international – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Sun, 18 Feb 2018 19:24:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Peace groups react to Syria crisis Wed, 04 Sep 2013 01:11:28 +0000 Peace groups are launching a petition drive — calling on members of Congress to vote against authorizing military action against Syria — with a rally at Representative Jan Schakowsky’s office, 5533 N. Broadway, on Wednesday, September 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“U.S. military intervention is far more likely to make matters worse, not better,” argues an online petition from the Illinois Coalition for Justice, Peace and the Environment.

Schakowsky joined local representatives Danny Davis and Bobby Rush last week in signing a letter initiated by Rep. Barbara Lee of California calling on President Obama to seek congressional approval for any action, which he has since decided to do.  But yesterday Schakowsky’s husband, political consultant Robert Creamer, posted a “progressive case” for authorizing military action on Huffington Post.

Those responsible for chemical attacks should be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court, and the U.S. should maintain humanitarian aid for refugees and step up diplomatic pressure for a negotiated settlement to the two-year conflict in Syria, said Marcia Bernsten of Chicago Area Peace Action, one of the groups organizing the Wednesday rally.

“Using chemical weapons is completely atrocious, but we don’t have the facts, and even when we do, it’s not the job of the U.S. to punish the perpetrators, it’s the international courts,” she said.  Not only has there been no attack on the U.S., she argued, but the risk of attacks on the U.S. increases “if we go around bombing people.”

She cited a statement from former president Jimmy Carter pointing out that “a punitive military response without a U.N. Security Council mandate…would be illegal under international law” and “will only harden existing positions and postpone a sorely-needed political process to put an end to the catastrophic violence.”

An attack would also risk extensive civilian casualities, would further destablize the region and potentially provoke retaliation by Syria or its allies, Bernsten said.

The American Friends Service Committee is also urging people to contact Congress and ask for a “no” vote on military authorization, said Mary Zerkel.

“While we unequivocally condemn any use of chemical weapons along with continued indiscriminate killing of civilians and other violations of international humanitarian law, military strikes are not the answer,” the group said in a letter to President Obama signed by 26 national organizations.

“Rather than bringing an end to the violence that has already cost more than 100,000 lives, they threaten to widen the vicious civil war in Syria and undermine prospects to de-escalate the conflict and eventually reach a negotiated settlement.”


A citywide coalition has called for a march and rally at noon on Saturday, September 7, at the Federal Plaza.  The Syrian American Forum is supporting the action, in part because a military attack on Syria is simply “not in America’s interest,” said Dr. Matar Matar.

“As an American citizen I don’t see how it helps American national security in any way,” he said, stressing the danger of being drawn into a wider war — and of giving a military boost to groups allied with Al Qaeda now fighting the Syrian government.

“They are the most powerful component of the military opposition,” and include groups and individuals identified as terrorist by the State Department, Matar said.  “They are not there to bring democracy and freedom to Syria.”

A military attack will increase the refugee problem and further damage the nation’s barely-functoning economy, Matar said.  “People in conflict areas are vulnerable to radicalization when they see no jobs, no education,” he said.

The U.S. should pressure the Gulf States to stop arming and financing the Islamist militias and convince the political opposition to join negotiations that were discussed last month but dropped, he said.  He believes negotiations could result in new national elections, supervised by the U.N.

Not enough is known about the chemical weapons attack last month, Matar said.  But once documented, “it doesn’t justify a war on Syria,” he said. “It’s not the whole country that is responsible.  They should bring the people responsible for those attacks to the International Criminal Court for war crimes.”


In the wake of reports of a chemical weapons attack, analysts warn against the “false binary” choice between two options only: military action or (as Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies put it in an internet forum sponsored by “they get away with it.”  (This, by the way, is Creamer’s approach.) There are other options.

Diplomacy in this situation is not going to be easy, they say — not with a fractured opposition fighting among itself, and a range of agendas at play in Syria, from the “new cold war” between the U.S. and Russia to the rivalry of Iran and the Saudis — but it’s the only approach with the potential to actually bring an end to the killing.

