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 24, 2018

Remembrance Day in London

On the 100th anniversary of the end of the 1st World War, Veterans for Peace bring together English, German, French, American and Israeli veterans at the Cenotaph under the banner "NEVER AGAIN".

US Leads, But No One Follows

Lost in the Memory Palace:
US Leads, But No One Follows

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

You would hardly know it from reading the U.S. press, but a summit of considerable significance took place late last month. German, French, Russian, and Turkish leaders convened in Istanbul Oct. 27 to create a comprehensive plan to end the seven-year war in Syria. On the agenda: increase humanitarian aid, rebuild ruined towns and cities, assist returning refugees, draft a new constitution and arrange internationally supervised elections. All this will take time, but the Syria story is evolving from one of conflict to one of reconciliation and reconstruction.

Two features of the summit deserve special note.

The four nations are not all fast friends, to put it mildly. But they drew together to find common interests in resolving what may count as the worst crisis since the Cold War’s end. Second, there was a conspicuous absence at the Istanbul gathering: the United States. Despite its prominent role in the Syrian conflict for at least the past six years, if not longer, the United States wanted no part of a many-sided summit dedicated to resolving it via negotiation.

A matter of days later came the Trump administration’s sweeping new sanctions against Iran, planned for many months and put into force at midnight on Nov. 4.

Never mind Washington’s adversaries: Even its traditional allies in Europe are resisting the United States.  This new round of sanctions rank among the stupidest foreign policy moves of Trump’s two years in office. Two others were withdrawing from the climate pact in June 2017 and  unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital six months later.

Three Things Now Clear

At this point, three things are clear about the Trump administration’s approach to global affairs.

No. 1: Team Trump’s foreign policies are easily the most incoherent of any administration in recent memory. The United States does or does not want to settle the Korean question. It does or does not have an even-handed plan for peace in the Mideast. It has or has not abandoned its campaign to depose the Assad government in Damascus. What appears so on Monday appears otherwise by midweek.

No 2: Time and again, this administration overplays its hand. In case after case it acts on its own, expecting other nations to follow, only to discover that few or none do. Since Trump took office, misjudging U.S. prerogatives may be among the only consistent feature of his foreign policy.

No. 3: “America First” begins to shape up as “America Last” on the foreign policy side. We are a long way from “the indispensable nation,” the phrase that Madeleine Albright used for the United States during her time as secretary of state in the Clinton administration.  Two years into Trump’s presidency, Albright’s assertion—which was never more than U.S. hubris at its purest—looks like it might be headed to a museum.

This is not solely due to incompetence in the Trump White House, although this is considerable. The United States has been unable to find its place in a swiftly changing world order at least since the George W. Bush administration. It has consistently mishandled relations with China and Russia from one administration to the next, to take two prominent examples: trans–Atlantic ties with longtime allies (who too often behave like vassals) have deteriorated steadily for years due to Washington’s misjudgments.

The Trump administration’s confusion merely makes the gravity of our moment more difficult to deny: Absent last century’s simplicities—chief among them the binary East-West division—the United States is losing its grip on leading.  

Talk of Withdrawal

There is much talk in Washington these days of a U.S. withdrawal from global affairs. Ivo Daalder, a former ambassador to NATO and now president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, recently co-authored a book, with James Lindsay, called “The Empty Throne: America’s Abdication of Global Leadership.” It is a long lament about what its title suggests: the United States is surrendering—supposedly—its position as No. 1 among nations.

This is a misreading, perfectly upside down from reality. The United States is not surrendering anything. That is precisely the problem. It refuses to give up its long-asserted right to act unilaterally on the assumption other nations will either fall in line or silently acquiesce.

At the same time, Washington declines to participate in multilateral efforts to resolve wars, competing political or territorial claims, and other such problems via diplomatic negotiation, often with adversaries. This helps explain why the Trump administration repudiated the Paris climate pact and then the accord governing Iran’s nuclear programs: Both implicitly demonstrate that multipolarity is an inevitable 21st Century reality.

