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

Saturday, July 30, 2016

We Were Not Wanted in Here - It's a Rigged System



The aftermath of the so-called Democratic National Convention......

Talking with the Kunsan Grandpas



Yesterday Ken, Will and I took the train from Pyeongtaek, South Korea two hours south for a day long tour of the perimeter of the US Kunsan Air Force Base.  Our guide and translator drove us from one end of the base to the other.  Near the end of the visit we can upon a two-story watch tower near to the base runway and discovered five village grandpas playing a card game inside the open air upper space.

After introducing ourselves as members of Veterans For Peace we requested if we could ask them some questions about the base and film their responses.  They eagerly agreed and began by telling us we had come on the wrong day (a weekend).  If we'd come during the week the noise from the US war planes would be overwhelming they said. Pointing to their ears they told us they were all hard of hearing having spent their lives living next door to the busy airfield.

The grandpas told us many villagers with access to more money had already moved away but they had no resources to move anywhere else.  Due to current base expansion new weapons storage bunkers would soon be built very close to their living areas and they would be forced to move as well.

We learned that this whole area had once been a beach community but the military had filled in much of the land to build the base right along the ocean.  They pointed to a large old tree next to their cement bird's nest that we were perched in and said the tree was 500 years old - a symbol of the long history of their once proud village.  Now they were going to be cast aside like fallen autumn leaves.


In response to a question the grandpas told us they were not happy with the noise or having to move.  But there is nothing we can do about it they declared.  Between the power of the US military, and the servile South Korean government, they stood no chance.  How could they defend themselves up against such forces?

This morning we take a three-hour bus ride back to Seoul Kimpo airport where we will catch a plane to Jeju Island.  Then for the next five days we will join the annual Gangjeong village peace walk around the beautiful 'Island of Peace'.  There we will walk with other grandmas and grandpas from a similar 500-year old fishing and farming community that has been torn apart so a Navy base could be built to host US warships that will come into the region as part of the aggressive US 'pivot' to encircle China. Some of those warships, Aegis destroyers, will have been built in my hometown of Bath, Maine.

Real lives are impacted by the Obama-Hillary Clinton created 'pivot' into the Asia-Pacific and if war ever comes as a result of this steroidal military expansion then even more lives, many more lives, will hang in the balance.

Bruce

'Comfort Women' Protest in Seoul



From our Wednesday participation in the 'Comfort Women' protest in Seoul.

Video taken by VFP member Will Griffin and production work by Zoom in Korea staff in New York.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Not Everyone in Ukraine Wants War



Up to 10,000 participants of the Ukrainian Cross Procession for Peace congregated on St. Vladimir Hill and walked to the Lavra Monastery in Kiev, Wednesday, where a prayer ceremony was held.

The procession started at the opposite ends of Ukraine, with one group beginning on 3 July from the Holy Assumption Sviatohirsk Lavra in the eastern Donetsk region and the second taking off on 9 July from the Holy Assumption Pochaiv Lavra in the western Ternopil region. Both processions met in Kiev, marking the Baptism of Kievan Rus and go to the Monastery of the Caves.

Blame it on Putin


U.S. Marines Land in Odessa, Ukraine


 
In the framework of the multinational military exercise Sea Breeze, on Wednesday, July 27th, soldiers of the US Marines landed on one of the beaches in the Odessa region. 

This was reported by “Ukraine Press“. The Marines practiced disembarkation from a landing ship near the village of Lebedivka. The Americans were able to land on one of the beaches, after locals were asked to leave. The website adds that law and order was overseen by the soldiers of the National Guard of Ukraine.

The naval exercise Sea Breeze-2016 was conducted from 18th to 30th July in the Odessa and Nikolaev areas. The maneuvers involved 25 warships and boats of the naval forces of Ukraine, US, Romania, and Turkey. It also involved aircraft.

Why Does the U.S. Have the Right to Steal Our Lands?


We spent the day getting a tour of the perimeter of the US's Army base called Camp Humphreys and the Osan Air Force Base - both in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.  Both bases have been undergoing a dramatic expansion in recent years which is largely (about 90%) being paid for by the South Korean people.

As part of the Obama/Hillary Clinton 'pivot' of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific more airfields, more barracks and more ports-of call for Navy warships are needed.  Thus at Camp Humphreys and Osan AFB (about 23 kilometers apart) they are building new airfields, barracks, munitions storage areas, training grounds, administration buildings and more.  Once completed about 45,000 US troops will be stationed at the Army base.  Essentially a massive city is being developed to handle this huge US military operation.

In order to satisfy the Pentagon's ravenous appetite for more land around these two bases several farming villages had to be destroyed. The lands were stolen from the peasant farmers who grew rice and who had years ago turned these wet lands into productive fields.

When we arrived yesterday we were taken to the Pyeongtaek Peace Center which was built by the residents of one of those destroyed villages who acquired new land and built a community where each house today is outfitted with solar panels. Their front and back yards are planted with red peppers, veggies and fruit trees.

