This weekend, several world leaders whose nations are members of, or partners with, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will be arriving in Chicago for two days of meetings. They will undoubtedly be discussing their mission of “Peace and security in all areas of everyday life” (or so says their official website). Ironically enough, this mission is far from upheld on the world stage- and is certainly not expected to be upheld in the streets of Chicago.
There are many reasons why NATO pisses me off, and it spans much further than the disruption of my daily commute into Downtown or the dent in my girlfriend’s tips at the Tea House across from the Daley Center. From the atrocious acts that it has imposed on impoverished and independent countries to the Chicago Police Department and its preparation to silence, hide and violate the protesters that will be present- this weekend will highlight everything BUT such a “mission of peace and security”. Beyond all the inconvenience, take a minute to read this article so I can quickly summarize some legitimate reasons to let this circus get under your skin too.
Quick and blunt history of NATO
The North Atlantic Trade Organization was formed in 1949 by a group of nations in order to hinder the Russian influence over the reconstruction of Europe, and further keep the world free of communism and further facilitate capitalism. Basically, we wanted to thwart the economic and political interests of the Soviets by aligning with other countries with ideals similar to our own. Although before the collapse of the Soviet Union this seemed to have at one point been a warranted and ethical mission, the Organization has since become nothing other than the military arm of Western (American) economic interest. NATO has become THE global intervention power, though it often picks and chooses which Dictatorships or governments are worthy of such violent and often badly planned involvement.
While I could write on and on about the diverse involvement NATO has had in several countries, let me just pinpoint a couple that have garnered the most (but not often transparent in terms of mainstream) press. When the organization “intervened” in oil-rich Libya following the Qadhafi regime’s targeting of civilians, it became nothing more than taking the sides of the rebels in a mutually violent Civil War. This backing not only included providing close air support and “humanitarian bombings” (the death toll is estimated between 2,000 and 30,000) but also served as a step for Western countries towards controlling millions of gallons of oil previously inaccessible under Qadhafi’s rule. The real kicker? The rebels that we aided in Libya are now gutting human rights (including women’s rights), and have recently passed many laws similar to those of the old regime implemented – including criminalization of political dissent, and granting blanket immunity to those who commit crimes committed “in support” of the revolution.
I could go on with one example after another of NATO’s “justified” interventions in countries such as Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq, but for brevity, I will refer you to a paper, “Politics of Intervention: A Case of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq” http://www.ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol._2_No._11_%5BSpecial_Issue-June_2011%5D/10.pdf which will outline three other similar cases- all of which have similar circumstantial and self-serving motivations. It is a good piece, and will give you the means to decide for yourself whether there was something fishy about these actions, and will hopefully stick in your mind as NATO continues to justify similar moves on a global stage.
NATO By The Numbers
$700+ Billion- The amount the United States taxpayers pay for the military each year, of which $700 Million goes towards NATO
$1.5 Trillion- The amount the world spends on militaries, two thirds of which NATO countries account for
$1.9 Billion- The amount the U.S. spent on unmanned Predator and Reaper drones in 2011
450- The number of people displaced daily in Afghanistan
250- The number of children who die each day in Afghanistan due to malnutrition
2024- The year that the “Strategic partnership agreement” between the U.S. and Afghanistan is set to expire
$3 Trillion- The estimated cost of the entirety of the Iraq War according to economist Joseph Stiglitz
NATO in Chicago
Only a year into his term, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is flexing his muscle by bringing one of the most controversial and internationally followed events to Chicago’s stage to somehow legitimatize and propagandize its global presence. Though the Summit will be bringing in dozens of the most prestigious political figures from around the world as well as an estimated $128 million, Chicago has prepared for thousands of protesters to flock to the city in dissent. The 12,500-member Chicago Police Department has committed more than a third of its officers to the events this weekend, even adding officers from out of state, and have been training for over a year. In addition to Secret Service, 1,000 active-duty U.S. troops and 2,000 National Guard members will be on hand “just in case”. Shit, I haven’t even mentioned the crazy weapons, armor and other hoops that they have been going through in preparation.
Doesn’t it seem kinda crazy that such force is expected for a protest? I mean, as a nice Minnesota girl I would say our protests never got too rowdy, except for the RNC- but I blame Sarah Palin. Well, unfortunately Chicago has quite the reputation for Human Rights Abuses within the Chicago Police Department, especially when it comes to protests. From the Democratic National Convention in 1968 to the 2003 Anti-war protests, the CPD has been known for unwarranted beatings, mass arrests and other provocative/violent actions. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who is justified in their predictions of violence, the cops or the protesters? As of now- it’s a complete crapshoot.
Get Pissed for the Right Reasons
Whether you will be bailing on the Midwest and avoiding Chicago at any cost or marching in solidarity to McCormick Place this weekend, take a minute to think about all of the history, the violence and the anger that has built up to the predicted chaos. Be it for the rights of those in the countries on whom we impose our ideals or the protesters who will be left chained inhumanely to a pole in a police station for speaking their mind, think about the relevance, both social and political, of this International event that will be affecting us in our own backyard.
To all of you who are forced to commute on Monday, best of luck- remember you can’t bring ANYTHING on the Metra. And to the brothers and sisters who will be out there voicing their solidarity, be safe and keep the peace.
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Lauren was born and raised in South Minneapolis and like many other innocent midwesterners got sucked into the black hole of Chicago politics 4 years ago. As the LGBT Coordinator for the Gery Chico for Mayor Campaign she attempted to take on the entire city and hasn’t looked back since. Now working for a communications firm, she spends her extra time running around with cases of PBR playing in different sports leagues, hosting couchsurfers from all over the place, and deciding how she is going to change the world. A simple lady at her core, she has decided that the first person to send her an edible arrangement must be the one.