The Obama administration initially gave diplomacy short shrift because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad looked weak, writes Trira Parsi for Reuters.  It’s clear now “that Assad is neither so weak that he will lose, nor so strong that he can easily win. In short there is a stalemate, which provides fertile ground for negotiations to achieve a durable cease-fire.”

“What we’re going to have to have — and it’s going to be now or it’s going to be later — is more diplomacy, tougher diplomacy, harder diplomacy,” Bennis tells Real News. “It’s going to take diplomacy and negotiations to end this war, to stop any possible use in the future of any weapons, certainly including chemical weapons….

“That means engaging directly with the regime in Syria, as well as with the opposition. It means engaging with those who support both sides. So the U.S. needs to be engaging directly with Russia, as well as with Iran.”   The Obama administration previously opposition Iranian participation in talks, a position Bennis calls “crazy.”

The U.S. needs to pressure Russia and Iran to stop resupplying the regime with arms, and in turn ensure that U.S. allies including Saudi Arabia stop funding and arming opposition groups, Bennis said.  “Until we have a halt to the new weapons coming in, there’s no way that talks toward a ceasefire are going to work.”

Comments Glenn Greenwald: “There are few things more bizarre than watching people advocate that another country be bombed even while acknowledging that it will achieve no good outcomes other than safeguarding the ‘credibility’ of those doing the bombing.” He adds, “it’s hard to imagine a more potent sign of a weak, declining empire than having one’s national ‘credibility’ depend upon periodically bombing other countries.”

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Mexico-U.S. caravan calls for end to War on Drugs Sat, 01 Sep 2012 21:36:59 +0000 Calling for an end to the war on drugs, a transnational caravan of Mexican and U.S. human rights activists is highlighting failed policies they say are behind horrific violence in Mexico and Chicago’s status as the “deadliest global city.”

Led by poet Javier Sicilia, the Caravan for Peace arrives in Chicago Sunday night and will hold a series of community events including a march for peace from Little Village to Lawndale on Monday evening (more below).

The goal is to give voice to the victims of the drug war – which has resulted in 60,000 murders in Mexico since 2006 and mass incarceration of minorities in the U.S. — and to draw connections between U.S. and Mexican policies around drug enforcement, immigration, and weapons smuggling that foster violence and insecurity in Mexico and in Chicago communities, said Cristina Garcia of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, which is coordinating the host committee here.

A leading literary figure in Mexico, Sicilia launched a movement to challenge the heavily militarized drug policies of President Felipe Calderon last year after his 24-year-old son was murdered by drug traffickers.  He led a march from Cuernavaca to Mexico City that was joined by 100,000 people demanding an end to the war.

Chicago is one of 20 U.S. cities being visited by the caravan, which started in August in San Diego and will arrive in Washington DC on September 12.

Noting that Latin American leaders and communities in the U.S. have begun questioning the wisdom of drug prohibition, organizers call for a new approach to drug policy “based on citizen security and public health” and a broad discussion of options for regulating and controlling drugs.

They call for the U.S. to take steps to stop the flow of weapons in Mexico, including reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004.  Researchers have linked its expiration to the upsurge in killings in Mexico.

They want financial institutions held accountable for preventing money laundering; an immediate suspension of U.S. aid to Mexico’s military and a shift in U.S. foreign aid from military assistance to human security and development; and reform of immigration policies that have criminalized migrants, militarized the border, and increased the involvement of criminal organizations in human trafficking.


Salicia and two busloads of activists including many survivors of violence will be greeted Sunday, September 2, with a mass at St. Pius Church, 1919 S. Ashland, at 6 p.m.

Events on Monday include a community dialogue from 1 to 4 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th, and a march at 5 p.m., starting from the Little Village Arch at 26th and Pulaski and ending with a vigil at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington.

On Tuesday there’s a press conference at City Hall at 10 a.m., followed by events at the Lutheran School of Theology, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the Albany Park Autonomous Center (full schedule here).

