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, October 29, 2016

Bits & Pieces from the Peace Walk


  • I've still yet to recover from the peace walk.  Sore legs and low energy.  Others I've spoken with have similar ailments.  When I went to the chiropractor yesterday he found one leg was 1/2 inch shorter than the other which indicates my body was really out of whack.  

  • Yesterday I worked on the walk budget report and it appears after all bills are paid we will have just over $800 left.  That would not have been possible without substantial in-kind donations from several of the walkers.  My considerable staff time spent on the walk essentially donated by the Global Network is impossible to calculate.  Several others from our organizing committee also gave huge amounts of their time in preparation for the event - particularly Russell Wray who painted the incredible banner that hung on our van.

  • Last night I heard from a second person who told me she thought the reason we got such strong support in the most conservative parts of the state (where Trump campaign signs were dominant) is because working class Mainers really honor hard work and they respected our walk that took us through major portions of the state.  So that must confirm it.  The truth is in the urban areas like Portland and southern Maine the support was much less demonstrative.

  • On our second day of the walk as we were leaving the town of Dexter (former shoe manufacturing community now in big trouble because the jobs went overseas) a woman came running after us.  Her name was Debra Burdin and she was so excited to see us and share a project she is working on to build an Eco Village for the homeless, hungry and those in poverty.  She handed us a flyer for the Eco-Village Sustainable Community ('A New We') and I promised to write something here about it.  Her email is bwartsplants@hotmail.com  We wished her luck with the project as she introduces this important idea into a community that really needs alot of help these days.

  • There were so many thoughtful people who came in and out of the walk along the journey.  Some brought food, others brought needed toilet paper, some music, some new walking energy, healing words, acupuncture, and generous donations.  We could never thank anyone enough but we tried.  Our many hosts at pot luck suppers and churches where we slept (and the occasional home stays with showers) all made us feel so welcome.

  • We got decent media coverage along the walk and Dan Ellis kept updating the Maine Veterans for Peace web site with all the links to the stories.  You can find that here

  • The Buddhist monks and nun from Nipponzan Myohoji really made the walk special as did those who are associated with this remarkable order that does peace walks around the world.  It's amazing how much the drumming and chanting help keep your feet moving during a 15-mile day.  We bow to Nipponzan Myohoji and say Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.

  • We also thank our friends that came from other states to walk with us - Massachusetts, Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Washington state.  They all brought alot of joy and were good walkers.  I think everyone would agree that 10-year old Bailey from Bainbridge Island, Washington who walked every day - all day - and never complained was a star of the walk.  We love and miss Bailey.

  • We handed out 1,000 flyers along the journey and again we have to give credit to Bailey who handed out a high percentage of them.  We called him our runner.

  • This was my 10th walk that I had a hand in organizing and each time I tell everyone it will be my last.  The monk Senji Kanaeda told me that there was a Nipponzan Myohoji monk in Japan who organized 35 peace walks over the years and each time he said it was his last.  Senji smiled at me when he told me that story.  We'll see......

  • The police now and then stopped us to find out where we were heading and mostly ended up being quite friendly.  One policeman from Kittery on the last day wanted to shake my hand after he learned we had walked all the way from Old Town. 

  • I was rather picky about what sign I carried as I walked.  My goal was to have every passing car and every person on foot read it so I was always turning it toward on-coming traffic.  I tried to make eye contact with every car coming our way.  That meant I was not interested in talking alot during the walk.  I called it the 'quiet car' like on the Amtrak train.  Walks are work for me and I have a mission while I am walking.  A couple times my sign got left in the van when it went off to shuttle cars forward and I was not a happy camper.  In those moments I had to control my grumpiness.  I appreciate those who were patient with me in those moments....
  • Lastly I want to thank Mary Beth for taking good care of me when I came home sick for a day during the walk.  She drove four nights to join pot luck suppers along the way and her smile always helped me deal with my tiredness.  MB brought our young neighbor Leann with her each time and it was exciting to see her get a good dose of what peace walks are all about.

The Forgotten Palestinians



In her first on-the-ground report from Palestine, Abby Martin gives a first-hand look into two of the most attacked refugee camps in the West Bank: Balata and Aida camps.