First thing this morning we were taken from the peace center, where we spent the night in second floor guest rooms, to a peace museum on the other side of the village.  The photo above is a sculpture that sits in the center of the museum representing the former lives of the villagers and their intense multi-year non-violent struggle to save their way of life.  In the end they were defeated but we were told that the Pyeongtaek struggle was a milestone in creating a new way of resistance in South Korea where art and non-violent struggle came together to inspire future movements like we have seen more recently on Jeju Island.

Included in this wonderful sculpture are not only a bunch of farm implements, all mounted on a tractor, but also sound systems, microphones (arranged as tears hanging from the piece), flags and banners.   Photos hanging on the walls depicted the fierce struggle which at one point saw as many as 10,000 police brought into their village on a single day in order to drive away the villagers and their supporters who had come from around the country to help defend them.

This photo below struck a chord in me as it depicts farmers putting messages and other valuables into a large pot that was buried under the ground to be dug up some day in the future when the US military empire finally collapses and the people may again return to their beloved lands.


US citizens have become cold-hearted about the people around the world that 'our government' kills or steals land from for the Pentagon's 1,000 imperial war bases.  But this trip has already reenforced for me the hard truth that US bases come at a huge cost to people who are violently forced to move in order for their puppet governments to hand over ownership to the US.  And as we now see in South Korea, the insult is a double one as the people here have to help pay for the building of the bases on the stolen lands.

One of the leaders of this village currently has to drive about an hour to the only land he could afford to purchase to restart his rice growing operation.  Many of the villagers could not afford to purchase new fields or were too old to restart their lives.  They now essentially live without income.

This blatantly unfair system of US control and domination of South Korea, and other countries facing a similar fate, must end. 

The people around the world are not holding their breath though - they know that the American people are largely arrogant and self possessed.  They do appreciate deeply those of us working for peace but they wish we'd be bolder in confronting our own corporate oligarchic structures.

Try looking into the eyes of deeply depressed and heart broken farmers who ask why does the US think they have the right to take what ever they want. 

We must all play a role in helping to remove the American military boot firmly placed on the necks of innocent people around the globe. 

Bruce

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Can You Imagine?



First we bomb them, then we blame them.

A short film about the humanitarian consequences of the political crisis.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

It's all about the $$$$$$$$



Of course the Democratic Party will blame the Russians - it's all their fault!

Any doubt who really runs America? It's the corporate oligarchy and their big bucks. It does not matter whether the prez is Hillary or Trump - the country is run by the bankster pirates, fossil fuel companies, the drug corporations, the military industrial complex, the corporate controlled media and the like. This election is a scripted three-ring circus sideshow.

We need to send the nation a message by voting outside the box this time around. Anything else is just complicity with the corrupt sideshow.

Bruce

Funeral for the Devil & His Weapon



Seongju, South Korea residents’ funeral ceremony for the conservative Saenuri Party.

Seongju has historically voted for the Saenuri Party in their elections.  But since the ruling Saenuri Party's slavish decision to accept the US demand to deploy the THAAD 'missile defense' system in their community they have buried that relationship.

A recent national poll reveals that:


  • 53.1%: support reconsidering or rescinding the decision of deployment of US THAAD in South Korea.
  • 60.2%: believes that the United States forced the decision of deployment of US THAAD on Korea. Korea surrendered to the US pressure.
  • President Park Geun-hye's (daughter of former South Korean US puppet) approval rate sank to the lowest: below 30% and some voters calling for an impeachment.
1000 Korean scholars, experts, researchers, lawmakers, diplomats and distinguished citizen held a press conference against the US THAAD in front of Korean National Assembly.

Not Forgetting Japan's Treatment of Korean Sexual Slaves



Yesterday the three of us in our VFP (Veterans For Peace) delegation to Korea attended the weekly protest of the 'comfort women' across the street from the Japanese embassy in Seoul.  There was a large crowd of mostly high school and college students who were protesting the Japanese abduction of 200,000 Korean women during WW II when the young girls were used as sexual slaves for their troops across the Asia-Pacific.

Today only 40 of these women are still alive but they continue to demand a public apology from the Japanese government, appropriate compensation and an end to Tokyo's campaign to rewrite their sordid history in the textbooks of Japanese students.

In the video I describe the US's attempts to get Japan and South Korea to sweep this issue under the rug in order to facilitate the 'Tri-lateral military alliance' between the three countries that would be aimed at China.  Some time ago a 'deal' was struck by Japan and South Korea on this but the women rejected it, demanding that they be directly involved in any negotiations to resolve this sad story

So far the US strategy ain't working as you can see by the size of the crowd.

We also visited a museum on this subject that was full of Korean students.  The organizations supporting the 'grandmas' are doing a great job keeping this issue alive.

Bruce

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Arrived in South Korea - Two Delegation Members Denied Entry

VFP members Will Griffin (left) and Ken Jones (right) and I celebrate our successful entry into South Korea late last night


It was a time of conflicted feelings last night when Ken Jones (North Carolina) and I made it into South Korea and were met by Will Griffin (San Diego) who had arrived here in May.  Sadly our two Korean-American friends Hyun Lee and Juyeon Rhee were denied entry into South Korea.  They were put on a plane and sent back to the US.  Hyun and Juyeon, both who live in the New York City area, were to be our guides and translators during our three-week trip to Korea.  They help coordinate the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea in the US.

