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, July 22, 2017

Why Does Seoul Ban Another Korean-American Trying to Come Home?


ACTION ALERT: Email South Korean President Moon Jae-in to lift the ban on Korean-American peace activist Juyeon Rhee from entering the country

Juyeon Rhee, a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea’s (STIK) peace delegation to South Korea was blocked from boarding a Delta Airlines flight today on her way to South Korea.

At approximately 9:00 AM at the LaGuardia Airport in New York City, Rhee, the STIK peace delegation coordinator, was told by Delta Airlines that she could not board the plane. Last year, Rhee was blocked from entering South Korea by the previous right-wing administration of recently impeached and jailed Park Geun-hye. With the newly elected Moon Jae-in in office, Rhee and members of the peace delegation expected her ban to have been lifted.

Rhee said in response to being blocked from boarding the plane to South Korea:

This is how Korea's division impacts overseas Koreans. I was wrongly labeled as a 'threat to national security' by the previous Park Geun-hye administration with no explanation. The burden is now on me to prove that I pose no harm to South Korean society. I refuse to accept that as a democratic and fair process. The ban was wrongly imposed on me without any warning or explanation.

The STIK task force is calling for a rapid response by way of sending an email to current President Moon Jae-in to demand the ban on Korean American peace activist Juyeon Rhee be lifted immediately. 

Below is a sample email to the South Korean President and the Blue House composed by STIK. Feel free to modify according to your own views.

Send to:
president@president.go.kr
webmaster@president.go.kr
bcc: limwolsan@gmail.com
bcc: liem@bc.edu

In Subject Line put – Lift the Entry Ban on Juyeon Rhee Immediately

Sample Text

President Moon Jae-in
Blue House
Seoul, ROK

Re: Lift the Entry Ban on Juyeon Rhee Immediately

Dear President Moon Jae-in:

I am writing to strongly protest the ban imposed this morning on Ms Juyeon Rhee today at LaGuardia Airport, New York, preventing her from boarding her Delta flight to Incheon. The ban was imposed by South Korean officials. Juyeon Rhee is the coordinator for the Stop THAAD in Korea (STIK) peace delegation visiting your country and hosted by the National People’s Action to Stop the Deployment of THAAD in South Korea (NPA). The STIK delegation includes prominent peace activists Jill Stein, 2016 U.S. presidential candidate for the Green Party, USA, Medea Benjamin, founder of CODEPINK, Reece Chenault, National Coordinator for U.S. Labor Against the War, and Will Griffin, Veterans for Peace and STIK.

The delegation arrives with the endorsement of more than 80 U.S. and international organizations and 270 individuals including such widely respected peace advocates as Professor Noam Chomsky, author and social critic, Daniel Ellsberg, Women for Genuine Security member, Gwyn Kirk, Academy Award-winning director, Oliver Stone, religious scholar and public intellectual, Cornel West, and former U.S. State Department official and Army colonel, Ann Wright.

I am deeply troubled by the actions of your authorities to prevent Juyeon Rhee from entering your country especially in view of the welcome promise of your administration to seek peaceful and negotiated settlements to longstanding conflicts and to recommit the nation to open dialogue and respect for democratic processes. Ms Rhee has demonstrated a life-long commitment to the desire of all Koreans for a peaceful resolution to decades of conflict and to U.S. policies that respect the sovereignty of the Korean people and value equally the human needs of all Americans.

In the spirit of the candlelight revolution I urge you to fulfill your pledge to eradicate problems left over from the previous administration, champion democratic rights including freedom of expression without fear of reprisal, and immediately lift the travel ban imposed on Juyeon Rhee by the previous administration.

Sincerely,

Please be sure to include your affiliation with your signature and your email address, if possible.

Afghans Don't Know Why U.S. is at War with Them



And neither do most of the American GI's deployed in Afghanistan.....

Friday, July 21, 2017

Guest on My Own Show



The latest edition of This Issue features Maine high school teacher and activist Lisa Savage who turns the table and interviews me about US foreign policy.

