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, May 04, 2013

CREATING PERSISTENT SURVEILLANCE



My plenary talk last weekend in Syracuse.  The previous one I posted on this blog was my workshop.  This particular talk was a bit more organized and formal.

The last three minutes of the video cover my talk at the rally last Sunday before we moved to Hancock Air Field for the civil resistance action.

FIGURING OUT THE AFRICA STORY



On April 27, 2013, Horace Campbell presented a workshop titled "Ending the Fabrication of the War on Terror: Lessons from Africa" at the Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire convergence in Syracuse, NY.

I met this delightful man at the conference and we traded books.  I gave him one of mine and he presented me with a copy of his new book called Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya. I've put it on top of my stack.  This man has much to teach us.

RAY MCGOVERN: WORKING FOR PEACE

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern speaks tonight at Bowdoin College in Brunswick


I had lunch with Ray McGovern today.  He swung by Bath and we walked down to our nice local Thai restaurant for a meal.  He was interested in the huge crane at Bath Iron Works that hangs over the city like a bad memory.  I told Ray about the USS Cowpens that was built in Bath and launched in 1989.  This Aegis cruiser became the first US Navy ship to launch ordnance in the opening stages of the Iraq War when she fired 37 Tomahawk cruise missiles in George W. Bush's "shock and awe" attack in 2003. 

I told Ray the sad story about the woman Lieutenant on-board who was driving the ship when it launched those missiles.  She came to one of my talks in Boothbay, Maine some years ago and would become close friends of Mary Beth and I. She also became a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and Veterans For Peace here in Maine.  She told us how, after their cruise missiles had been fired on a defenseless Baghdad, she went below deck to join the crew watching the burning city on TV.  The Navy personnel on the ship were cheering with each new explosion and she felt sick.  This remarkable young woman today suffers from a severe case of war trauma.

Ray is no stranger to these kind of stories.  He's been around war and peace activism for many years now.

Ray came from his native New York to Washington in the early Sixties as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then served as a CIA analyst from the administration of John F. Kennedy to that of George H. W. Bush. Ray’s duties included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’s Daily Brief, which he briefed one-on-one to President Ronald Reagan’s most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985.

In January 2003, Ray helped create Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to expose the way
intelligence was being falsified to “justify” war on Iraq.

In 2011 Ray joined the US boat to Gaza to bring humanitarian aid and solidarity to the embattled Palestinian people.  At the behest of Tel Aviv and Washington, Greek authorities stopped the small flotilla from sailing to Gaza in a challenge to Israel’s four-year blockade of the narrow strip of land and its 1.6 million people.

Thanks go to Michael Cutting (Portland) who took on the challenge of organizing Ray's speaking tour this week in Maine and New Hampshire.  Ray specifically requested that he get to speak with students and Michael made Ray more than happy by securing invitations to speak to several high school and college audiences.

Friday, May 03, 2013

HOLY MASS AT DESTRUCTION GATE



Latest news from Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea from Sung-Hee Choi (site of Navy base construction project that would port US nuclear subs, aircraft carriers, and Aegis destroyers outfitted with "missile defense" interceptor missiles).

“Policemen, if you move this altar, one billion Catholic followers all over the world will watch over you.” The young Father from Jeju finished ALL the orders of the Catholic mass despite the repeated remarks by Koo Seul-Hwan, security director, who was embarrassed but continued to threaten him that it is an obstruction of business.

Kim Mi-Lyang, a woman villager, held up a sign that reads, “Return back the Gureombi Rock to Kim Mi-Lyang, daughter of Gangjeong!” After the mass, we could observe an elderly follower teared and hugged Fr. Mun Jeong-Hyeon. There were lots of woman followers. It was really moving that they danced the Gangjeong addictive dance together with the Peacekeepers in Gangjeong.

We so thank you, Fathers. The village is resurrecting again and again as a sacred land, thanks to your devotion.

