First published in February 2017
My name is Bruce Gagnon and I work for the Global Network Against Weaspons & Nuclear Power in Space – this is our 25th year of operation. I specialize on space technology and the missiles that are used by the military today. Every thing the Pentagon does today is directed by space technology.
Most of the destroyers built at BIW carry advanced SM-3 interceptor missiles (Standard Missile -3) that are key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack planning.
Living in Bath I’ve felt a special responsibility to learn about the military role of the warships built at BIW. They have nothing to do with defending the coastline of the US – the Zumwalt destroyer ‘christened’ on June 18, 2016 at BIW is a stealth, forward deployed, attack weapon to be aimed at China. I became particularly interested in where these ships will go when they head to the Asia-Pacific.
So in recent years I have travelled to places like Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines and Okinawa where the US is deploying a growing military presence under a strategy called ‘Asia-Pacific pivot’ created by President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The pivot requires more ports-of-call for our warships, more airfields for our planes and more barracks for our troops.
The idea is to send 60% of US military forces into the Asia-Pacific in order to encircle China and Russia. Imagine if the reverse was happening and China (or Russia) were lining up ships along our coasts and putting troops and bases near our borders in Canada or Mexico. We’d go ballistic.
The reason I missed the jury selection process was because I was attending my son’s wedding in Taiwan at the same time. From there I went to Okinawa for a week and stood beside local people who have been protesting outside a US Marine base daily for more than 900 days straight.
The reason for their protests is simple: the Marine base sits beside pristine Oura Bay which is now being measured for a twin-runway airfield for US war planes. The runways will sit on top of endangered coral reefs. People make a living from this sacred water body where endangered sea mammals now live. Two million cubic meters of landfill will be put on top of the coral reefs in order to build the ten meter high airfield. There are presently 32 US military installations on Okinawa taking up 20% of the island. The people have been protesting regularly since 1952 against US bases but you’d never know that in the United States because these protests are not reported in our corporate run media.
This is just one example of many as the US now has well over 800 military bases spread around the world.
I was compelled to sit in the roadway at BIW on June 18 as a cry to the American people. Look at what we are doing! I tried to give voice to the many people (mostly farmers and fishermen) I’ve met in these places who are seeing their way of life destroyed because of expanding US bases in their communities.
We can’t afford endless war nor can we afford the $4-7 billion for each of the Zumwalt destroyers. Climate change and growing poverty are our real problems but there is sadly no money or political interest to deal with these issues here at home.
Even my neighbor who works at BIW told me the day after our arrests that we can’t keep paying for these warships.
We could save lives and the planet if we convert BIW to build commuter rail systems, wind turbines, solar and tidal power systems. This would both create more jobs and address climate change.
A study at UMASS-Amherst Economics Dept. called “The US Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities” says that we would double the jobs at a place like BIW if we built rail systems there. The study reports that military spending is capital intensive while every other kind of investment is labor intensive. That means more jobs when we build things we really need.
On May 21, 2015 a protest was held by the workers at BIW that shut down Washington Street in front of BIW for well over an hour. I was contacted by a union member who invited me to march in that protest. The person even called the union hall and spoke with the president of S6 to ask if it was OK that I came. He said sure as long as I didn’t bring a sign. They were protesting the growing outsourcing of work to non-union sources. I arrived just before noon and stood around in the big crowd for about half an hour. There were many hundreds of workers along Washington Street.
Finally the march started off down by the South Gate on Washington Street. The entire street was shut down and no one was arrested – including me who was marching along in the crowd. Traffic had to have been blocked for well over an hour.
We must think of our children and grand kids. What do they need to survive? More war or a real future on our planet?
I am not guilty of any crime – other than not doing enough to help stop this madness. Our demands and our actions on June 18 were perfectly reasonable.
I wanted to alert our community to a larger crime – the crime of continued preparation for endless war and destruction of life on our beautiful and sacred Mother Earth.
My decision to sit down in the road was influenced by the oath I took when I joined the military. I took seriously my oath to defend the constitution and our country and I now believe what I was doing on June 18 was in line with that oath.