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May 14, 2012

Protesting the NATO Summit

Rixey Browning

May is going to be a grueling month for Occupy Wall Street protesters around the country. Between May Day protests centering around New York City, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and G-8 protests later in the month, a new hope has arisen for change.


As affinity groups around the country prepare for these major protests, the biggest question many receive is simply why? Why is it important to protest these summits that seem to be good for the world?


NATO was formed in 1949, with the intention of protecting the world from communism and creating a global environment for capitalism to flourish. NATO’s main goal was to contain the political, economic, and military reach of the Soviet Union and its allies, thereby helping to preserve and advance the Western world, which inevitably meant preserving government and corporate interests. This was all well and good while the Soviet Union still existed and communism was perceived as a threat.


Yet, NATO still exists today, and the Soviet Union is dead.


The purpose of NATO was initially to protect the corporate and governmental interests of the countries involved – not to protect the political and economic interests of the people that make up those countries. By creating a war on communism that only capitalism could win, NATO was helping to set up the world for the current turmoil that we find it.


As capitalism runs rampant, the people themselves are being represented on a diminishing scale, all in the name of big business. Since NATO works to protect capitalism that means it also works to squash anti-capitalist uprisings in its member countries, historically pitting itself against homegrown anti-militarism movements.


If the military oppression of NATO isn’t terrifying enough, the countries that make up the organization account for two-thirds of the $1.5 trillion a year the world spends on militaries – and this doesn’t include the “indirect” costs like caring for injured soldiers or paying the interest on the government debt from these expenditures.


Furthermore, the U.S. alone accounts for an overwhelming 70% of all NATO expenditures, and 50% of worldwide military expenditures, taking out over $700 billion every year from taxpayers who may not actually support the organization. This money instead could be going to the wages for people like firefighters, teachers, healthcare workers, and other vital service providers, or perhaps toward the unemployment for the almost 30 million people without jobs, or to help college students with their tuition.


Instead, it goes to military expenditures for unnecessary wars in which the only real enemy is ourselves.


All this money that gets funneled into NATO from taxpayers is going more and more to private military contractors, turning war into an exercise of business prowess. Paying contractors to target military aggression in certain countries is a new expression of the corporate elite to protect their interests abroad, all under the umbrella of capitalism.


The privatization of war only benefits the arms industry and its corporate service providers. The contracts between NATO and these private companies have almost no public oversight or input, and the number of contracts NATO has made with such companies has increased over the past decade, despite the 2011 Pentagon review which found that service contractors are “increasingly unaffordable.”


It must be noted that NATO is an offensive, not defensive group. Its purpose is to be a global intervention power, and that intervention is selective. Invasions in Libya and Yemen over the past year have led to supporting rebel groups focused on destroying women’s and minority rights, and firing drones at protesters opposing one of the region’s most corrupt dictatorships.


In the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, 450 people a day are displaced and 250 children die, according to Voices for Creative Nonviolence. In Iraq, in spite of global opposition to the war, NATO troops invaded in 2003. The war, although officially over in December 2011, still continues. There are thousands of U.S. employees still stationed in Iraq.


The agenda for the NATO protests in Chicago this coming weekend is still unknown. The Occupy Wall Street branch in Chicago is calling for a month-long re-occupation of the city.


For many it is imperative to protest this summit to stop the spread of the global capitalistic machine and to help put an end to the dreadful militarism that we are forced to be a part of. It is unstoppable; another world is possible.


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