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....

My Photo
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, March 31, 2020

The cheese in the trap.....

More connecting the dots between virus & fading US military empire

Listen to "Saying NO to the militarization of space" on Spreaker.

Journalism Professor Karl Grossman and Bruce Gagnon on their weekly interview.

Hearing from a Ukrainian citizen

Shared from the Stalker Zone

Ukraine is really a unique but money-hungry country, which the post-Maiden years has proven. Remember how many “patriots” have taken to the streets during all this period to seek so-called justice when there’s no need. Now – when the situation heated up due to a crisis, and oligarchs felt something has gone wrong – the Ukrainian elite stopped financing patriotic organisations and the streets became quiet and clean, and corrupt nationalists stopped scaring civilians.

The situation with Ukrainian “patriots” terrorising Ukraine was described in more detail by the elderly Ukrainian man Vasily Mikhailovich, who lives in the Khmelnitsky region. He made a video about how Ukrainians actually perceive accession to the EU, about Euromaidan, about Russia, and so on. He asked the so-called “patriots”, nationalists, Nazis, and neo-Nazis of Ukraine: “Where did you go because of the coronavirus? Those with black flags and SS-shaped German crosses ran away and so on?”

“Those from central Ukraine and from the south-east, you deport them to Russia and insult them. And what right do you have to deport us there and insult us whereas it’s our grandparents and parents defended this land against fascists and struck down the Banderists who served the Germans? And it’s you, who live in western Ukraine, deport us somewhere and call us separatists? It’s you who are the most real separatists, you are just a small bunch which we’ll disappear as soon as we spit on you,” said Vasily Mikhailovich.

Vasily Mikhailovich believes that it is this “patriotic” bunch that should take their suitcases and go to the EU if they so want “to be in Europe”. He called the West a “bad place” because everyone there steals from each other. He cited the example of the Chinese aid destined for Italy being stolen by the Czech Republic and Germany.

“Europe lives at the expense of others. Ukraine has already had all the resources pumped out of it by these IMF, Europe, and Americans, telling us what to do and how to do it. You have already cut down the forests in Transcarpathia, as well as in the Rovno and Kiev regions. Soon you will sell our land to them, and our children and grandchildren will be slaves to them. Do you [want to drive] Ukrainians into slavery? You’re bandits, and you call us separatists? You’re fascists. Give us back our pensions, I don’t need your army, there’s no one to defend us against. I and Ukraine have no enemies, except the government and nationalists, who since 2014 have completely robbed me and the country,” said the retiree.

According to him, earlier he received a pension of $230, and now it is $50-60 depending on the exchange rate of the hryvnia. As the Ukrainian noted, Russia did the right thing by sending aircraft aid to Italy. He recalled that Ukraine and Poland did not let the airplanes fly through their air space, because of which they were forced to fly around the territory of those states in a semicircle. But Moscow still sent help and specialists. “Because it is Russia,” added the Ukrainian.

“These Russians are a stupid nation. If they see that someone is in bad condition, or that someone is cold, they will take off their clothes and give it to them in order to save them, because that is Russia, do you understand? It was always like this. We are also such a nation – our Soviet Ukraine. And you – western Ukrainians – are not like this, you only do everything for yourself. It’s not the South-east and South who are separatists, but you, Western Ukraine, although there are smart people there too,” said Vasily Mikhailovich.  

Monday, March 30, 2020

Can't get a mask in Maine

More reports from around the virus-laden globe

A photoshopped image of past Veterans For Peace vigil in Asheville, NC makes a timely point. (Photoshop work by Brandon Jones)

By Ken Jones (Asheville, North Carolina)

Here in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, things have gotten very quiet. The normal hustle and bustle of this tourist town is gone, the streets are all but empty, the shops are closed (except for carry out or curbside delivery from restaurants). Even though it means that many people are out of work and small businesses may go down for the count, there is certain air of comfortable calm that stands in contrast to the non-stop anxiety fostered by the media.

This is partly because the virus has not hit our somewhat remote area very hard, at least not yet. A friend of ours who is a nurse assigned to a dedicated COVID19 unit, says most people coming in for tests are still waiting for the results and that the hospital where she works is just now organizing to deal with what might be coming. She says the estimate is that the North Carolina peak is expected to come in May, which is (in coronavirus time), a long time away.

My daughter, on the other hand, is dealing with stress here and now. She is a Montessori teacher and her school decided not to close, but to stay “open” and continue charging parents tuition. Teachers are now expected to come up with online learning for their students which somehow approximates the in-person schooling. “It’s impossible,” she says. “I’m developing the curriculum, running the program, and teaching my own kid concurrently.” She and her husband, who is still trying to keep his house building company going, are run ragged.

