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.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Conversion Means Survival for Future Generations

Maine Peace Walk October 13-21. Come for a day or more.

This year the walk will largely be centered in Bath and concentrate on the serious need to convert Bath Iron Works (BIW) to peaceful and sustainable production.

Accepting our present condition of endless war for fossil fuels is a dead-end street that if not reversed will lead to our collective demise. We must have a conversion that begins with our hearts and extends to the timely task of totally reorienting our national production system.

Maine Peace Walk is sponsored by: Citizens Opposing Active Sonar Threats (COAST); Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Maine Green Independent Party; Maine Natural Guard; Maine Veterans For Peace; Maine War Tax Resistance Resource Center; Peace Action Maine; PeaceWorks; Veterans For Peace, Smedley Butler Chapter (Boston area); Waging Peace Maine; Waldo County Peace & Justice 

See full schedule of events at Maine VFP website here

Sunday Song

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Call Trump 'Rockets Man'


Friday, September 22, 2017

Keep Space for Peace Week

Bombs are U.S.

Heading to DC

  • I am sitting in the Boston South Station waiting for a train to Washington DC.  I am going there to attend and speak at a peace conference being held at American University over the weekend.  The conference will connect the US's endless war program and the Pentagon's #1 (of any institution on the planet) carbon boot print.  See more on the conference here

I'll be talking about conversion of the war machine to sustainable production that helps us even a bit deal with the reality of climate change.  I'll speak about our efforts in Bath, Maine to bring the conversion message to our community. I can assure you that people in our community are talking about our campaign - some obviously not pleased with our steady efforts to keep the conversion message in front of the local citizens.  The October 13-21 Maine Peace Walk will increase the visibility of this important conversion message even more.

  • While in DC I will be staying as usual at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House.  Then on Sunday I'll make my way to the Baltimore area and spend the night with my cousin.  On Monday another cousin will take us to the place where my father had a chicken and turkey farm before I was born.  At that time he was a back-to-nature kind of guy on his farm (didn't even have electricity) and then he met and married my mom.  He put in electricity and fixed up the place but she was a city slicker and didn't like the farm life.  She got him to sell his beloved farm and they moved to Florida.  After that he was broken hearted and listless.  When I was two years old he came home one day and said he wanted to go to Georgia and pick peaches so mom threw him out.  That was the end of my relationship with my father - everyone that knew him said he was a quiet and good man, including my mom's own sister.

I grew up not knowing anything about my dad's side of the family so my connection to my cousins on the Gagnon side have been developing only in recent years.  I am very excited to see the old farm. The circle of healing continues......

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Killing of History

Anti-war protest outside Travis AFB, California during the Vietnam War.  Travis was an airlift base for the war carrying fresh troops to Vietnam and body bags on the planes return home.

By John Pilger 

One of the most hyped “events” of American television, The Vietnam War, has started on the PBS network. The directors are Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.  Acclaimed for his documentaries on the Civil War, the Great Depression and the history of jazz, Burns says of his Vietnam films, “They will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam war in an entirely new way”.

In a society often bereft of historical memory and in thrall to the propaganda of its “exceptionalism”, Burns’ “entirely new” Vietnam war is presented as “epic, historic work”. Its lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam.

Burns says he is grateful to “the entire Bank of America family” which “has long supported our country’s veterans”.  Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed, and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives.

I watched the first episode in New York. It leaves you in no doubt of its intentions right from the start. The narrator says the war “was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings”.

The dishonesty of this statement is not surprising. The cynical fabrication of “false flags” that led to the invasion of Vietnam is a matter of record – the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in 1964, which Burns promotes as true, was just one. The lies litter a multitude of official documents, notably the Pentagon Papers, which the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg released in 1971.

There was no good faith. The faith was rotten and cancerous. For me – as it must be for many Americans -- it is difficult to watch the film’s jumble of “red peril” maps, unexplained interviewees, ineptly cut archive and maudlin American battlefield sequences.

In the series’ press release in Britain -- the BBC will show it -- there is no mention of Vietnamese dead, only Americans. “We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy,” Novick is quoted as saying.  How very post-modern.

All this will be familiar to those who have observed how the American media and popular culture behemoth has revised and served up the great crime of the second half of the twentieth century: from The Green Berets and The Deer Hunter to Rambo and, in so doing, has legitimised subsequent wars of aggression.  The revisionism never stops and the blood never dries. The invader is pitied and purged of guilt, while “searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy”. Cue Bob Dylan: “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?”

I thought about the “decency” and “good faith” when recalling my own first experiences as a young reporter in Vietnam: watching hypnotically as the skin fell off Napalmed peasant children like old parchment, and the ladders of bombs that left trees petrified and festooned with human flesh. General William Westmoreland, the American commander, referred to people as “termites”.

