Annual Coordinator Report
May 9 2010
From: Bruce Gagnon
The past year, 2009, represented a change of course for the GN. The bulk of my travel for organizing and speaking for the first time ever was more focused outside of the U.S.
The past year could be characterized in the U.S. as one of waiting. Waiting for Obama to negotiate his nuclear weapons treaty with Russia. Waiting for an Obama space policy to develop. Waiting for the peace movement, and progressive movement in general, to begin to respond to Obama.
The fact that I spoke in fewer states in the U.S. in 2009 than at any other time since 1998 is a clear indication that the peace movement across the country has in many respects ground to a slow crawl. Thus rather than wait for Godot to come, I shifted gears and increased my organizing activity in my home state of Maine, where there was a receptive audience, and made more international trips than ever before.
The year began with my participation in helping to organize the national No Bases Conference that was held in Washington DC in February. There Tim Rinne and I held a space issues workshop and made links with key organizers from around the world who attended the event.
Also during early 2009 I was regularly meeting with Maine activists to organize a town hall meeting on the Afghanistan war in hopes to kick-start more organizing in our state and beyond. We held the successful event in April and it then led us in late 2009 to come together again to begin pulling together a statewide coalition called the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home. This effort, essentially staffed by the Global Network, has created a vibrant campaign across our state that has drawn attention and interest nationally. A good side benefit of this campaign has been to increase the exposure of the GN in our state and increase our membership base throughout Maine, which has been steadily growing.
Our 2009 annual space organizing conference was held in Seoul, South Korea in April and very ably coordinated by two of our board members Sung-Hee Choi and Wooksik Cheong. They both were instrumental in putting together a Korean Organizing Committee, comprised of 10 groups; they collectively did a wonderful job of hosting the large international delegation that came from about 25 countries. They arranged several trips for us to meet people who were struggling against U.S. military base expansion and we visited the DMZ as well.
In July and August I returned to Asia for a month long trip to Japan and South Korea. The trip happened because Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba from Hiroshima invited me to be the keynote speaker at the International Symposium for Peace that his city hosted on August 1 and then again on August 8 in Nagasaki at the General Conference of Mayors for Peace that he chairs. (I was to later learn that Mayor Akiba had watched our Arsenal of Hypocrisy video and agreed that it was time to bring the space issue to his organizations.)
Using this opportunity our Global Network (GN) Japanese board members (Atsushi Fujioka, Makiko Sato, Koji Sugihara, and Hibiki Yamaguchi) set out to organize a six-city speaking tour for me that would last for three weeks across their country. From there I traveled to Seoul, South Korea where again GN board members (Wooksik Cheong and Sung-Hee Choi) prepared a busy weeklong schedule for me.
(Just as I was writing this report I got a message from Atsushi Fujioka that he had translated my speech from the Mayors for Peace conference in Nagasaki and that it was going to be published in Sekai magazine, a leading progressive publication in Japan.)
In Brunswick, Maine the Naval air station is slated for closure in 2011 and some state politicians and aerospace industry representatives have been pushing the idea of using the base airfield for a drone flight test center. Since drone warfare was the theme of the GN’s Keep Space for Peace Week in 2009 I helped organize a series of events in our area to create public opposition to this bad idea. It appears that our efforts have helped to hold off any further plans for the drone test center at this time but we are keeping our eyes on the ball.
In October, during our annual space week, I went back to South Korea for a third time and did a three-week speaking tour throughout the country. Once again Sung-Hee Choi organized a hectic and impressive schedule for me. The trip culminated in a two-day visit to Jeju Island where I met with the struggling villagers of Gangjeong who are fighting hard to save their community from a Navy base that would host Aegis destroyers that would be outfitted with “missile defense” systems and be used to help surround China’s coast.
As a result of that trip I have followed through on my promise to the villagers of Gangjeong and done everything I could to promote their efforts nationally and internationally by organizing people to voice their support for them by signing petitions and contacting the South Korean embassy in their country. It was during these calls to the South Korean embassy in Washington DC that several GN supporters were told that it was the U.S. that is pushing the Navy base onto the South Korean government. This was the first time this serious accusation had ever been reported. Efforts have since been made to get those statements reported by South Korean media.
In recent weeks GN board member Sung-Hee Choi has been living in the village and continuing to report on the Navy plans to build the base despite growing island opposition. She has done an excellent job of helping to expand international consciousness about the base and the missile defense program planned for there.
Our list of local actions during Keep Space for Peace Week in 2009 was down to about 50 events in our usual dozen countries. Particularly in the U.S., the Obama factor of demobilizing the peace movement was evident in the lower than normal list of actions.
Soon after returning from South Korea in October I made my way west to Oregon for a talk in Hood River, which is in the center of a huge fight over the manufacturing of drones by Boeing. The use of UAV’s has dramatically surged as the Obama administration is using them in record numbers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Throughout the year our board member MacGregor Eddy in California continued her Herculean efforts to keep protest vigils going at Vandenberg AFB during launches of military satellites and missile tests. Facing severe treatment and arrests from the base security these protests have helped to reveal to people around the world the tremendous hypocrisy of the U.S. as we lecture certain countries about the evils of nuclear weapons and continue to develop our own new technologies via space.
As has been the case in the past year I continue to do many radio interviews on stations throughout the country. Several times a month I get contacted by alternative media sources, that I keep posted about our work via email, for interviews. This helps keep a steady stream of traffic visiting our web site.
I have increased the use of my blog as I now find that more than 200 people a day are reading it. The blog serves as sort of a public organizing journal where I can log the many stories about my day-to-day work as well as share important stories about other issues that I am following. I have also become a heavy user of My Space and Facebook and find them to be valuable tools to help spread word about our GN work.
During the latter part of 2009 we saw the public negotiations that took place between the Obama administration and Russia over a new nuclear weapons reduction treaty. Throughout this process Russia made the case that NATO expansion eastward, and U.S. missile defense deployments into its neighborhood would make it difficult to agree upon any treaty.
During 2009 Obama had made the announcement that his Pentagon would be deploying Patriot (PAC-3) missile defense systems into Poland, just 35 miles from the Russian border. In addition his administration made public their plans to increase deployments of Aegis destroyers (outfitted with SM-3 missile defense interceptors) in the Baltic Sea and since this variety of “missile defense” systems were having success in the testing program they would be put on ground-based mobile launchers and also be deployed in areas surrounding Russia.
Try as Russia did, they were not successful in getting Obama to link missile defense deployments to the nuclear arms reduction treaty that was signed by the two countries on April 8, 2010 in Prague. But since we have learned that Russia has stipulated that if the U.S. expands missile defense deployments beyond current locations they reserve the right to walk away from the treaty. Thus the U.S. desire to saturate NATO bases throughout Eastern Europe with missile defense systems is still likely to be problematic.