Report from GN Conference in Huntsville, Alabama

From: Dave Webb

April 7 - 9 2017


Pivot Toward War:
US Missile Defense and the Weaponization of Space
25th Annual Space Organizing Conference & Protest
(Thanks to Will Griffin and Tom Moss for most of the pictures
and to Eric Herter, Will and David Swanson for the videos))

Day 2
 





The Conference - Saturday April 8

 

The following day the conference started in Lowe Mill on Seminole Drive - an old cotton mill which has been converted to an amazing arts centre. On this Saturday (and presumably most Saturdays) the many craft stalls, shops and exhibitions that populated the mill were buzzing with activity. Outside kids and parents were playing and relaxing in the sunshine.

Meanwhile in the Flying Monkey Theatre, we also had stalls:

 

and were lucky enough to also have 3 people from the NO THAAD group in South Korea join us for the conference. They are currently conducting a speaking tour of the US and Rev. Seonghye Kim (Co-chair of the Seongju Struggle Committee to Stop THAAD Deployment, South Korea) was able to make an excellent presentation as a member of the Plenary Panel II.

 
No THAAD speakers and US supporters making the 'heart' sign

We followed through our programme, more or less as follows:

SATURDAY April 8th
8:309:00 a.m.     Registration
 






 



 

9:009:30     Welcome & Purpose of Conference


 


Will Griffin
(Veterans For Peace)


Will introduced the conference to himself and his story, a brief history of US missile defense and developments since the unilateral withdrawal from the ABM Treaty by the US in 2002, including the imposition of the THAAD system in South Korea.

Joy Johnson
(Green Party of Madison County)

Joy outlined how she first came to Huntsville and its military community. She was excited by the science and became a physicist working for NASA on cosmic ray research. There are a lot of intelligent people that live here - who should be working for more constructive aims and objectives.
 



Video of Will and Joy's Introduction

Will's presentation (pdf)

 


 

9:3010:00     Presentation: "The US Space Global Warfighting System
    & Global Network Responses"

 


Dave Webb
(GN board convener & Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, UK)

Dave presented a brief history of Huntsville's dark past through the development of Redstone Arsenal and military space technology. He ran through the current presence of the space military-industrial complex here and the extent of the US global warfighting system, finishing with the peoples' resistance that is growing and is the major hope for the future.  

 



Video of Dave's presentation

Dave's Presentation (pdf)
Dave's Powerpoint Presentation

 

 

Song:


Judy Collins
(Vine & Fig Tree, Alabama)

 

10:1511:45     Plenary Panel I: A New Arms Race: Military Satellites, Drones, Prompt
     Global Strike, Military Space Plane, NSA Surveillance, & Mining the Sky
 


Subrata Ghoshroy
(MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society
- via skype)

Subrata's was temporarily hampered by a sight problem and so was speaking from home via skype. He presented some details of the problems of the US missile defense system that he had helped to expose as the first ever whistleblower and as a professional staff member of the House National Security Committee and a senior analyst with the Government Accountability Office.

Bruce Gagnon
(Global Network Coordinator, Maine)

Bruce described clearly the extent of the US global military system and its aim for full-spectrum dominance. He told how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were used as field tests for space war and to show how the military US wanted to demonstrate what can do by using this technology to extend its hegemonic interests on a global scale. We are currently in the middle of a new arms race in space that threatens the existence of life on the planet.

Lynda Williams
(Physics faculty, Santa Rosa Junior College, California)

Linda (physicist, cabaret performer, teacher) began with a performance of her song "War in Heaven" and then went on to describe the plans for the exploitation of space in the form of space mining. The new Gold Rush is in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Billionaire space cowboys are planning and preparing now to repeat the terrible experiences of mining and resource extraction on Earth and extend them to outer space. The Outer Space Treaty and the Global Space Commons are in danger.
 





Video of Subrata's presentation


Video of Bruce's Presentation


Video of Lynda's performance



Video of Lynda's presentation

 


12:001:00
p.m.
 

