Protesting Aegis in Maine and South Korea

Organizing notes by Bruce Gagnon

Our annual Keep Space for Peace Week was a resounding success this year. We had more than 90 events in 13 countries – the highest total in recent years. We are grateful to all who organized video showings, protest events, and street leafleting to help educate the public.

Here in Maine we held two vigils at Bath Iron Works where the Navy’s Aegis destroyer is built. The Aegis is outfitted with “missile defense” systems and is now being deployed just off the coast of China as part of a doubling of U.S. military presence in the Asian-Pacific region.

Read more at Bruce’s Space4Peace blog

Speech by Doris Granny D Haddock

October 18, 2008, Bath, Maine

Veterans for Peace Protest, Christening of USS Granny D, Delivered by Carol Wyndham

Dear Friends, Please forgive me for not making the trip to come to see you. I traveled to Philadelphia a few days ago for a speech and am a little under the weather from those miles. Please accept my words as now delivered by my dear friend and neighbor, Carol Wyndham.

I am honored to be included in what you are doing today. The only other old women to have boats named for them are three queens of England, so I am feeling very regal indeed.

I know that you, as veterans, understand the issues of war and peace very intimately. I know you honor the working men and working women who build the great ships that keep us free. What I see in your actions today is the human need to find balance, to find enough peace in the world and in the American heart to make our nation worth defending.

What does our fine little boat contribute to our nation? What do the hours you have all spent, working for peace—what do these sacrifices of love contribute to our nation?

They support the grand advance of the human spirit and they support and nurture the peaceful layer in the American heart and soul. The big destroyer to be dedicated in these waters is a remarkable achievement in the defense of our nation, but this little ship is the magical thing that makes the nation worth defending for it cuts the deepest moral draft, as any veteran who knows the sufferings of war will agree.

Those who stand up for peace in the world, whenever and wherever they do it, even though but one other set of eyes sees them and one other heart receives the message that some people care and some people hold the dream of yet a peaceful world—those who do this, who do what you are doing today, give life meaning, the dream of yet a peaceful world—a good meaning, a proper and mature meaning. Those who stand up for peace, who put their little boat in the water, send out little waves that remind God and our fellow creatures that we do take our deepest beliefs seriously. We do stand for something, and that something is kindness to each other, to the children of all nations, and to a future that might yet be safe for the peaceful regions of the human heart—as it exists within all human hearts.

For the rest of my days, my sincerest thanks for what you are doing and for adding my name to your good work here today.

In love, Doris Granny D Haddock

Do you want big money out of politics? Public funding of elections will do just that. To take back our government and have our legislators represent us instead of pandering to special interests and corporations, join the public funding effort! “Democracy is not something we have, it’s something we do.” Granny D. Email: grannyd3@verizon.net.

Protesters call for ‘peace’ jobs

By Darren Fishell, Times Record Contributor, 10/20/2008

BATH – Nearly 80 peace protesters gathered outside of the gates of Bath Iron Works on Saturday during the christening of the Wayne E. Meyer, urging the shipyard to convert to producing equipment for harvesting sustainable resources.

“Today our message is conversion,” said Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. “We want to see taxpayer dollars go to produce more jobs in sustainable industry and to combat global warming.”

The protesters, led by the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 001, marched from Bath’s Waterfront Park to the gates of BIW to hear speeches from Gagnon, BIW maintenance mechanic Peter Woodruff and Carol Windham, who spoke on behalf of the event’s keynote speaker Doris “Granny D” Haddock, among others.

Haddock, a peace activist best known for her 1999 cross-country walking trek at the age of 88 to petition for campaign finance reform and her 2004 U.S. Senate bid in New Hampshire, was the centerpiece of the day’s events but was unable to attend due to illness. A small, plastic ship to be christened the USS Granny D was carried along the marching route in her honor.

“The only other women to have boats named for them are three queens of England,” Haddock wrote. “I’m feeling very regal indeed.