Lisa is the founder and coordinator of the Maine Natural Guard and lives in Solon with her husband Mark Roman.  Lisa and Mark were arrested last April 1 while doing civil disobedience at Bath Iron Works during a ‘christening’ ceremony of another Navy Aegis destroyer.

This Issue has been on public access TV in Maine since December 2003 and is produced by Eric Herter.  Camera work for this edition of This Issue was done by Peter Woodruff while Dan Ellis worked in the control booth.

This Issue runs on Brunswick, Bath, Harpswell, Portland, Phippsburg, Freeport, Madison, Skowhegan, Anson, North Anson, Solon, Belfast, South Portland, New Castle, and Biddeford public access cable TV at random times.  Check local listings. 

Space Alert! Newsletter Now Available Online


We've got our Space Alert! newsletter up on our web site now for public viewing.  You can find it here

If you’d like to help us distribute printed copies please let us know how many you want and we will mail them to you – all we ask is that your reimburse us for postage once they arrive at your door.  Just call us at 207-443-9502 or drop us a line at globalnet@mindspring.com

Bruce 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Village versus Empire


I had an email this morning from a South African filmmaker by the name of Mark Kaplan who has created a masterpiece called 'Village versus Empire'.  The film is just recently out and Kaplan is working hard to increase international viewership of his important story about Jeju Island, South Korea. He's happy to hear that anyone in Bath, Maine is interested since the ships built here are being ported in the place that inspired him to create this film.

Jeju Island born shaman, artist, and performer Dohee Lee now lives in the San Francisco-Bay area.  Kaplan has Lee take us deeply into the undercurrents, suffering, history, culture, and determination of the people as they face the results of Washington's demand that South Korea build a Navy base in Gangjeong village.

We are going to show this artistic documentary on Friday, October 20 here in the Midcoast as part of our annual Maine Peace Walk.  I'm now exploring where it can be shown - ideally it should be viewed on a big screen.  We'll see what comes up.

Anyone that watches this film will have a very different picture of the Korean people and the US arrogant destruction of a village for its own aggressive Naval outpost.

The people of Gangjeong village have been struggling for over 10 years to stop the base and now that it is built, and receiving Pentagon warships, they remain determined to fight against any war with China or Russia and to resolutely defend their culture in the presence of this manifestation of the war machine.

Dohee Lee's sharing of the story of Jeju is both sorrowful and liberating.  She cuts to the bone and then helps us find our souls by looking at the past, the present and the future.

The struggle in the village won't die - anyone coming to the Navy base will be touched by the power of the peaceful and joyful people who defend nature and their independence.  Their ceremony is living and protecting life.

Bruce

Remember the Afghanistan War?



On this episode of On Contact, Chris Hedges takes an in-depth look at the 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan with Matthew Hoh, a Marine Corps veteran and diplomat who resigned his State Department post in Afghanistan in protest over the war.

Hoh is also today an active member of Veterans For Peace.

RT Correspondent Anya Parampil looks at the decades of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

The Ugly Alliance


With New D.C. Policy Group, Dems Continue to Rehabilitate and Unify With Bush-Era Neocons


 By Glenn Greenwald

One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country’s most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president.

A newly formed and, by all appearances, well-funded national security advocacy group, devoted to more hawkish U.S. policies toward Russia and other adversaries, provides the most vivid evidence yet of this alliance. Calling itself the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the group describes itself as “a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative” that “will develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions,” and also “will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.”

It is, in fact, the ultimate union of mainstream Democratic foreign policy officials and the world’s most militant, and militaristic, neocons. The group is led by two longtime Washington foreign policy hands, one from the establishment Democratic wing and the other a key figure among leading GOP neocons.

The Democrat, Laura Rosenberger, served as a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and chief of staff to two Obama national security officials. The Republican is Jamie Fly, who spent the last four years as counselor for foreign and national security affairs to one of the Senate’s most hawkish members, Marco Rubio; prior to that, he served in various capacities in the Bush Pentagon and National Security Council.