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Hondurans mark coup anniversary Wed, 27 Jun 2012 22:49:39 +0000 Local Hondurans and human rights activists will protest at the Honduran Consulate, 4439 W. Fullerton, on Thursday, June 28 from noon to 2 p.m. to mark the third anniversary of the 2009 coup and demand an end to U.S. military support, including financial assistance and “boots on the ground.”

A deadly attack on Honduran campesinos travelling by canoe on May 11, apparently killed by Honduran police officers accompanying U.S. DEA agents in a U.S. State Department helicopter, reveals the “quiet escalation” of the U.S. military presence there, according to a June 11 Nation article.

While Latin American nations have refused to recognize the post-coup government, the U.S. has embraced it, with President Obama welcoming Honduran President Porfirio Lobo to the White House last October and Vice President Biden travelling to Honduras to pledge continuing support in March.

Obama’s 2013 budget more than doubles military and police aid to Honduras, according to the Nation.

The pretext is the war on drugs, but the vice president of the Honduran Congress estimates that 40 percent of the nation’s police are involved in organized crime, and other officials have exposed “narco-judges” and representatives of drug cartels in Congress.

Human rights abuses have continued to mount, with 22 journalists among hundreds of Hondurans killed, the AFL-CIO reporting “numerous murders” of trade unionists, and the UN reporting that “human rights defenders continue to suffer extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture” and other abuses.

A deadly campaign against campesino activists pursuing land rights  — in one town, police burned down 100 homes and bulldozed three churches and a schoolhouse in one day last June — moved Rep. Jan Schakowsky to write a letter calling for a suspension of police and military aid in March.  It was signed by 94 members of Congress.

A “second coup” now underway reflects the economic agenda of multinational corporations.  It includes laws privatizing the nation’s ports, electrical and water systems, and potentially the entire school system; legislation sharply reducing labor rights; and a new “Model Cities” law establishing zones where transnational investors can operate free of the nation’s constitution, legal code, and democratic governance.

You could call it Michigan (or Wisconsin, or perhaps Chicago) on very bad steroids.

But the resistance movement continues to fill the streets, according to the Nation, with hundreds of thousands marching on May Day organized by the nation’s labor federations and a new political party.

In Chicago, La Voz de los de Abajo’s Honduras Resists blog carries updates of developments there as well as news of human rights delegations from Chicago.

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NATO round-up Thu, 24 May 2012 21:11:36 +0000 Stop NATO has a roundup of national and international coverage of the Chicago summit.

Favorite trivia:  Georgia President Shaakashvili calls NATO “more relevant now than ever” and Occupy protestors “relics of the past.”  Is it possible he could have that backwards?

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Not NATO’s kind of town Wed, 23 May 2012 00:17:25 +0000 Mayor Emanuel is congratulating himself for a successful NATO summit – successful mainly because no disasters occurred, though the only real threats seem to have been those manufactured by police.

No doubt the black bloc is also congratulating itself that day-after front pages carried pictures of scuffles with police, rather than veterans returning their medals with members of Afghans For Peace looking on, certainly the most moving and meaningful drama of the weekend.

What would a real accounting of the summit’s costs and benefits look like?

“Obama projects desired image,” the Sun-Times titles one story, but the summit itself had some signal failures.  Two major goals – getting commitments from member states to fund the next phase of the war in Afghanistan, and reopening supply routes through Pakistan – did not pan out.

The protests cast a long shadow over Obama’s attempt to play the summit as a withdrawal from Afghanistan for the domestic audience (while lining up support from other countries for continuing operations).

Unfortunately for Emanuel’s legacy, the “Chicago Accord” that he was boasting last week would be signed at the summit – an agreement on how to proceed on Afghanistan – wasn’t to be, Rick Rozoff of Stop NATO points out.

Even the summit’s biggest actual accomplishment – the announcement that NATO’s missile defense system is going online – comes with no noticeable benefit and at great cost: major tensions with Russia, whose cooperation is needed for the alternative supply route to Afghanistan, Rozoff says.

He points out that the announcement included new plans for satellite technology, which he calls a fulfillment of Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars dreams, and a dangerous and costly step toward the militarization of space.

