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: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Young People Surging in Solidarity


  • Young people by the hundreds protested inside a Donald Trump rally last night in Chicago and as a result the presidential candidate cancelled his event just prior to its start.  Trump has repeatedly called for protesters to be punched in the face, dragged out of his rallies, and even once contemplated from the stage whether they should be killed.  In recent days at one of his events in North Carolina a young black man who had been peacefully protesting inside the Trump rally was hit in the face by one of the right-wing Trump supporters who was later caught on video saying next time he'd kill the kid that he had just smacked.

  • It's really amazing to me that despite Trumps efforts to divide people against one another we are seeing growing numbers of Latino, African-American, Arab and white students joining together in solidarity.  This is very encouraging and just the right way to respond to the ruling class attempts to pit people against each other.

  • Rather than accept responsibility for his own role in escalating tensions at his campaign events Trump is blaming those who he has been verbally attacking.  Just today he even called on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to tell his supporters to stop protesting at Trump events.  (While it is certainly true that there were a few Bernie campaign signs in the Chicago crowd last night the bulk of the young folks who are protesting at Trump events appear not to be there representing any particular candidate.)

  • I've long felt that as the US economy continues its inevitable collapse (largely due to the many years of massive wasteful military spending and endless wars) the corporate oil-i-garchy that runs things in Washington is totally invested in making sure that the public turn on each other rather than to turn their sights toward Wall Street, the military industrial complex and the bought-and-sold Congress.  The Occupy movement and those continuing to keep alive the message about the greed of the 1% are helping to ensure that the public doesn't fall for the divide-and-conquer tactics encouraged by the corporate elite.

  • On Tuesday this past week when I was arrested along with six others at Beale AFB in California after our drone base civil resistance we were taken by the military police (MP's) by van inside the base to a cold and stark building for processing.  While in there for about 90 minutes I asked to use the toilet.  They didn't have a bathroom inside the building but had a portable toilet about 100 yards away.  Two of the MP's walked me to the toilet and just as we were coming back into the building a Senior Master Sargent who appeared to be in charge of the MP's came roaring out of the building saying, "I'm never going to let my kids be like those people."  Of course he was pointing his finger at those of us who had just been arrested for stepping over the white line onto Beale.  I told him as I passed him in the doorway - "You never know man" - meaning that try as you might to control the minds of your own children they will hopefully learn to think for themselves.  Especially when so many young people today are in major protest mode due to climate change, massive debt from college loans, no jobs, endless war and much more.  Young people are coming to the realization that if they hope to have any future on this planet they'd better start raising hell now while they still can.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Washington Rules


In a recent article, historian and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich raises questions that have been ignored in the 2016 presidential race. (His son was killed during Bush's Iraq attack and occupation.)

Bacevich joins Democracy Now from Boston to talk about the race and these missing questions. His new book, "America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History," will be published next month. He is professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University.

Mostly I agree with Bacevich's analysis but not when he calls Russia's President Putin a "thug".  As far as I can see the Russians have 2-3 military bases outside of their country.  Other than their current military operation inside of Syria - and remember they were invited by the Syrian government to be there to help defend them against ISIS - I don't see Russia invading other countries.

Let's be honest and recognize that it was Russia which got Syria to get rid of their chemical weapons.  It was Russia who helped steer the Iran Nuclear Deal to a successful conclusion.  It has been Russia that has shown considerable restraint in Ukraine despite having Kiev's Army fire shells into Russian territory and witnessing more than 9,000 Russian speaking citizens in eastern Ukraine killed by the US-NATO directed attacks near their border.  It has been Russia that has repeatedly tried to make the Minsk agreements for ceasefire in Ukraine work under the worst conditions as Washington and Brussels have done all they could to undermine their peaceful efforts.

If one wants to throw the thug label around though it would seem more than appropriate to label US foreign policy as completely thuggish.  While Bacevich is clearly critical of the US he fails to label his own nation's behavior (which includes 1,000 military outposts around the globe) as being that of a bully on behalf of corporate capitalism.  Let's call the kettle black here......