One of the most visible local responses to the crisis has come from BeLoved Asheville, a local community that has a solid history of caring for those most at risk: elders, African American and Latinx communities, families living on low incomes, workers, and people living on the streets. They have raised extra funds from us allies and are putting in long hours every day to provide survival supplies like food, hygiene, and medicine. They have a team of street medics, most of home have been homeless themselves, who walk the streets, checking in with people, and treating both physical and emotional needs. Amy Cantrell, one of the three core team members of BeLoved told me, “We believe in humanity and the beauty of our Earth home and we will continue to be here to share a vision of what a transformed, just, and loving world looks like on the other side of this crisis.” 

Of course, many of us are trying to stay connected through social media. Our local chapter of Veterans for Peace made the sensible decision to suspend our weekly public vigil in favor of cultivating more of an online presence. As a starter, we posted the photoshopped image of ourselves above, dressed in solidarity with health workers. We do what we can from our homes.

By J. Narayana Rao (Nagpur, India)

The entire state of Maharashtra including Nagpur is under lockdown. No buses and trains are moving. Schools and Colleges are closed. Govt Offices are officially not closed but no staff is attending. Till now on one is affected with Carona virus in Nagpur. Vegetable markets are not getting opened. Normal public life is not functioning. There is no problem for food not only in Nagpur but in the entire state of Maharashtra.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Radio interview on KPFA in Bay area, California

DEFENDER Europe 20, NATO’s latest anti-Russian war games, has been canceled because Germany pulled out for fear of spreading COVID-19. The games were to be the largest training in transferring US troops from the United States to Europe since the mid-1990s, with 1500 German troops transporting military equipment across Germany and Poland to Russian borders. The Pentagon was determined to go ahead despite the pandemic, but Germany pulled its forces out and closed its roads to NATO troop movements for fear of spreading COVID-19. Norway cancelled the Cold Response war games on their Russian border as well, also for fear of spreading COVID-19.

Pacifica’s Ann Garrison spoke with Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space about further developments in the US military.

Dog days.....

Photo by Marian Stanton (Massachusetts) 

Click on the photo for a better view....

U.S. begs South Korea for help with virus

South Korea's role on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic has been raised further, as more nations reach out to Seoul for support. Among them, the United States - after a phone call between President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in.

Four foreign countries in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East have also asked South Korea to share its know-how in stemming the outbreak within military barracks.

Sunday song

[Verse 1]
It was a dark day in Dallas, November '63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin' high
Good day to be livin' and a good day to die
Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb
He said, "Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?"
"Of course we do, we know who you are!"
Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight
Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we've come to collect
We're gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We'll mock you and shock you and we'll put it in your face
We've already got someone here to take your place
The day they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing
It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone's eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh Wolfman, oh Wolfman, howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it's a murder most foul

[Verse 2]
Hush, little children, you'll understand
The Beatles are comin', they're gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, go get your coat
Ferry 'cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There's three bums comin' all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I'm goin' to Woodstock, it's the Aquarian Age
Then I'll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There's a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
Don't say Dallas don't love you, Mr. President
Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down
Up in the red light district, they've got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you're down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
Don't ask what your country can do for you
Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
I'm going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride
The place where faith, hope, and charity died
Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam!
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don't give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know
"Shut your mouth," said a wise old owl
Business is business, and it's a murder most foul

[Verse 3]
Tommy, can you hear me? I'm the Acid Queen
I'm riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
Ridin' in the back seat next to my wife
Headed straight on in to the afterlife
I'm leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap
Hold on, I've been led into some kind of a trap
Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
We're right down the street, from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more could they do? They piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they've been searchin' for that
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some lovin', then tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, little Susie, let's go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let's keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don't touch the dials
Parkland Hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I'm just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from in front or behind
I've blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I'm never gonna make it to the new frontier
Zapruder's film I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more
It's vile and deceitful, it's cruel and it's mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, "Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun"
Air Force One comin' in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is, and it's murder most foul

[Verse 4]
What's new, pussycat? What'd I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it's beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it's thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he's speaking in tongues
He's going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that "Only the Good Die Young"
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play "St. James Infirmary" and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names
Play Etta James, too, play "I'd Rather Go Blind"
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker, play "Scratch My Back"
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

