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January 2012, Week 3

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Big Shoulders in Chicago and Kabul: Get Ready for NATO
in May
Kathy Kelly
Truthout
January 14,  2012
http://www.truth-out.org/big-shoulders-chicago-and-kabul/1325878838

Kabul - NATO/G8 meetings are scheduled to take place
from May 19-21 this year in Chicago. Plans are ramping
up everywhere. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen exulted over
bringing NATO and the G8 to Chicago, and Clinton
promised to call Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and convey
Rasmussen's glowing opinion that Chicago, built upon
diversity and determination, shares values that underpin
NATO.

Activists on the ground, envisioning a different kind of
Chicago, and bracing themselves for the crushing,
militarized police response that in recent years has
consistently met protesters at these events, can only
hope that this is not the case.

NATO leaders continue to prepare for conflict further
and further from the North Atlantic shores. Chicagoan
Rick Rozoff, who organizes the Stop NATO news list,
notes that in December 2011, Romania's Senate ratified
an agreement with the US to station 24 Standard
Missile-3 interceptors in Romania, located immediately
across the Black Sea from Russia. A comparable
deployment is planned for Poland, supplementing the
Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles already present
there. A missile defense radar facility will be placed
in Turkey. And there is talk of converting dozens if not
scores of warships to Lockheed Martin's Aegis Combat
System, equipping each ship with radar and missiles
systems to project American power in what NATO has
called the "European Phased Adaptive Approach." NATO is
forging ahead on all fronts, although civilian leaders
in Europe, in light of the region's growing economic
crisis, could much better afford a retirement party for
NATO than the programs to be ratified at the weapon fest
planned for Chicago.

Hillary Clinton, President Obama, former war-hawk
Representative Emanuel, and other undisputed militarists
in government seem to see Chicago as a city obsessed
with power, a city determined above all to be tough and
strong. Carl Sandburg famously depicted Chicago as the
city of big shoulders, and it often seems too easy for
political leaders and generals to confuse the strength
involved in shouldering shared burdens with the very
different kind of "toughness" that drives a fist or a
nightstick. Sandberg perhaps made this distinction clear
in a very different poem:

Buttons

I HAVE been watching the war map slammed up for
advertising in front of the newspaper office. Buttons -
red and yellow buttons - blue and black buttons
- are shoved back and forth across the map. A laughing young
man, sunny with freckles, 
Climbs a ladder, yells a joketo somebody in the crowd, 
And then fixes a yellow button one inch west
And follows the yellow button with a black button one
inch west.

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in
a red soak along a river edge,
Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling
death in their throats.)
Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one
inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper
office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing 
to us? 

-Carl Sandburg

The NATO leaders who will be pushing the expensive
buttons being purchased now, deploying weapons all over
the world, won't see the cost. They didn't see what it
cost families in the Zhare district of Afghanistan's
Kandahar province on November 23 when a NATO plane
mistook six of their children, who will forever now be
aged from four to twelve years old, for insurgents.
Abdul Samad, an uncle of four of the children, said his
relatives were working in fields near their village when
the aircraft attacked without warning.

I'm writing now from Kabul, Afghanistan. Ken Hannaford-
Ricardi and Farah Mokhtareizadeh are here with me and
we've just been joined by our friend Maya Evans from
Voices in the Wilderness UK. We feel grateful to
continue building relationships with the dedicated young
activists of Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, who are
moving toward forming delegations themselves by
traveling to other provinces in Afghanistan to meet with
youth groups bearing up under the heavy burdens of
military occupation. They want to bring peace out of
imperial chaos. Recently, they studied film footage
about Truth and Reconciliation commissions in South
Africa and segments of "A Force More Powerful,"
documentary film footage about nonviolent efforts in
Gandhi's India and in US cities where the civil rights
movement struggled to end segregation. These youth
exemplify real determination and diversity, of the sort
Chicago is praised for, with an earnest desire to deepen
both qualities in the service of peace. Every day, they
bear the burdens that will come a little closer to
Chicago in May when the weight of an increasingly
militarized domestic government comes down on anyone
attempting to protest global fiscal austerity and the
global military regime for which it pays.

Yesterday, they welcomed a new friend who lives in a
neighboring province and speaks a different language to
join them and help them learn his language. Asked about
NATO/ISAF night raids and other attacks that have
occurred in his area, he said that families that have
been attacked feel intense anger, but, even more so,
people say they want peace. "However, international
forces have made people feel less secure," he added,
"It's unfortunate that internationals hear stories about
Afghans being wild people and think that more civilized
outsiders are trying to build the country. People here
are suffering because of destruction caused by
outsiders."

My three companions and I, (three of us are from the US
and one from the UK), feel deeply moved as we witness
these young people building up their big shoulders to
bear heavy burdens. We felt similar appreciation and
gratitude when witnessing the efforts of the Occupy
movement which, in just three months. has reaffirmed
international capacity for shouldering shared burdens,
living simply and choosing inventive community over
rigid systems of dominance.

Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to understand these things,
but she told General Rasmussen that she hopes many
people will come to Chicago for the NATO/G8 summits, and
so do I. I'm looking forward to people from Occupy
Everywhere coming to Chicago.

Many friends in Chicago are getting ready to meet the
concerted state apparatus, so determined to run smoothly
in its blind mechanical course, with simple human power.
It's going to involve tremendous work, but this is what
life means everywhere now. The City of Big Shoulders
earned its name before the period of modern US Empire,
the decades of artificial prosperity secured from above
and fueled from abroad, which this upcoming summit will
attempt to manage in its decline. I think that
underneath the hype, underneath the intoxicating flow of
wealth seized from abroad, the plastic, mechanized,
isolated comforts of the boom, Chicago well understands
the real meaning of strength and determination. We'll
need to remember a force more powerful than violence in
the time that's coming, a strength that doesn't turn us
against our neighbors and isn't handed down by the
powerful, a courage that I see in the faces of the youth
here in Kabul, confidently advertising it as its own
reward.

___________________________________________

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