With millions of displaced Palestinians around the world, hundreds of thousands are refugees in their own country—many have lived packed into these refugee camps after being ethnically cleansed from their villages just miles away.

Friday, October 28, 2016

War, Propaganda, Clinton & Trump


Inside the Invisible Government
By John Pilger

The American journalist, Edward Bernays, is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda.

The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psycho-analysis, it was Bernays who coined the term “public relations” as a euphemism for spin and its deceptions.

In 1929, he persuaded feminists to promote cigarettes for women by smoking in the New York Easter Parade – behaviour then considered outlandish. One feminist, Ruth Booth, declared, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!” 

Bernays’ influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War.  The secret, he said, was “engineering the consent” of people in order to “control and regiment [them] according to our will without their knowing about it”.

He described this as “the true ruling power in our society” and called it an “invisible government”.

Today, the invisible government has never been more powerful and less understood. In my career as a journalist and film-maker, I have never known propaganda to insinuate our lives and as it does now and to go unchallenged.

Imagine two cities.

Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people.

But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory. There is scant mention of civilian casualties.

In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.

The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media centre that is funded by Britain and America.

Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the bad guys, condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city. 

Confusing? Not really. Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia. One is good; the other is bad.

What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003. That criminal enterprise was launched on lies strikingly similar to the propaganda that now distorts our understanding of the civil war in Syria.

Without this drumbeat of propaganda dressed up as news, the monstrous ISIS and Al-Qaida and al-Nusra and the rest of the jihadist gang might not exist, and the people of Syria might not be fighting for their lives today.

Some may remember in 2003 a succession of BBC reporters turning to the camera and telling us that Blair was “vindicated” for what turned out to be the crime of the century. The US television networks produced the same validation for George W. Bush. Fox News brought on Henry Kissinger to effuse over Colin Powell’s fabrications.

The same year, soon after the invasion, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the renowned American investigative journalist. I asked him, “What would have happened if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged what turned out to be crude propaganda?”

He replied that if journalists had done their job, “there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war in Iraq”.

It was a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question -- Dan Rather of CBS, David Rose of the Observer and journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous.

In other words, had journalists done their job, had they challenged and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today, and there would be no ISIS and no siege of Aleppo or Mosul.

There would have been no atrocity on the London Underground on 7th July 2005.  There would have been no flight of millions of refugees; there would be no miserable camps.

When the terrorist atrocity happened in Paris last November, President Francoise Hollande immediately sent planes to bomb Syria – and more terrorism followed, predictably, the product of Hollande’s bombast about France being “at war” and “showing no mercy”. That state violence and jihadist violence feed off each other is the truth that no national leader has the courage to speak.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country.

The same fate awaited Slobodan Milosevic once he had refused to sign an “agreement” that demanded the occupation of Serbia and its conversion to a market economy. His people were bombed, and he was prosecuted in The Hague. Independence of this kind is intolerable.

As WikLeaks has revealed, it was only when the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2009 rejected an oil pipeline, running through his country from Qatar to Europe, that he was attacked.

From that moment, the CIA planned to destroy the government of Syria with jihadist fanatics – the same fanatics currently holding the people of Mosul and eastern Aleppo hostage.

Why is this not news? The former British Foreign Office official Carne Ross, who was responsible for operating sanctions against Iraq, told me: “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we would freeze them out. That is how it worked.”

The West’s medieval client, Saudi Arabia – to which the US and Britain sell billions of dollars’ worth of arms – is at present destroying Yemen, a country so poor that in the best of times, half the children are malnourished.

Look on YouTube and you will see the kind of massive bombs – “our” bombs – that the Saudis use against dirt-poor villages, and against weddings, and funerals.

The explosions look like small atomic bombs. The bomb aimers in Saudi Arabia work side-by-side with British officers. This fact is not on the evening news.

Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia -- and with careers on the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post.

These organisations are known as the liberal media. They present themselves as enlightened, progressive tribunes of the moral zeitgeist. They are anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT.

And they love war.

While they speak up for feminism, they support rapacious wars that deny the rights of countless women, including the right to life.

In 2011, Libya, then a modern state, was destroyed on the pretext that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit genocide on his own people.  That was the incessant news; and there was no evidence. It was a lie.

