May 24, 2012 1
NEWSTIPS HOME | About | Follow on Twitter @ChicagoNewstips
May 22, 2012 Comments Off on Not NATO’s kind of town
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.
May 19, 2012 4
The Associated Press has the best report I’ve seen about the alleged firebombing conspiracy in Bridgeport, noting that defense lawyers say there were police infiltrators who stayed in the targeted apartments, and that they were the ones who brought the firebombs there.
(The Sun Times reports that undercover officers were present when the alleged firebombs were made, presenting that fact as evidence for the veracity of the charges.)
“Longtime observers of police tactics said the operation seemed similar to those conducted by authorities in other cities before similarly high-profile events,” according to the AP.
AP cites the RNC 8 – eight young people involved in planning protests at the Republican National Convention in 2008 who were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism under Minnesota’s PATRIOT Act. When it was finally resolved, five accepted plea deals for misdemeanor conspiracy to damage property – one got 91 days, the others no jail time – and charges were dropped against the other three.
Kind of not such a big deal as the initial headlines would have indicated.
Chicago police have a long history of infiltrating peaceful protest groups and fomenting violence – it’s one reason the Red Squad was banned by a federal court order (later lifted at the request of Mayor Daley) – and infiltration of protest groups seems to be standard operating procedure for “national security events.”
And nationally since 9/11, an embarrassing proportion of “anti-terrorism” cases have involved plots proposed, planned, and enabled by police agents. That seems to have been the case – in just the past month — with the Wrigley bomber as well as the alleged bombing plot of a group of Cleveland anarchists who supposedly “discussed” disrupting the NATO summit. Sometimes you wonder whether such efforts are directed at keeping us safe or “putting points on the board” – or, when big protests are planned, generating scare headlines.
“This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear and to create this public perception that protests are violent,” said Michael Deutsch of the National Lawyers Guild.
May 19, 2012 Comments Off on Real news on NATO
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.]
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.
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).
May 16, 2012 Comments Off on What about the neighborhoods?
The Grassroots Collaborative is offering visiting journalists bus tours of working-class neighborhoods struggling with violence, foreclosures, and clinic closings — and they’re questioning the millions of dollars being spent on entertainment at the NATO summit.
Buses leave from the Hyatt Regency at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 17 and 18, and return by 11 a.m. Information is at thegrassrootscollaborative.org.
Thursday’s tour will cover Little Village, one of the city’s largest Latino neighborhoods, where community groups are working to address youth violence; and Back of the Yards, where one of six mental health centers recently closed by the city is located.
(The two clinics primarily serving Latino communities were closed, as were four of six South Side clinics, and half the bilingual staff was laid off, all to save $3 million. Having been repeatedly rebuffed in attempts to hold meetings with city officials – including a City Council hearing blocked by the mayor– the Mental Health Movement is planning to march on Mayor Emanuel’s home on Saturday morning.)
Friday morning’s tour will cover Englewood, a poor African-American community hard hit by foreclosures and violence, and Brighton Park, where low-income Latino residents are developing community schools.
Grassroots Collaborative, a citywide coalition of labor and community organizations, is questioning the priorities of spending millions of dollars to host the NATO summit while the city shuts down clinics and schools, said Eric Tellez.
On another level, he said, NATO spends billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars while poverty and unemployment “devastates communities across the country” and “the global poor fall deeper into poverty.”
Last month the coalition called on World Business Chicago, which is raising money to host NATO, to donate comparable sums to establish a Neighborhood Jobs Trust. In recent statements, the group is focusing on the $14 million being spent on parties for the summit.
May 14, 2012 Comments Off on Rick Rozoff chronicles NATO’s ‘endless wars’
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.
May 13, 2012 Comments Off on NATO summit: drone warfare challenged
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.”
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.
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.
May 10, 2012 Comments Off on Women against NATO
One feature of anti-NATO activities planned here is the presence of several women leaders who have notable records of directly confronting war-makers, of “speaking truth to power,” sometimes at significant personal risk.
In addition to their own stories, they offer valuable perspectives on the crucial issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan. That’s also the subject of a Shadow Summit for Afghan Women’s Rights being held by Amnesty International at the Swissotel, 325 E. Wacker, on Sunday, May 20, the opening day of the NATO summit – where, Amnesty notes, Afghan women won’t be represented, though their interests will be seriously impacted.
Kathy Kelly, Malalai Joya, and Medea Benjamin are each speaking at the People’s Summit, Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13, at 500 W. Cermak (schedule here) and at the No to NATO rally Sunday, May 20 at noon in Grant Park.
Born and raised on Chicago’s Southwest Side, Kathy Kelly became an anti-war activist through the Uptown Catholic Worker House in the late 1970s. She’s been arrested in peace actions over 60 times and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, once by Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire. She co-founded Voices in the Wilderness in 1995, which sent medical supplies to Iraq in defiance of the U.S. embargo.
With VITW and its successor, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, founded in 2005, Kelly has travelled countless times to war zones; she was in Baghdad for the U.S. invasion in 2003, Lebanon during the 2006 invasion, and Gaza during the Israeli attack in 2008; she and her colleagues have visited Iraq and Afghanistan extensively.
“We try to live in poor neighborhoods, alongside people who can’t escape the war zones, and listen to ordinary people whose voices are never heard,” she said. She frequently reports on the experiences and views of the people she lives among. She talks about the 250 Afghan children dying of starvation every day, while the U.S. spends $2 billion a week on the war.
“She’s an inspirational leader,” said Rev. Bob Bossie, who co-founded VITW and is now retired. “She’s radically committed to nonviolence.” VCVN “is known across the country as an organization that’s not sitting on its heels, that’s taking risks in a nonviolent way to say we won’t be compliant, we will speak out again and again and stand with the people who are being oppressed,” he said.
The group “challenges us all to see what we more can do – what next step can I take,” he said. “We can’t all go to war zones, but we can all do more.”
The announcement that the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan is “very misleading,” Kellly said. “It’s simply not true. The Joint Special Operations forces, the most intimidating and fearsome warriors on the planet, will remain till 2024 and beyond.