Pointing the Finger - Control by Manipulation of the Truth


  • I made it home late last night after a challenging flight from San Francisco to Detroit before heading on to Portland, Maine.  My flight into Detroit arrived 30 minutes late and I only had 20 minutes to get onto the Portland plane.  I ran non-stop with two bags past 48 gates in the Delta terminal and made it in just the nick of time.  Walking up the big tough hill near our house in Bath most days after going downtown has increased my stamina.  

  • At noon today four of us from our local PeaceWorks group and Veterans For Peace member Dud Hendrick from Deer Island, Maine met for 45 minutes with our US Senator Angus King about Syria, Palestine, and the Pentagon's imperial mission.  I suggested to him that we in the peace movement are figuring out that the US, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and others have been the 'sugar daddy' for ISIS.  I told the story of Russia bombing the stolen oil convoys ISIS runs from Syria to Turkey which then facilitates the sale of the oil to Israel and Japan with funds kicking back to ISIS.  I'll write in greater detail about the meeting later on when I have more time.  In the end I'd say our group did an excellent job of standing up for the Syrian people, Palestinian people, and those around the world suffering from the ever expanding US war machine.  One of the key resources I used today (and handed a copy to Sen. King) was a recent article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. printed at Politico called Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria: They don’t hate ‘our freedoms.’ They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries — for oil.  I strongly encourage people to read this piece as it has great historical and contemporary value in trying to sort out what is going on in Syria.
  • A story that really caught my eye yesterday is the interview where Obama blamed UK Prime Minister David Cameron and other European leaders for the current chaos in Libya. 
Speaking to The Atlantic, Obama acknowledged the problems faced by Libya since the NATO ouster of Qaddafi in 2011, referring to the situation as a “mess” – and in private as a “shit show.”

“...We actually executed this plan as well as I could have expected: We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion — which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap. We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess,” Obama said.

  • I see two things happening here.  First Obama is trying to clean up his record for posterity sake.  Secondly the oligarchic forces that support Hillary Clinton's campaign for president know that Libya is one significant reason for her 'trust' problems.  So if Washington can off-load the blame for the 'shit show' in Libya on other 'partners' then Hillary can slide by that one more effectively.
  • Most in the Arab world though aren't falling for this Obama effort at misdirection.  RT shares the part of the story that never makes its way into the western media:
But Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, told RT that although Cameron [England] and Sarkozy [France] are also responsible for the chaos in Libya, Obama is the "major responsible figure."

"I believe Obama realized that it was a huge mistake and miscalculation, and he is trying to blame everybody else except himself," he said, adding that such a move by an American president is "unprecedented."

He went on to stress that the current situation in Libya is "much, much worse than it used to be during the Qaddafi regime." 

"It is a huge mess there, bloodshed, a failed state, militia controlling most of the country. Also now, Islamic State has more than 7,000 fighters in Libya," he said.

  • Once again the 'American Democracy Express', loaded to the hilt with every kind of weapon imaginable, has gone off the tracks and the people are the ones who suffer.  I am not so sure that this reveals US miscalculation or ineptness.  I think Washington has repeatedly executed regime change knowing full well that chaos would result.  I don't think they really care about the chaos and killing.  The corporate elite who took out Qaddafi knew that Libya has the largest supply of oil on the African continent and also sits on the world’s largest known fossil water aquifer system.  The resource extraction corporations figure that they will be better able to profit by controlling these resources if the Libyan people are consumed with a civil war rather than keeping their eyes on the heist of their nation's resources.  Again, watch the hands of the magician.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

US-NATO War on Eastern Ukraine Cranking Up Again



Turkey and the Kiev puppet regime in Ukraine are being used as proxy forces for the US-NATO destabilization effort along the Russian border.  This comes as pay back to Moscow for their efforts to support Syria which has been under unrelenting attack by the US-Saudi Arabia-Qatar-Turkey-Israel regime change program.

It should be understood that the US and its war making allies are risking the big war with Russia.  Russia has just decided to cut its military budget by 5% in 2016 - their total military expenditure will be less than $50 billion.  When you add up all the various US military pots of gold the total comes close to $1 trillion a year.  Don't forget to also add in the various NATO countries military budgets to the US figure - remembering that the Pentagon runs all the NATO military operations through its satellite directed war system.

