Coordinator Trip Report -
9-13 July 2008
From: Bruce Gagnon
The Greens have long shown an interest in our work to prevent the nuclearization and weaponization of space. During campaigns in 1989, 1990 and 1997 to stop NASA launches of deadly plutonium-238 into space, various local and state Greens have been very involved in helping us with those efforts.
The proposed Green Party platform for 2008 carried a section called "De-Militarization of Outer Space" and stated among other things that "We oppose militarization of space in any form. We reject the U.S. argument that it needs to militarize space to protect its satellites." Another line in the platform reads, "We oppose testing and deploying anti-satellite weapons (ASATS) from the land or the air."
The first workshop I presented in was called "The Role of the Peace Movement in an Election Year" and was sponsored by the Peace Action Committee (GPAX) of the Greens. In the program's workshop description it stated that speakers would address the current "state of the peace movement" and what the role of GPAX should be in the national movement. I began my talk by saying that I felt the peace movement was now overworked, over stressed, focused by necessity on Iraq (and coming Iran), and needed to provide a positive alternative vision of the future. I told the story about Col. Suminsby from Kirtland AFB in New Mexico who publicly stated last April that "If left unchecked, the growth of spending on Social Security and Medicare will eventually crush the defense budget." This got quite a laugh from those in the packed room. But I told them we should take these comments seriously as the Air Force was now campaigning nationally to convince the American people to support serious cutbacks in "entitlement programs". We must directly connect militarism to the growing attacks on social progress.
I shared that it was crucial that people in the peace movement, now working to put out fires in Iraq, Afghanistan, and/or Iran, must begin to learn about and share how space technology plays a key role "enabling the war fighter," as space satellites now coordinate all warfare on Earth. These very expensive space technology programs, all tremendously over budget, are the very reason that the Air Force is taking a leading role in convincing the public that we have to cut social programs in order to pay for the high-tech weapons programs of the future. This contradiction between guns and butter must become a greater part of our articulation as we do our peace work.
The second workshop was one that I lead called "Endless War and the Military-Industrial-Governmental Complex" and Mike DeRosa from Connecticut was a co-presenter. I asked friend and songwriter Tom Neilson to share a song to start this workshop.
I began my remarks with a story about Thomas Barnett, the former Naval War College instructor, who wrote the book entitled "The Pentagon's New Map." I've seen Barnett several times over recent years speaking on C-SPAN about how we in the U.S. won't have jobs to make cars, shoes, steel, TV's and the like anymore. Our role under corporate globalization Barnett says will be "security export" - endless war. This truth, when related to the quote above from Col. Suminsby, to me stands as ample evidence that the corporate powers that control our nation have decided that our job in the next century will be to supply the weapons and troops that enable the multi-national corporations to grab the oil, the water, and control the labor of the world to their benefit. Thus Barnett's vision is endless spending for endless war.
On the last day of the convention in Chicago I was asked to stand before the National Committee (NC) to give a brief report on my recent trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil where I spoke at the Global Greens Congress. I reminded the NC that the Sao Paulo event was about climate change and that I was specifically invited to make the connections between climate change and militarism - in fact I was virtually the only person at the event who addressed the issue of the military and the global war machine. I told the NC that I had called for the conversion of the military industrial complex in my speech if we ever hoped to have the funds in any country to effectively deal with the coming enormous impacts of global warming. I told them I had also called for the Greens in the Czech Republic and Europe to organize to reject the proposed U.S. "missile defense" deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic which are now leading to a new arms race and cold war in Europe. I told the NC that the Czech Greens hold four seats in the evenly divided parliament in their country and that they will essentially be the deciding votes when their assembly takes their formal vote on the recent agreement signed by Condi Rice and the Czech foreign minister. I told the NC that it now appears that the Greens in the Czech Republic government were split on the issue - despite the fact that their grassroots membership is adamantly against the deployment. I said that this is an important example to all of us that just taking power is not the whole story. Political parties must, I told the NC, just as I had earlier said in Sao Paulo, stand for what is right and not give way to the fleeting appeal of power and horse trading. All of us must hold our leaders, no matter which party we might belong to, accountable. Just because the "good guys" get into power does not mean they will not sell their constituencies down the river if given half the chance.
It would be nice to be invited by the Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians to do a workshop on issues of concern to the Global Network at their national conventions. Sadly though this is not likely to happen anytime soon. In fact the Republicans and Democrats are working hard to have local police deny peace protest permits in their respective convention cities in coming months. Police are trying to set up "free speech zones" for the containment of protests - like cages for animals in a zoo. Court challenges are being filed in hopes that adherence to democratic principles will in the end prevail.
We live at a time where democracy is being drowned by the domination of the corporate agenda. We must not surrender our spirit to this destruction of freedom. We must press on with more determination than ever.
Bruce K. Gagnon