Worldwide heads of the National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), military generals, heads of state from the alliance’s twenty-eight member countries will be coming to Chicago for a summit on May 20-21. The city will be put on lockdown all so the military arm of the G8—a group that can dial up a “humanitarian intervention” or war when it wants it, can further expand their military agenda at McCormick Place convention center and plot the next steps of perpetual war for Afghanistan and the wider Asian continent.
The two-day summit will militarize the entire downtown area and transform it into what officials are calling the “Red Zone.” The Federal Protective Service is expected to have armed guards out patrolling the city with “non-lethal” bean bag weapons. Schools nearby will be disrupted. Mail delivery for various zip codes will be suspended temporarily. Businesses have told employees they will close. The National Guard will be moving delegations. Barricades that Mayor Rahm Emanuel contracted out to private companies will go up to prevent Chicagoans from moving around the lakefront or streets nearby McCormick Place. Concentric security zones will be erected around the summit itself. And, those who wish to ride Chicago’s Metra rail line will be subjected to security restrictions that outdo the senseless security theater at airports, as passengers will not be allowed to “carry boxes, luggage, backpacks, pocket knives, bikes, food or liquid,” including all beverages like coffee or soda.
As the Chicago Sun-Times, in a fawning report on Emanuel’s first year as mayor, details, “The NATO summit is an event the rookie mayor characteristically lobbied for behind the scenes, sprung on Chicago without warning and has spent months defending as the city battens down the hatches and braces for the worst.” He did not ask Chicagoans if they wanted NATO to come to the city, which is not unlike other NATO occupations. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya were not consulted before the bombings that come with interventions began to occur.
Of course, while the war makers are in town, they will not be launching military strikes against people outside the Red Zone, as they have done in theaters of conflict that they’ve created. They will not be committing war crimes by targeting civilian sites, as the alliance did in Libya. They will not be downplaying civilian casualties or denying civilians have been killed, as they have done in both Libya and Afghanistan. There will not be any night raids to bring terror to the people of Chicago, as the alliance has carried out against villages in Afghanistan. Air strikes will not be killing mothers and children, as they tend to do in Afghanistan.
A major information operation to convince Chicagoans the NATO summit is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to see leaders work to “address global challenges” will continue, however. They will continue to hype the greatness of NATO with stories like, “Chicago’s Poles Eager for Visit From Their President During NATO Summit,” “City Seeks Love at Summit,” “CPS Students Make Videos Welcoming NATO Delegates,” and “Madeleine Albright: NATO Good for Chicago.”
Former Secretary of State Albright contends, “Chicago should be honored to play host, and the inconveniences that come with it are just part of the democratic process.” Her elitist view of democracy aside, she adds, “This is a very complicated time. So Chicago will witness international relations in the making and the transformation of the international system.” It could not be any more complicated than the US policy of sanctions advanced in Iraq under President Bill Clinton that led to half a million children being starved and killed, which Albright defended on “60 Minutes” as “worth it.”
In addition to the news stories published to help Chicago market NATO and the summit to Chicagoans, there have been the constant hints and suggestions that protesters will be wreaking havoc and destruction in the city. Somehow, people doubt the military and security forces that occupy Chicago for a few days will be able to handle the expected hooliganism of protesters.
The protest phobia that Chicago business leaders harbor has not been clarified by noting protest groups have been pushing for permits to protest since last summer. Media has not highlighted how groups have publicly stated a commitment to nonviolence, yet every step of the way Chicago and the Secret Service have treated those interested in exercising their First Amendment rights during the summit as a nuisance or threat.
Joe Iosbaker of the Coalition Against NATO & the G8’s War and Poverty Agenda (CANG8) said the city is treating every expression of the First Amendment as a problem to be contained, and they intend to use a number of methods—a frustrating permitting process, the placement of restrictions on permits, the addition of greater penalties for any arrests or anything that happens, a massive police force to suppress protest, the tying up of protest planning in endless bureaucratic red tape, etc.
Due to protest restrictions proposed and passed by Emanuel and the Chicago City Council in January, people of Chicago have had to assert their right to protest on a regular basis just to ensure they could get away with assembling during the NATO summit. Iosbaker has concluded, “If you include the Occupy forces, I think something on the order of the magnitude of 10,000 hours were spent [in the past] year protesting for the right to protest.”
Those seeking to protest have been treated like minorities. Chicago police have stopped and harassed Occupy Chicago protesters, searching their vehicle and asking them about upcoming NATO protests. An activist in Utah was recently confronted by FBI agents, who asked him to share information about people he knew who were planning and organizing demonstrations. Any outrage against any sort of possible chaos should therefore be tempered by the fact that authorities have almost encouraged people to not cooperate and share protest plans ahead of the summit because the city would just try to shut efforts down.
The shutting down of the city and civil liberties restrictions being imposed are all predicated on the idea that occupations are acceptable. This colonial mentality is what gives every leader the steadfastness to demand a city accept an obscene military and security presence.
As long-time peace activist Kathy Kelly says, this summit is really about President Barack Obama continuing his election ploy that the Afghanistan war is coming to an end. Some of the most menacing and fearsome forces, Joint Special Operations Forces, Green Berets, Marine Rangers, Navy SEALs, private contracting forces and drone operations will continue. Afghanistan will take control of prisons, like Bagram, which are housing thousands of people indefinitely without charge and then they will be leased back to the United States.
NATO is glorified because the alliance can legitimize action that would repulse millions of people around the world if taken unilaterally. The alliance’s legitimacy will now be exploited to expand operations aimed at containing China. It will be used to escalate missile defense in a move that Russia sees as a threat. It will develop a timeline for the next ten years of occupation in Afghanistan, as if NATO countries, especially the US, have a right to continue to be there and deprive Afghans of self-determination. The longer troops stay there, the more certain it is that the Taliban will tighten its grip on Afghanistan, because the people reject the presence of foreign military forces.
There will be push back against NATO’s abbreviated occupation of Chicago. Residents and others from all over the country will show the world that they do not consent to NATO. People in the US will show other countries in Europe, like France, Germany, Greece and Spain, that not all people accept the global policies of militarization promoted by NATO—policies that have been expanded under the pretext of fighting a “war on terrorism.” Groups will be out challenging the brief occupation of NATO, making sure the triumphant narrative around NATO coming to Chicago is wholly discredited by citizens. Those who have seen and heard firsthand accounts on what has happened to victims of NATO’s agenda understand this agency of the 1% should no longer be making decisions for 99% of the world.