    Lunch

1:152:30

    Plenary Panel II: Asia-Pacific Pivot: Resistance to Missile Offense
     Radars & Interceptors


 


Yasuo Ogata
(Co-chair World Conference against A & H Bombs and former Member of Parliament, Upper House, Japan)
Yasuo presented a description of the current problems in Japan with Prime Minster Abe who is attempting to remilitarise Japan. The anti-war part of the Japanese constitution is in danger and the Japanese people are shocked that their government recently voted against the nuclear weapons ban treaty currently being discussed in the UN. The hibakusha continue to campaign

Rev. Seonghye Kim
(Co-chair Seongju Struggle Committee to Stop THAAD Deployment, South Korea)

Rev Kim spoke of the imposition of the US THAAD missile defense system in her home town of Seongju in South Korea. 908 people shaved their heads in protest - a very strong sign of protest in S.Korea. Every day 1500 people gather for candlelight protest. Another site was suggested but the protest grew and support for the ruling party is falling rapidly - they are responsible for the THAAD deployment without consultation with the people. 1.6 million people have demonstrated every Saturday for impeachment of the president and people are now living under a form of military occupation and in fear of the future when all they want is to be bale to leave a safe environment for the next generation. The 4 major religions in S. Korea have joined together to support the protest against THAAD.
 

 


 


Video of Rev Kim's presentation

 

 

Song:


Jason Rawn
(Maine)

 

2:454:00

    Plenary Panel III: Global Network Leader Reports from around the World

 


J. Narayana Rao
(Retired Railroad Union member, GN board member, India)

Rao spoke of the continuing military collaboration between the US and India, the development of space and missile defense technologies ad the dangers of the space arms race and the possibility of international tensions rising and even leading to a nuclear war.
 

Tulsi Das Shrestha
(V-P GN Chapter Kathmandu)

Tulsi was representing the recently established GN chapter in Nepal. He was the only one granted a visa from the 5 or 6 that were aiming to travel to Huntsville. He described the setting up and planned activities of the group and their support for the conference and the continuing work of the GN.


Agneta Norberg
(Swedish Peace Council, Stockholm)


Agneta described the project for a Nordic military pact for a mini-NATO for Scandinavia and the Arctic. She described the collaboration between Scandinavian governments in military operations, cyber warfare, surveillance, etc. and in particular the growth of the partnership between the Swedish FRA and US NSA agencies (to intercept Russian communications). Norway has become the first country to locate its military leadership in the arctic region. There has been no recognition of the role of Sweden in international electronic espionage in the media or the government.
 





Video of Agneta's presentation



Video of Lindis' presentation



Lindis Percy

(Co-Founder off the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, UK)
Lindis spoke of her campaign against the US base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire - in a most beautiful part of the country. All the 10 US bases in England are called RAF to cover their real purpose. Lindis has a great interest in using the law to affect change - with some success. Menwith is run by the NSA and is the largest spy station outside the US. It is key for US surveillance and missile defense. CAAB works through parliament by, among other things, getting friendly MPs to ask questions. There is also the role of protest and bearing witness at the base. There has been demonstration at Menwith Hill every Tuesday since 2000 and it continues. Lindis now works freelance pursuing the work that CAAB was founded to do.
 

 

Song:



Jason Rawn
 

4:155:45

     Plenary Panel IV: Alternative Vision: Transforming a War Economy to a
      Peace Economy
- Organizing Strategies & Movement Building during the
      Trump Administration

 


Hyun Lee
(Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea & Militarism in Asia & the Pacific, New York)

Hyun Lee talked of lessons we could learn form US strategy in the Asia Pacific region and the movement in South Korea that ousted the corrupt president. Firstly then, Obama's pivot plan for TPP to exclude China from the region economically failed. Militarily the US has presented itself as a protector of small states in the region against the 'big bully' China - but that isn't working either. US is pushing for an alliance with Japan and South Korea especially over missile defense but SK's new leader may not be up for this. Trump's policy on NK (which has had to react against the threat of a US first strike for over 60 years) is becoming clearer but so far not helping. The imminent change in leadership in SK is pushing the US into installing THAAD as soon as possible but the people are resisting and is important that we continue to support them.

Mary Beth Sullivan
(PeaceWorks, Maine)

Mary Beth is a social worker dealing with human problems. She began by remarking on our current meeting place - a cotton mill converted to to textile production then to shoes and to boots (used by the army in Vietnam) - it is not unusual. The asked "how has full spectrum dominance worked for you?" Climate change demands we make change to how we work. Produce technologies that will benefit not destroy people and the planet. Societal decay is due to a focus on spending on the military - the need for economic conversion is obvious. We can do it to win wars, why not reverse the process and win the race against climate change. She pointed out that a) conversion is possible, b) we need true leadership and c) leadership begins with a people's movement. Money spent on the military creates far fewer jobs than welfare, education, health, etc. Peter, a friend at Bath Iron Works was converted - so why not the economy? It has to be inevitable.