We believe the reason they were denied entry into the nation of their birth is because they are very active critics of the South Korean government's corporate policies that slavishly follow directions from Washington.  In particular they have helped create the organizational effort in the US to have Korean-Americans support progressive people here who have long been organizing to take their country back from the right-wing forces that now control South Korea.  Hyun and Juyeon have also helped launch Zoom Korea, an Independent news blog that provides critical and undistorted news and analysis of the fight for democracy, peace, and reunification on the Korean peninsula.  You can see the blog here

In particular Hyun and Juyeon have been supporting the growing movement in South Korea to oppose the recently announced US plan to deploy the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) 'missile defense' (MD) system in the center of the country.  If anyone had any doubt this issue is huge here just take a look at the headline in the Korea Times newspaper that we were handed on our airplane ride last night from Tokyo to Seoul.  



It is obvious to me that Hyun and Juyeon were not allowed into South Korea because they are in the middle of this fight.  Frankly I was surprised that I got into the country but I suppose I am not nearly as visible to the Korean government as the two Korean-American women are.  They speak the language and have the organizational capability to reach out to millions of Korean-Americans on this THAAD issue.

We were met at the airport last night by a South Korean activist who got us on a bus and into the heart of Seoul to our hotel.  The folks here are now working hard to fill the holes that were created when our two guides/translators were blocked entry into the country.

Will Griffin (an Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran), Ken Jones (VFP member in Asheville) and I make up this Veterans For Peace delegation that will be touring the country during these coming weeks.  We'll also go to Jeju Island during this trip to stand with the people of Gangjeong village who remain in opposition to the Navy base that has torn apart their small fishing and farming village.

American Navy personnel were recently spotted at the new Navy base in the village and it is just a matter of time before the first US warships enter Gangjeong waters as part of the 'pivot' of 60% of US military forces into the region.  Hillary Clinton, during her time as Secretary of State, was the author of the 'pivot' strategy which requires more ports of call for warships, more airfields for Pentagon war planes, and more barracks for US troops in places like Hawaii, Guam, Australia, Okinawa, Japan, Philippines, and South Korea.

In the Korea Times article shown above Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi renewed Beijing's strong opposition toward the US setting up the THAAD battery.  He said the US deployment in South Korea, "has undermined the foundations of trust between the two countries."

Just like the US deployments of 'missile defense' along the Russian borders, the ever increasingly deployments of MD now encircling China are major provocations by the US against peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.  During this visit our delegation will be standing with the growing numbers of people in South Korea who oppose these dangerous US policies.  I hope to be able to share their voices with those who read this blog.

Bruce

Monday, July 25, 2016

VFP in Philly Outside DNC


Destabilizing Nature of 'Missile Defense'



The story is true - soon after he stole the 2002 election George W. Bush pulled the US out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia.

The treaty made sure that neither side would build 'missile defense' (MD) systems which are destabilizing and provocative and give one side a first-strike advantage over the other.

These days the Pentagon is encircling Russia and China with MD - escalating an already out of control arms race.  Add to that NATO expansion right up to Russia's borders and the US-NATO are playing with fire.

The constant demonization of Putin and Russia by the west make our people unable to hear the rational warnings coming from Putin.  Sadly the minds of most people in the US have been colonized by this demonization process - even many peaceniks have had their heads filled with mush making them afraid to be labeled 'Putinized' if they pay any attention to the words from Moscow.  Very sad indeed.

Bruce

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Counter-Dialogue Needed Now More Than Ever



Dr. Cornel West discusses Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump during the recent Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

There is an attempt to get Cornel West to sign on as Jill Stein's vice-president pick in the Green Party.  You can sign a petition urging him to do so here.

Be Bold

Aid to the People of Eastern Ukraine



The US-NATO puppet regime in Kiev has resumed its blitzkrieg of the people in eastern Ukraine (Donbass).

The plan is still to attempt to draw Russia into overt defense of the people in Donbass.  At this point Russia is giving diplomatic, military aid, and humanitarian aid to the suffering people in Donbass.  But the US-NATO war project will not rest until they can force Russia into crossing their border to defend the Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine.

The US-NATO must justify their current steroidal expansion of the 'military alliance' up to the Russian border.  So far Moscow has been smart and not given Washington-Brussels what they want.  But as the US-NATO funded and trained Nazi forces increase their daily attacks on the people in Donbass at some point Russia just might determine that they have no other choice than to intervene to stop the blood bath.  The US-NATO will howl like a wounded animal.

The timing of these attacks on Donbass is interesting to me - right at the time that America is spending much energy focused on the corporate run Republican and Democrat conventions.  People here are distracted and the oligarchy picks that as the moment to resume to attacks on Donbass.

Bruce

Teacher Struggle in Mexico


Sunday Song