“The big destroyer to be dedicated in these waters is a remarkable achievement in the defense of our nation,” Haddock wrote, “but this little ship is the magical thing that makes our nation worth defending, for it cuts the deepest moral draughts and any veterans who know the sufferings of war will agree.”

Marchers came from as far as Liberty and Kennebunkport.

“We don’t do this very often, but it’s becoming more and more necessary,” Liberty resident Diane Shelplee said.

Jordan Shaw, a seminarian of the United Methodist Church and the performer of the christening, had religious reasons for marching.

“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ not ‘kill everyone you know,'” Shaw said. “We need to support peace and not counter-productive killing.”

Before the gates of BIW, Gagnon delivered the first speech, focusing on conversion’s ability to create jobs and asserting that the ships built at BIW are not in the interests of national defense but rather national offense. Gagnon cited an October 2007 study authored by economics professor Robert Pollin and Heidi Garret-Peltier at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst that compares the economic benefits of military spending to those of alternative spending targets.

“If you spend $1 billion at BIW building warships,” Gagnon said, “it’s true: for every billion dollars you spend there you create 8,500 jobs. But if you take that same $1 billion and you invest it in home weatherization, per $1 billion you create more than 12,000 jobs. If you invest the same amount in building rail systems at BIW, you create more than 15,000 jobs.”

The study actually estimates the job creation caused by a $1 billion investment in mass transit to be higher, at nearly 20,000 jobs. However, each alternative spending category (tax cuts, health care, education, mass transit, and construction or home weatherization), with the exception of education, has lower average wages and benefits relative to that of defense. Yet, the study shows defense spending to have the second worst level of compensation for the economy overall, with spending on education, again, estimated to provide the highest level of compensation.

“We could expand BIW’s work force to as many as 12,000 employees,” said Woodruff, a BIW maintenance mechanic. “We could work ourselves out of the severe recession we are working our way into. . We are standing at the edge of a green revolution in this country and we must take the steps to realize it.”

Woodruff, who co-hosts a radio show called the Truth Radio Underground Experience (TRUE) with Gagnon on WBOR 91.1, Brunswick, claimed to be the first BIW worker ever to address a peace rally at the production facility.

“We’re going through a whole effort of talking to workers because what we’re hearing from them is that they would rather do something else,” Gagnon said. “The peace movement can’t do this by itself.”

Woodruff lauded the skill and training of his co-workers at BIW and said that the time has come to turn efforts to the production of wind, tidal and hydro power equipment. And young Mainers, Woodruff said, are learning the skills necessary in state universities and community colleges to move forward with sustainable development.

Following the christening of the USS Granny D, Veterans for Peace member Jack Bussell also encouraged protesters to look toward the future.

“Someday, we will come here in celebration of what they are building,” Bussell said. “But not today.”

Speech by Peter Woodruff

October 18, 2008, Bath, Maine

Veterans for Peace Protest, Two Simultaneous Christenings at Bath Iron Works

Good morning fellow visionaries, my name is Peter Woodruff and for 27 years I have worked as a maintenance mechanic at Bath Iron Works. I am honored to be asked to speak before you today at this momentous event, the christening of our second peace ship at Bath Iron Works. I’m not used to speaking to a live audience that I can see. However, I do talk to many of you every week on our show. For those of you who don’t know, Bruce Gagnon and I host a weekly radio show called TRUE which is an acronym for Truth Radio Underground Experience. TRUE is a sounding board for the Mid-coast Peace and Justice Community on WBOR 91.1 FM in Brunswick, Maine. I am here today to share with you my thoughts and feelings about working for the largest defense contractor in the State of Maine and being part of the long tradition of shipbuilding in these parts since the first ship was built down river at Popham in 1607.

