1 October 2001
By Bruce Gagnon
I'm just back from a two week road trip to Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan where I promoted the upcoming October 13 day of protest, and more specifically, the "Keep Space for Peace" conference we are organizing along with Cleveland Peace Action.
I began the trip in Cleveland where we had a planning committee meeting for the conference. We learned that Ralph Nader will be in Cleveland on October 10 and has agreed to promote our event when he speaks.
My first speaking event, September 17, was to a Rotary Club luncheon in Cleveland where 70 business men and women began the meeting with patriotic songs and prayers to remember the September 11 victims of the terrorist attacks. I began the talk by asking the assembled to suspend their thinking as American citizens for a moment as I showed them a photo of an Iraqi mother and her dying baby, and told them how the United Nations reports that 600,000 children under five years of age have died in Iraq since 1991. I asked them if they thought the mother felt pain over the loss of her child and if the child's parents might call the U.S. a "terrorist" state for its incessant bombing of Iraq and the economic sanctions that have resulted in these unnecessary deaths.
I then went on for the remainder of my 20 minutes to talk about U.S. plans for "control and domination" of space and the Earth below and asked them to imagine why people around the world might be upset with the U.S. In the end an equal number of people approached me to say they appreciated or disagreed with my talk, leaving me the feeling that lots of American people understand that we must address these root causes if we hope to have a real peace on this Earth.
That evening I spoke in Akron and former Democratic Congressman John Sieberling (longtime liberal) came to my talk. Afterward, he told me that there is not a real opposition party in Washington today, and that we must educate and activate the grassroots now more than ever if we hope to influence Congress again in the future.
During this trip I spoke on more college campuses than on any previous trip. Thanks to my tour organizer, Don McPherson, the trip took me to the University of Miami (Ohio), Antioch College, University of Dayton, Ohio State University, Wilmington College, Goshen College, and the University of Michigan. Speaking to classes and/or special events I was able to directly reach over 700 students.
In three of the college towns I was able to do radio interviews on local community radio stations - two of which were hour-long shows.
Most of the students had held or were planning peace events surrounding the current war crisis. At Ohio State University, I sat in on a planning meeting as 40 students organized a rally and march. At the University of Michigan, I was one of the speakers at a campus rally on the steps of the library attended by over 200 students. I talked about my personal conversion to the peace movement while in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and held up the space-based laser poster showing how the U.S. intends to use space to fight wars in the coming years. Alan Haber in Ann Arbor organized a full day of events for me on and off the University of Michigan campus.
The students proved over and over again to be deeply concerned about U.S. plans for war in Central Asia. Overwhelmingly they called for peaceful and legal solutions to the crisis and were extremely interested in how space would be used to direct war in the future.
The Goshen Truth (Indiana) newspaper covered my evening talk at the local college and thanks to Dolores Cogan and Karen Jacob, I was able to meet with the editorial board at the South Bend Tribune (Indiana). The associate editor at the Tribune invited us to submit an op-ed piece to the paper and Dolores agreed to write it.
During the two week trip I spoke in 14 cities: Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Oxford, Yellow Springs, Dayton, Wilmington, and Columbus in Ohio. In Indiana I made presentations in Goshen, Indianapolis, Bloomington, Elkhart, and South Bend. I ended the trip with a visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
During this trip, as I drove the many miles between stops, I listened to endless right-wing radio talk shows beating the drums for war. Rush Limbaugh and others spent considerable time complaining about "pacificists" and I came to realize that the peace movement must be having considerable success to have drawn the ire of the leader of right-wing radio.
My next trip takes me to Denton, Texas (where my son has organized for me to speak at the University of North Texas, and reports that he and friends have also just created a new peace group called AWOL and wants to talk organizing strategies.) From there I go to Ottawa, Canada to speak, along with Karl Grossman, at a conference called "Global Cops".
October 13 organizing is progressing well in spite of the enormous burden placed on local groups to quickly respond to the call for war. But by making the connections between war and the use of space, work continues, and as this is written we have commitments from 19 countries to hold 100 actions on that date. I expect by October 13 that we will add even more.
My best wishes to all during this dreadful time. All of our lives have been shaken by recent events and we must work hard to ensure that the death toll does not mount further with unwise military operations that will surely kill other innocent people and only make hatred and revenge even more present in our already troubled world.
A special thanks to all who hosted me and organized events for this successful speaking tour.