[Verse 5]
Play "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
Play it for the First Lady, she ain't feeling any good
Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
Take it to the limit and let it go by
Play it for Carl Wilson, too
Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play tragedy, play "Twilight Time"
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and "Another One Bites the Dust"
Play "The Old Rugged Cross" and "In God We Trust"
Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play "Mystery Train" for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor
Play it for the dog that got no master
Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz
Play "Blue Sky," play Dickey Betts
Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk
All that junk and "All That Jazz"
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers, play the odds
Play "Cry Me a River" for the Lord of the gods
Play Number nine, play Number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play "Nature Boy"
Play "Down in the Boondocks" for Terry Malloy
Play "It Happened One Night" and "One Night of Sin"
There's twelve million souls that are listening in
Play "Merchant of Venice", play "Merchants of Death"
Play "Stella by Starlight" for Lady Macbeth
Don't worry, Mr. President, help's on the way
Your brothers are comin', there'll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What's this about hell?
Tell them, "We're waiting, keep coming," we'll get them as well
Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
They killed him on the altar of the rising sun
Play "Misty" for me and "That Old Devil Moon"
Play "Anything Goes" and "Memphis in June"
Play "Lonely at the Top" and "Lonely Are the Brave"
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play "Lucille"
Play "Deep in a Dream", and play "Driving Wheel"
Play "Moonlight Sonata" in F-sharp
And "A Key to the Highway" for the king on the harp
Play "Marching Through Georgia" and "Dumbarton's Drums"
Play darkness and death will come when it comes
Play "Love Me or Leave Me" by the great Bud Powell
Play "The Blood-Stained Banner", play "Murder Most Foul"

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Trump endorses conversion of industry

Don't stop with the car companies - move on and convert the weapons production system and build solar, wind turbines, commuter rail, tidal power systems and more.

And build some more of those hospital ships at Bath Iron Works here in Maine.  The way capitalism is destroying life on this planet we are going to need a bunch of those mercy boats real quick.


Checking-in from afar

As stories leak out about the enormous cost of the bail out package for Wall Street (with very little in the pipeline for the working people) I've been trying to learn more about how life is going for many of my friends around the world.  Below are two of our Global Network leaders from England and California.  I asked them to give me some words about their communities.  Please consider sending me some thoughts from your part of the world.  I'm certain that readers will be very interested to hear from you as well.

By Dave Webb (Leeds, England)

We are in lock-down but allowed out to shop, look after the needy and for exercise as long as we keep 6 feet from anyone else. Today Lesley was in a queue for the health food shop which stretched way down the street because people were standing apart from each other. Members of the government and the royal family have been confirmed as having the virus. However, the rich and powerful are more likely to survive than the many who now have no money coming in because their workplaces have closed. For many there is an added stress of how to afford food and rent. Not a lot of government help there – but small and medium sized businesses can access aid and cheap loans.

We are in a really strange political situation – on the one hand our right wing government has nationalised the railways and is saying that people need to shift from cars to public transport. The roads are so quiet now that air pollution has diminished considerably over the last weeks. The air is fresher and streets are quieter. But unfortunately children can’t play in them.

The government is building more hospitals and also encouraging industry to turn to making more ventilators and even large aerospace companies such as Airbus and Rolls Royce are helping out. Nationalisation and defence diversification were among the policies of Jeremy Corbyn that were ridiculed in the media and by the Tory Party [during the recent election].

The National Health Service is struggling to cope but people are very much aware of the hard work of NHS staff – they are receiving donations from industry such as fold-up bikes and very cheap car rental to avoid contact with others on public transport. The other day we had a nationwide “applaud the NHS and carers” event when people opened their doors and windows and clapped to show their appreciation for their key services. The applause resounded across the country. On a personal level people are generally looking after each other and making sure the vulnerable in their communities are given help when needed.

On the other side of things the government is getting new powers to control the situation as it sees fit. Police are now able to break up groups of more than 2 in public places. There has been talk of an emergency government of national unity to get other parties to share the burden and the blame for the crisis. Temporary mortuaries are being erected in some big cities.

There is a long way to go yet and things are going to get a lot worse before they improve. We can only hope that the right lessons have been learned from all this. Governments should have been prepared – there have been warnings of a pandemic and its consequences for many years.

At the moment it is a bit like Gaia has reacted to a human infection. An infection that is destroying the environment, polluting the land, the atmosphere and the seas, sucking out the life-force from the planet. The corona virus is like anti-bodies produced by the planet to rid it of the pestilence that crawls upon it. Perhaps we can learn and evolve into a more caring and beneficial inhabitant in the future?

By Dennis Apel (Santa Maria, California) 

Yes, Rozella is home from Swarthmore and Thomas is home from UCLA [college age kids].  Both are taking classes and tests online.  We are fortunate that they both got scholarships for their schools so there is not really much of a financial impact on us.

We are still helping local [farm] fieldworkers with supplemental food and a free medical clinic.  Interesting that fieldworkers are now designated as "essential workers" so they continue in the fields but still have no access to medical insurance or a wage that brings them above the Federal poverty level.  They will not figure in any bailout plans.  All fieldworkers pay the same taxes as everyone else, but usually under a fake Social Security number so the benefits returned to them are limited.