Who is the real threat to global peace and stability?

Republican Donor Class Wealth Never Trickles Down

 
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough complained on Tuesday that the Republican Party was fracturing because it had advocated economic policies benefiting the richest Americans for the last 30 years with the promise that the wealth would “trickle down” to others — but it never did.  

Nice to see a conservative putting this issue on the table.  Scarborough was a former Republican Congressman from conservative northwest Florida before he became a media talking head.
 
The current disintegration of the Republican Party is leading to just a bit of honesty about who their policies have been serving.
 
Sadly though neither the Republicans or Democrats are talking about the massive impact that America's endless wars are having on the economy and the environment.  The Pentagon controls 55% of the US federal discretionary budget and is the biggest institutional polluter on the planet.  None of that is being discussed by either party.  
 
Neither of the two mainstream parties are talking about how a national program to convert the military industrial complex to producing rail, solar, wind turbines, tidal power systems, and a massive energy conservation program would not only help reduce our carbon footprint but would also create more jobs than we currently get from our addictive military production system.
 
In the meantime I saw this morning reports that Maine is experiencing record high temperatures today as we witness no snow at our house in Bath.  The winter outdoor industries in Maine (and in many other states) have taken a beating this year - how can anyone continue to deny that climate change is real?  But more importantly, how can anyone continue to ignore the obvious solutions that we must enact NOW if we hope to offer the future generations any real future?  How can people be so silent?

The Debate Inside the Democratic Party Race

 
In the most shocking upset of the 2016 presidential campaign to date, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the Michigan primary. Sanders won 50 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 48%. 
 
During the campaign, Sanders focused heavily on his opposition to what he called "disastrous" trade deals like NAFTA which have hurt Michigan’s manufacturing sector. Opinion polls had projected Clinton would easily win the state by as much as 20 percent. 
 
Democracy Now speaks to professor Cornel West, who backs Sanders, and legendary civil rights activist and labor organizer Dolores Huerta, who backs Clinton.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Busted for Peace at Beale AFB

Outside the Wheatland gate at Beale AFB this morning


Seven of the 11 activists who gathered at the Wheatland gate of Beale AFB, California around 6:00 am this morning were arrested for protesting the Global Hawk drone mission of the base.  At 7:15 the group was handcuffed and taken inside the base for processing where we were each cited for trespassing on a federal installation and released about 90 minutes later.  Just prior to being arrested the seven of us blocked a long line of morning incoming traffic for about 20 minutes before crossing over the white line onto base property.


The Global Hawk surveillance drone is flown out of Beale
 
Just before stepping over the white line our group spread out and held hands directly facing the large squad of military police who stiffly stood at the ready holding plastic handcuffs.  One of the women in our group spoke to the MP’s telling them that we were working for peace so that they too would have a safe and peaceful future.  After she finished I told the solemn looking MP’s to keep open hearts during their time in the military.  I then went on to share with them my own story of having lived on Beale AFB from 1969-71 where my dad was stationed.  I told them how I joined the Air Force myself in 1971 after having graduated from nearby Wheatland High School in 1970.  I shared my experience being stationed at Travis AFB (about 80 miles south of Beale) that was an airlift base for the war in Vietnam.  It was there, I said, that the anti-war protests outside and inside the base transformed me from a hard-line right-winger into the peace activist that I am today.  


The protest actually began yesterday at Beale when at 3:00 pm about a dozen activists from several northern California communities held vigil at two base gates for two-hours as military personnel were released from work.  Three of us were at the Doolittle gate where we stood with banners as several U-2 spy planes practiced ‘touch and go’ landings just over our heads.  From where we stood we could clearly see the PAVE PAWS early-warning radar facility (recently upgraded for participation in the Pentagon’s ‘missile defense’ program).  Regular monthly protests have been happening at Beale for the past five years.  Over 130 people have been arrested for non-violent civil resistance at the base during that time. 

The U-2 spy plane was overhead while we vigiled yesterday at the base
 
The PAVE PAWS early warning radar at Beale was in plain site as we protested.  The radar has been upgraded for participation in the 'missile defense' program which plays a key role in the Pentagon's first-strike attack planning. Just below note Beale's prominent role in this military graphic illustrating a 'missile defense' test.

