NATO – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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.

Whose firebombs? Sun, 20 May 2012 04:46:02 +0000 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.

Given our history, it’s as plausible a theory as any.  Certainly some skepticism is in order.  And hopefully no one will be scared out of exercising their First Amendment rights on Sunday.

The AP also notes that two of the suspects were involved in an incident last week in which they were taunted by police during a traffic stop that was captured on video (Huffington Post has the video).  Like many, I thought of Chris Drew when I saw that story.

In that encounter, the cops bragged about Chicago in 1968 – when “the police rioted,” according to the Walker Commission.  In contrast, police have been disciplined and professional, sometimes in the face of verbal provocation, in all the protests I’ve seen this week, and the goal is clearly to avoid a major blowup.

But it’s also worth remembering what Don Rose said on the 40th anniversary of Chicago 68, when asked if there were anything the protestors should have done differently:

“The only thing in retrospect is, it would have been better to have teased out some of the police spies in our own organization.  As it turned out…much of the violence [by demonstrators] was perpetrated by police moles.  I suppose if we’d been more vigilant about who might be the moles and traitors among us, it might have been different.”

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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.

What about the neighborhoods? Wed, 16 May 2012 20:38:10 +0000 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

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.”

Party fund

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.

“Spending $14 million on food and wine and music just seems evil and sinful when you have kids in this neighborhood who have no place to play, when you have parents keeping their children inside after school because they’re afraid of gun violence,” said Pastor Victor Rodriguez of La Villita Church in Little Village, a leader in Enlace Chicago.

To visiting journalists he says, “I would ask them to ask somebody if it’s fair to spend $14 million on parties when organizations are looking for $600 to buy new equipment so that 120 kids can stay off the streets for a year.”

Emanuel has “cut the head tax for the corporations and then the corporations turn back around in a deal and donate to support NATO coming here,” says Charles Brown, a 43-year resident of Englewood and a leader with Action Now.  “Well the people that are going to profit from NATO coming here…it’s going to be the corporations.

“Will you treat us the way that you’re treating NATO, spend $14 million on us and put forth a program to help the people that are struggling and suffering?  So that we won’t tear down any more homes, so that we’ll start preserving them, so that the banks will start paying their fair share and giving back to the 99 percent that made all of this possible?”

“Our elected officials time and time again take the podium and pound their fists and say it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids,” said Rodriguez.  “I think that about 10 percent of that $14 million would do so much good here in our community.”


Pastor Victor Rodriguez, Enlace Chicago, Little Village:

Charles Brown, Action Now, Englewood:

Sonovia Petty, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Austin:

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.

Women against NATO Fri, 11 May 2012 03:05:18 +0000 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.

Kathy Kelly

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.

“Our bases will be turned over the to Afghan government, which will lease them back to us.  We’re building the world’s largest embassy in Kabul – it’s really a huge base – and we’re building three prisons.  The night raids will continue at the insistence of the U.S.

“All these things are going to continue, so how can we say the U.S. is withdrawing from Afghanistan?  It’s hypocritical.

“And all these things mean the Taliban will keep fighting, and the people of Afghanistan will be subjected to another decade of warfare.”

Kathy Kelly is currently taking part in a VCNV march from Madison to Chicago.  She’s also on a panel on “How does war end” (3:15 p.m., Friday, May 18) at the Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice at People’s Church, 941 W. Lawrence.

Malalai Joya

Born in Western Afghanistan in 1978, shortly before the Soviet invasion, Malalai Joya is of a generation that has “only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation,” she writes in her book, “A Woman Among Warlords.”

Her father lost a leg fighting the Soviets, and she grew up in refugee camps.  She was not yet 20 when a women’s rights group sent her back to Afghanistan to start an underground school for girls, illegal under the Taliban.  She was 25 when, as a delegate to the Loya Jirga, she denounced the warlords who had taken over from the Tablian. She was accosted and insulted and finally removed from the assembly (see video below).

But her speech won widespread popular favor, and she was elected to the national assembly in 2005 – and then expelled in 2007 for making remarks deemed disrespectful.

She continues to campaign for peace, democracy, and women’s rights, though after several assassination attempts, she moves constantly between safehouses, attended by bodyguards.

In “A Woman Among Warlords,” Joya writes:  “The situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies — the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice…

“In Afghanistan, democratic-minded people have been struggling for human and women’s rights for decades. Our history proves that these values cannot be imposed by foreign troops. As I never tire of telling my audiences, no nation can donate liberation to another nation. These values must be fought for and won by the people themselves. They can only grow and flourish when they are planted by the people in their own soil and watered by their own blood and tears.”

From a recent speech: “We need security and a helping hand from  friends around the world, not this endless U.S.-led ‘war on terror,’ which is in fact a war on the Afghan people….Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs – when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.”

Medea Benjamin

Before she co-founded Code Pink, Medea Benjamin co-founded Global Exchange, an international human rights organization that helped force Nike to address sweatshop issues in the 1990s.

Code Pink – named for the Bush administration’s color-coded security alerts – has disrupted speeches by George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Hillary Clinton, Benjamin Netanyahu and others, and has organized delegations to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Benjamin has a new book out on “Drone Warfare.”

“There’s no easy solution” to the problem of women’s rights in Afghanistan, she said. She notes that women she’s met with there have a range of opinions on how to proceed – and that, contrary to perceptions here, women outside cities find themselves in “pretty much the same situation” they were in under the Taliban. “They’re still going around in burqas.”

“Whether the U.S. pulls out this year or next year or the year after, there are still going to be fundamentalists, and women are still going to have to fight for their rights,” Benjamin said. “It’s going to have to be an indigenous solution.”

Many women there say “there will be no peace without a negotiated solution, and Afghan women must br at the table where negotiations are going on,” Benjamin said.  But with secret talks now going on between the U.S. the Taliban, she points out, that isn’t happening.

Medea Benjamin joins human rights activist Rafia Zakaria to discuss “Drone Wars,” Monday, May 14, 7 p.m. at the Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood.  She’s also joining with colleagues from Code Pink in a panel of “creative tactics for peace and justice” at the Counter-Summit (Friday, May 18, 3:15 p.m.)

Confronting power

Malalai Joya’s speech to the Loya Jirga, December 17, 2003

Medea Benjamin confronts John Brennan, Special Assistant to the President on Counterterrorism, April 30, 2012, Washington DC

Kathy Kelly speaks to Missouri riot police at an anti-drone protest at Whiteman Air Force Base on April 15; three people seeking to present a war crimes indictment were arrested. (Seven more were arrested at an anti-drone protest at Volk Field in Camp Douglas, Wisconsin on April 24.)