Sun May 20, 2012
Thousands of protesters from across the United States have gathered in Chicago ahead of NATO summit, scheduled to meet to discuss several issues.
Nearly two dozen peaceful anti-NATO protesters have already been arrested over the past weeks.
Chicago police have been preparing for the event for nearly a year, and officers from police departments as far away as Philadelphia and Milwaukee have assisted local forces in security measures and crowd control.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Paul Street, author, journalist and political commentator, to further discuss the issue.
The following is a transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Welcome to the program. The NATO summit is pretty much a single agenda meeting predominately focusing on Afghanistan. But one issue seems to have been dropped from recent memory and that’s the issue of the mass murderer of Afghans in Panjwa’i, and the prosecution of the Sergeant allegedly responsible for the massacre. Why has the US media kept silent on the issue?
Street: There’s a long history of covering up and not telling the real truth about the death and degree of racism, not to mention the criminality and illegality of the occupation.
When atrocities are unmistakenably obvious that they occurred, and you can’t completely deny them, then you get the mechanism -- comes into play in US media and government, and they both do this together, of focusing in on just one supposedly bad egg, one particular bad apple or individual who then has that crime.
It’s just one individual that they’re focusing on when, in fact, there’s many indications that numerous people on the ground participated in that massacre consistent with the basics of practice of the occupation from the beginning with this deep inculcation of hatred and dislike of Muslims in the Arab world, in the Pashtun world, in the Persian world.
It’s deeply inculcated in the basic training process and they’re over stretched -- these occupations have taken too long. They don’t have the resources to have enough troops and you have this horrible coming-together of stressed out troops, racism in the basic training process, an illegal occupation and, of course, resistance.
You get many of these incidents. Actually, this is just one of them. They like focus on ones where they can blame it on front line people. People could just Google up and read about Bala Baluk in 2009 which was ordered by the commander-in-chief of the United States, Barak Obama, in the western province of Afghanistan where dozens of children were blown into tiny bits, their body parts were carried in wheelbarrows to the governor’s province. This stuff comes from the top down, and they try and focus it on one or two operatives.
Press TV: The protesters…disapproving of the agenda of NATO member states, the people want more spending on healthcare and social programs and less spending on war. But, is their message going to be heard?
Street: You know, there’s a lot of talk in the media, in the corporate media, and I need to tell you something that’s just happened before I came in here, and I had to come into this studio under protection from security. They’ve closed this building. The building is wired off.
It is absolutely surreal where I’m speaking to you, from downtown Chicago. We are occupied. There are military helicopters in the sky. Local paramilitary police wearing outfits I’ve never seen geared up with the latest, most high-tech, advanced riot suppression gear that you’ve ever seen in your life. They were strapping on chemical agents around their legs.
Just literally ten minutes before I came in this building, they initiated a batoning, the first real, open police violence against a crowd at State St. and Randolph St. in downtown Chicago. That’s absolutely crucial.
In the media, there’s been a lot of sort of pretending that everything is very happy, and the protesters are welcome, and this is a city that feels very positive about free speech, the First Amendment and the right of public assembly.
They even say a few things about what the protesters want, they mention that the protesters want to see less spent on the military and more spent on meeting social needs.
After all, in a country [such as] the United States with 46 million officially poor people in atrocious social reality here of poverty, we spend 55 million dollars in the city of Chicago alone just to protect these heads of state from these war-making states. They are talking about that a little bit but not very much.
They sort of treat the protesters as if they’re just inherently alienated, just marginal deadheads, ne’er do wells, who don’t want to get a job.
The media never seems to really talk about what NATO does and what NATO states do, the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people who have died because of NATO occupations, drones, bombs and wars, in this century and in the last century as well.
Press TV: If you may, please elaborate on the scope and the broader reach of protests of this manner. Do you think that maybe they do help in the issue of raising awareness among the average Americans as to what’s actually going on in places like Afghanistan?
Street: They do on the ground when you talk to real people. There have been protests breaking out unpredictably all over Chicago and various neighborhoods.
Invariably, the response I myself get and I see other protesters getting from neighborhood residents, from people on the streets, people on the sidewalks, is very positive.
I found myself engaging people in conversations. Some folks don’t even know what NATO is, and I found myself having interesting conversations with people about how NATO is, in fact, not as the media says it is here, a purely defensive alliance, but is in fact an aggressive, expansionist, imperial military alliance that it accounts for three-fourths of the world’s one trillion dollars worth of military spending. That way it’s good, when you talk to people in person.
The way it’s reflected through the local corporate media is more problematic and you tend to not get a very simple, instead you hear some trumped up stories about a handful of so-called anarchists who have allegedly plotted to bomb President Obama’s campaign headquarters; it’s a completely trumped up charge. It comes out of these state capitalist, police repression textbook.
They’ve been doing these things for years and that’s what they’re doing this time. They picked three fellows and they infiltrated them in pretending that they’re going to launch a terrorist assault as if they really could or wanted to on the McCormick place, the headquarters, and on Obama’s campaign headquarters. Even on the mayor’s office, they’re claiming they’re going to fire bomb the mayor’s office.
None of us in the movement or the lawyers that are representing activists here ever remotely believe this charge at all. In fact, the evidence is coming out that it was infiltrators, agents, provocateurs from the FBI that were planted within the anti-war movement that seem to advance ideas of attacks, violence, and so forth. It’s standard operating procedures. Some things change and other things stay very much the same.