With Mitt Romney leading 49-48 percent in national polling, President Obama hosts an internally-divided NATO summit in Chicago this weekend, surrounded by weapons and security forces which surpass Chicago 1968. The scale of the protest ranks remain to be seen after Obama shifted the G8 — or One Percent — summit to the secret seclusion of Camp David. Adbusters has called for 50,000 to pitch their tents, while anti-war protesters will march and attend a “counter-summit.” The Chicago police are preparing overkill.
Meanwhile, support for the war is collapsing. French president Francois Hollande is pulling 3,300 troops by the end of this year. The Netherlands is withdrawing 1,950, while Poland is removing 2,472. Peace majorities in Britain and Germany are demanding the end of Afghanistan and austerity policies.
Also this week, Congressional doves led by Representatives Jim McGovern and Walter Jones are proposing a key amendment to a national defense bill requiring “acceleration” of the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, and end to US combat operations by this December, and “robust negotiations” towards a diplomatic settlement. If the proposal receives 200 or more House votes, it will represent strong peace pressure at the Presidents back.
Progressive forces are divided over the NATO protests and Obama’s re-election. The “No on NATO” coalition faces an American public opinion strongly in favor of NATO but deeply disillusioned over Afghanistan. According to surveys between 2004-2010, about 13 percent of Americans favor decreasing the NATO commitment, while 66% favored maintaining existing levels. Just ten percent support an increased commitment. (Chicago Council on Global Affairs. 2010) By contrast, only 27 percent of Americans now support the Afghanistan war — down from 46 percent in 2010 — while 66 percent are opposed. The slogan “No on Afghanistan” polls five times higher than “No on NATO.”
Further education on the nature of NATO is the objective of the counter-summit, sponsored by Peace Action among others. The public rationale for NATO in Afghanistan, North Africa and the Middle East is that Al Qaeda terrorism against the US and Europe originates from those Muslim regions. In fact, however, the existing threat comes from Muslims displaced to Europe and North America by a century of colonialism and war. Those communities are inflamed by the bombing of their countries of family origin. The complete secrecy in which NATO operations take place is not hidden from the victims so much as Western public opinion. (New York times, March 25, 2012)
The underlying reason for NATO’s invasion of Afghanistan, according to Zbigniew Brzezinski, is to prevent “the end of the alliance” after the Cold War era. (Foreign Affairs, 2010) In 2007, Obama’s former national security adviser, James Jones said, “NATO has bet it future” on Afghanistan. And in Descent into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid writes that NATO, in Afghanistan, “would find meaning for its continued existence.” (Rashid, pp. 372-373)
Tom Hayden has a 50 year career as a peace and justice activist, politician, and author. He has been a leading voice for ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. He will be speaking on the Friday May 18 evening plenary at the Counter-Summit for Peace & Economic Justice in Chicago.