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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Blocking dump trucks at Oura Bay, Okinawa

From right to left: VFP members Tarak Kauff, Doug Lummis, Dud Hendrick and me

  • We are staying at a rustic Inn near Camp Schwab – in the countryside where local people have small vegetable plots.  Dud Hendrick, Tarak Kauff, and I have been sleeping on the floor with thin pads underneath us.  Outside there are lush Japanese-style gardens and the owner provides us an ample breakfast of salad, soup, and thick bread with pizza sauce and cheese.  The showers feel good each morning after the previous day being outside in the mostly mid-70-degree temperatures.
  • Last night the three of us from Veterans For Peace (VFP) were invited to attend a BBQ at a nearby covered pavilion.  The food and beer were ample as was the conversation.  I sat with two people from the Japanese mainland and they were particularly interested in my observations about their current government.  Do you think the Shinzo Abe administration in Tokyo is an independent government or is it a client state under the control of Washington?  I suggested that Abe’s government is willingly a junior partner in the current US imperial operation.  They nodded affirmatively.
  • Abe’s grandfather was in the Japanese imperial war cabinet. The Chinese, who were brutally invaded during WW II by fascist Japan, called him a ‘Class A’ war criminal.  Abe’s has been doing everything possible to rid Japan of its Constitution’s Article 9 which rules out offensive military operations.  Abe and Trump seem to be getting along splendidly these days.

  • NATO has been expanding operations into the Asia-Pacific in recent years trying to turn its ‘area of responsibility’ into a global force for western corporate interests.  The Japanese government has eagerly signed onto this expanding role as a NATO ‘partner’ as did South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.  Thus, NATO now has given itself license to intervene where ever it deems necessary.  The ultimate goal is to have an expanding NATO circumvent the authority of the United Nations by claiming it is a true global alliance – I call it the ‘coalition of the killing’.

  • Yesterday afternoon during the second construction gate blockade we walked about a half-mile in the direction of the coming dump trucks (filled with huge rocks and gravel) and joined with others who stood in front of the trucks as they waited to enter Camp Schwab after the gates were cleared of those sitting to block the entry way.  Heading away from the gate, and toward the long line of waiting trucks, was a good strategy because the police were for the most part clustered around the gate where they dragged people into the temporary cages.  We were able to slow the dump truck convoy down by at least an hour because it took that long for the police to react to this strategy.  As the police would approach us and push us away from the front of one truck, we’d just move to the next one and on it went.  Eventually I was grabbed by two policemen, one who held on to the back of my pants, as they forcefully walked me into a second make-shift cage they had created just for those of us who were working the line of waiting trucks.

  • Once the blockade was over we ran into our Okinawan friend Sunshine (aptly named for her constant big smile and warm demeanor) who told us they had 83 kayaks earlier in the day in the Oura Bay action and she had been able to steer her tiny peace vessel underneath a crane out in the water which forced it to suspend its destructive operations for some time.  So, between the activists on the sea and the land construction operations were again slowed down.  Each moment of delay becomes breathing space to further build the international movement to stop this insane rush toward war that the US-NATO military alliance is aiming at China, North Korea and Russia.
With Sunshine and Toshifumi Aonuma who took many of these photos‎

  • We each can do something every day to help this cause – discover your particular area of skill or interest and pour your passion for our Mother Earth into the work and help protect the future generations and our relations in the natural world.  This is the message that is being conveyed during this intense and wonderful week of actions to protect Oura Bay.  These protests have been happening daily for the last 13 years at Camp Schwab and are only going to grow as more people globally learn about them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Resisting Washington's divide & conquer tactics in Okinawa

About 700 people came for the daily construction gate blockade yesterday (Tuesday) at the US Marine Base Camp Schwab here in Okinawa.  Usually they bring in legions of dump trucks full of big rocks and gravel three times a day but on Monday and Tuesday they only did it twice because it took so long to clear the blockades from the gates.

On Monday the gates were shut down for five hours but on Tuesday lots more Japanese police from the mainland were brought in so they were able to clear the gates after about 90 minutes during the two different blockages.

As they drag people away from the gates they put them in well-guarded pens that they create by parking police buses next to the sidewalk near the gate.  The base fence serves as another barrier and they close off each end with portable fencing and lots of police.  I got stuck in there for a couple hours once and have made sure not to fall into that fly trap again.