Please see all 30 photos from May 3 Catholic mass at gate here

WHY WE CALL IT CIVIL RESISTANCE



On April 27, 2013, Ellen Grady and John Hamilton presented a workshop titled "Civil Resistance, What is it? and why do we do it?" at the “Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire" convergence in Syracuse, NY.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

BEALE AFB DRONE PROTEST IN CALIFORNIA

MARYSVILLE/BEALE AFB, CA. – Five people were arrested around 8 a.m. on April 30 after dozens of anti-drone demonstrators blocked the entrance to Beale Air Force Base for hours, resulting in hundreds of vehicles being prevented from entering the base.
The California Highway Patrol had to be called in to clear traffic which had lines of hundreds of cars in several directions after peace advocates from Sacramento, San Francisco, Nevada City and as far away as Fresno protested President Obama’s U.S. killer drone program.
Those arrested were briefly held on misdemeanor charges, which could result in six months in jail if convicted in federal court. In a similar action, 31 people were arrested at Hancock Air Base in Syracuse, NY on Sunday.
Last October, nine people were arrested at Beale during protests – and five are facing months in prison if convicted in a trial set for Sacramento Federal Court this summer (August 12).
Beale AFB is home to the U2 and the Global Hawk, the unmanned surveillance drone that is an “accomplice” in drone killings. Activists arrested attempted to deliver a letter to the Beale AFB commander that demanded:
(1) An immediate ban on the use of all drones for extrajudicial killing (2) A halt all drone surveillance that assaults basic freedoms and inalienable rights and terrorizes domestic life in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia (3) A prohibition on the sale, and distribution of drones and drone technology to foreign countries in order to prevent the proliferation of this menacing threat to world peace, freedom and security and (4) The U.S. must immediately stop this lawless behavior of drone warfare that violates many international laws and treaties.
“US military and CIA Drone attacks have killed thousands of innocent civilians, including women and children, in the Middle East, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In the name of combating terrorism against the U.S. we are terrorizing innocent people, and creating many more enemies and potential terrorists in the process,” said a statement issued by Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Chico Peace and Justice Center, Nevada County Peace Center, Peace Fresno, WILPF and World Can’t Wait.

GMO MONKEY BUSINESS



Ignoring the many existing alternatives our indigenous biodiversity and knowledge offers to address the public health emergency of iron deficiency, India's Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) has signed an agreement with Queensland University (Australia) to provide AUD $1.4 million (US $1.44 million) and INR80 million (US $1.43 million) towards the cost of the Indian component to increase the iron content in banana through genetic engineering.

Dr. Dale of Queensland University who will receive this generosity from our government, and has already received $15 million from the Gates Foundation, does not have a single paper related to iron fortification of bananas . This work has been done by the Bhabha Atomic Research Team. Why is our tax money being wasted on this project?

WASTING YOUR $$$ IN AFGHANISTAN



Top Afghan officials have been on the CIA's payroll for over a decade, receiving tens of millions of US dollars in cash. Afghan President Hamid Karzai admitted to receiving the clandestine financial support, but dismissed the sum as a "small amount."

You'd think the public and Congress would be screaming about this as we see cutbacks to vital social programs in the US.  Politicians get upset about a few "welfare Queens" but this corruption makes that look like peanuts.

SHADOW CABINET

Six members of the newly created Green Shadow Cabinet gathered at the anti-drone conference in Syracuse, New York last weekend.  Front row from left: Howie Hawkins, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Col. Ann Wright, David Swanson.  Back row: Keven Zeese, and Bruce Gagnon

It was a real surprise and honor for me to be invited to serve as Secretary of Space in the Green Shadow Cabinet. (I joked that I will have the largest area of responsibility and travel to deep space will take years at a time.)

Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the 2012 Green Party presidential and vice-presidential nominees, marked the beginning of Earth Week by announcing a new Green Shadow Cabinet that will serve as an independent voice in U.S. politics, putting the needs of people and protection of the planet ahead of profits for big corporations. The Cabinet will operate in the tradition of shadow cabinets in other countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, responding to actions of the government in office, and demonstrating that another government is possible.

The Green Shadow Cabinet includes nearly 100 prominent scientists, community and labor leaders, physicians, cultural workers, veterans, and more, and will provide an ongoing opposition and alternative voice to the dysfunctional government in Washington D.C.. It is organized into six federal branches: Democracy, Economy, Ecology, Foreign Affairs, General Welfare, and Justice. Topics include the economy, environment and climate change, health and general welfare, democratization, rights of workers, wages and labor, community power, closing military bases, ending wars for resources and restoring the rule of law.