Fly’s neocon pedigree is impressive indeed. During the Obama years, he wrote dozens of articles for the Weekly Standard — some co-authored with Bill Kristol himself — attacking Obama for insufficient belligerence toward Iran and terrorists generally, pronouncing Obama “increasingly ill suited to the world he faces as president” by virtue of his supposed refusal to use military force frequently enough (Obama bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries during his time in office, including an average of 72 bombs dropped per day in 2016 alone).

The Democrats’ new partner Jamie Fly spent 2010 working in tandem with Bill Kristol urging military action — i.e., aggressive war — against Iran. In a 2010 Weekly Standard article co-written with Kristol, Fly argued that “the key to changing [Iran’s thinking about its nuclear program] is a serious debate about the military option,” adding: “It’s time for Congress to seriously explore an Authorization of Military Force to halt Iran’s nuclear program.”

Fly then went around the D.C. think tank circuit, under the guise of advocating “debate,” espousing the need to use military force against Iran, spouting standing neocon innuendo such as “we need to be wary of the Obama administration’s intentions” toward Iran. He mocked Obama officials, and Bush officials before them, for their “obsession with diplomatic options” to resolve tensions with Iran short of war. The Kristol/Fly duo returned in 2012 to more explicitly argue: “Isn’t it time for the president to ask Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iran’s nuclear program?”

Read the rest of this article here

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Catching Up & Next Steps


I am getting caught up today.  Our newspaper Space Alert has been sent to the printer and the mailing should go out on August 1.  I am grateful that Mary Beth did an edit of Space Alert while I was gone to Minnesota.  Also grateful to Nancy Randolph who does an excellent job of layout of the newspaper and our annual Keep Space for Peace week poster.

During my trip I was repeatedly asked where I go next to speak.  I was surprised that folks were interested in that.  So I told them that fellow VFP member Dud Hendrick is having me come speak in Deer Isle, Maine on August 3.  Then on August 5 I will speak at the Peace Fair in Brunswick organized annually by our local group called PeaceWorks.

On Saturday, August 26 we will hold a three-hour protest at the Blue Angels Air Show at the former Naval air station in Brunswick - from 9:00 am to noon.   This event is being sponsored by the Global Network, Maine Veterans For Peace and PeaceWorks.

Our April 1 civil disobedience at Bath Iron Works during the 'christening' of another Aegis destroyer has set in motion a series of court appearances for our group which we are calling the Aegis 9.  So our next court appearance will be on August 29 at the West Bath District Court at 11:30 am.

In between all these events during August Mary Bath and I will take a couple day trip to California to visit with my son and his new wife who are in the US for awhile before returning to their home in Taiwan.  My son Julian is a debate coach in Taiwan and during the summer he works at high school debate camps in the US.  MB and I went to their wedding in Taiwan last January so it will be a treat to see them both again.

The other thing I was eager to do since returning home late last night was to check out our garden - especially the tomato plants.  So under our car headlights I took a quick peek but couldn't see much in the dark.  This morning I went outside to have a look and much to my delight all the plants are flourishing and many little tomatoes are sprouting.

The only problem is that our local wildlife (probably woodchucks) have been nipping off the tops of many carrot, beet, and kale plants.  I've called a professional animal trapper who will catch it (them) live and move the critters out to a western Maine state wildlife reserve.  I just hope they don't try to hitchhike back to our place.

Bruce

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars


By Robert Parry

A weakened, even desperate President Donald Trump must decide whether to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to repudiate the Syrian partial ceasefire, which Trump hammered out with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7.

Whether intentionally or not, this crossroads is where the months of Russia-gate hysteria have led the United States, making Trump even more vulnerable to Israeli and neoconservative pressure and making any cooperation with Russia more dangerous for him politically.