Homelessness is less of an issue here as we are more rural, but housing is a real problem.  Rents keep going up because of housing shortages, but income remains the same.  Folks double up or triple up in tight quarters and live in fear of losing their housing because it's nearly impossible to find a new place.

[Nearby] Vandenberg AFB continues to test I.C.B.M.s and to launch school-bus sized classified satellites into earth orbit for the National Reconnaissance office.  No one gets to know what their purpose is.  We have vigiled there for 23 years.  We have decided to stop gathering for a spell because of the virus, but will resume when things feel more safe.

Thank you for what you do.  So happy to be associated with the Global Network.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Wanna go outside?

  • I just went for a walk.  It's quite a beautiful sunny day although the wind is blowing quite hard.
Already I am thinking that kids are probably liking this 'social distancing' deal.  As I left the house I noticed a young mother and her child outside raking up the debris in their flower patch after a long winter.

Yesterday on the way back from a similar walk I noticed three sets of dads riding bikes and playing catch with their kids.  The kids are likely thinking, 'I've not spent so much time with my otherwise busy parents in years.'

And indeed there is alot more dog walking going on these days than normal.  Especially in the middle of the day.

  • Mary Beth is down in Portland today at work.  She works for a non-profit agency that assists people experiencing homelessness.  They've been begging the city and state to set up a large shelter for those now living on the street.  Those that do sleep in a small existing overnight shelter are packed in like sardines - at the very time everyone is supposed to be six feet apart.
The city and the state have been slow to respond but just today MB had to go look at one potential site in Portland to see if it would out.   

  • The virus is spreading like wildfire on military bases and on Navy ships around the world.  This will only get worse.  Two American GI's died 'mysteriously' in their barracks in South Korea recently.  I wonder if it was suicide - or else the Pentagon doesn't want to panic the troops by saying it was from the virus.  I've started daily checking the Stars & Stripes paper in order to keep up with this growing problem.  I expect the troops will get increasingly uneasy.  They mostly want to go home.  I know what is like to be in the barracks, so far from home, especially in times like now with so much uncertainty.  Sometimes it can feel like jail.
  • Washington is doing a pitiful job of taking care of the people across the US.  Their first priority is giving Wall Street, the aerospace industry, and other corporate interests all the money they can funnel into those coffers.  The people, if they are lucky, will get a one-time check at most for $1,200 (although many will get less, if anything at all).  This is just 'hush' money.  Quiet the population down while Mr. Big and his underlings get taken care of.
  • I also wonder about the debt?  Where is the $2 trillion, or $4 trillion, or $6 trillion (the media seem confused about the totals) gonna come from?  The U.S. debt was $23.4 trillion as of Feb. 19, 2020. What many people don’t know is that the Social Security Trust Fund, aka your retirement money, owns most of the national debt. Washington is draining the swamp and our protests, right now, are practically limited to social media and the telephone.  See more here
  • I did a Zoom call today with Global Network board members Dave Webb (England) and Lynda Williams (California) to plan a GN Webinar on space issues.  We will do it on Friday, April 17 at 2:00 EST.  If you are not yet on Zoom then consider downloading it now and we'll send out the other needed details soon. Lynda has said she will sing and dance while Dave will be the band master.  We'll have a good time and would love to see your faces with us on Zoom


By Richard Hendrick

Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again.

They say that after just a few weeks of quiet

The sky is no longer thick with fumes

But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi

People are singing to each other 

across the empty squares, 

keeping their windows open 

so that those who are alone 

may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland

Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.

Today a young woman I know 

is busy spreading fliers with her number 

through the neighbourhood

So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples 

are preparing to welcome 

and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting

All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality

To how big we really are.

To how little control we really have.

To what really matters.

To Love.

So we pray and we remember that

Yes there is fear.

But there does not have to be hate.

Yes there is isolation.

But there does not have to be loneliness.

Yes there is panic buying.

But there does not have to be meanness.

Yes there is sickness.

But there does not have to be disease of the soul

Yes there is even death.

But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.

Today, breathe.

Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic

The birds are singing again

The sky is clearing,

Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.

Open the windows of your soul

And though you may not be able 

to touch across the empty square,


Thursday, March 26, 2020

'HPCON Charlie'

Stars & Stripes

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued orders barring nearly all official movement for Defense Department personnel overseas and instituted new health protection measures worldwide as the Pentagon attempts to slow the spreading coronavirus, which has sickened at least 600 people in the military community.

Esper’s stop-movement order applies to all service members, DOD civilians and sponsored family members serving in any location overseas, the Pentagon announced late Wednesday. The order halts almost all travel for at least 60 days related to “exercises, deployments, redeployments and other global force management activities,” according to a Pentagon memorandum.

