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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

South Koreans Encircle U.S. Embassy

Thousands of demonstrators formed a human chain around the American embassy in the South Korean capital, Seoul, to register their disapproval of the US-built THAAD missile defense system in their country.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Trump are due to meet for the first time in Washington next week, with THAAD expected to dominate the agenda.

Moon, a center-left politician, who was sworn in last month after a corruption scandal brought down the previous right-wing administration, has been a critic of the way in which the sophisticated defense system has been deployed and has ordered a full investigation.

"We got a fuckin‘ problem"

From Seymour Hersch
Printed by WELT (Germany)

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.

This conversation was provided to [award winning journalist] Seymour Hersh. It is between a security adviser and an active US American soldier on duty on a key operational base about the events in Khan Sheikhoun. We have made abbreviations: American soldier (AS) and Security Advisor (SA). WELT AM SONNTAG is aware of the location of the deployment. For security reasons, certain details of military operations have been omitted.

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin‘ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad...Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He's bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel.  We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians.  Fucking dangerous.  Where are the goddamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don't know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That's it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS:  I don't know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don't know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible.  The Russian air defense system is capable of taking out our TLAMs.  this is a big fucking deal...we are still all systems go...

SA:  You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor‘s note) ?                 

AS: I don't know. It's from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.                      

AS: It has to be POTUS.      

AS:  They [the Russians] are weighing their options.  Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of Syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are other words, the sky is fucking blue.'         
April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying  Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?                       

AS: We didn't hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.                      

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.                      

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.                      

AS: They are correct.                      

AS: I guess it really didn't matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.                      

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we're in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK                      

AS: It's a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact                      

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming                      

AS: Oh of course                      

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can't make this shit up.                      

SA: They are. I mean, making it up                      

AS: It's so fuckin evil                      

SA: Amen!!!      

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable.  Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don't think the Russia yet understands how crazy Trump is over this.  And i don't think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They're showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm.  They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything.  They don't want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the get the feeling are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work.  If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they're going to hit back.'

Sunday Song

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day in Portland: Trains and Film

MB and I went to Portland today to see the tall sailing ships and a movie.  As we were walking toward the port district we passed by the narrow gauge train museum and went inside to have a look.  I've always loved trains and still have my train set that I got for Christmas in 1959.  In fact I still have the turkey box from our holiday turkey that year that I have kept the train in ever since.  In later years I gave the train to my son Julian but it is still stored in our attic with his baseball cards and other such things.

In 1980 I worked with friend John Hedrick in Orlando, Florida to create the People's Transit Organization that worked to get the city and Orange County to upgrade their public transit.  (Our campaign was successful in getting the community to double its funding for public transit.) I am not fond of cars, nor of super highways, but love the idea of public transportation.  It's better for the environment and better for the public - its a common carrier.

Maybe it was living in Wiesbaden, Germany in the mid 1960's - our apartment in the center of the city was just blocks from the rail station and I used to spend alot of time there - and that experience of seeing what a real national rail system was like must have had a big influence on me.

Needless to say I was fascinated by the museum and I remain a huge advocate for building commuter rail systems as one small way to deal with our addiction to the automobile which is a major contributor to the pollution that has helped bring about climate change.

At one time Maine was connected by passenger rail lines that covered most of the state.  Many small towns still have their train stations standing but sadly the coming of the car destroyed that system.

Following our visit to the museum we continued our walk to the port area, had a late breakfast, and then sat in a park while waiting to go the the movie theater.  We went to see "All Eyez On Me" which tells the true story of prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur. The film follows Shakur from his early days in New York City to his evolution into being one of the world's most recognized and influential voices before his assassination at the age of 25. Against all odds, Shakur's raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary spirit propelled him into becoming a cultural icon whose legacy continues to grow.

Tupac's mother was a member of the Black Panthers and during her pregnancy she represented herself in a trial and was found not guilty of the charges.  She brought Tupac up to be a revolutionary. His fame brought him much suffering as he was targeted as an enemy of the state at an early age.  I highly recommend the film.


Must Watch Talk on Congo

Maurice Carney from Friends of the Congo speaking about US Foreign Policy in Congo, the heart of Africa. #UNAC2017

Maurice is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Friends of the Congo. He has traveled widely, leading workshops and teach-ins at universities, community colleges, businesses, faith groups, labor unions, and think tanks. He has provided analysis for media outlets including Pacifica News, Al Jazeera, ABC News, Democracy Now, Real New Network, and Pambazuka News.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

UNAC Panel Presentation on 'Missile Defense'

While at the UNAC national anti-war conference last weekend in Richmond, Virginia.

Thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Will Griffin at The Peace Report for making the video  available in this format.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

U.S. Navy War Games off Jeju Island

You don't have to understand Korean to watch this short news report about people on Jeju island, South Korea being angry about the port call by a US Aegis destroyer to the new Navy base in Gangjeong village.

The news report shows footage of the Navy war exercises that will be going on between the US, Canada and South Korean navies.  (Imagine all the sea life killed and pollution resulting from these so-called games.)

You also see a bit of the protest at the front gate of the new Navy base.

Practicing Solidarity Here at Home

Larry Hamm speaking at the #UNAC2017 conference, United National Antiwar Coalition, held in Richmond, VA.

Larry is founder and Chairman of the People's Organization For Progress in Newark, NJ. Check them out here

Larry calls for all movements to support one another.

Protect Your Spark Plugs

Veterans For Peace national board member Tarak Kauff from Woodstock, NY joined us in Maine for the Zumwalt destroyer 'christening' civil disobedience in 2016

Many moons ago, while I was working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, we organized a weekend retreat and our guest speaker was the legendary peace activist Abbie Hoffman.  I recall being blown away by his skill as a strategic thinker and the interaction made me realize how much we often fall for the mainstream media's definition of people - especially those who are in the limelight.  The media had long made Hoffman out to be a jester and a bit of a fool - not to be taken too seriously.  Seeing Abbie in person dispelled all those media-driven false impressions. (Later I read all of Hoffman's books which only confirmed for me his brilliant organizing know-how.)

One expression I will always remember that Hoffman made during our daylong event was his warning to us that we should be sure to "Protect your spark plugs".  He was not talking about auto repair.  In fact he was talking about our peace groups and the need to recognize who our spark plugs are and to make sure we take good care of them.  He did not mean this in an elitist manner but purely in the good sense way that we should know who it is that often energizes us and helps to make our groups move into action.

One such spark plug that I know is Tarak Kauff from VFP.  Tarak has boundless energy (not bad for an old man) and is able to turn ideas into action.  He's got a few rough edges (like most of us humans) but in many ways his roughness is part of his charm.

Tarak had much to do with making the recent VFP anti-war rally and protest in Washington DC happen.  He has been a leader in VFP solidarity trips to South Korea, Okinawa and Palestine during the last couple of years.  He was also heavily involved in organizing VFP's strong presence at Standing Rock in North Dakota last winter.

Tarak puts his heart in gear when he feels outraged at the insanity coming out of the US government.  He feels a sense of personal responsibility and acts on it and his sheer energy draws others who might not have ever thought of acting.

Tarak is a spark plug.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Aegis Destroyer Arrives on Jeju Island

Report from Sung-Hee Choi in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea:

The USS Dewey Aegis Destroyer (DDG-105) made entry into the Jeju navy base amid people's protest. Facing the three small kayaks [see yellow in photo] in protest to it, a Coast Guard ship was sent to stop the kayaks. Photographer Oum Mun-hee says, in the photos, you can see crews on the ship and even firing from the ship just before its entry to the port.

According to the Yonhap News, there will be 'live-fire naval exercise' in southern waters near Jeju Island joined by the three nations of South Korea, United States and Canada. The article details the Navy's words that 'the three sides plan to hold various drills on interdiction, air defense, anti-submarine operations and ballistic missile detection, along with live-fire training.'

The USS Dewey Aegis destroyer would be the 2nd Aegis destroyer following the USS Stethem's port call on March 25, this year. If the USS Stethem came to the Jeju navy base after its joint exercise with South Korea for a 'friendly exchange' and social service,' the USS Dewey comes here to have a meeting on coming joint exercise which will be from June 23.

Why Canada? The presence of Canada navy here is unusual. But we know that she is a member of NATO and has dispatched its troops of the 3rd largest size after United States and UK during the Korean War, 1950 to 1953.

Reminded with recent bitter disasters on June 9 and June 17 when the US Aegis destroyers clashed respectively with a South Korean fishing ship in the East Sea (east of the Korean peninsula) and Philippine container ship in the east sea of Japan (near Shizuoka prefecture) I wonder whether such reckless war exercise would be really recommended for the US navies. (It is read that the Dewey has accompanied the clashed ship USS Fitzgerald to a port in Japan on June 17.)

