because it’s the mother of all illnesses,’” Stein tells Bill. Flowers adds: “Once you start speaking truth to power and standing up for the right things, it’s very empowering.”

Stein and Flowers serve as the president and secretary of health, respectively, for the Green Shadow Cabinet, an organization offering alternative policies to the “dysfunctional government in Washington, DC.”

This week, Bill talks with them about their personal journeys fighting for policy change — including arrests for acts of civil disobedience — and the pressing challenges they’re focusing on, such as the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.


I have previously written about a book I highly suggest reading entitled JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died & Why It Matters. Long-time peace activist James Douglass wrote the book and worked on it for 12 years.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. You should read it, you will be shocked and moved by this story, and you will want to tell others about it.

In a few words, this book tells the story about why and how the military industrial complex (MIC) had JFK killed. This book is part history, part mystery story, and part moral lesson. James Douglass does a phenomenal job of researching and documenting the story. I’ve known Douglass for years. He was a founder of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Bangor, Washington and is a highly respected writer and Christian activist. Orbis Press, a Maryknoll enterprise, published the book. I first heard about this book when Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton mentioned it in his speech in Omaha  during our annual Global Network space conference in 2008.

JFK admittedly ran for president as a cold warrior. Most people know that. What they don’t know about JFK is how shaken he was by the whole Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We had narrowly averted war with the Soviet Union and the Pentagon was not happy about that fact. Kennedy understood afterwards that the CIA-Pentagon-MIC plan was global domination and it would likely lead to a nuclear war. Kennedy had experienced enough death (his own family history) and war (his participation in WW II) and wanted to find another way.

Early in the story Douglass points out that, “What Eisenhower in the final hours of his presidency revealed as the greatest threat to our democracy Kennedy in the midst of his presidency chose to resist. The military-industrial complex was totally dependent on a 'Pax Americana' enforced on the world by American weapons of war.”

Following the Cuban missile crisis JFK set out to do three things. First he began negotiations with the Soviet Union on a nuclear test ban treaty. Douglass reports that “The Joint Chiefs and CIA were adamantly opposed to Kennedy’s turn toward peace.”

Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev (who carried on a secret pen pal relationship for some time) eventually signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. They wanted to go much farther but there was a push back. The August 5, 1963, U.S. News & World Report carried a major article headlined, “Is the U.S. Giving up in the Arms Race?” The article cited “many authorities in the military establishment, who are now silenced,” as thinking that the Kennedy administration’s “new strategy adds up to a type of intentional and one-sided disarmament.”

At the time JFK confided “One of the ironic things about this entire situation is that Mr. Khrushchev and I occupy approximately the same political positions inside our governments. He would like to prevent a nuclear war but is under severe pressure from his hard-line crowd, which interprets every move in that direction as appeasement. I’ve got similar problems.”

Testifying against the test ban treaty US Navy Admiral Lewis Strauss said, “I am not sure that the reduction of tensions is necessarily a good thing.”

Another of JFK’s sins was to begin to open up back-door communications with Fidel Castro in Cuba. By doing this JFK wanted to reduce the chance of another severe miscalculation like that which happened during the missile crisis. After JFK’s death, Lyndon Johnson put on permanent hold any dialogue between the White House and Cuba. No president since has dared to restart serious talks with Cuba.

Kennedy’s third mistake, as seen by the MIC, was Vietnam. JFK was tortured by the early deaths of American GI’s in Vietnam. He began looking for a way out. On October 11, 1963 he signed his presidential order for an initial withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from Vietnam by the end of the year, anticipating a complete troop withdrawal by the end of 1965.

Douglass eloquently says about those troubled times, “What is unrecognized about JFK’s presidency, which then makes his assassination a false mystery, is that he was locked in a struggle with his national security state. That state had higher values than obedience to the orders of a president who wanted peace. The defeat of Communism was number one.”

Today one could substitute the word terrorism for communism and the story would remain much the same.

JFK’s Congo policy was also being subverted by the CIA, which had been arming the Congo’s secessionist regime in Katanga in order to promote Belgian mining interests.

The US coup d’etat was about corporate control. A shadow government was taking over. As evidence to that fact Douglass unearthed the words of Washington Daily News reporter Richard Starnes alarming article on the CIA’s “unrestrained thirst for power” in Vietnam. Starnes had cited a “very high American official” in Saigon who “likened the CIA’s growth to a malignancy, and added he was not sure even the White House could control it any longer.”

Douglass reports, “The consequence in the early 1960’s, when Kennedy became president, was that the CIA had placed a secret team of its own employees through the entire US government. It was accountable to no one except the CIA.”

Douglass shares the mystery part of the book by thoroughly documenting the conspiracy to convince the public that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone gunman” who killed Kennedy. In fact “Oswald was a CIA asset” first trained by the agency at Atsugi Naval Air Station near Tokyo, a plush super secret cover base for special operations.