The order came just hours after Esper had elected to raise the health protection condition level at military bases worldwide to its second-highest threat level, HPCON Charlie. That decision places restrictions on large gatherings, adds temperature checks for personnel at building access points, and largely limits base access to mission-essential individuals.  [Notice the military appears to have temperature testing equipment.  Most communities in the US don't.]

Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, told reporters Wednesday that he expected military-related cases of the virus to continue to increase for the foreseeable future.

“Our curve is not flattening,” Friedrichs said during a Pentagon news briefing. “… We think the best way to limit that growth or mitigate that growth are the measures that we've been talking about.”

Thursday morning, Pentagon officials announced an increase of 163 coronavirus cases worldwide among its service members, their dependents, DOD civilian workers and defense contractors. Pentagon officials said 600 individuals linked to the military had now tested positive for the virus worldwide. One person, a defense contractor, died of the disease Saturday.

The largest increase was among military troops with 73 new cases reported, marking the biggest single-day jump of cases among troops announced during the outbreak. As of Thursday, 304 service members had tested positive for the virus in recent weeks. Among them, 24 had recovered from the disease and 15 were hospitalized, DOD reported.

The new data also included the first case of a service member permanently station at the Pentagon to test positive for the virus, a Marine who has been in self-isolation since March 13. The Air Force previously announced two individuals — an active-duty airmen stationed elsewhere and a defense contractor assigned to the Pentagon — had been in the military’s Arlington, Va., headquarters in March and later tested positive for the virus. Both have since been isolated and received medical care, officials said.

Friedrichs on Wednesday declined to speculate about a timeline for slowing the virus’ spread or ending measures implemented across the force — like telework to allow for social distancing. On Tuesday, Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said people should expect the outbreak to last at least three months in the United States.

Esper’s overseas stop-movement order will likely impact some 90,000 service members slated to deploy or return to their home stations during the next 60 days, Pentagon officials said.

However, it should not slow the ongoing drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan, which started this month as part of a peace plan agreed to with the Taliban late last month.

The drawdown of some 3,400 troops, leaving about 8,600 in Afghanistan, “is scheduled to be complete within 135 days following the signed agreement,” the memo stated.

Esper’s order also allows for other exceptions, which could be granted by commanders for issues such as obtaining medical treatment, mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons on a case-by-case basis, the memo states. Other authorized exceptions include scheduled deployments or redeployments of Navy vessels, provided they have met the restriction of movement requirements now in place.

“This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of the coronavirus disease to protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” according to the memo.

Friedrichs said he hopes the measures being taken in the United States will start to show similar success as seen in South Korea in stopping the spread of the virus. But it could take weeks to find out for certain.

“This is a pandemic,” he said. “This is a significant infectious disease outbreak, and it is going to be weeks, not days. It's going to take intensive measures, as we are implementing, to mitigate it.” 

Can COVID-19 Take Down NATO? Interview with Bruce Gagnon

Questions and edits by Ann Garrison for the Black Agenda Report

Germany and Norway both pulled out of NATO's latest anti-Russian war games for fear of COVID-19. I interviewed Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space for Black Agenda Report.  I spoke to Bruce about the NATO shutdown.

Ann Garrison: Bruce, do those of us who are not fans of US/NATO wars have reason to celebrate?

Bruce Gagnon: I’d not call it a moment to celebrate under the circumstances. But we should feel good that peace movements around the world supported this demand to shut down these irresponsible war games by US/NATO. Now our focus must shift to the Asia-Pacific where again the US is promoting a huge naval war game called RIMPAC  aimed at China, North Korea and Russia. NATO is expanding into the Asia-Pacific region, intending to become a “global alliance” with a broader interventionist mission. So we all must keep our eyes on that ball as well.

AG: Do you think it’s likely that Germany and Norway, and perhaps other NATO nations, will begin to withdraw troops from various US/NATO interventions inside and outside Europe as well?

BG: Depends on how long the virus pandemic continues and the resulting level of economic collapse. Interventions cost money and NATO members are going to be economically hurting by the time this virus is defeated. So they shouldn’t be in a hurry to intervene anywhere. Also, the sanctions on Russia have hurt many European economies; Italy, Germany and France have been the most outspoken against them. There are many reasons why more and more NATO members are questioning the value of the “alliance.”

Which countries are assisting others during this pandemic? China, Cuba, and Russia are all helping other nations from Iran to Italy, Thailand to Nicaragua. And what is the US doing to help anyone else? Nothing that I know of, and in fact it's making things worse by continuing to sanction Iran and Venezuela during the pandemic.

The US is even doing a poor job of helping its own population, which has become largely superfluous to Mr. Big. And people remember these kinds of things. Europeans are figuring out that the US is a morally and spiritually bankrupt nation and that’s no doubt dawning on Americans who see the scarcity of medical equipment and the abundance of lethal weapons here.