It seems abundantly clear to me that the Japanese police and government in Tokyo have been completely outsourced to US interests.  There can be no doubt that ‘democracy’ in Japan (and Okinawa) does not exist except in a rhetorical sense.

The amount of construction going on at Camp Schwab is massive.  Just inside the gates heavy machinery are constantly preparing the ground for new buildings – likely more barracks as the US ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific requires more facilities to house the transfer of 60% of all Pentagon forces into this region.  

So, in addition to the operations in Oura Bay to build the twin-runways on top of the water (killing coral, fish and the endangered sea mammals called Dugong) there are other construction projects everywhere there is vacant space on Camp Schwab.

I took delight several times when huge Marine Corps military vehicles were passing by us to step out in front of them and refuse to move.  The police were so busy with the gate blockades that they left me alone. I wanted the Marines in the vehicles to see my Veterans For Peace T-shirt and know that fellow Americans are also at these protests.  Some of them might easily dismiss the Okinawans for protesting but I want them to have to think about why these VFP guys are here.  Dud Hendrick joined me twice when I did this in the road.

At 5:00 pm on Tuesday as people were leaving the base I stood by the gate again wanting to have the GI’s driving off the base to see my shirt.  I got to make eye contact with quite a few Marines.  At one point a bus full of Marines with windows open pulled up trying to enter the base but they had to wait for traffic to clear so I ran out into the road and went up and down the side of the bus saying, “You work for a fucking police state.  This is not a democracy.”

I did this because by 5:00 pm I was filled with disgust and anger watching and thinking about how the Okinawan people’s demand that this new airfield not be built on top of pristine Oura Bay is totally ignored.  I felt intense rage watching as police are brought in to overwhelm people’s honest and heartfelt non-violent protests; hearing how several mayors who oppose the base have been defeated in recent elections by heavily funded and manipulated campaigns orchestrated by Tokyo and Washington; seeing the massive environmental destruction currently underway at Camp Schwab (and other bases on the island); and the general disrespect for the people.  

In that moment when I could come face-to-face with the Marines on the bus I was channeling all this pent-up emotion.  You should have seen the wide eyes of the guys on the bus.  The last thing they ever expected to see was an old guy with a VFP T-shirt and a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap in the middle of the road in Okinawa.  For me it was a priceless moment.  (One of the simple joys in the life of a peacenik.)

Today (Wednesday) there was an action in the bay with more than 100 kayaks and other boats directly confronting construction operations going on in the water.  We were taken out in a glass bottom boat owned by a man who lives by Oura Bay and for years has made his living by renting kayaks to people who want to enjoy the beauty of this sacred place.  He now has become a leader in the movement and his face carries the sad look of a man whose heart is breaking.

While on the boat we learned that in Okinawa fishing licenses are given to villages. The government went to several Oura Bay fishing communities and offered them a deal.  If the village would give up their license then the fisherman would be paid $500 a day each to sit on their boats and spy on any protest activity in the water.  In some of the small villages a majority of fisherman voted to take the money even though not all of the others agreed. This has caused widespread conflict dividing communities and even families.  If a majority of the fishermen voted to accept the money then those who voted not to do so have lost their license and their income.

These kinds of divide and conquer tactics are manipulative and evil and have no place in a truly democratic society.  But Tokyo and Washington are not interested in fostering democracy.  In fact their only interest is in dividing the people of Okinawa and creating the feeling of inevitability - that the construction of the twin-airfields on top of Oura Bay is unstoppable and thus should not be resisted.

Fortunately there are many that still maintain their deep connection to nature, justice and true democracy and continue to daily resist these crimes that are ultimately coming from the corporate oligarchies that dominate politics in Washington.

I am proud to stand and sit with these true heroes.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Report on Oura Bay, Okinawa gate blockade

Blocking construction gate at Camp Schwab on Oura Bay today (Monday) in Okinawa - gate closed for 5 hours - hundreds of folks doing the blockade.

It got rough near the end as the Japanese police got tired and angry.  They began to push hard and shove folks around alot.  I got thrown to the ground by some police who were trying to open the path for the dump trucks carrying rocks into the base.  I landed on top of a policeman and it looked to me like his arm got broken as he hit a cement block as he fell.  He was in great pain but he cushioned my fall.  I felt bad for him but it was his fellow police that drove us both into the ground.