In the early 1970s, I went to Quang Ngai province, where in the village of My Lai, between 347 and 500 men, women and infants were murdered by American troops (Burns prefers “killings”). At the time, this was presented as an aberration: an “American tragedy” (Newsweek).  In this one province, it was estimated that 50,000 people had been slaughtered during the era of American “free fire zones”. Mass homicide. This was not news.

To the north, in Quang Tri province, more bombs were dropped than in all of Germany during the Second World War. Since 1975, unexploded ordnance has caused more than 40,000 deaths in mostly “South Vietnam”, the country America claimed to “save” and, with France, conceived as a singularly imperial ruse.

The “meaning” of the Vietnam war is no different from the meaning of the genocidal campaign against the Native Americans, the colonial massacres in the Philippines, the atomic bombings of Japan, the levelling of every city in North Korea. The aim was described by Colonel Edward Lansdale, the famous CIA man on whom Graham Greene based his central character in The Quiet American.

Quoting Robert Taber’s The War of the Flea, Lansdale said, “There is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbours resistance, and that is to turn it into a desert.”

Nothing has changed. When Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on 19 September – a body established to spare humanity the “scourge of war” – he declared he was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people. His audience gasped, but Trump’s language was not unusual.

His rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, had boasted she was prepared to “totally obliterate” Iran, a nation of more than 80 million people. This is the American Way; only the euphemisms are missing now.

Returning to the US, I am struck by the silence and the absence of an opposition – on the streets, in journalism and the arts, as if dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground.

There is plenty of sound and fury at Trump the odious one, the “fascist”, but almost none at Trump the symptom and caricature of an enduring system of conquest and extremism.

Where are the ghosts of the great anti-war demonstrations that took over Washington in the 1970s? Where is the equivalent of the Freeze Movement that filled the streets of Manhattan in the 1980s, demanding that President Reagan withdraw battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe?

The sheer energy and moral persistence of these great movements largely succeeded; by 1987 Reagan had negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that effectively ended the Cold War.

Today, according to secret Nato documents obtained by the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zetung, this vital treaty is likely to be abandoned as “nuclear targeting planning is increased”. The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned against “repeating the worst mistakes of the Cold War … All the good treaties on disarmament and arms control from Gorbachev and Reagan are in acute peril. Europe is threatened again with becoming a military training ground for nuclear weapons. We must raise our voice against this.”

But not in America. The thousands who turned out for Senator Bernie Sanders’ “revolution” in last year’s presidential campaign are collectively mute on these dangers. That most of America’s violence across the world has been perpetrated not by Republicans, or mutants like Trump, but by liberal Democrats, remains a taboo.

Barack Obama provided the apotheosis, with seven simultaneous wars, a presidential record, including the destruction of Libya as a modern state. Obama’s overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has had the desired effect: the massing of American-led Nato forces on Russia’s western borderland through which the Nazis invaded in 1941.

Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2011 signalled the transfer of the majority of America’s naval and air forces to Asia and the Pacific for no purpose other than to confront and provoke China. The Nobel Peace Laureate’s worldwide campaign of assassinations is arguably the most extensive campaign of terrorism since 9/11.

What is known in the US as “the left” has effectively allied with the darkest recesses of institutional power, notably the Pentagon and the CIA, to see off a peace deal between Trump and Vladimir Putin and to reinstate Russia as an enemy, on the basis of no evidence of its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The true scandal is the insidious assumption of power by sinister war-making vested interests for which no American voted.  The rapid ascendancy of the Pentagon and the surveillance agencies under Obama represented an historic shift of power in Washington. Daniel Ellsberg rightly called it a coup. The three generals running Trump are its witness.

All of this fails to penetrate those “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics”, as Luciana Bohne noted memorably. Commodified and market-tested, “diversity” is the new liberal brand, not the class people serve regardless of their gender and skin colour: not the responsibility of all to stop a barbaric war to end all wars.

“How did it fucking come to this?” says Michael Moore in his Broadway show, Terms of My Surrender, a vaudeville for the disaffected set against a backdrop of Trump as Big Brother.

I admired Moore’s film, Roger & Me, about the economic and social devastation of his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and Sicko, his investigation into the corruption of healthcare in America.

The night I saw his show, his happy-clappy audience cheered his reassurance that “we are the majority!” and calls to “impeach Trump, a liar and a fascist!” His message seemed to be that had you held your nose and voted for Hillary Clinton, life would be predictable again.