Hopefully, the COVID-19 crisis will reveal the real threat to our safety: neoliberal austerity that destroys national health care, environmental protection, and everything else of real value.

AG: If that happens, isn’t pressure to withdraw US troops likely to build as well, especially if coronavirus begins to spread among them? Soldiers generally live and work in close quarters, as do prisoners, and many prisoners who should have been released a long time ago are now being released to stop the pandemic inside prison walls.

This week published a story  of the first case on a US naval ship, in which it said that “the warship’s leaders ordered dozens of senior enlisted sailors and officers into a cramped room on the ship to brief them on the crisis and proper social distancing,” thus demonstrating how hard it may be for the Navy to limit coronavirus spread aboard its ships.

BG: Yes, good question. Just as various ports of call turned away holiday cruises because they were laden with the virus, nations will at some point begin to turn away the hundreds of US warships transporting the virus. The virus will spread on the more than 800 US bases strategically scattered around the globe, causing worry and fear in the local communities surrounding them. None of this will help the image of the USA, especially if Washington is as slow to deal with the virus within the US military as it has been all over the US.

AG: Reading about this I get the idea that the war games would have proceeded as planned if US commanders had their way. Do you agree?

BG: If there had been no public outcry, the Pentagon would likely have tried to macho their way through it for as long as possible. Fortunately, there was an outcry—not just from the public—but also from heads of governments like Germany’s. The German Bundeswehr’s pullout meant a halt to most of the supply line of military equipment and weapons for the exercises, not only because German troops would not be involved but also because German roads wouldn’t either.

AG: It’s my impression that Poland, which did not announce a withdrawal, is currently very right-wing, very anti-Russian, pro-NATO and pro-US, and that they’ve even complied with Trump’s demand that they spend at least 2% of their GDP on weapons. Would you guess that’s why they were willing to stay in DEFENDER Europe 20?

BG: Poland is currently a total lackey of the US. Their government requested that the Pentagon build a military base inside Poland and even offered to pay for it. The US has installed a huge weapons hub there near the Russian border. One key reason for the war games was to move massive amounts of additional heavy weapons from the US to Poland for eventual use. Poland has made their people a target in any hot war between the US/NATO and Russia.

Lately, however, some in Poland are calling for a better relationship with Moscow. Lech Walesa, former Polish labor leader, Nobel Prize winner, and the first elected President of Poland after the fall of the Soviet Union (1990-1995), has been one such voice reaching out toward Moscow. The power of the US to control the chessboard in Europe is indeed fading, and even nations like Poland will eventually have to see the writing on the wall and cut the umbilical cord with Washington.

AG: I’ve been told that a significant number of people in Germany do not want to antagonize Russia, but that antagonism between Germany and Russia is important to power players in the US. What do you think?

BG: Germany is an interesting case study. After World War II and Hitler’s defeat, the US’s Operation Paperclip brought more than 1,600 German scientists, engineers, and technicians, such as Wernher von Braun and his V-2 rocket team, to the US. One of the Nazis the US brought here was Lt. Gen. Reinhard Gehlen. He was head of the “Wehrmacht Foreign Armies East” military intelligence service on the eastern front during World War II. He was brought to Washington where he helped create the CIA which used Gehlen’s “ratline ” of contacts inside eastern European areas controlled by the Soviet Union. The US used these “assets” to internally destabilize the Soviet Warsaw Pact Bloc. They were among the causes of Stalin’s deep internal paranoia and ruthlessness. CIA director Allen Dulles, a long-time Nazi sympathizer, laughed about driving Stalin nuts. 

After the CIA had downloaded Gehlen’s brain, they shipped him back to Germany. He was put in charge of the CIA’s new partner, the West German “Federal Intelligence Service.” So almost as soon as the war was over, West Germany came under the control of the Washington Deep State. That has made it difficult for Germany to be a sovereign nation ever since.

Vladimir Putin has a great friendship with Gerhard Schröder, the German politician who served as Chancellor of Germany from 1998-2005. Schröder has been a strong voice for ending the New Cold War hostility toward Russia from the West.

Many business leaders in Germany speak openly about ending the sanctions on Russia that have hurt the German economy badly. Washington’s drive to “full spectrum dominance” expresses its desire to control every level of every other nation’s affairs.

AG: Do you think that this difference, or much of it, is about the natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, given that the US fossil fuel industry would rather Germany buy its liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped across the Atlantic?

BG: That is no doubt a big factor in the current drama. US fracking corporations want to ship LNG over to Europe at higher prices than Russian gas can be transported via pipelines. Most Europeans laugh at the thought. Following the US-directed coup in Ukraine in 2014, and the installation of a right-wing/Nazi-backed government, the US pressured Kiev to sign a deal to purchase US LNG instead of gas from neighboring Russia. Ukraine’s economy is in collapse as Western interests hollow it out. Even the rich topsoil in Ukraine, once the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, is being sold to Western corporate interests.