Reece Chenault
(National Coordinator, U.S. Labor Against the War, Kentucky)

Reece has been guided by "atonement, solidarity and listening" since his organisation's national assembly in 2016. They echo the attempt for US law and union members who work in the military industrial complex to work together across boundaries as part of the same movement. The need for a deep conversation on differences is recognised and despite the difficulties the commitment remains. He highlighted the current problems of the labor movement and the difficulties of building relationships. He emphasised in particular the important role of listening. The majority of workers do not want to build weapons - but they need to be approached with respect.

 



 



Video of Hyun Lee's presentation

 


Video of Mary Beth's presentation

 


Video of Reece's presentation

 


Video of David's  presentation

David Swanson
(World Beyond War)

What can the anti-war movement do? This conference has shown that working for disarmament is the most important thing - weapons come before war. We need to work with other movements, get people to oppose wars even though they started under previous administrations - without this Russia demonising madness. Use education on military bases or details of the federal budget or the humanitarian effects of war to try and energise people. We need to demand a cut in funds rather than a vote against the war. We need a fundamental change -  lose our war culture, move the money from war to welfare. Include peace as part of the demonstrations about the climate - black lives matter is showing the way.
 

 

 

Song:

 



Judy Collins
 

6:008:00

     Evening Program: Keynote Speaker & Music


 


Col. Ann Wright
(Veterans For Peace, Hawaii)

Ann resigned from government service over the Iraq War 14 years ago and has worked ever since on the 'right-side of history'. We heard today of the US military push in Asia and the Pacific - THAAD in South Korea and Guam, the X-band Radar in Japan, North and South Korea. The amazing activists resisting the construction of the Naval Base on, Jeju Island - the incredible resistance by the people of Okinawa - it is so important that we continue to support and show solidarity with them, the battle is not over yet. Vetrans for Peace have played a really important role here - and will continue to do so. In 2015 Ann was a part of the 30 women delegation (Women Cross the Demilitarized Zone) to North Korea and met and talked with 250 women from NK for a 2-day peace seminar. They heard how NK was devastated by the US during the Korean War and the country continues to try and recover despite international pressure and sanctions. The regime is far from perfect and we cannot support many of its actions but we need to understand why it is responding to military exercises (such as the one called "Decapitation") on its borders. They are defending against US plans for regime change. Missile testing is not illegal. Then there is the demonisation of Putin and Russia. The US and NATO are conducting the largest military exercises since the Cold War in Europe and the High North, along the borders of Russia - in the Baltic states, in Poland - encircling Russia. The US has established the Aegis missile defense system in Romania, and another is due soon in Poland.  Russia is conducting their own military exercises in response to all this but the western media forgets to mention that. Citizens in Europe are nervous about what is happening. There will be mobilisations against the NATO Summit in Brussels in May and the G20 meeting in Hamburg in July. We need to encourage communities to participate in mobilisations but also to challenge the ways our local and national governments are behaving on humanitarian issues - we must get the right people elected to places where they can make a difference. We must do what we can to encourage international cooperation andprevent the weaponisation of space. There is a lot to do! Citizen activism is critical to ensure No War!
 



Video of Ann's presentation

   

 

Huntsville Feminist Chorus


Video of Choir's performance


 



 

Sponsors of the Conference included:

Alachua County Green Party (Florida); Gainesville Iguana (Florida); Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space; Greater Brunswick (Maine) PeaceWorks; Green Party of Madison County (Alabama); Maine Natural Guard; Maine Veterans For Peace, Chapter 1; Nashville (TN), Greenlands; North Alabama Peace Network; Selma (Alabama) Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation; Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea & Militarism in Asia & the Pacific; United National Antiwar Committee; US Peace Council; Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Asheville (NC); Veterans for Peace Chapter 14,Gainesville (FL); Veterans For Peace Chapter 174, Jacksonville (FL); Veterans For Peace, Chapter 170, Savannah (GA); Veterans For Peace National; WorldBeyondWar.org; Neil Rice (Alabama)


Conference Statement 

The following statement was proposed following the attack on Syria just before the conference started:



It was adopted unanimously by those in attendance on April 8



Will Griffin's recap of the Conference
 

See also:
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
 



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