After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that Israel was totally opposed to the Trump-Putin cease-fire deal in southern Syria because it perpetuates Iranian presence in Syria in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Netanyahu’s position increases pressure on Trump to escalate U.S. military involvement in Syria and possibly move toward war against Iran and even Russia. The American neocons, who generally move in sync with Netanyahu’s wishes, already have as their list of current goals “regime changes” in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow – regardless of the dangers to the Middle East and indeed the world.

At the G-20 summit on July 7, Trump met for several hours with Putin coming away with an agreed-upon cease-fire for southwestern Syria, an accord that has proven more successful than previous efforts to reduce the violence that has torn the country apart since 2011.

But that limited peace could mean failure for the proxy war that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional players helped launch six years ago with the goal of removing Assad from power and shattering the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. Instead, that “crescent” appears more firmly in place, with Assad’s military bolstered by Shiite militia forces from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In other words, the “regime change” gambit against Assad’s government would have backfired, with Iranian and Hezbollah forces arrayed along Israel’s border with Syria. And instead of accepting that reversal and seeking some modus vivendi with Iran, Netanyahu and his Sunni-Arab allies (most notably the Saudi monarchy) have decided to go in the other direction (a wider war) and to bring President Trump along with them.

Neophyte Trump

Trump – a relative neophyte in global intrigue – has been slow to comprehend how his outreach to Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman runs counter to his collaboration with Putin on efforts to defeat the Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have served as the point of the spear in the war to overthrow Assad.

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have received direct and indirect support from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Turkey, Israel and even the Obama administration, albeit sometimes unwittingly. To block Assad’s overthrow – and the likely victory by these terror groups – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah came to Assad’s defense, helping to turn the tide of the war since 2015.

In his nearly half year in office, Trump has maintained an open hostility toward Iran – sharing a position held by Washington’s neocons as well as Netanyahu and Salman – but the U.S. President also has advocated cooperation with Russia to crush Islamic State and Al Qaeda inside Syria.

Collaboration with Russia – and indirectly with Iran and the Syrian military – makes sense for most U.S. interests, i.e., stabilizing Syria, reversing the refugee flow that has destabilized Europe, and denying Al Qaeda and Islamic State a base for launching terror strikes against Western targets.

But the same collaboration would be a bitter defeat for Netanyahu and Salman who have invested heavily in this and other “regime change” projects that require major U.S. investments in terms of diplomacy, money and military manpower.

So, in last weekend’s trip to Paris, Netanyahu chose to raise the stakes on Trump at a time when Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media are pounding him daily with the Russia-gate scandal, even raising the possibility that his son, Donald Trump Jr., might be prosecuted and imprisoned for having a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer.

If Trump wants the Russia-gate pain to lessen, he will be tempted to give Netanyahu what he wants and count on the savvy Israeli leader to intervene with the influential neocons of Official Washington to pull back on the scandal-mongering.

The problem, however, would be that Netanyahu really wants the U.S. military to complete the “regime change” project in Syria – much as it did in Iraq and Libya – meaning more American dead, more American treasure expended and a likely wider war, extending to Iran and possibly nuclear-armed Russia.

That might fulfill the neocon current menu of “regime change” schemes but it runs the risk of unleashing a nuclear conflagration on the world. In that way, liberals and even some progressives – who have embraced Russia-gate as a way to remove the hated Donald Trump from office – may end up contributing to the end of human civilization as well.

~ Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

My Talk in Red Wing



Here is my talk at the statewide Veterans For Peace event called Peacestock in Red Wing, Minnesota last Saturday.  The progressive radio station in Minneapolis also recorded the talk and plans to put it on the air.

I am heading back to Maine now and want to give thanks to all my hosts in Minnesota for several great days of events and hospitality.  Last night's presentation in Minneapolis to the group called 'Every church is a peace church' went really well with a group of just over 50 people.

Afterwards a bunch of the folks took me to an Irish bar for a couple of beers and some great political discussion.  Really wonderful folks in Minnesota.