AG: Do you think Germans who’d rather Germany get out of NATO anyway saw COVID-19 as an opportunity and played a significant role in Germany’s withdrawal from DEFENDER Europe 20?

BG: In a poll in 2018, 42% of Germans wanted the US troops out  of their country, while 37% wanted them to stay. In the same poll it was reported that Germans felt more sympathy for Vladimir Putin, 36%, than Trump, 6%, while 58% said they didn’t know or else didn’t answer. So attitudes are changing and this pandemic will only accelerate that.

AG: Russia borders the European nations of Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. It looks like all these nations are NATO members except Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine, and Finland plans to join in 2025. In Belarus , there seems to be a tug-of-war far less reported than that in Ukraine, with Belarus still identifying as a strategic ally of Russia. Could you talk about the significance of the Belarusian buffer zone and the Ukrainian proxy war?

BG: Belarus is key. Attacks on Russia have always come through Ukraine and Belarus. The US has destroyed Ukraine and is now working to draw Belarus into its hip pocket. Belarus is using the current “love” from Washington to get more economic concessions from Russia. The US would be thrilled to take control of Belarus. Look at where it is on the map.

I have followed the coup in Ukraine since it began in 2014. In 2016 I went to Odessa  along with Regis Tremblay and Phil Wilayto to stand with the mothers of those who were killed by Nazi death squads in the Odessa Trade Union Hall soon after the coup in Kiev. The only people ever sent to jail for those assassinations were the victims’ relatives, but the new “democratic” government and its henchmen were responsible, and they were both funded and directed by the CIA.

The US is using Ukraine to demonize Moscow and destabilize the Russian border while at the same time robbing it blind. Sadly, few in the West clearly understand the US-NATO  destabilization plan all around Russia.

Anyone inside of Ukraine—particularly in the Donbass region right on its Russian border—who dares stand up against the US puppet government in Kiev or supports the breakaway republics in Lugansk and Donetsk is called a Putin-lover. The coup in Ukraine  was an Obama operation carried out by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the State Department’s Victoria Nuland.

AG: Which of the NATO member nations have US/NATO bases and/or weapons installed on their Russian borders?

BG: Poland of course has a US base as does Norway, and both have Russian borders. The US often holds war games in northern Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Pentagon war games regularly go on in the Baltics, creeping right up to the Russian borders in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. How are the Russians to react?

The US has also installed missile launch bases in Romania and Poland that could fire first-strike, nuclear-capable cruise missiles that would reach Moscow in 10 minutes. The US is also building up its military connections in Georgia to gain another strategic leverage point against Russia. And there’s much more US/NATO military aggression aimed at Russia than what I’ve just shared. Fort Russ News   is a good website for tracking this.

US Army Special Forces from Ft. Carson, Colorado, are rotated in and out of western Ukraine to a base where they train Ukrainian soldiers. They are then sent off to eastern Ukraine, along the border with Russia, to attack their Russian-speaking fellow citizens  in the Donbass region.

AG: Do you know how many nuclear weapons NATO has installed near Russia’s borders and where they are?

BG: The US/NATO have bases in five countries in Europe that store about 150 airplane-delivered nuclear bombs (B61 warheads). Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Turkey each host such facilities. At other US Navy and Air Force bases throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia-Pacific, the US has the capacity to go nuclear in a flash with either Russia or China.

AG: And does Russia have equivalent force, including nuclear force, on their side of these borders?

BG: Yes, Russia can match the US in nukes and has even gone farther in new technologies like hypersonic missiles.  For more than 10 years Russia and China have been warning Washington that continued missile deployments along their borders—on land and on board Navy Aegis destroyers—jeopardize all negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Russia and China have both renounced first-strike use, and their nuclear forces are for retaliatory purposes only. They have no scenarios for a nuclear first strike on Europe or the US. The US refuses to renounce first-strike nuclear attacks. The Pentagon actually holds war games that include nuclear first-strikes on Russia and China. The Space Command annually calls their first-strike war game the “Red Team vs. the Blue Team.” Space technology already enables and directs all US military operations, and now we’re told that we need Trump’s Space Force. The goal is total domination of earth and space on behalf of Western corporate capitalism.

Star Wars will be the most expensive industrial project in human history. The aerospace industry has directed its Washington lobbyists to identify “dedicated funding sources” that could be used to pay for it, and they have: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the rest of the social safety net that’s already in tatters.

AG: Are nuclear weapons on NATO’s Russian borders any greater threat than nuclear weapons that could be launched from Germany, from other European nations, or even from within the US or Russia? I last read that it would take an ICBM launched in the US 30 to 35 minutes to reach Russia. Could you help us understand this?

