Monday, May 07, 2012

Jake Olzen: NATO’s crisis of legitimacy spreads in Chicago

NATO’s crisis of legitimacy spreads in Chicago
by Jake Olzen
Waging Nonviolence

As NATO forces find themselves under fire in Afghanistan, NATO’s spokespersons are taking to another battlefield to win the hearts and minds of an increasingly skeptical populace: Chicago Public Schools. Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported from a sixth-grade classroom where representatives from the Chicago NATO Host Committee gave a primer on NATO and its member countries to the Walt Disney Magnet School on the Northside of Chicago.

According a Host Committee press release, the classroom visits and programming are part of a whole series of events “designed to engage and educate residents about the upcoming NATO Summit.” Other events include sponsored sports competitions, culinary classes and specialized menus at Chicago restaurants featuring NATO member countries’ heritages, and a three-part speaker series:

The first will focus on the future of the transatlantic alliance, the second will examine American leadership in the 21st Century, and the third will give Chicagoans an opportunity to hear from visiting NATO leaders.

A Host Committee spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comments on the goals or content of the CPS programming.

Chicagoans are not likely to hear about the civilian deaths that NATO “covered up” during the 2011 Libyan uprising against Col. Qaddafi or the migrants left to die at sea after NATO failed to respond to distress calls. Furthermore, a recent NATO report leaked to The New York Times reveals what many already know: NATO is the U.S.’s wingman and can barely function without it. Alongside a faltering mission against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, NATO is facing a crisis of legitimacy as citizens of its member countries are mobilizing for protest and anti-NATO education en masse.

“AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) is working to combat the pro-NATO discussion happening not only at CPS but in general as well,” explained Barbara Morenoan, an AFSC intern, by email. Moreno has helped put together a number of resources to challenge the NATO narrative and has taken its presentations advocating protest to Chicago Public Schools. Along with students from Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy, AFSC has created a mural depicting the realities of NATO.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, nearly 500 people were arrested in protests at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels in early April. The protests reveal the increasing anti-militarism and anti-nuclear sentiments among many Europeans.

“We neither want the anti-missile shield, nor intervention by NATO in Libya or Afghanistan, nor nuclear bombs that are illegal in our country,” said Benoit Calvi to Agence France Presse about the April 1 action.

As the NATO summit nears, drawing protesters from around the world, local resistance is increasing. On Monday, clergy, along with labor leaders, announced their opposition to NATO at the Chicago Temple; the United Methodist Church, located in the Loop, is the oldest church in Chicago. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Phil Blackwell, two long-time Chicago leaders, both stated their intentions to march against NATO. The Chicago Temple, in conjunction with SCUPE — a Chicago consortium of cross-denomination seminaries — announced a Chicago-wide discussion amongst pastors on NATO, the G8 and economic justice, following by strategizing for action.

The May 20–21 meetings are less than two weeks away and the summit’s theme — “CHICAGO 2012 — the Global Crossroad” — is uncannily prophetic as thousands of protesters plan to converge in what may be the largest demonstration against NATO in history. And the lead up to those protests will see more educational events and teach-ins all over the city as to why people should be concerned about NATO.

Occupy Chicago’s “People’s Summit” will take place on May 12–13, featuring speakers and workshops about developing protest actions for the NATO summit as well as visions for inhabiting a world without NATO.

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