By Ameen Izzadeen
Chicago was once notorious for lawlessness. In the 1920s, the infamous gangster Al Capone played havoc in the city by Lake Michigan when he and his men defied the law on the prohibition. They were responsible for reducing this great city known for its towering architectural marvels, jazz and musicals to a lawless city.
Last week, we saw gangster-like nations gathering in Chicago, violating its serenity and bringing insult to its people who have worked hard to erase the Al-Capone past by reaching great heights in science, architecture, literature and natural beauty — factors that have taken the city to the seventh place on the Global Cities Index.
Ironically, the modern-day international gangsters were led by President Barack Obama who began his big-time political career in Chicago. He later became Senator for Illinois, whose main city is Chicago, before he won the race for the White House in 2008.
Obama and 49 world leaders gathered in Chicago on Sunday for the NATO summit to discuss global security – read war plans -- and the future of Afghanistan.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has 28 member states from North America and Europe. It was formed in 1949 during the United States’ ‘pactomania’ which saw the Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower administrations signing a series of defence pacts with countries spread across the globe. It was an era that witnessed not only the birth of NATO, but also the Inter-American Defence System (1948), the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) Pact (1952) and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO, 1954). These organisations came into existence largely to confront the threat posed by the Soviet Union to Western powers and their allies. To respond to NATO and other US-centred defence organisations, the Soviet Union formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955, bringing together the European socialist countries under the Soviet defence umbrella.
With the end of the Cold War in 1991, the Warsaw Pact was disbanded, but NATO survived. Instead of collective defence which was the operative motto of the grouping, NATO became a mercenary force of the United States, which emerged as the sole superpower.
In the early post-Cold War period, there were suggestions to form a Euro-centric defence group under the flag of the European Union (then European Commission). Countries like France and Germany were favourable to the idea but Washington moved fast to block the formation of this European defence force. Since then, Washington has successfully cajoled or browbeaten Western European countries to accept NATO as the core of their defence policy.
A post-Cold War analysis of global conflicts shows that NATO was largely giving a cover to US moves aimed at militarily dominating the world and exploiting global resources for world capitalists. No wonder, the Occupy-Wall-Street protesters describe NATO as the military arm of the elite one percent who run the world.
NATO’s military interventions are not based on high moral principles. It attacked oil rich Libya and toppled the Muammar Gaddafi regime but closes its eyes on the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Bahrain.
NATO has only 28 members, but it is quietly expanding under fancy names such as Partnership for Peace (PFP) and institutionalized dialogue programmes. Twenty-two nations, including many in Russia’s backyard, are members of the PFP. Leaders of the PFP countries were also in Chicago last Sunday to nod their heads – more through compulsion than conviction — to decisions taken at the summit just as Al-Capone’s cronies did some nine decades ago in the same city.
Hundreds of protesters outside the summit venue tried to tell the NATO leaders that they were a threat to world peace. But their voice was just a whimper in comparison to the roar of the NATO killer machine used in invasions and war crimes.
Writing for Counterpunch, John LaForge who works for Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and anti-war group in Wisconsin, promoted the protest by pointing out some of NATO’s horrendous crimes. He says:
“Desecration of corpses, indiscriminate attacks, bombing of allied troops, torture of prisoners and unaccountable drone war are a few of NATO’s outrages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere. ….
“While bombing Libya last March, NATO refused to aid a group of 72 migrants adrift in the Mediterranean. Only nine people on board survived. The refusal was condemned as criminal by the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog.
“The British medical journal Lancet reported that the US-led unprovoked 2003 bombing, invasion and military take-over of Iraq — which NATO officially joined in 2004 in a ‘training’ capacity—had resulted in over 665,000 civilian deaths by 2006, and 200,000 in the UN-authorized, 1991 Desert Storm massacre led primarily by the US with several NATO allies.
“On April 12, 1999, NATO attacked the railway bridge over the Grdelica Gorge and Juzna Morava River with two laser-guided bombs. At the time, a five-car civilian passenger train was crossing the bridge and was hit by both bombs. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused NATO of violating binding laws that require distinction, discrimination and proportionality.
“NATO rocketed the central studio of Radio Televisija Srbije (TRS) in Belgrade, the state-owned broadcasting corporation, on April 23, 1999 during the Kosovo war. Sixteen civilian employees of RTS were killed and 16 wounded when NATO destroyed the building. Amnesty International reported that the building could not be considered military, that NATO had violated the prohibition on attacking civilian objects and had therefore committed a war crime.”
The Belgrade radio station attack which LaForge has mentioned is part of NATO’s war strategy. NATO leaders clad in civilian clothes chide developing countries for lack of media freedom, but when they play the commander-in-chief role, they have little hesitation in wiping out the hostile media. Who can forget NATO attacks on Al-Jazeera offices in Afghanistan and Iraq?
On November 22, 2005, the British Daily Mirror published a front page story drawing reference to what is now known as al-Jazeera bombing memo. The newspaper claimed that the memo recorded a conversation between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. According to the memo, Bush had allegedly called for a bombing raid on Al Jazeera world headquarters in the Qatari capital Doha and other locations.
The Bush-Blair meeting took place while al-Jazeera was telecasting the civilian casualties and suffering during the Fallujah battle in Iraq. A day before the Bush-Blair meeting, the then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had charged that the al-Jazeera coverage was “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable”. The then firebrand television channel, which has now apparently compromised its journalistic power perhaps under US pressure, defended its live broadcasts of the civilian casualties saying “the pictures do not lie”. In Britain, meanwhile, a further publication of the al-Jazeera bombing memo was banned under the Official Secrets Act. So much for NATO leaders’ commitment to media freedom!
However, in reality, the al-Jazeera offices in Kabul and Baghdad were bombed by NATO aircraft.
Even if all the leaves of Chicago’s trees were sewn together, it won’t be enough to cover the shame of NATO. The crimes continue even while they gathered in Chicago to announce troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014. However, this withdrawal is conditional to a highly improbable development of Afghan government troops being in a position to ensure the security of the country.
With a section of the Afghan army sympathizing with the ruthless Taliban and with the Hamid Karzai government controlling only Kabul, which also regularly comes under rebel attacks, the day when the client regime is capable of ensuring the security of the country is only a dream. The statement on withdrawal is largely an Obama election strategy aimed at assuring the American people, most of whom want the troops brought back from Afghanistan.
After the presidential election in November, we may hear a different story.