In fact, Britain, Europe and the United States wanted what they like to call “regime change” in Libya, the biggest oil producer in Africa. Gaddafi’s influence in the continent and, above all, his independence were intolerable. 

So he was murdered with a knife in his rear by fanatics, backed by America, Britain and France.  Hillary Clinton cheered his gruesome death for the camera, declaring, “We came, we saw, he died!”

The destruction of Libya was a media triumph. As the war drums were beaten, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.”
Intervention -- what a polite, benign, Guardian word, whose real meaning, for Libya, was death and destruction.

According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. The Unicef report on the children killed says, "most [of them] under the age of ten".

As a direct consequence, Sirte became the capital of ISIS.

Ukraine is another media triumph. Respectable liberal newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, and mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN have played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and dangerous cold war.

All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.

This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington's military intimidation of Russia is not news; it is suppressed behind a smear and scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first cold war. Once again, the Ruskies are coming to get us, led by another Stalin, whom The Economist depicts as the devil.

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The fascists who engineered the coup in Kiev are the same breed that backed the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Of all the scares about the rise of fascist anti-Semitism in Europe, no leader ever mentions the fascists in Ukraine – except Vladimir Putin, but he does not count.

Many in the Western media have worked hard to present the ethnic Russian-speaking population of Ukraine as outsiders in their own country, as agents of Moscow, almost never as Ukrainians seeking a federation within Ukraine and as Ukrainian citizens resisting a foreign-orchestrated coup against their elected government.

There is almost the joie d’esprit of a class reunion of warmongers.

The drum-beaters of the Washington Post inciting war with Russia are the very same editorial writers who published the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

To most of us, the American presidential campaign is a media freak show, in which Donald Trump is the arch villain.

But Trump is loathed by those with power in the United States for reasons that have little to do with his obnoxious behaviour and opinions. To the invisible government in Washington, the unpredictable Trump is an obstacle to America’s design for the 21st century.

This is to maintain the dominance of the United States and to subjugate Russia, and, if possible, China.

To the militarists in Washington, the real problem with Trump is that, in his lucid moments, he seems not to want a war with Russia; he wants to talk with the Russian president, not fight him; he says he wants to talk with the president of China.

In the first debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump promised not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. He said, “I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.” That was not news.

Did he really mean it? Who knows? He often contradicts himself. But what is clear is that Trump is considered a serious threat to the status quo maintained by the vast national security machine that runs the United States, regardless of who is in the White House.

The CIA wants him beaten. The Pentagon wants him beaten. The media wants him beaten. Even his own party wants him beaten. He is a threat to the rulers of the world – unlike Clinton who has left no doubt she is prepared to go to war with nuclear-armed Russia and China.  

Clinton has the form, as she often boasts. Indeed, her record is proven. As a senator, she backed the bloodbath in Iraq.  When she ran against Obama in 2008, she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran. As Secretary of State, she colluded in the destruction of governments in Libya and Honduras and set in train the baiting of China.

She has now pledged to support a No Fly Zone in Syria -- a direct provocation for war with Russia. Clinton may well become the most dangerous president of the United States in my lifetime –a distinction for which the competition is fierce.

Without a shred of evidence, she has accused Russia of supporting Trump and hacking her emails. Released by WikiLeaks, these emails tell us that what Clinton says in private, in speeches to the rich and powerful, is the opposite of what she says in public.

That is why silencing and threatening Julian Assange is so important. As the editor of WikiLeaks, Assange knows the truth. And let me assure those who are concerned, he is well, and WikiLeaks is operating on all cylinders.

Today, the greatest build-up of American-led forces since World War Two is under way – in the Caucasus and eastern Europe, on the border with Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, where China is the target.

Keep that in mind when the presidential election circus reaches its finale on November 8th,  If the winner is Clinton, a Greek chorus of witless commentators will celebrate her coronation as a great step forward for women. None will mention Clinton’s victims: the women of Syria, the women of Iraq, the women of Libya. None will mention the civil defence drills being conducted in Russia.  None will recall Edward Bernays’ “torches of freedom”.

George Bush’s press spokesman once called the media “complicit enablers”.

Coming from a senior official in an administration whose lies, enabled by the media, caused such suffering, that description is a warning from history.