Twenty-eight years ago this country was in a severe recession. I lost my job as a marine mechanic at a local marina and spent the winter doing odd jobs, looking for work, and standing in the unemployment line. I remember the signs at the unemployment office telling us to be sure to fill out a form if our job was lost to foreign labor. I did not understand the significance of those signs until I submitted a job application to Bath Iron Works and waited six long months before I received a reply. During this time, Ronald Reagan ended the commercial shipbuilding subsidy which BIW was benefiting from and commercial shipbuilding jobs went offshore. A decade earlier BIW lost a bid for the contract to build the DX Destroyer to its rival Litton-Ingalls shipyard. After the loss of the DX contract, BIW sought commercial work building Ro-Ros for the States Lines, tankers for the Marine Transport Lines, and the largest ship yet built at the yard, the 720 foot Container Vessel Maui for the Matson Company. Very few large commercial ships were ever built again in the United States after Ronald Reagan took the subsidy away.

In the early 1970’s BIW also won a Navy design contract for a sleek, austere, guided missile vessel called a frigate. BIW then won the contract for the lead ship in the Oliver Hazard Perry FFG Class and launched the first frigate on September 25, 1976. “(It was the first warship to be launched at the Iron Works in seven years).” The Oliver Hazard Perry was the first of 24 frigates to be built in the next eleven years. All the gift shops in the newly “revitalized” city had bumper stickers that read “Frigate isn’t a dirty word in Bath, Maine.”

In 1981 BIW began the largest hiring since World War II, when the shipyard had a workforce of over 12,000 and launched a destroyer every seventeen days. I was hired on March 23, 1981 as a maintenance mechanic second class. I started on second shift at the Harding Plant in East Brunswick maintaining and repairing cranes and have worked there ever since. Over the years, I have made many friends at the Yard. Together we have weathered many regime changes, layoffs, loss of contracts, and two labor strikes. Most of us work well together. Most of us are highly skilled at our jobs and more than willing to show a fellow worker a better way of doing a task. I consider it a day lost that I do not learn something new at my job. We are learning how to build new ships everyday, many times redesigning and making revisions as we go. It is true what the signs say in front of BIW facilities. “Through these gates pass the best shipbuilders and fabricators in the world.”

Navy ship design has changed dramatically since the FFGs of the early 1980’s. On March 23, 1983 President Ronald Reagan gave a speech promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) otherwise known as the “Star Wars Defense Initiative.” The concept behind SDI was to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles with lasers from satellites thereby rendering nuclear weapons obsolete. The feasibility of this scheme is dubious at best. However, with the implementation of SDI America’s offensive capability to attack other countries became much more effective. With the development of the Aegis weapons systems on Navy ships, Aegis is the Greek word for shield, the Navy became more reliant on satellites to guide the so called “smart bombs” to their designated targets over the horizon and warfare from ships became more long range, less risky, and less personal. What was sold to the American public as a defense system was actually a system for offensive warfare. Battle command stations aboard ship look like video arcades with computer screens arrayed with stunning graphics portraying real life and death scenarios. What young Navy recruit wouldn’t want to play the ultimate video game?

On March (19) 21, 2003 President George W. Bush launched the “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq. President Bush took the most powerful military in the world, entrusted to his command, and brutally attacked a defenseless war torn country.

The Bush/Cheney Regime told no less than 935 documented lies to convince Congress and the American people that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he also had ties to and helped the 9/11 terrorists. These lies were the pretext for war with Iraq. All of the charges against Saddam Hussein relating to WMDs and complicity in 9/11 have now been proved false.

Nevertheless, George W. Bush, the self-proclaimed “war president,” using his new Congressionally approved “preemptive strike strategy,” ordered the Navy to launch cruise missiles tipped with depleted uranium (DU) against Iraq from Aegis warships, some built here at BIW. Arms tipped with DU were used in Kosovo and during Operation Desert Storm with disastrous effects on civilians and our own troops. According to Chalmers Johnson in The Sorrows of Empire, “[d]epleted uranium, or uranium-238 is a waste product of power generating nuclear reactors. It is used in projectiles like tank shells and cruise missiles because it is 1.7 times denser than lead, burns as it flies, and penetrates armor easily, but it breaks up and vaporizes on impact—which makes it deadly in unexpected ways.” I have seen the videos of Iraqi newborns whose parents were exposed to DU and they are horrific. Some doctors in Iraq testify that the Iraqi gene-pool has been irrevocably destroyed. The United Nations made a resolution banning the use of depleted uranium in 1996 classifying it as an illegal weapon of mass destruction.

