Reports on 12th Annual GN Conference

26 April, 2004

Caldicott demands change at BIW

Nobel Peace Prize winner leads Bath peace demonstration

(Correction: 4/27/2004 - Dr. Helen Caldicott did not win the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize as was stated in a story that appeared on Page 1 of Monday's newspaper. She was nominated as an individual, but Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization that she helped create, won the award.

BATH - The prospect of a nuclear war has not diminished, and the building of Aegis ships by Bath Iron Works could lead to a nuclear war between Russia and the United States, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, pediatrician and president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

Warning that "the Earth is in the intensive care unit," Caldicott spoke to a crowd of about 75 people at Waterfront Park in Bath on Friday. Her speech was the kickoff of a three-day international conference sponsored by the Global Network Against Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, which is based in Brunswick.

"America still has a policy to fight and win a war against Russia," said Caldicott, whose latest book is titled "The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex." In Friday's speech, Caldicott, the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize winner, argued that it's imperative that U.S. citizens demand that the government alter this policy.

Russia aims most of its 8,200 nuclear warheads at the United States, and the United States targets most of its warheads at Russia, Caldicott said, in a speech that was timed to end in time to allow peace activists to march to Bath Iron Works during a shift change. Organizers had planned to urge employees of the shipyard to demand either a change in what is produced there or closure of the yard.

"These Aegis ships are death-dealing machines," Caldicott said.

"How can we destroy life on the planet? Why are we so blind?" she asked the crowd, which consisted mainly of older protesters, many of whom waved peace flags and held handmade signs that included such messages as "Money for Jobs Not War" and "Windmills not Destroyers."

"Americans want to do the right thing," Caldicott said, but they need to be educated. Quoting Thomas Jefferson, the native of Australia said, "An informed democracy will behave in a responsible fashion." But, she said, it's up to the media to inform people so they can act responsibly.

"The media is determining the fate of the Earth," she said. Caldicott went on to assert that, people in America "don't really know what Aegis ships do."

Caldicott's speech reinforced the Global Network's theme, as put forth in literature and signs, that the Aegis destroyers won't be used to defend the United States but rather to surround China, an act that could provoke a new arms race in the Asian-Pacific region.

As a traffic control measure, Bath police directed the marchers to an area that kept them at a distance from most of the workers leaving the yard at the end of the early shift.

Friday's rally also attracted a small group of counter-protesters.

Annual gathering

Each year, the Global Network hosts a conference in a different location. This year, there were representatives of 12 countries, including Ghana, Germany and Korea, at the annual gathering.

"We have to have a long perspective," said Gareth Smith, of Australia. "We desperately need vision."

Peter Baldwin of Brooks, Maine, who works for the Peace and Justice Center, stood beating a large drum, on which were printed the words "One people, one earth, one heartbeat."

A young man strolled along Waterfront Park, carrying a paper dove on a stick. "One Aegis destroyer carries 840 Hiroshimas," one woman sang.

Others present at the rally included members of Veterans for Peace, along with Charlie, a Portuguese water dog, who accompanied his owner from Georgetown and sported a pink T-shirt bearing the slogan "Paws for Peace."

Another guest of the Global Network, Frances Crowe, 85, of Massachusetts, who has been involved in the anti-nuclear weapons movement since Hiroshima, said, "We really need to be putting our money into building a decent society right here instead of trying to take over the world." In a Thoreau-like gesture of civil disobedience, Crowe recently refused to pay taxes "because the money is going to build weapons of mass destruction," she said. "It feels good not to be paying for weapons."

After marching to the gates of the shipyard Friday afternoon, Crowe and three other women from the Global Network presented a letter to Kevin Gildart, BIW's vice president of human resources. In it, they wrote, "Weapons are today the No. 1 industrial export of America. ... We oppose the construction of the offensive Aegis destroyer at BIW." The missive urged the company to build ships of peace, windmills for sustainable energy creation, rails cars for public transportation and other nonmilitary products.

William Haggett, former president, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of BIW, said of the protesters, "They're well intentioned and they're entitled to their views." But, he said, it's unrealistic to think the shipyard could be converted to a facility that builds things other than ships, specifically warships. "There is no feasible way in my opinion that BIW is going to convert from building ships for the Navy to doing commercial work that's nonmilitary," he said.

In the past, BIW has built merchant ships and has done other industrial work while simultaneously building ships for the Navy, he said. "But today it's very difficult to compete in those markets." Most of the construction of that equipment has gone overseas, where labor and material costs are lower.

But still, the protesters can dream.

Wearing a BIW sweatshirt, Renee Carbone, whose grandfather works at the shipyard, was walking by the rally with two friends when they decided to stop and watch. Friday was the date of her 15th birthday.

"It would be nice if you got peace on your birthday," one of her friends told her.

(See also: "Letter Delivered to BIW";
Conference Details;
Report on Demonstration;
Press Release)

Report on the Global Network Conference in Portland, Maine

By W. T. Whitney Jr (South Paris, Maine)

The Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space held its 12th annual organizing conference in Portland, Maine, from April 23 through April 25. The Conference theme was "Resisting Empire: Understanding the Role of Space in U.S. Global Domination."  225 peace activists, including leading organizers from 10 nations and 21 states were on hand.

The Network came into being in 1992 in response to a U.S. turn toward weapons in space to shore up its strategic advantage in a unipolar world. According to Network secretary/coordinator Bruce Gagnon, the organization gathers and analyzes information, educates and agitates throughout the world. The Global Network calls for peaceful, common use of space, democratic debate about its future, and the use of space technology to solve human needs.