Among the top priorities will be advocating for full employment through a Green New Deal and confronting climate change and the ecological crisis through a program of creating a carbon-free and nuclear free energy economy.

Not everyone in the Shadow Cabinet belongs to the Green Party.  You can see the entire cabinet here

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

MORE TALKING STUFF



My workshop at the weekend conference in Syracuse.....

DRONE STRIKES ARE THE FACE OF AMERICA



Farea Al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer, testified April 23 at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights chaired by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) on the moral, legal and constitutional issues surrounding targeted killings and the use of drones.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

PROTECTING DRONE CRIMES


I was honored to be involved in the weekend drone conference and protest in Syracuse, New York organized by the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars.  I've just returned home after spending Sunday night in jail (with maybe one hour of sleep) and the long eight-hour drive back to Maine.  So my mind is slipping a few gears, my wrists still hurt after about 11 hours of wearing handcuffs, but my heart and soul feel strong from the experience.

The drone conference began on Friday evening at a local community center in the Syracuse black community.  More than 200 folks showed up for the event that featured some of the great activists from around the country like Col. Ann Wright, Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Charley King, Mark Johnson, Elliott Adams, Howie Hawkins, Nick Mottern, Joe Lombardo, the Grady sisters, Tighe Barry, Debra Sweet and a large delegation of Veterans for Peace members from many states.

I spoke Saturday morning on a plenary panel along with Kathy Kelly and David Swanson. This gave me the chance to put drones into the larger context of US strategy and space technology development that is being used to advance the "interests" of corporate globalization and their effort to control resources around the planet.  I suggested that we might think of military space satellites as being the "triggers" that makes it possible for drones to fire their deadly "Hellfire" missiles that frequently kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

In addition I did a workshop entitled "Full Spectrum Dominance" that allowed me the time to thoroughly cover the nuclearization and weaponization of space issues. 

On Sunday morning we gathered for a meeting on the planned civil resistance action later that day at Hancock Air Field from where the "Reaper" drone is flown over Afghanistan by military personnel sitting in front of computer terminals at the base - all hooked up by military satellites and Space Command down-link stations spread around the world.

The rally near the Air Field began around 1:00 pm and featured several speakers.  I was invited to say a few words.  I said that it was understandable that Americans are upset when innocents, including children, were killed and injured in the recent Boston bombing.  “Isn’t it equally wrong for us to do the same thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan?” I asked.  Our nation is so full of hypocrisy when it comes to the word terrorism.  When others do it we get all riled up but when we do it somehow our soldiers become heroes.  It's been this way in the US since we began killing the Indians.

After we had moved to the base in a slow funeral procession four of us from Veterans For Peace (VFP) stood next to the yellow crime scene tape the military and the local police used to mark the point we were not allowed to pass without risk of arrest.  A large number of activists crossed this line and performed a die-in blocking the entrance to the base.  They covered themselves in white sheets smeared in red.  While a policeman was issuing a warning with a bullhorn the four of us from VFP began reading the names of children killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan.  Once we finished reading the names we stepped over the line and were quickly grabbed by the cops, handcuffed, and escorted to the waiting big black police bus. 

Once everyone had been arrested and the remaining rally participants had walked back to their cars the county police drove the bus to one of their offices where one-by-one they got all of our personal information.  This took some time and when they had finished and were set to take us to appear before a judge in another place, the bus would not start.  So we sat waiting for the military to send one of their buses that we eventually boarded and were then taken to the small courthouse in the suburban town of Dewitt where the base is located.  This nightmare was to last until midnight for us as we sat on the bus, still in handcuffs, while the "wheels of justice" took their ever-loving time to grind on.

We'd had no food or water since noontime and the police were not interested in giving us any.  After hours of sitting in the courthouse parking lot some of us began to negotiate with the police to give us water and bathroom visits.  It took awhile but we finally prevailed and each got about 1/2 of cup of water in the smallest Styrofoam cup possible and a chance to go to the toilet with our handcuffs still binding us.

It was taking nearly 30 minutes to process each of us by the judge who had been called in to deal with our arraignments.  Once I finally got inside my wrists had begun to swell from the tight cuffs.  The judge showed no mercy and set bail for me at $1,500 with others (for various reasons) reaching as high as $3,000 each.  This was outrageous and I told the judge I thought the bail was punitive and excessive.  He said something like, "Well you all are costing the citizens of Dewitt alot of money and we want to make sure you come back for next court appearances."  (Often when I've been arrested at these kind of events I've been released on my own recognizance or only had to pay $50-$100.)

