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.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Okinawa is a prime target: U.S. doesn’t want peace

  • The US military has occupied Okinawa for the last 73 years and currently controls about 20% of the island for the Pentagon’s 32 bases.  Back in the early 1980’s then Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone used to say that Japan was “an unsinkable aircraft carrier for the US”.  He was essentially talking about Okinawa – the Japanese mainland has some US bases but not nearly as many as here.  Most Japanese on the mainland don’t feel the heavy military boot print the same way that the Okinawan people do.
  • The situation on Okinawa is made particularly dangerous because of the aggressive actions in the region by Washington.  As North and South Korean leaders prepare to discuss peace on the Korean peninsula Washington is doing its best to sabotage those talks.  One example is the forced-on April 23 of even more THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system components in Soseong-ri (melon farming community) in South Korea.  Hundreds of farmers and their supporters blocked the road for 11 hours as the US Army attempted to aggravate the already tense situation on the Korean peninsula by deploying these systems that are key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack planning.  The THAAD radar gives the US the capability to detect Chinese and Russian missiles giving the Pentagon an advantage in a war with those two nations.  It seems clear to me that Washington is notwilling to make any peaceful concessions to North Korea in order to come to any agreement.  The US also views the Korean peninsula as another “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for Pentagon military installations.


  • Similarly, the recently completed Navy base on Jeju Island, South Korea in Gangjeong village has already seen a series of US and NATO member Navy warships porting at the base.  The US has been pressuring the South Korean government to sign agreements that would allow NATO member warships to permanently dock on Jeju Island.  This indicates that the US views Jeju as a strategic port in the current ‘pivot’ of US-NATO into the Asia-Pacific region to encircle China and Russia. April 28, 2018 will mark the anniversary of 4,000 consecutive days of courageous people's struggle against the US navy base in Gangjeong.
  • If the US truly intended to offer a friendly and peaceful hand to North Korea (as it hypocritically demands that they dismantle their nuclear weapons program) then the Pentagon would not have just days ago launched a Minuteman III nuclear capable-missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The missile was fired into the Pacific where it landed at its target at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  The message to China, Russia and North Korea is clear – ‘We can launch nuclear missiles anytime we wish but the rest of you better not try.  We are the big dogs here and intend to control the Asia-Pacific region – challenge us at your own peril’.
  • Also, in recent days US-NATO military ‘advisers’ have been seen in Ukraine where they are training and equipping the Army of the puppet government’s that was set in place in Kiev following the CIA orchestrated coup d’ etat in 2014.  Since that time the right-wing government now under US-NATO control has continuously attacked their Russian speaking fellow citizens living in the eastern region of the country (called the Donbass) right along the Russian border.  By creating chaos and instability there the US-NATO justify expanding their own military operations near Russia – something that was totally unthinkable during the Cold War.  In those fragile times if the US-NATO had tried to do what they are doing today it would have led to nuclear war with the former Soviet Union.  Now it is not even reaching the mainstream media.
  • We can clearly see that in particular Okinawa and South Korea would be prime targets in a US instigated war with China and Russia.  I have no doubt that Washington-London-Paris-Brussels are doing everything possible to prod and poke Moscow and Beijing.  The message is you either submit to western control or you face this growing military threat of US-NATO ‘full spectrum dominance’.  Russia and China have repeatedly been saying ‘We do not want war but we are not going to get on our knees.  We’ve seen what you’ve done with your chaos creation in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria and are not going to allow this to continue.’  This could lead to World War III.  Now is the time for peace loving people around the world to resist the US-NATO imperial project.

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.