Monday, April 27, 2009

Global Network Annual Report


Our 2008 GN space organizing conference in Nebraska turned out to be a great event that solidified our relationship with Nebraskans for Peace and helped put StratCom’s expanded mission of total warfare planning out to a much wider audience. That is what we want to happen after holding our annual event in a location that has a key role in Star Wars – more visibility for the local issue and a deeper working relationship with the hosts.

Just a few weeks ago we learned that the Czech Republic government had fallen, in some large part due to their very unpopular decision to accept the US offer to base a Star Wars radar in their country. This was an issue that the Global Network worked hard on to show our solidarity with the remarkable opposition movement inside the Czech Republic. Last year we brought one of the Czech movement leaders, Jan Tamas, to our conference in Nebraska and helped plan his speaking tour of the east coast afterwards. Many members of the Global Network joined in solidarity with the hunger strike that came out of Prague. I joined the strike for 14 days and when I finished Mary Beth Sullivan took over for 12 days. GN member Sung-Hee Choi, then in New York City, joined the hunger strike for two weeks as well and led many street vigils in support of the effort. On June 22 our Czech friends called for a global day of fasting and hundreds of our members and supporters in the US and around the world responded to our request to join the strike on that day.

On the morning of June 22 I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Col. Robert Suminsby, Jr., then the base commander at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, N.M. I had just written about Suminsby in my blog reporting on a speech he had made months before to community leaders in Albuquerque calling for cuts in “entitlement programs” (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare) This was part of a larger Air Force public relations campaign that was running on TV commercials and full-page advertisements in major newspapers, like the New York Times, called “Air Force Above All.” The campaign made the case that more money was needed for high technology space systems and aircraft in order to protect our nation. In his call Col. Suminsby yelled at me, “I can see that you are not one who should be involved in deciding on our nation’s priorities,” and then hung up the phone. Not long after being elected, President Obama held a “responsibility summit” where he called for dealing with “out of control” spending on entitlement programs.

In December 2008 we sent a letter to newly elected President Obama with 700 signatures of US members and supporters of the GN. The letter called on him to scrap the proposed Bush deployments of “missile defense” systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. We put the letter, with all the signatures, into the latest edition of our newspaper Space Alert.

The Obama administration has requested that Congress grant the Pentagon a 4% budget increase in 2010, which would put the military’s annual budget at over $663 billion. While it does appear that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) might see about a $2 billion cut in their funding most of their program will remain in place.

At a recent MDA conference in Washington they acknowledged that the testing program for the Ground-based Midcourse Missile Defense program – or GMD – was not going well. In addition the MDA admitted that the Airborne Laser program was four years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. These two programs, and others facing similar problems, are likely to see some level of cutbacks in funding.

In a speech at the MDA conference Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) stated, “Missile defense is an important element of our nation’s defense. For example, it is a high priority to field effective defenses for our forward-deployed forces against the many hundreds of existing short- and medium-range missiles. Patriot and the Aegis BMD system are already providing such protection, and THAAD is expected to begin fielding soon. We will need more of these capabilities.”

Although Mary Beth Sullivan left the GN staff at the end of February, prior to her leaving she had done excellent work expanding on our message about conversion of the military industrial complex. Mary Beth traveled to three states in 2008 to speak on our behalf about conversion and continued to write extensively on the subject. She and I began helping a worker from the Bath Iron Works (BIW) shipyard in Maine where the Navy’s Aegis destroyer is built. Through this relationship we have been able to expand the discussion about conversion across the state and deep into the shipyard where workers now routinely sign petitions and put bumper stickers on their cars saying they want to build wind turbines.

My cable TV show, called This Issue, is now in its 6th year and still plays on eight Maine community access TV stations. In addition I am in my second year co-hosting a weekly radio show at the local Bowdoin College station along with BIW worker Peter Woodruff.

Also in 2008 I was invited to speak to students at the University of Maine-Orono and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network taped the talk and played it on statewide radio a few weeks later. This was great exposure for the message of the GN across our state.

For the second year in a row the owner of three radio stations in Jacksonville, Florida, a strong Navy city, is giving the GN over $5,000 of free radio ads on his stations. These ads feature the economic conversion message.

During the past year, with the assistance of GN board member MacGregor Eddy, a new GN video was created called “A Space 4 Peace.” This excellent documentary was shown extensively during space week.

Our annual Keep Space for Peace Week last fall concluded with more than 90 local protest actions in eleven countries. We continue to benefit from the extraordinary support of Carol Urner who gets WILPF to co-sponsor our space week. This year we are requesting that Carol be added to our GN Advisory Board.

Carol was also instrumental in creating a Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) working group within the GN and WILPF to support the creation of a new UN treaty banning weapons in space. She spent several days months ago walking the halls of Congress dropping off materials about PAROS and speaking with Congressional staffs.

In 2008 I traveled to 10 states and five countries speaking on behalf of the GN. Our administrative grant from the Wallace Global Fund has continued for a third year but they have told us that 2009 will be our last year. Fundraising in 2010 could become more difficult as the US economy continues its slide into a depression. Many non-profit organizations are experiencing financial meltdowns. For this reason I am taking a voluntary $100 a month pay cut as a way to help stabilize our budget in anticipation of harder times ahead.

One of the talks that really opened up things for us in 2008 was my invitation to speak at the Global Greens conference in Brazil. I was asked to speak about the space-militarism-climate change connection before an audience of hundreds from every continent. This talk then led to an invitation to speak in Portugal and opportunities to publish our message in various Green journals.

One important space related issue in the US remains quietly forgotten and that is the concern about toxic rocket pollution. It is believed that 20-40 million Americans may be exposed to the chemical called perchlorate. The fuel additive has seeped into the ground and water in dozens of states -- usually near military bases, production facilities, or NASA sites. That's how perchlorate has ended up in the drinking water and the food supply. I continually try to keep the issue alive in our emails, web site, blog, and newsletter.

As we move into the GN’s 17th year there is some hope in the peace movement that Barack Obama will bring real change. His words of invitation to Russia to end the nuclear arms race are but one example. But the reality we see on the ground is another story. The US encouragement of NATO expansion eastward to essentially surround Russia belies the talk of a new positive relationship. The August 2008 five-day war between Russia and Georgia was just one example of the possibilities of a new cold war as the US encourages Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia (all along Russia’s borders) to join NATO. The first official US visitor to Georgia following their shooting match with Russia was then Sen. Joseph Biden who later was chosen as Obama’s Vice-President. On his trip to Georgia Biden declared the US’s uncritical loyalty to Georgia and promised to rebuild their military.

It seems unlikely that Russia or China will agree to significant reductions in their nuclear forces, or stop their efforts to build anti-satellite space weapons, as long as the US continues its drive for global supremacy via NATO expansion and space control. The present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do nothing to give Russia and China the confidence that the US is truly interested in real nuclear disarmament.

Bruce K. Gagnon

Global Network Coordinator

April 18, 2009

Presented in Seoul, South Korea

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 443-9502 (Blog)


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