He may be right. Instead of merely abusing the world, as Trump does, the Great Obliterator might have attacked Iran and lobbed missiles at Putin, whom she likened to Hitler: a particular profanity given the 27 million Russians who died in Hitler’s invasion.

“Listen up,” said Moore, “putting aside what our governments do, Americans are really loved by the world!”

There was a silence.

~ - the films and journalism of John Pilger

Peace Movement Should be Broadening

  • As I was sending around Keep Space for Peace Week emails to the various Global Network lists today it was interesting that emails to our own address landed in our spam filter.  Increasingly email service providers are making it really hard to get emails through to their customers unless you pay for an email delivery service.  What a racket.....

  • I had an email from a fellow peace organizer in Finland today.  I found it interesting the way she described how local people have become so fearful due to corporate media propaganda.  In the end she says they've concluded that they must be on the street more often.  Yes, it must be considered that as the corporate crackdown widens on us that even the Internet could be shut down and our primary communication vehicle would be gone overnight.  Think about that one.  How many groups still have a street address mailing list for their members?  Probably not many. 

  • Here is Kerstin Tuomala from Finland:

We used to celebrate October 24th as the UN Day of Disarmament. So this year we will combine this with the Keep Space for Peace Week and it is possible that we focus on the tensions and how to reach detente in our near environment – the Arctics and round the Baltic sea.

In our group the history and the situation on the Korea Peninsula was quite unknown, so we will study it during the year. We have decided to study half an hour in the beginning of each meeting. We studied for instance the massacre in Odessa and the situation of friends and relatives to the victims of the massacre in April, and on May 2nd we had a manifestation were we joined the Solidarity Campaigne, signed the petition and sent it to the president of Ukraina. In this world were disinformation is called truth, we must study all the time. Global Network's material is a good support for this purpose.

Right now our group has decided to support the Swedish peace activists as they resist the Aurora NATO military exercises. The No to NATO Movement collect names on a petition against the NATO installations in Sweden. So we went to the border town of Haparanda and presented the petition for people in the street. It is a job that has to be done as many of the persons we met were afraid of Putin and welcomed NATO. Some hesitated but were easily convinced, when we discussed with them. Of course other persons too, whom the daily mainstream media’s propaganda had not influenced, [signed] as they follow more seriously what is going on in the world. 

Our conclusion was that we must be more on the street, collect names and discuss – also in Finland. All my regards to You all!

  • Another friend, Andre Brochu, who lives in Sweden also wrote today about the NATO war games there.  Andre grew up in Massachusetts (with family in Maine) and resisted the Vietnam War draft by going to Sweden.  He organized the speaking tour by Dave Webb and I last year when we visited several cities in Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark.
 Last Saturday we had the Stop Aurora War Exercises demonstration in Gothenburg.  An estimated 3,500 participated. A good showing and another time, not today, I shall write you my analysis of how it was organized.  We are at a juncture when the peace movement should be broadening.  

  • The banner above was delivered to our house a few nights ago by Natasha Mayers, one of the leaders of the group Artist Rapid Response Team (ARRT) that meets monthly to make banners for various protest movements across Maine.  They made this one for our up-coming Maine Peace Walk.  Getting artists involved is an important way to widen our circles.  Many in the public don't read much about politics so banners like these can go a long way in reaching out to folks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Pentagon's Black Hole

Decline of the Petrodollar

Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, has begun to report its crude oil prices in the Chinese Yuan, abandoning the oil market norm of pricing in the U.S dollar.

The reason the U.S. has lately been attempting to overthrow the current government is Venezuela is basically because they use the profits from their oil to benefit the poor across their nation.  To Washington this is a bad example and must be crushed.

Man Self-Immolates Over THAAD Issue

The Korea Herald reports:

South Korean activist Jo Young-sam died one day after setting himself on fire Tuesday in Mapo-gu, Seoul, to protest against the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

“THAAD should go and peace shall come. (The peace initiatives of) the Moon Administration should prevail,” 58-year-old Jo had said. He also left a four-page statement addressed to President Moon Jae-in, in which he denounced the THAAD [missile offense] deployment and called for peace initiatives regarding North Korea.

Jo had suffered third-degree burns all over his body and had been rushed to a hospital for treatment. However, he died Wednesday morning.

Jo visited North Korea in 1995 upon a formal invitation from Lee In-mo, who had been repatriated to the North. After his visit to North Korea, Jo took refuge in Germany for 18 years. He finally returned to South Korea in 2012 and was sentenced to one year in prison for his unauthorized visit to the North.

After serving his prison sentence, he moved to Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, and had recently been engaging in an anti-THAAD campaign.

At a joint press conference early Wednesday, activist groups said the Moon administration and the US should be held accountable for his death.