After things settled down about 4:00 pm people assembled under the tents across the street from Camp Schwab US Marine base that sits next to Oura Bay where the twin-runways are being built for Pentagon warplanes.  People spoke and sang songs and each of us from VFP were asked to speak.

These folks are very tough and determined - 75% of them are elders and I've hardly seen anyone like them before (except on Jeju Island, South Korea).  Going to be like this all this week as more people are coming to join the blockade.

Their message:  Close US bases, No new base on Oura Bay, No US war with China, North Korea or Russia.  US leave Okinawan people alone!


Sunday, April 22, 2018

A movement of waking up about Syria

Carla Ortiz Oporto is a Bolivian actress and well known philanthropist.....on the Jimmy Dore show about her experience in Syria.

A very important and moving interview.


Oura Bay, Okinawa: Mayonnaise theory

On Oura Bay, Okinawa in 2015 with Veterans For Peace delegation

Fellow Mainer Dud Hendrick (Deer Isle) and I arrived in Naha, Okinawa late last night after our long flight from Boston.  We spent the day relaxing and going for a walk in the driving rain looking for a lunch spot.

After an afternoon nap we were taken to dinner by the Okinawa chapter of Veterans For Peace (VFP) which is hosting a VFP delegation for the fourth time.  It was during this dinner that Dud and I learned about the mayonnaise theory of soil testing at Oura Bay.

We are here soon after the defeat of Nago City Mayor Susumu Inamine who was a leader in the campaign to stop the construction of twin-runways on top of Oura Bay for the US.  Due to the 'pivot' of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific (to encircle China and Russia with expanded Pentagon bases) more airfields, ports of call, and barracks are needed.

Thus, pristine Oura Bay, home of several endangered species, is slated to have millions of dump truck loads of landfill emptied onto the bay to build the unwanted airfield.

The Japanese government, at the demand of the US, has been doing soil testing at Oura Bay for the last 15 years in preparation for runway construction.  The people who love the bay have been daily protesting against this insane construction project during this entire period of time.

At dinner tonight, we were told that soil testing of the sea bed at Oura Bay has revealed some startling facts.  Several professional engineers, now part of the Okinawan peace movement, have stated that the bay's sea bed is too weak to support the runways.  The bed has been described as being similar to tofu - that the weight of the massive amount of landfill would slowly sink into the sea because there is not sufficient solid bottom to hold the airfield.

But that theory is being revised and a new theory has come into being.  The engineers now believe that the bed at the bottom of Oura Bay is more like mayonnaise which would be even less able to support the massive twin-runway construction project.

As a result of this new understanding the US, and their Japanese client government, are needing to revise the construction plan but the elected mayors and governor of Okinawa stand in the way.  In order to 'fix the plan' changes must be made in the elected officials of this beleaguered island - 20% of which is now inhabited by US military bases.

Just a few months ago the Japanese right-wing ruling party poured loads of cash into the Nago City mayoral election and were able to defeat runway construction opponent Mayor Susumu Inamine.  (His opponent never mentioned the project during the campaign.) It was a shocking defeat - especially when polls show that at least 80% of the public opposes US military bases here.

Coming next will be the re-election campaign of runway critic Takeshi Onaga, Governor of the Prefecture of Okinawa.  The Japanese government, under direction from Washington, will move to defeat Gov. Onaga by once again pouring massive amounts of cash into the election campaign.  They will surely also utilize the mainstream media to demonize Gov. Onaga.

One reason for the call for 500 people each day during the coming week to join the protests outside US Marine base Camp Schwab, which sits next to Oura Bay, is to enliven public consciousness about the absolute necessity to ensure that Gov. Onaga is reelected and the plan to build the airfield upon the pristine bay is defeated.

It is this historic moment that Dud and I (VFP member Tarak Kauff from Woodstock, NY joins us tomorrow) find ourselves here in Okinawa.

At dinner tonight I was asked what I tell folks back home when I talk about Okinawa.  I said that I tell people that:

  • Okinawan people want to be left alone and wish to be treated with respect

  • They want their lands back and the environmental destruction from US bases to end

  • They don't want a war and they know that Okinawa is a prime target

One person replied to me, "The first thing you said is the most important. We want to be left alone."

We hear a lot these days in western mainstream media about Russian interference in the last US presidential election.  That is an accusation that carries little real evidence.

But the truth about US interference in Okinawan elections is real and evident to the people here.  The level of US hypocrisy and arrogance is astounding to anyone who is paying attention.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sunday song