Largest anti-NATO protest ever

Meanwhile, NATO was subject to a great deal of negative attention – and Chicago hosted the largest anti-NATO demonstration in the entire history of the alliance, Rozoff said.

(Four city blocks – a half mile – of marchers filling four lanes of State Street probably amounts to two or three times the police/media estimate of 3,000 protestors.)

And there’s renewed attention to the obscene amounts the U.S. and NATO nations spend on armaments.  This at a time when suffering from a lingering economic crisis continues to grow, when cities and states are mired in crisis and slashing public services – and while Obama’s defense secretary is opposing relatively minor spending cuts agreed to in last year’s budget deal.

The media tends to see the protestors as bearing a confusing mish-mash of causes.  But listen to them and you see that they are all connected on a fundamental level. At the Grant Park rally on Sunday, speaker after speaker tied issue after issue to the question of war and militarization.

N’Dana Carter of the Mental Health Movement pointed out that there are 30,000 Illinois National Guard members returning from war who have no access to VA care – and if Emanuel succeeds in closing mental health centers, “there will be no one to take care of them.”

“As long as there is war and poverty, there will be immigrants,” said Tania Unzueta of the Immigrant Youth Justice League.  “And long as there are deportations, there will be resistance,” she said, excoriating Obama for stepping up deportations to unprecedented levels.

“I’m angry because the people in power haven’t been listening to us,” said Angela Walker with ATU Local 998, representing Milwaukee bus drivers.  “We have been demanding an end to these wars for a decade and we’re still there.

“I stand in solidarity with the rights of Afghan women – their rights are not debatable,” she said.  “I am a union worker in Wisconsin – our rights are not debatable.”

Declared Walker: “I’m here because there should not be a single homeless veteran in this country.”

Protests target Emanuel too

Mayor Emanuel also came in for a lot of negative attention.  Many protestors’ signs targeted the mayor; one said “Donate Rahm to Afghanistan.”  Rocker Tom Morello taunted the mayor at the nurses’ rally Friday.  A huge, colorful, spirited crowd marched on his home Saturday, bringing more notice to his draconian mental health cuts, under the banner of “Health Care Not Warfare.”

The larger disparities and inequities in the city did not entirely escape attention, either.  Reporting on Grassroots Collaborative’s “Real Chicago” bus tour, the Guardian noted the irony of NATO promising “peace through security” in a city where, in minority neighborhoods, “neither exists.”  Murders are up in Chicago by 50 percent over last year (the city’s rate is nearly twice as high as New York’s), and insecurity correlates closely with race and poverty.  One third of African American residents live in poverty; black infant mortality is “on a par with the West Bank,” and black life expectancy in Chicago is lower than Egypt’s.

One wonders how Emanuel’s backers – the CEOs who donated millions from their corporate coffers to finance this extravanza – feel about the idea now.  Monday morning’s headlines did nothing to burnish the city’s reputation.  The $128 million that summit boosters said would be injected into the city’s economy turned out to be a figment of their imagination.  Downtown restaurants actually reported a “slump.”

And Monday, host committee donor Boeing was shut down by protestors highlighting its arms production and its tax evasion – a level of attention the corporation has avoided during its years in Chicago.  Might Boeing and others like it have been just as happy to have the summit somewhere else?

Expect the next NATO summit to be far, far away.  Perhaps, next time, at an undisclosed location.

Real news on NATO Sat, 19 May 2012 15:02:15 +0000 For a larger perspective and real global context regarding the NATO summit itself — beyond official press briefings — there’s no source like the Stop NATO website, profiled here last week.  Here are some recent stories; click on titles for the full entries.

[Also, do not miss “My Kind of (NATO) Town,” the highly informative and highly readable perspective offered by Asia Times’ correspondent Pepe Excobar via Al Jazeera; it’s clear that a  Escobar is a reader of Stop NATO.]

May 19

Video: Nurses lead thousands in anti-NATO march

Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Beijing

A meeting of foreign ministers in Beijing – prelude to an SCO summit June 6-7 (just before the international conference on Afghanistan June 14 in Kabul) – indicated increased cooperation on foreign policy, including united opposition to the U.S./NATO anti-ballistic missile program which is being promoted in Chicago (Russia & India Report).