Following Monday’s afternoon protest the dozen of us gathered in a clearing near the Beale main gate where we held a potluck supper by firelight.  I was asked to speak about the work of the Global Network and Beale’s role in connection to space warfare technology. 


I was also asked to share what I know about the US’s Ramstein AFB in Germany that is the global operation center for the Pentagon’s drone warfare program that has killed thousands of innocent people.  All drone surveillance and targeting is run through Ramstein using military satellites and fiber optic cables to relay data from drones flying over the Middle East and Africa to the drone pilots sitting at consoles back in the US.  Fearing that growing resistance to German complicity with the US drone killing program will force the closure of the Ramstein operation, the US has recently created a back-up drone operations center in Sigonella, Sicily.

As my hosts Toby and Fred from the San Francisco Bay Area were driving us back to their home in El Cerrito they kindly stopped in Wheatland so that I could take a brief walk through the grounds of my old high school. Surprisingly the school had not changed much at all during these many years since I had graduated.  It was quite an emotional moment for me to walk by my old classrooms, the gym where I left much sweat on the floor playing basketball, the baseball field, the cafeteria, and the football field where I remember running 100-yard wind sprints with full gear on. 

I have been following the determined protests at Beale during the past five years and had hoped to be able to participate with them at some point.  It was a great thrill and honor to join hands this morning with these dedicated peace workers.  I will always cherish these last two days at Beale. Keep going dear friends.

Monday, March 07, 2016

NO GMO in Russia

 
Another reason western corporations hate Russia so much - Moscow continues to ignore the dictates from  the corporations that want to control and dominate the food chain. 

While GMO is already banned in a number of countries, the US and Canada don't even have labeling requirements for GMO foods.

The S. Brian Willson Story



Vietnam veteran S. Brian Willson paid the price for peace by nearly being killed by a military train during a non-violent protest. Since then, he has not stopped calling attention to the US government’s defiance of international law through waging endless illegal wars.

Paying the Price for Peace exposes the truth about the United States’ addiction to war, and the lies it perpetuates in order to wage ongoing violence, through the life and times of Air Force veteran S. Brian Willson and other veterans.

Other peace activists in the film include:  Alice Walker,  Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, David Swanson, Ron Kovic, Bruce Gagnon, Cindy Sheehan, Martin Sheen, Blase Bonpane,  Phil Donahue, and others.

To learn more about Brian and his work, please visit Brian’s website at http://www.brianwillson.com/.  Brian has also published the book, “Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson”.  For more information visit http://bloodonthetracks.info/

Warming the Gulf of Maine


ARRT! Video Projection Project from Geoffrey Leighton on Vimeo.

ARRT! in Portland, Maine worked with 350 Maine to project a video about the warming of the Gulf of Maine. It appeared on Mechanics' Hall on Congress Street during First Friday Art Walk. ARRT! (The Artists Rapid Response Team) is a project of the Union of Maine Visual Artists (UMVA). The Projection was done with the help of MECA and Mechanics' Hall (MCMA) and USM's Ci2 SRS. for more info, see arrteam.org

Sunday, March 06, 2016

On Way to Beale AFB for Drone Protests



I am at the airport in Portland, Maine heading to northern California for two days of protests at Beale AFB which hosts the Global Hawk surveillance drone and the U-2 high altitude spy plane.  Regular protests have been happening at Beale for several years and loads of activists have been arrested there for their non-violent actions.

This is a sort of personal trip for me as I lived on Beale from 1969-1971 when my dad was stationed there.  He worked on the spy cameras on the SR-71 Blackbird plane.  In 1971 I left Beale to head to the Oakland, California military induction center where I joined the Air Force wanting to be a career man like my dad.  After my training I was sent to Travis AFB, also in northern California, which was then an airlift base for the Vietnam War.  It was the anti-war activity inside and outside that base that helped turn me into a peacenik.

Looks like there will be two days of protests at Beale gates and then I'll head to San Francisco where I will do a talk on Wednesday, March 9 at 7:00 pm at the S.F. War Memorial Veterans Building (401 Van Ness Ave).

Sunday Song