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: “Before every major aggression, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack. In the propaganda system, it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

~ This is adapted from an address to the Sheffield Festival of Words, Sheffield, England.      JohnPilger.com - the films and journalism of John Pilger

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Walk Over and Home Again


I got home last night about 8:00 pm after the peace walk concluded with our protest at the Kittery Naval Submarine shipyard.  For 90 minutes we vigiled as the workers poured out in cars, trucks, vans, buses and it was mind-blowing to see how many people work there.  We had about 40 folks join us for that last event at the shipyard gate.  Our Brunswick friend Eric Herter (who made a video at the start of the walk) showed up again yesterday to make one of the final day.  Will post it once he gets it done.

Our last night on the walk (Oct 25) we were hosted by Veterans for Peace member Pat Scanlon at his summer house on York Beach.  He made contact with a local Catholic Church peace and social justice committee that hosted our supper at their church.  Pat got about a dozen pizzas and three huge salads donated so it was quite a meal.  Then yesterday as we walked toward the Kittery shipyard we stopped at the restaurant that donated the food for a photo with the owner.

After our vigil concluded at 4:00 pm about 20 of us went back to the restaurant for an early supper party as a way to thank the owner for being so kind to us two years in a row.  Our bill came to just over $300 so I'm sure he appreciated our support as well.

This morning I've begun the task of cleaning things up after the walk since all the left over food, crates full of recycling and trash as well as lost and found items all got brought to my house last night.  So far I am half way done but I've run out of energy.

Instead of finishing that job I went outside for almost three hours and finished stacking wood inside our new wood shed that got built while I was on the walk.  I've been wanting a good wood shed for years and was thrilled to get to finish stacking the wood (thanks to the shed building crew for getting a good start on the stacking process) that has been sitting in our drive way for the last seven months.

In the coming days I'll write more about the walk but for now a nap is calling me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Steering Minds Back onto the Reservation



Mark Crispin Miller who is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University talks about US government propaganda, the corporate media, the CIA and the Russian "Putin" threat.

Miller also discusses how the corporate media tried to get him fired using a NYU graduate student working for VICE owned by Rupert Murdock.

He also looks at the role of the CIA and the US government in their organized effort to demonize Putin and Russia and create a US population hysteria similar to the 1950s.

This interview was done during the Project Censored 40th anniversary at Sonoma State University on October 22, 2016 by Pacifica KPFA Work Week host Steve Zeltzer.

It's an excellent interview and I highly recommend watching it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Prep for Trial



In preparation for coming trial in West Bath (Maine) District Court - date not yet set.......

Our Zumwalt 12, arrested at Bath Iron Works last June 18 at the Zumwalt stealth destroyer 'christening', had a trial prep session a couple weeks ago.

Windy Saco to Kennebunk

Acupuncture in our ears today for the 4th time during the walk.



Yesterday was a 15-mile walk from Portland to Saco in a 20 mph wind.  The flags were flappin and the signs were hard to hold on to.  Several times we were pushed sidewards or backwards as the wind hit our signs.  But our band of 23 folks made it.

Today we have an easier day as the wind should calm down and we only have a 10 mile walk to Kennebunk.  We'll be staying at the New School - an alternative high school that hosted us last year.  The students cooked for us and many of them walked with us the next day.

During past walks I've written about the car culture.  Yesterday I was thinking about it again as we passed by a bunch of car sales lots - one of them flying the biggest American flag I've ever seen.  What do American flags have to do with auto sales - especially when the cars are made overseas?  Over compensation I suppose....

One of the email list serves I monitor is blowing up with a couple people coming out of the woodwork calling for US 'no fly zones' in Syria and unleashing weapons sales to the US-NATO-Israeli-Saudi Arabia-Qatar funded and directed so-called 'rebels' who are now on the losing end in Aleppo.

I am convinced that the military machine has placed operatives inside some peace groups and key list serves in order to create confusion so that real peace movement opposition to the Obama-Clinton war on Syria can be neutralized.  So far they have been successful but I think the tide is turning toward some clarity and sanity. Thanks to those with the courage to push back against the war tide.

One of these operatives this morning had posted that the US lies and deception in Syria were 'different' than the 2003 'shock and awe' game in Iraq.  Hardly!

Beware of those selling endless war - especially when they claim to be peaceniks.

Bruce

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday Song