SCO includes Russia, China, and four Central Asian nations; India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia have observer status (membership requests from India and Pakistan are under consideration); NATO member Turkey is likely to be granted “dialogue partner” status.

SCO countries should be active participants in international discussions on Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said recently.  Moscow and Beijing argue against the continuing presence of foreign troops there.

A draft final declaration was adopted that says “unilateral unlimited expansion of the anti-ballistic missile system may damage international security and strategic stability.”

A consolidated SCO position on anti-ballistic missile systems has the potential to become a significant counterweight to NATO’s plans in this area.


SCO could hinder NATO goals in Afghanistan

Leaders of Central Asia states are invited to the Chicago summit in order to get their agreement to host NATO military facilities to accommodate forces being withdrawn from Afghanistan, but the Shanghai Cooperation Organization presents an obstacle (Trend News Agency).

The presidents of SCO members Kazakhistan, Kyrgystan, and Uzbeikistan have been invited to Chicago but are sending their foreign ministers in their places.

“Now it becomes clear that NATO is not going to leave Afghanistan in the next ten years. In this case, they need the territory of Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries to place their own military bases.”

Russia: International Criminal Court must examine NATO bombings in Libya


May 18

Video: Unprecedented Protestor vs. NATO debate


May 17

Russia: Military interference in other countries could lead to nuclear war

“The introduction of all sorts of collective sanctions bypassing international institutions does not improve the situation in the world while reckless military operations in foreign states usually end up with radicals coming to power,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told an international legal forum in St. Petersburg (Novosti).

“At some point such actions, which undermine state sovereignty, may well end in a full-blown regional war and even – I’m not trying to spook anyone – the use of nuclear weapons,” he said.


NATO summit: “Enduring presence in Afghanistan”

One of the major topics in the NATO summit is to “establish a vision for our enduring presence in Afghanistan,” said General John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO force in Afghanistan (Xinhua).

The May 20-21 summit will feature a series of bilateral agreements “that will create a network of strategic partnerships, bilaterally, around the world with Afghanistan,” the general told attendees at the 2012 Joint Warfighting Conference held in Virginia Beach.

“The United States, and our key partner nations, including France, the United Kingdom and Italy, have already signed strategic partnerships with Afghanistan, making a long-term commitment to that country’s security, development and governance,” Allen said. “And soon, other countries will sign agreements as well.”

Foreign forces were originally scheduled to be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but a U.S.-Afghanistan strategic partnership agreement provides for U.S. forces in Afghanistan well beyond 2014.

A series of U.S. military scandals in the war-torn country this year were widely criticized, including the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, the burning of Korans, a video of Marines urinating on dead insurgents and photos of soldiers posing with corpses and body parts of failed Afghan suicide bombers.


Mongolia-NATO ties assist Pentagon’s shift to Asia-Pacific

Mongolia will attend the Chicago summit under a new individual partnership status (China Daily).

In March, NATO and Mongolia signed their first bilateral cooperation program under NATO’s new policy of developing more flexible partnerships with countries that engage significantly with international security affairs.

NATO could help Washington accelerate its shifting strategic emphasis to the Asia-Pacific by growing toward the East, said Zhai Dequan, deputy secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

Mongolia sent contingents to support NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo in 2005 and 2007 and has provided troops for NATO’s Afghanistan mission since 2010.


May 16

NATO lures in Central Asia

NATO is strengthening its positions in Central Asia, and nations there are thinking of how they can get the most out of the situation (Voice of Russia).


Veterans for Peace call for an end to NATO

“NATO has always been a war-making institution lacking in accountability to the peoples of the nations it claims to represent. But NATO at least once claimed a defensive purpose that it neither claims nor represents any longer.

“NATO has militarized the nations of Europe against the will of their people, now maintains hundreds of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear European nations in blatant violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and is threatening Russia with missile base construction on its borders.