We finally got to the county jail (in another location) about 1:00 am and inside our holding cell (men in one and women in another) some time later.  Needless to say none of us slept more than one hour that night on the narrow cold cement benches that ran the length of both sides of the cell.  Only after having to ask were we given toilet paper.

At 4:30 am the police entered our holding cell and asked if we were ready to make our one allowed phone call.  We looked at each other with an astonished laugh and said no.  At 6:30 am I was able to call home and talk with Mary Beth who began the process of making my bail arrangements with great help from the folks at the Syracuse Peace Council who did support work for those in jail. (Others got to the phone at various times during the day - the last getting to make his call around 4:00 pm on Sunday.)  Every step with the jailers was like pulling teeth.

Finally I was released at 5:00 pm on Monday and quickly got myself loaded into my rental car and made way for Maine.  I was very tired and was not sure how far I could drive before needing to stop.  I grabbed a cup of tea and some gas and said good-bye (for now) to Syracuse.  I drove four hours and made it to Wayland, Massachusetts where a friend of ours took me in for the night.

Once home today I began to get a look at some of the news coverage of the protest and the many photos being posted on Facebook.  I had a call from the Iranian News Agency in Washington DC who wanted an interview and two of our local newspapers have taken notice as well. 

One question from the media was why the harsh bail?  I answered that in a way it is the "supreme compliment".  These drone protests at Hancock Air Field have been escalating during the past two years as more people learn about the Syracuse connection to the killing of innocent people overseas.  The local military and police authorities want to crack down to "deter" future protests.  They figure that people will think twice before coming to Hancock.  But in fact that strategy will backfire in their face.  The primary reason I went to Hancock was because of the "Orders of Protection" that have been given to everyone arrested there during the last two actions.

This ridiculous "Order" says that we must "stay away from Hancock... and refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to, the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Greg Semmel."

The judge handed me the "Order" to sign.  I said that I had no idea who Greg A. Semmel was.... as it turns out he is commander of Hancock Field.  I said I'd not know the man if I stumbled into him on the street.  The judge then said, good you don't have anything to worry about then.

But this "Order" is something to worry about because it makes it possible for the State of New York to arrest me and incarcerate me for up to seven years for contempt of court if I return to protest at the base.  They are cracking down hard on the protests because they are working.  The public is beginning to learn about these killing drones and minds are changing.  The protests must be stopped.

Just as we are learning here in Maine, as our state Attorney General (a Democrat) tries to kill a bill that would require police to have a warrant before doing domestic drone surveillance, extraordinary steps are being taken by the government to "protect drones" from activists.

Obama has announced that 30,000 drones will be buzzing around the US in coming years snooping on all of us.  Our Attorney General in Maine calls drones "an economic driver" and our new Sen. Angus King from Maine called them "humane weapons" while being interviewed recently from Washington on TV.  As the fiscal fabric of America unravels drones are the latest economic stimulus package from the federal government and states are now lining up with their empty hands held out in subservient anticipation.  Drone protests are obstacles to be dealt with.

So rather than protecting the constitution, the lives of innocent people in war zones, and getting serious about real problems like growing poverty and climate change our political class is working overtime to guard the drone industry and threaten activists with serious jail time if we keep opposing them.

These twisted drone plans will indeed backfire.  Upon returning home I noticed emails flying around raising funds to help people pay for their bail at Hancock.  The protests will continue there, as they should.  More people will join this Gandhian wave.

People clearly understand that we must protect the peace, the innocents, social progress here at home and defend our basic right to protest injustice and wars. We have no other choice.

PS  In all my tiredness I forget to mention that 31 of us were arrested and I must return to Syracuse on May 7 for a pre-trial hearing.  

HANCOCK DRONE PROTEST IN SYRACUSE, NEW YORK




See the full news article here

Also a bit of coverage in the Portland Press Herald of my arrest (thanks to Maine friend and fellow activist Lisa Savage for alerting media here in the state.)  See it here

DANCING PRIESTS & NUNS



From Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea.

See much more about the Jeju story here

Sunday, April 28, 2013

SUNDAY SONG