Douglass takes the reader through the entire operation to kill Kennedy and then the brutal cover-up that followed. This is the part of the book that read like a compelling mystery story, keeping one riveted to each page. This section hit me hardest – as I found a link between me and my peace work and the assassination of JFK.

I was 11 years old when JFK was killed. I was living with my family at Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, South Dakota at the time. I was in the school lunchroom when we were informed that “our president” had been shot. I was devastated at the time. In a way my youthful innocence died right along with Kennedy that day.

In his book Douglass outlines how the CIA moved Oswald around the country in order to set up a storyline that made the case for him being JFK’s killer. Oswald had CIA handlers in New Orleans where they had him become publicly identified with a “pro-Cuba” group in order to eventually set the notion in people’s minds that Castro wanted Kennedy dead. Later Oswald was moved to Dallas where a Quaker woman by the name of Ruth Hyde Paine became his host. When I read this I nearly fell out of my chair.

I knew Ruth Hyde Paine, or at least I thought I did.

While living in Orlando, Florida in 1983 I became the first staff person for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice. The organization was actually created in 1982 as a loosely organized network of peace groups in the state and the initiating organization was the St. Petersburg, Florida office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which was based in the Quaker Meeting House. Ruth Hyde Paine was a leader of the St. Pete Friends Meeting and I had occasion to sit in peace meetings with her over the years. What could she have had to do with the assassination of JFK?

Douglass reports that the controversial Warren Commission’s star witness against Lee Harvey Oswald was Ruth Hyde Paine. Ruth Paine took Oswald’s wife into her home when they moved to Dallas. It was Ruth Paine who arranged for Oswald’s job at the Texas School Book Depository in October 1963. It was Paine’s car that was used as a get-a-way car after the deadly shots were fired. Was Ruth Hyde Paine just an innocent victim here?

Come to find out Ruth Paine’s husband Michael worked at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth, Texas. His stepfather was the inventor of the Bell Helicopter and the corporation made enormous profit selling the weapon system to the Pentagon for use during the Vietnam War. (More than 5,000 helicopters were destroyed during that war.) Michael’s mother, Ruth Forbes Paine Young, was closely connected to Allen Dulles who hated Kennedy. Dulles was appointed by Lyndon Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination. (JFK had asked CIA Director Allen Dulles to resign after the Bay of Pigs disaster. Kennedy then tried to cut the CIA budget by 20% and had threatened to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”)

Ruth Hyde Paine was the daughter of William Avery Hyde who worked for the Agency for International Development - a known CIA front-organization. Right after Kennedy’s death William Hyde received a three-year government contract with AID in Latin America to promote the US insurance industry. Ruth’s younger sister also worked for the CIA.

Assassins in Dallas, Texas killed JFK on November 22, 1963. At the very moment Fidel Castro was having lunch with JFK’s secret emissary, Jean Daniel, in Varadero Beach, Cuba. Douglass reports that when they received news of Kennedy’s death Castro said, “Everything is changed. Everything is going to change.”

Just months before JFK had delivered the commencement speech at American University in Washington DC. The speech was hardly reported in the U.S. In it Kennedy said, “Some say that it is useless to speak of world peace or world law or world disarmament – and that it will be useless until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes – as individuals and as a Nation – for our attitude is as essential as theirs. And every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward – by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.”

Douglass concludes that JFK had a conversion. He had turned away from the Cold War. The MIC came to the conclusion that Kennedy had betrayed the goals of empire. He had become a traitor. He had to be killed.

Rejecting the goal of a “Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war,” Kennedy asked the nation in his American University speech to reexamine our attitudes toward war, especially in relation to the people of the Soviet Union, who suffered incomparable losses in World War II. Now nuclear war would be far worse: “All we built, all we worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours.” Douglass reminds us that then Kennedy called for “general and complete disarmament.”

His fate was sealed.

Near the end of the book Douglass reports that former President Harry Truman had an article published in the Washington Post on December 22, 1963, one month to the day after JFK was killed. Truman wrote:

“I think it has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency - CIA…..

“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

“We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”

Douglass writes that Truman’s warning was met with total silence. The coup d’etat had happened. There was no turning back for those now running the nation. Eisenhower’s, and now Truman’s warning to the American people seemed to fall on deaf ears.

It is my belief that since the JFK assassination the secret government, the CIA and the MIC, have been running the show. They have not allowed anyone to become president, from either party, that was not under their control.

This remarkable and moving book raises serious questions about the time we live in today. How do people of good will who truly seek peace operate when we live under a government that is run by the MIC? How can we support candidates for Congress or the president who are under the control of the oligarchy?

To me these are the real questions that must be debated and be answered if we are to re-establish the idea of democracy in America. As long as we delay having this discussion we will remain like a small boat drifting aimlessly at sea.