BG: The closer a military has its weapons to their declared “enemy” target, the quicker and easier it is to hit them. That makes a decapitating first-strike more tempting to the US top brass. The Pentagon has this capability in place all over the world with its 800 military bases.

All the nuclear nations can destroy one another with nukes many times over. The ABM Treaty outlawed “missile defense” because this so-called “shield” could be used after the first-strike “sword” is plunged into another nation. “Missile defense” is a vital component of first-strike planning. Getting rid of the ABM Treaty led to even worse destabilization of the “balance of terror.”

George W. Bush walked away from the ABM treaty with Russia and escalated funding for “missile defense.” Obama then began the ongoing “missile defense” deployments encircling Russia and China. Russia responded with hypersonic weapons that can get past the US “missile defense” shield. It’s all an unfathomable waste of money and very dangerous.

AG: DEFENDER Europe 20’s sweeping rehearsal for the transfer of US troops to Europe seemed to assume the possibility of an all-out shooting war between Russia and NATO, insane and infectious as that sounds, coronavirus or no. Can you share any thoughts on that?

BG: Russia has been invaded over and over again in its long history. Their military is oriented toward defending their vast territory. Sweden has invaded Russia dozens of times. Napoleon and Hitler both failed to take control of Russia in wars that cost incredible numbers of lives.

More than 27 million Russians died defeating the Nazis in World War II. In contrast, the US lost only 500,000.

Moscow museum panoramic painting of Nazi attack on Russia during WW II

The West wants control of Russia’s vast resources and its land mass. Now, with global warming and the melting of the Arctic ice, Western oil interests want control of the region, but Russia happens to have the largest border with the Arctic. The RAND Corporation produced a study  that calls for balkanizing Russia, breaking it into smaller countries that are easier to seize and control. It’s insane but that is what Washington’s CIA-run foreign policy is all about.

This is the reason for the constant demonization of Putin and Russia. Even many so-called progressives fall for it and become unwilling to look at the larger geostrategic issues that drive the US’s ceaseless efforts to take down Moscow.

Russia’s attitude is, “We don’t want war, but if you attack us, we will hit you back with everything we’ve got.” Putin often asks, “What kind of a world would it be without Russia?”

Westerners know little about Russia’s long history and culture. Needless to say, their dismissive arrogance does not endear Russians to us.

Russia cut their military budget during the last two years, moving the money into social and infrastructure development, but at this point, their new hypersonic missiles are more advanced than anything the US has.

AG: OK, getting back to the coronavirus pandemic, how do you see NATO and the US military operating if the pandemic lasts just another three months, another six months, or even a year or more? Some are saying that everything will be different and less globalized when it’s over, the more so the longer it lasts. Is there any chance that will include reducing global US troop deployment on 800+ military bases?

Can the drone bombing continue with minimal deployment? Could the expectation of future pandemics become a sick and twisted argument for weapons in space?

BG: My mind is racing with theories about what is going on at present with the virus and global economic shutdown.

AG: You’re not the only one.

BG: Is the Deep State pulling these strings? Is COVID-19 a bioweapon produced in either the US or China? And if not, could it have leaked from a US or Chinese lab?

Is there a plan to suspend the Constitution  and declare martial law ? Recent reports suggest so.

Will the US military be used to contain a hungry and angry populace here at home that at some point rebels, as in “The Hunger Games ”? Will the virus infest the US military to a point where they are all under quarantine? Virtually anything is possible at this point.

The Deep State doesn’t give a damn about the young people who join the military primarily to get a job.

Here in Maine, just 10 miles from where I live, we have the Bath Iron Works (BIW) Shipyard owned by General Dynamics, which employs 6,700 workers. The machinists union there fears the worst from the virus and has asked that they all be allowed to go home on paid leave. The company says they could go home unpaid or use up their vacation time. The first positive test  for the virus surfaced at BIW on March 23, but the company is still refusing to back down. Neither General Dynamics nor the Pentagon give a damn about these workers.

So, like other nations with US bases, our local population feels threatened by the local military production facility at BIW. Even the workers who depend on it for their livelihood are afraid. People must begin to reevaluate the utility of US bases and weapons manufacturers and reflect deeply on their cost and their true mission.

We’ve been calling for the conversion of BIW  to build commuter rail systems, offshore wind turbines, tidal power systems and more to deal with our real problem: climate change. Studies show that if we made such a conversion we’d also get more jobs as a result.

The US military and economic empire is itself a deadly virus. It sucks the wealth and life-blood out of its host nations, including the US, but the world is waking up. Hopefully it won’t be too late.

~ Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire   Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and  Peace Prize    for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at