On April 23, Craig Eisendrath, a Fellow of the Center for International Policy, set the stage as he outlined the history of U.S. disengagement from disarmament treaties and treaties for the peaceful use of space. Washington, in its pursuit of a messianic, self-appointed American mission to make the world right, has rejected multilateralism and now seeks "full spectrum dominance." For Eisendrath, megalomania like this aggravates military competition, sets up provocations, inflates the already immense profits of corporations, and places humanity itself at risk.

The emotional and oratorical highpoint of the conference was Helen Caldicott’s keynote presentation the next day. A symbolic figure in the anti-nuclear movement, founder of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Nobel Prize nominee, Caldicott reminded the gathering that Russia and the United States are still aiming thousands of nuclear weapons at each other. A miscalculation, or accident, could still trigger a thermonuclear holocaust. The human race and the earth itself remain in "intensive care," says Caldicott.

On the afternoon of April 23, 125 delegates marched and demonstrated in front of Maine’s Bath Iron Works to protest the manufacture there of Aegis destroyers. Jack Bussell of Maine Veterans for Peace reminded them that since 1992, Bath Iron Works has built 42 such warships, at a cost of one billion dollars each. Each warship carries 54 Tomahawk Cruise Missile. Armed with a nuclear tip, each missile carries the equivalent of 15 Hiroshimas.

85 year-old Frances Crowe from Massachusetts delivered a letter on behalf of the demonstrators to the president of the shipyard– a division of General Dynamics. It called for conversion of the yard to the production of ships of peace, windmills and rail cars, and it castigated U.S. foreign policy for widening the gap between the world’s rich and poor and promoting the export of weapons. The Brunswick Times-Record was publishing the letter as an op-ed piece just as the demonstration was taking place. The newspaper serves the area where most of the workers at the shipyard live.

Back in Portland, Global Network activists reported on anti-nuclear, anti-weapons protests they have been leading all over the world. Lindis Percy of Otley, UK, received the annual "Peace in Space" award. Over the course of three decades of organizing demonstrations at U.S. bases and installations in Britain, this nurse-midwife has been arrested over 150 times and jailed 20 times. She marked the occasion of George W. Bush’s dinner with Queen Elizabeth in December, 2003, by climbing a 20 foot high fence that surrounds Buckingham Palace. She was delivering an American Flag with a message inked onto it that President Bush was an unwelcome guest.

Presentations by a young Portland, Maine advocate for poor people’s rights and by a Global Network board member from Ghana brought life to the notion of joining the global and the local. Jesse Vear told about human needs going unmet in Portland - and received a standing ovation. Edward Appiah-Brafoh testified to the human costs in Africa of spending for world domination. People there, he said, are "left out, alone and suffering."

David Knight capped off the April 24 session in eloquent fashion, reminding the assembly that weapons in space serve the security needs of the elite; people themselves gain security only through mutual concern about each other and solidarity. He called for a revolution, for radical change brought about through non-violent resistance. Knight was National Co-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the U.K from 1996 to 2001.

A conversation with an Australian activist was instructive. The politics of planetary doom apparently are not far removed from everyday street politics. Gareth Smith of Byron Bay attributes Australian subservience to American dictates to racism. Too many Australians, he says, look to the United States as a protective buffer between Australia and masses of their Asian and Muslim neighbors.

The last day of the annual conference was devoted to a membership meeting with reports, elections of officers, and planning for the future.



Press Release


Contact:  Bruce Gagnon (207) 729-0517 (o)

                                               (207) 319-2017 (cell)


An international peace group, headquartered in Brunswick, is calling for the conversion of Bath Iron Works to civilian production.  By doing so the group maintains that many times more jobs could be created for Mainers as “military production” is capital intensive, not labor intensive.  The group will gather at the Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland on April 23-25 for the 12th Annual International Space Organizing Conference sponsored by the Maine-based Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (GN).


Events will begin with a protest rally on Friday, April 23 at Waterfront Park in Bath at 2:00 pm.  Following the rally the assembled will march through downtown streets to Bath Iron Works at the time of a worker shift change. 


On Saturday, April 24 at the Woodfords Congregational Church (202 Woodford Street) the GN will hold its day long conference entitled Resisting Empire: Understanding the Role of Space in U.S. Global Domination featuring plenary sessions and educational workshops.  Featured as the keynote speaker at the conference will be Dr. Helen Caldicott founder of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.  Dr. Caldicott, a long time leader in the anti-nuclear movement, years ago founded the Physicians for Social Responsibility.


“We are all concerned about jobs, especially in Bath and throughout Maine,” says GN Coordinator Bruce Gagnon.  “The question is: What is the best way to create good jobs in Maine?  Aegis destroyers are built with our tax dollars and it is clearly a political decision that keeps us from using those same dollars for other kinds of job creation.  We believe that BIW should be converted to build ships of peace, windmills for sustainable energy creation, rail cars for public transportation, and the like.”


Studies by the National Commission for Economic Conversion have long shown that the most effective way to create lots of good jobs is to invest in those things that are socially and environmentally beneficial. 


The GN maintains that the Aegis destroyer’s military mission is not to defend the U.S. but instead will be used to surround China thus provoking a new arms race in the Asian-Pacific region.  The Aegis, with new interceptor missiles that will be part of the Star Wars program, will be deployed in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia.  Today China has 20 nuclear missiles capable of hitting the continental U.S., while the U.S. has 7,500 nuclear weapons.  Peace activists from several Asian-Pacific countries are expected to be at the April 23-25 events in Maine to describe their concerns about the implications of Aegis deployments in their part of the world. 


The Global Network was founded in 1992 to stop the nuclearization and weaponization of space and today has 185 affiliate groups all over the world.  Each year the GN meets in a different part of the world. 


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