We say NO to the entry of the USS Dewey Aegis destroyer to the Jeju navy base!

Stop the South Korea-United States-Canada maritime military exercise!

Photos by Oum Mun-hee (top color photo) and Song Dong-hyo (two black and white photos )


The USS Dewey has unexpectedly left the port due to damage in its equipment. The Dewey canceled its participation in the joint ROK-US-Canada maritime exercise due to unknown equipment damage, which was found after its docking into the Jeju navy base. The Aegis destroyer left the port around 6 pm, 10 hours after its docking at the base on the same day. Jeju media reports though that the joint exercise between South Korea and Canada will be carried out with the arrival of two Canadian convoys on June 22.

Attacks Continue in Donbass

The shelling daily continues in the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) near the Russian border.  Families have been destroyed and driven from their homes by Ukrainian forces trained, equipped and directed by the US-NATO.

These people feel betrayed and forgotten by a world that has largely fallen for the endless demonization of Russia by Washington's warmongers.  Russia has not invaded Ukraine.  It is the US-NATO proxy Army from Kiev that keeps attacking the Donbass region where thousands have been killed - and the killing still goes on.

It is a war crime to attack civilian populations and the US-NATO are responsible for these war crimes being committed against the innocent people of the Donbass.

It breaks my heart - in part because I understand what is coming next.  What is going on now is just the warm up to greater war that Washington-London-Paris-Brussels are trying to set up.  They intend to attempt to break Russia up into pieces (similar to what was done to Yugoslavia and is now being done in Iraq and Syria) - to balkanize Russia and return a servile Yeltsin-type person to power in Moscow who would serve as an agent of the west. 

Of course this arrogant and evil strategy will fail but very well could lead to WW III. 


Remembering Richmond's Slave Trade

At the end of the UNAC national peace conference in Richmond, Virginia this past weekend we marched one mile to Shockoe Bottom which was once the epicenter of the US domestic slave trade.

This action was part of events all over the country to remember Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the US.  It marks June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Texas first learned of the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, issued two-and-a-half years earlier by President Lincoln.

General Gabriel (as fellow slaves called him), the leader of a slave rebellion in 1800, was hung at the burial ground at Shockoe Bottom along with at least 25 others that supported the insurrection. 

Between 1830-1860 Shockoe Bottom was the leading center for domestic slave trading and several hundred thousand slaves that were 'bred in the US' (plantations forced enslaved women and men to produce children for sale) were sold to plantations throughout the deep south. Gabriel's son - who was born in Alabama or Kentucky (when Gabriel's pregnant widow was sold out of state) - was raised like a horse to be a 'stud' and may have been forced to father as many as 30 children most of whom were sold away.

The legal transatlantic importation of slaves ended in 1808 and very quickly the profits and volume of the domestic trade grew and continued to grow to its height in the 1850s, almost unabated even through the Civil War, only ending (in Richmond) on April 2, 1865, when Federal troops arrived.

In recent years Richmond activists have been campaigning to turn Shockoe Bottom into a memorial.  The city has had other plans for the area which have included a baseball field, hotel, shops, and condos.

Ana Edwards local leader of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project says, "We need to deal with this history. Not only do we then get to honor the people who came before us, but we also get to understand them and ourselves. If we don't bring this history back, Richmond will always struggle through this identity crisis that it has."

Ana Edwards (right) leads the march to Shockoe Bottom carrying a banner with the 1800 slave rebellion cry.  She was joined by Lynetta Thompson (left) past President of the Richmond NAACP.

In 2009, archaeologists found a jail, The Robert Lumpkin Slave Jail in Shockoe Bottom district. It was nicknamed “The Devil’s Half Acre.” It was known as one of the cruelest, most inhumane jails in the country. Lumpkin, a “bully trader” fathered five children with a former slave named Mary who he married and thus left her his property when he died. Mary leased some of the buildings on the site to a northern minister to start a school that later moved and eventually became Virginia Union University.

Our visit to Shockoe Bottom was a great ending to the conference and reminds us all that the legacy of slavery still leaves harsh marks on America's consciousness.  Racism is still alive and flourishing across the land and campaigns like the one to memorialize Shockoe Bottom should be supported now more than ever.


PS Thanks to Ana Edwards for correcting some of my mistakes in the first edition of this post and offering a much broader picture of the history of Shockoe Bottom.