Daalder acknowledged this during a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, even if he seemed not to have grasped his own lesson. “As the U.S. withdraws,” he said, “it’s not involved in building coalitions bringing people together to deal with global challenges, people are going to turn to others.”

The Istanbul summit on Syria is an excellent case in point. The United States should have been there. South Korea is another. While President Moon Jae-in has to manage Seoul’s traditional ties to Washington delicately, he has unmistakably seized the lead in Northeast Asia and repeatedly signals that he remains committed to a settlement with the North—ultimately with or without U.S. cooperation.

Nostalgia is part of the problem. The world turns, and Washington is lost in a kind of memory palace, where it nurses the desire to prolong those decades of unchallenged primacy that it enjoyed after World War II. It refuses to accept there is no turning back the clock. While it wants to play “follow the leader” other nations drop out of the game.

Vigorous, nearly universal opposition to the new sanctions against Iran, Seoul’s determination to press on toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, the summit on Syria in Istanbul: They all make the same point. Washington must abandon its Wilsonian ambition to shape the world in its own image if it is to remain an effective power—as it can and should—in the new global order. The new Iran sanctions already appear to be a turning point in this respect: Donald Trump’s Washington thought it could lead, but virtually no one is following.

There is no “abdication” and no new isolationist era in the offing. But until the U.S. accepts the new norms of statecraft in a world of rising powers, we will watch as other nations withdraw from America—a very different thing.

~ Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author, and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century (Yale). Follow him @thefloutist. His web site is

Friday, November 23, 2018

Latest edition of Space Alert!

Our latest edition of Space Alert! is now at the printer and should be in the mail soon.

If you are not on our mailing list and want a copy sent to you in the post just drop us a line with your street address at and we will send you one.

We are also happy to send you multiple copies in the mail to share with others.  All we ask is a donation of your choosing to help cover the postage.

You can also see the newsletter online at our web site here


Stop the war in Yemen!

As many as 85,000 children have starved to death in Yemen, according to Save the Children with the charity warning that up to 14 million people are at risk of famine if a ruinous war does not end soon.

Since 2015, when the fighting first broke out the group has estimated that at least 84,700 children under the age of five may have died from malnutrition. That is the equivalent of every child in Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest city, the group added.

The devastating statistic came as fighting flared in the Red Sea city of Hodeidah, the frontline of the latest battle, where food prices had soared by at least 400 per cent, according to local residents.
Only two hospitals are now working in the port town, both of which are dangerously close to the front line.

“For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen director.

Pentagon Fuels Yemen War

US Air Force tankers have unloaded 95 million pounds of fuel into the gas tanks of jets flying near the Horn of Africa, including Saudi coalition jets conducting bombing raids over Yemen, during more than 12,000 refueling missions since 2015, according to newly released data. reports that as of August 31, US tankers like the KC-135 Stratotanker had dropped off incredible sums of fuel to other aircraft, citing data from US Central Command officials. An unknown — but likely high — number of recipient aircraft have been Saudi coalition jets bombing the Houthi Shia militia forces in Yemen.

Yemen’s Ministry of Education, based in Sanaa, estimates that the Saudi-led coalition has destroyed at least 3,000 schools and partially damaged 1,300 others. Yemen once boasted 9,517 primary schools and 2,811 high schools. Today, the inability to pay teachers and staff combined with the systematic destruction of Yemen’s civilian infrastructure may lead to the shutdown of the country’s remaining schools.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

More Ray on Thanksgiving Day

Solidarity from Jeju Island

This video gives an update on the resistance to the Navy Fleet Review which was held October 10-14 in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea.

It is particularly directed to the friends around the world who fight against military bases and militarism, especially including those who gathered at the first International Conference against US/NATO Military Bases on November 16-18, at the Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland.

No naval base!

Protect the sea life!

No war in the Asia-Pacific!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Will the Dems get real on climate?

Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement talks about why hundreds of activists occupied Nancy Pelosi's offices demanding a Green New Deal and an end to fossil fuel contributions to the Democratic Party.

Good to see these young folks taking action.  Wish they'd figure out the Pentagon impact on climate change too.

See Jimmy Dore's take on this event here


Pentagon fails audit - billion$ missing

The Watson Institute at Brown University (Rhode Island) released its report 'Costs of War,' revealing the astronomical sum of $5.9 trillion and well over 500,000 killed due to the never-ending so-called war on terror.

This new report takes into account not only Department of Defense spending, but spending by the departments of state, veterans affairs and homeland security as well as the cost of interest paid to date on the money the U.S. has borrowed to pay for the wars.

These areas of spending are not included in the Pentagon accounting of war costs, the researchers say, so many of the wars’ budgetary burdens, from the cost of providing medical care and disability payments to veterans to the cost of missions related to preventing and responding to terrorist threats, go unacknowledged in Pentagon estimates.

The report was published on the heels of the news that the Pentagon failed its first and only audit.

“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters, adding that the findings showed the need for greater discipline in financial matters within the Pentagon.

“It was an audit on a $2.7 trillion dollar organization, so the fact that we did the audit is substantial,” Shanahan added.

The U.S. war budget for the 2018 fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 was over $700 billion.

The Pentagon has never been interested in real fiscal oversight - there is virtually none in Washington.  How could we ever forget the pallets of shrink wrapped $100 bills given to commanders to hand out to Iraqi soldiers to get them to sit out the resistance to US occupation?  How many of those US field commanders stuffed the $$$ into duffel bags and carried them back home?  Some reportedly bought new trucks and houses with the hard earned tax dollars of people who were working 2-3 jobs back in the US.  The irony is these thieves are called 'heroes' for their 'service' in Iraq.

The entire war machine is one big criminal enterprise - being run by some of the most corrupt people in the world. Lucky for them they have one hell of an expensive Madison Avenue public relations campaign that keeps the American people fooled by hollow patriotism and a sense of exceptionalism based on distorted history and religious dogma.

We are witnessing the internal collapse of the US empire and the corporate weapons industry response is to create even more wars (Iran next?) and demand unlimited spending on new plans (Space Force) to drive the arms race into the heavens.

We live in a nation where millions of citizens are unhealthy and have been brainwashed to think paranoid and aggressive thoughts.  Most of the world hates our government and wonders why the American people keep so quiet about all the corruption that surrounds us.

I wonder the same thing as well.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Convert BIW - deal with climate change

On Saturday MB and I drove a couple hours north for a meeting of peaceniks from that part of Maine.

We discussed the next 'christening' at Bath Iron Works (BIW) and plans to hold a protest at the shipyard outside of that event.  The date of the next destroyer 'christening' is not yet known.

The theme of the protest will be to covert BIW to sustainable technology development which would allow us to begin to more effectively deal with our greatest problem on Earth today - climate change.

Unless we immediately move away from fossil fuels - particularly making endless war - the future generations don't stand much of a chance to survive.  As it turns out the Pentagon has the largest carbon footprint on the planet.

Brown University (in Rhode Island) has recently done a study that clearly shows how we'd get more jobs if our nation converted the military industrial complex to sustainable production.  See the study here.

Does it not make sense to protect our children and grandchildren?

Please help spread the word about this industrial crisis.  Sign our petition calling for conversion of BIW here.

Remember what the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

What is our demand as we face mass extinction on our Mother Earth?


Monday, November 19, 2018

A Russian view of 'spiritless' America....

Recently the mid-term elections were held in the USA. The bottom line is President Trump strengthened his position in the upper chamber of the American parliament. He gained a majority in the Senate.

It means there will be no impeachment. Trump will remain in office.

But in the lower chamber of the Congress, in the House of Representatives, Trump lost his position. Now, he has a minority there.

Since it is the Congress that determines the country's foreign policy, this means that it will be obviously impossible for Russia to agree on major issues with Trump.

Trump has only a consultative role.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday song