People aren’t buying what NATO is selling

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CHICAGO - As the 28-country North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathers this week here for its summit, Americans aren't buying much of what the alliance is trying to sell.

Right off the bat, the war in Afghanistan and U.S. military spending are two of the biggest items people are rejecting.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D., N.H., is a member of the U.S. delegation to the NATO summit, and she spoke with the press yesterday on a teleconference called by the National Security Network, a group which aims to "revitalize" America's security policy and bring "cohesion" and "strategic focus" to the "progressive" national security "community."

She said that the biggest priority at the summit this week would be finalization of plans for a "responsible" drawdown of NATO in Afghanistan by 2014.

The cost of funding the "drawdown" is expected to be announced at the summit.

However, Shaheen admitted, under questioning, that the U.S. taxpayers will be responsible for shelling out to Afghanistan most of the $4.1 billion annual cost of that country's permanent 228,000-member force. (It's the Afghan force that takes over after NATO pulls out.)

That amount will continue to be paid until 2018, Shaheen said, and will probably go up, rather than down, in the years after 2018. Currently, there is no end date for bankrolling Afghanistan's army. Shaheen heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee on Europe.

"The United States will be paying for this," Afghanistan's foreign minister Jawed Ludin assured journalists in Kabul last week. The U.S. embassy there declined comment on Ludin's assurances.

Pointing to the economic disaster brewing in Europe, Shaheen didn't hold out much hope that any of the alliance's member countries would be stepping forward to shoulder more NATO expenses themselves, particularly in Afghanistan..

The American people have already made it clear that they want nothing to do with any long-term military involvement in Afghanistan, and presumably less to do with funding such involvement. Seven out of 10 Americans (69 percent) believe the U.S. should not be at war in Afghanistan, according to a recent New York Times poll. Opposition to the war cuts across ideological divides, with 68 percent of Democrats saying the war was going somewhat or very badly and 60 percent of Republicans agreeing.

Surprisingly, a plurality (40 percent) of Republicans insisted that the U.S. should exit Afghanistan earlier than 2014.

Reflecting this overwhelming opposition, 40 peace groups nationally have formed the Network for a NATO-Free Future and are hosting a "Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice" here this week.

It's not just the street protesters and peace organizations that are lining up in opposition to NATO, however. The very need for an alliance like NATO is being questioned in capitals around the globe. The alliance, critics note, was formed in 1949 to combat the so-called "Communist threat."

After the collapse of the socialist countries in 1990s, the alliance, rather than closing up shop, however, found new ways to keep itself in existence, first by mounting the biggest cluster bomb attacks in history in Kosovo, and later by fashioning itself as the world leader of the "war on terrorism" launched by former U.S. President George W. Bush.

The recent intervention in Libya, critics note, was an intensification of NATO's role too as champion of big oil interests.

NATO touted its Libya intervention as "different," calling it a "humanitarian" intervention with no boots on the ground like in Iraq and no cluster bombs like in Yugoslavia. Only "precision" weapons were going to be used in Libya!

The UN and human rights groups say today that in Libya 8,000 prisoners are being held without trial, that there is routine torture and death in Libyan prisons and that 12,000 people (black Libyans) from town of Tawerga has been forcibly removed.  

The country is plagued by rival warlords and militias while the NATO-installed National Transitional Council passes laws against freedom of the press and speech, gives legal immunity to former rebels, and disqualifies election candidates who criticize the way things are.

According to Human Rights Watch, the "precision" bombs alone killed at least 72 Libyan civilians, at least a third of them children. The NATO-installed National Transitional Council estimated 30,000 dead from the "humanitarian" intervention, civilians and soldiers.

NATO stepped in during March when the death toll from the government of Muammar Gaddafi had reached anywhere from 1,000-2,000, according to NATO's estimates.

As the main funder of NATO, the United States however, is faced with a dilemma that comes down to guns vs. butter, jobs not bombs. Endless military interventions are a lose-lose for all involved.

The protests here this week aim to get across that message.

Photo: Soldiers with Bravo Company, 1-36th IN "Spartans" wait to load helicopters for an air assault mission, May 2, CC BY 2.0

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  • It is past time for the people of the U.S. to force the Politicians to stop squandering the wealth of America on foreign intervention and paying off NATO members and use the money to rebuild America. Our folks should be given jobs,affordable housing, a competitive education,universal healthcare and above all else a fair tax structure.

    Posted by SwampFox2U, 05/19/2012 11:15am (3 years ago)

  • How more clear is it that NATO violated its original function to "protect" Western Europe from the "commies?" Libya says it all, with NATO now acting openingly imperialist.

    Ideally, if we're talking about fair, i.e, if U.S. leaders were really sincere in their publication statements alluding to being altruistic, why was the Warsaw Pact dissolved and not NATO? Wouldn't it have been really fair and sensible to dissolve both?

    And the beatoff goes on, but not forever.

    Posted by revolution123, 05/18/2012 12:06pm (3 years ago)

  • Screw the "draw down" in Afghanistan. It's time for NATO to go out of business. NATO began allegedly as a counterforce to the Soviet Union in Europe. Well, the Soviet Union is gone, and it is time for NATO to be gone too.

    For those of you going to Chicago, see you there this weekend!

    Posted by John Whiskey, 05/17/2012 10:57pm (3 years ago)

  • We continue to have hope. Hope sustains us so we can move ahead and confront a runaway economic system that takes many lives while it unravels.

    All people of good conscience must spread the word about the events that will take place during the counter NATO Summit.

    wage peace

    Posted by , 05/17/2012 3:34pm (3 years ago)

  • The righteous indignation of millions and millions, even billions of people here and abroad, probably won't be felt by the conferees in Chicago. But that indignation is real and hard-felt.
    The ghost towns, throughout the Americas, the rotting poverty, hunger and disease, war, rape, environmental poisons, stench filled prisons, decaying insane asylums, swelling swilling ghettos and barrios with detentions and mounting debt for the working class and its working poor, are in many cases too distressed to lodge righteous protests by travel.
    Activists must somehow reach these millions; speak with them, for them, and through them- we are them and they us.
    Capitalism and its imperialist empire has ignominiously failed. We must fight to start to replace it, through peace, unity and struggle.
    Good fortune in Chicago, activists and protesters.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 05/17/2012 11:21am (3 years ago)

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