“Having fought aggressive wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, NATO remains in Afghanistan, illegally, immorally, and to no coherent purpose. The people of the United States, other NATO nations, and Afghanistan itself, overwhelmingly favor an end to NATO’s presence, while Presidents Obama and Karzai, against the will of their people, work to commit U.S. forces to at least 12.5 more years in Afghanistan.

“NATO provides the United States with a pretense of global coalition and legality. …NATO’s interests are neither democratically determined nor humanitarian in purpose. NATO does not bomb all nations guilty of humanitarian abuses. Nor does NATO’s bombing alleviate human suffering, it adds to it….

“An analysis of NATO’s real motivations reveals a desire to control the global flow of oil, to support dictators who have supported U.S./NATO wars, prisons and torture operations, to back Israel’s expansionist agenda, and to surround and threaten the nation of Iran….”


May 15

NATO Chief: Interceptor missile system to be expanded

For Russia, NATO has started a new arms race

Is there any way to put a brake on this arms race? Yes, of course. At the Russia-Nato ministerial meeting in Brussels, Moscow suggested as a first step that, at its Chicago summit, Nato pledges its  “adherence to the rules of  international law” in its final declaration (Daily Telegraph).

Such a commitment would mean that the alliance would respect the jurisdiction of existing international institutions, and renounce the independent use of force unless it was authorised by a relevant UN Security Council resolution.

Rick Rozoff chronicles NATO’s ‘endless wars’ Tue, 15 May 2012 00:44:26 +0000 By hosting a self-proclaimed “nuclear alliance” like NATO, Chicago is violating the spirit if not the letter of the city’s status as a nuclear free zone, passed unanimously by the City Council in 1986 and signed by Mayor Harold Washington, says Rick Rozoff.

It’s one of dozens of points that came up in several wide-ranging talks with Rozoff, a Chicagoan who for 13 years has edited the Stop NATO blog, almost certainly the most comprehensive source for news and critical analysis of the alliance in the world.

On Thursday, Rozoff and a representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War will take the anti-NATO position in a debate with former Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns and NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary James Appathurai at the Pritzker Military Library.

Making war around the world

Stop NATO started in 1999, a watershed year according to Rozoff, when NATO launched its first war, a 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.  That’s the point at which NATO moved beyond its posture as a strictly defensive organization protecting its members’ territories to become “an active war-making organization” – and when promises of post-Cold War demilitarization and a “peace dividend” were betrayed, he says.

Since then NATO has conducted wars in Asia and Africa – a brutal ten-year slog with heavy civilian casulaties in Afghanistan, NATO’s first ground war, and a six-month bombing campaign in Libya.

Despite the unprecedented presence of 150,000 troops from 50 nations (including NATO members and partners) waging war in a single, relatively small country, Afghanistan is widely viewed as a defeat for the alliance. NATO claims Libya as a victory, though the nation is now dominated by fundamentalists and riven by clan wars, with instability spreading to other African nations, Rozoff points out.

Global expeditionary force

A major function of these wars, he argues, is to integrate the  militaries of NATO members and scores of partner nations into a “global expeditionary force,” with small countries enlisted in efforts to ensure Western access to resources and hem in nations with independent foreign policies –notably Russia, China, and Iran.

NATO’s expanded military alliance “puts smaller countries in the position of having to respond when the major powers call for assistance,” obliges them to accept U.S. and NATO bases on their territory, and requires them to purchase advanced weaponry – which they don’t need and can’t afford – from Western nations, Rozoff says.

The Chicago summit will deal with transitioning to a new phase of involvement in Afghanistan, further integrating the forty NATO partner states that participate in the alliance’s wars, and upgrading the alliance’s military capabilities.  NATO is expected to announce that its European interceptor missile system has achieved initial operational capability.

Nuclear tensions

While touted as a defense against attacks from North Korea or Iran, the missile system seems to be aimed at Russia, destabilizing the continent’s nuclear balance and ratcheting up tensions.  Indeed, Rozoff says the system “is not to be construed as a defensive project whatsoever,” and ultimately could be part of a first-strike nuclear system.