Bruce

Monday, July 17, 2017

Palestine in America


After lunch today Craig Wood drove us over to the neighborhood where the 40 year old Australian meditation teacher Justine Damon was shot to death late Saturday night after she called police to report some noise in her back yard. 

As we drove up to her home a large scrum of media folks were outside the house waiting for some family member to come out and make a statement.  Several of the media people were from Australia.

One media person told us that the story circulating is that she was shot dead by a policeman sitting in the passenger side of their cop car while she leaned on the car talking to the cop who was driving.  She was in her pajamas.  The officer in the passenger seat shot past his partner in the drivers seat.

No one knows why the shots were fired and the body cameras on the police were turned off.

Craig and I went over the the spot where it all came down and I added a message in chalk along with other messages on the sidewalk and in a driveway.  I wrote 'Palestine in America' - something I now put in Facebook comments every day when I see another story about police beating or killing people across the country.

Bruce

Speaking Tour in Minnesota



I arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Friday and was taken to the community of Red Wing early Saturday morning to attend the 17th annual Peacestock day-long gathering sponsored by a couple different Veterans For Peace chapters in the state.  Over 100 people turned out and my presentation entitled 'US First-Strike & NATO Expansion: Preparing for War with Russia and China' went over well.  The hour-long question and answer period following my Powerpoint was quite stimulating as the very sharp audience came up with many great comments and inquiries.

My host Craig Wood took me for a 2 1/2 hour walk Sunday morning along the Mississippi River and we then headed toward the Dowling Community Gardens (one of two remaining WW II 'Victory Gardens' created in 1943) where local residents get 20 by 20 foot plots.  Craig is a gardener with 37 tomato plants in his back yard (and I now have about 25 of them) so we both spent a good bit of time checking out the various stages of growth of the tomato plants and other plants in these lovely gardens.  The place is quite impressive and we enjoyed talking with various folks who were working in their garden patch.  What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning it was - in our own kind of church.


In the early afternoon I was taken by VFP member Steve McKeown to Mankato which is about an hour drive from Minneapolis where I was scheduled to speak at 4:30 pm.  I was frankly a bit skeptical that anyone would show up on a Sunday at that late hour but was pleasantly surprised when over 30 people walked through the door, including much to my total delight Sr. Gladys Schmitz who frequently writes to me and tells me how much she appreciates my work.  Sr. Gladys turns 92 on Aug 4 and introduced me to the assembled.  She even got the local TV station to come and they interviewed me before we started and then stayed for the entire event filming even more throughout my talk.  In all my years of being an activist I can't ever remember a time when a mainstream TV station came to an event and stayed the whole time (in this case nearly two hours). 

Sr. Gladys became aware of the Global Network in 2008 when she came to our annual space organizing conference in Omaha, Nebraska near Offut AFB where STRATCOM (Strategic Command) has its headquarters.

Steve McKeown and I had some great conversations during the ride to and from Mankato.  He is known as VFP's super petition gathering volunteer and he really impressed me with his tales of traveling across the state to get signatures.  He's even stopped at American Legion halls across Minnesota to ask the guys inside to sign his petitions against nuclear weapons.  Steve was one of the Minneapolis VFP guys that came to our first Huntsville, Alabama space conference in 2001.   He is a farm boy from South Dakota so I enjoyed hearing him talk about my favorite state where I lived for three years as a boy while my dad was stationed at Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City.

This past weekend a 40 year old white woman was gunned down here in Minneapolis by the police.  She had called the cops when she heard something outside her house.  When the cops arrived they shot her.  She is known in the community as a spiritual healer so this is not going down real well here.  This current epidemic of police violence across the nation (mostly targeted against black people) always makes me think that we now have become 'Palestine in America'.

I speak for the last time tonight in Minneapolis at the 'Every church is a peace church' monthly meeting.  I leave for home tomorrow.  It's been a great trip here - about my 4th time in Minneapolis - and I am so grateful to all my kind hosts.

Bruce

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Song