One has to ask if there were no WMDs found in Iraq and Saddam Hussein was not complicit in 9/11 then why did George W. Bush invade Iraq? The answer to this question is so obvious I can’t believe that there are people who still don’t get it. The name for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, was an afterthought in name and purpose. Operation Iraqi Liberation was the Bush/Cheney Regime’s first Freudian choice. We are experiencing a series of resource wars because we have reached Peak Oil. Oil is now scarcer and more expensive to extract than it was in the last century. We are starting to realize that the imperial quest for fossil fuel to burn in our homes and vehicles is not only a waste of our blood and treasure; it is the major cause of climate change.

According to former Governor Angus King, the Gulf of Maine holds more energy resource than can be found under the sands of Saudi Arabia and it is clean and renewable! In a lecture he gave at Bowdoin early this year Angus King proposed that offshore wind farms be built in the Gulf of Maine 25 miles to sea where there is constant wind blowing. He also proposed that Bath Iron Works or Cianbro build 300 floating wind towers that would provide enough electricity to power ten times the energy needs of Maine. Does this sound impossible? Does putting a man on the moon sound impossible anymore? In eleven short years America focused on a problem and brought the resources and resolve together to put a man on the moon. America needs to do that now.

We need a national directive for clean, renewable energy. We need a national directive to upgrade our mass transit infrastructure. The cost of asphalt is prohibitive so we need to move people and goods by rail. We need to live sustainably within our means.

We are so fortunate to live in Maine during this economic downturn. Maine has the energy resources such as wind, tidal, and hydro that we need to harness. Maine also has the manufacturing facilities and trained labor force at Bath Iron Works, Reed and Reed, Cianbro and others for fabricating the renewable energy infrastructure that we so desperately need. Maine also has the largest cluster of composite manufacturers that can produce solar panels and wind blades. The University of Maine is one of the finest engineering schools in the country and is in the process of designing offshore wind farms and other sustainable energy projects. With the University of Maine system and the community colleges for educating and training Mainers for the new sustainable energy jobs that are being created, Maine is looking very promising for such a bleak time.

I can envision building floating wind farms right here at Bath Iron works. This is not a revolutionary idea. Shipyards in Europe have been partially or wholly converted from military production to wind turbine production. If a project like this were subsidized by the Federal Government like the Navy ships are now we could create clean, inexpensive, and sustainable power for Maine and the rest of the Northeast. We could expand BIW’s workforce to as many as 12,000 employees and work our way out of this severe recession we are sliding into. If you want to bailout this economy create jobs. We are standing at the edge of a Green Revolution in this country and we must take the steps to realize it as if our lives depended on it. Two energy firms have proposed differing hydro projects for the former Maine Yankee site. BIW was mentioned in two newspaper articles as possibly receiving contracts for part of the fabrication and assembly of these massive projects. We can create renewable energy jobs at BIW but we need the subsidy. We need an economic recovery that works for everybody, not just rich CEO’s and Wall Street. If we need money for peace projects, end the wars of choice. Its that simple. At this time I would like to acknowledge the Aegis Destroyer, Wayne E. Meyer, being simultaneously christened at BIW today. I hope the crew and the ship are never put in harms way needlessly and never ordered to start a resource war of choice. May the Wayne E. Meyer proudly serve and defend this country and never become the tool of a fascist government. When BIW christens its first floating wind farm I propose that it be named the Granny D II (Too).

Thank you all for being here.

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