Rozoff notes other developments to watch, including U.S. plans to spend $4 billion to modernize its European-based nuclear weapons, NATO’s first move to acquire drone technology, and calls for NATO to intervene in Syria and Mali.  It’s all covered in detail at Stop NATO, a compilation of international news reports along with Rozoff’s trenchant commentary.

The Chicago summit “leaves us face to face with the most burning question of our era,” Rozoff told interviewer Allen Ruff on WORT-FM in Madison earlier this month. “Which is that 21 years after the end of the Cold War, we have lived through incessant warfare, there have been wars after wars after wars, in Iraq and Somalia and Bosnia and Kosovo and Afghanistan, in Iraq again, in Libya, we’re seeing bombing and missile attacks into Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen, and on and on and on.

“And it is about time that the people of Chicago, of the United States and the world, say look: there was a promise 21 years ago when the Cold War ended, that we would have peace, that we would have disarmament, we would have a peace dividend that directed funds from killing to fund human needs and human development.”

He points out that the United States spent $729 billion last year for the Defense Department — $2,400 for every person living in the country.  “There are better things to do with that money than to kill people.”

NATO summit: drone warfare challenged Sun, 13 May 2012 20:18:37 +0000 Drone warfare will be an issue at the NATO summit, though it’s a far more urgent one for many of NATO’s critics.

NATO will review the strategic agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan, which will allow drone attacks to continue, despite Afghanistan’s attempt to negotiate an end to them. NATO will also review a deal reached earlier this year for members to kick in $1.4 billion to start building its own drone force.

Drone war is also behind the decision not to invite Pakistan to the Chicago summit, although the nation is one of dozens of NATO “partners,” and an important one. The U.S. reportedly pressed for its exclusion because Pakistan refused to reopen NATO supply routes closed after a U.S. drone attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

Pakistan, previously in tacit support of the drone war, has now demanded it be ended, to no avail.


Pakistan’s exclusion from the summit “makes the whole thing a farce,” said Pakistani-American human rights activist Rafia Zakaria. “You’re supposed to be figuring out the future of the Afghanistan mission and the negotiations with the Taliban, and you don’t have the country that’s integral to all of that.”

Zakaria will be speaking along with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, author of the new book, “Drone Wars,” at the Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood, on Monday, May 14 at 7 p.m.

The book is an attempt “to make the American people aware of how counterproductive drone warfare is, how many innocent civilians it kills, how it creates blowback and anti-U.S. sentiment – and to get more people involved in calling for an end to it,” Benjamin said.

Code Pink has protested at drone bases, as has the locally-based group Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Last month VCNV and grassroots peace groups in Missouri, upstate New York, and Wisconsin held protests and committed civil disobedience at air bases where drones are maintained and deployed.

Killing civilians

They delivered a war crimes indictment charging the U.S. chain of command, from the president on down, with violations of U.S. and international law including “extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and the killing of innocent civilians.”

Kathy Kelly of VCNV said she and colleagues “have been in Pakistan and Afghanistan and become aware of how much fear and mistrust the drone attacks have caused. We’ve talked to people who’ve lost loved ones” in drone attacks. One young girl she met in an Afghan refugee camp lost an arm in a drone attack; her brother was seriously injured; her uncle lost his wife and five daughters.

Given the secrecy in which the program is cloaked, it’s hard to know how many civilians have been killed, Kelly said. According to a VCNV pamphlet, “The vast majority of victims of drone strikes through the history of drone warfare have been innocent civilians.”

An extensive effort by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based at City University in London, has identified the names of 317 civilians killed in U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, including 174 children. Out of up to 3,000 or more people killed in about 300 attacks, BIJ was able to identify 171 named militants.

The actual numbers are almost certainly higher. One “precision” targeted assassination in 2009 killed the leader of the Pakistan Taliban, along with his wife and her father. But according to Rolling Stone, it was the fourth attempt on the man’s life; 45 civilians were killed in one earlier attempt, and 35 more, including an 8-year-old boy, in another.

A game of odds

The Obama administration has dramatically stepped up drone attacks (they’re carried out by the U.S. military in Afghanistan and by the CIA in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen). After being coy about it for a couple of years, in January the president defended the program as “very precise,” saying drone strikes “have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.”

The program appeals to the administration as “a more targeted way of waging war,” one without the political costs associated with troop casualties, according to RS. “From the moment Obama took office, according to Washington insiders, the new commander in chief evinced a ‘love’ of drones” – an enthusiasm shared by top aides including then-chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who “would routinely arrive at the White House and demand, ‘Who did we get today?'”

The expansion involved moving beyond targeted assassinations of top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders to selecting targets based on suspicious activity observed by drone surveillance. When it comes to these kinds of attacks, “the decision to launch a drone assault is essentially an odds game,” according to RS. “If the agency think’s it’s likely that the group of individuals are insurgents, it will take a shot.”

A former official tells Rolling Stone: “The CIA is doing a lot more targeting on a percentage basis.”

In one case RS reports, a well-known, pro-U.S. human rights advocate was killed because the CIA confused his cell-phone number with that of a Taliban leader.

Fighting terrorism

Zakaria uses words like “absurd” and “ludicrous” to describe the program. Based in Indiana, she’s a board member of Amnesty International, a columnist at Dawn, Pakistan’s major English-language newspaper, and author of the forthcoming book, “Silence in Karachi: An Intimate History of Pakistan” (Beacon).

“You would never put people on a remotely-piloted aircraft, but we’re willing to use the same thing to kill people,” she says. (Clearly, it’s only feasible in areas where we have little concern for the welfare of the general population.)

One problem is that drone warfare is presented as a tactic against terrorism. “If you put terrorism on one side of a scale and anything on the other side, you can make anything seem defensible – torture, indefinite detention, drones,” says Zakaria.

“Drones are not a solution to terrorism,” she says. Refugees consistently say that after every drone attack, “the first people on the scene are Taliban who recruit family members of the victims,” she says. “What [drones are] doing is really providing a replacement supply of recruits for whomever is killed in a strike.”

She points out that 5,000 Pakistanis were killed in nearly 500 terrorist attacks last year. “If drones are working so well – if they’re really crippling the capacity of Al Qaeda and the Taliban – how in the world are they possibly doing 500 attacks in one year?”

Reuters’ David Rohde, arguing that Obama’s drone strategy is “backfiring,” points to Yemen as another case. Twenty drone strikes were carried out there in the months after a Yemeni-trained militant tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in December 2009.

“In addition to killing Al Qaeda-linked militants, the strikes killed dozens of civilians, according to Yemenis. Instead of decimating the organization, the Obama strikes have increased the ranks of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from 300 fighters in 2009 to more than 1,000 today, according to Gregory Johnsen, a leading Yemen expert at Princeton University. In January, the group briefly seized control of Radda, a town only 100 miles from the capital, Sanaa.”

Destroying Pakistan

Zakaria also raises the “secondary effects” of the drone war, with camps and cities – already lacking infrastructure and jobs — swollen by hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing areas where drone strikes are common and the hovering presence of the weapons is constant.

“Pakistan is being destroyed by the effects of the drones,” she said. “They’re supposed to be ‘surgical strikes’ excising a cancer, but the whole body is dying.”

Kelly has similar stories about swollen refugee camps in Afghanistan, where 40 people froze to death last winter, and of Kabul, where 5 million now live in a city built for 500,000.

Why do people flee areas where drones are in use? What’s it like to live under the protection of these things?

“From the ground, drones are terrifying weapons that can be heard circling overhead for hours at a time,” writes Rohde, who was held captive by the Taliban from November 2008 until he escaped in June 2009. “They are a potent, unnerving symbol of unchecked American power.”

A Pakistani attorney for 80 families of drone victims says that in the province of Waziristan, there are four or five drones in the air at any given time.

Kelly and VCNV are currently on a 170-mile peace walk from Madison to Chicago to protest the NATO summit. They bring with them an alternative agenda for the summit: immediately end drone strikes, dismantle the NATO mission in Afghanistan, end diplomatic and financial support for Hamid Karzai “and the warlords in the National Assembly,” and provide reparations commensurate to the destruction caused by the U.S./NATO war.