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60th NATO Anniversary Celebrations in Europe to Draw Massive Protests
2009 is the 60th anniversary of NATO and the US-led alliance is planning big celebrations in Europe to promote their expanded global role as an extension of US foreign and military policy. In 1999, seeking to justify its existence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, NATO acknowledged that it was seeking to orient itself according to a new fundamental strategic concept. From a narrow military defense alliance it was to become a broad-based alliance for the protection of the vital resource needs (oil/natural gas/etc) of its member states. Besides being mired in Afghanistan today, NATO is now expanding eastward as a tool in the aggressive US program to surround resource rich Russia. There are even discussions now within NATO to take the alliance into the Asian-Pacific to help the US militarily surround China.
From April 3-5, 40 heads of state and government leaders, including President Obama, will come to Strasbourg, France and Baden-Baden, Germany for 60th anniversary events. In response to these events activists from throughout Europe are planning protests in Strasbourg during the period of April 1-5. In order to plan these events 500 activists from 19 countries met at Marc Bloch University in Strasbourg, on February 14-15.
The No to War - No to NATO coalition issued a statement after their meeting that reads in part: "60 years are more than enough – this is the consensus uniting the participants of the peace, anti-globalization movements, leftist parties and organizations, Trade Unions, and student initiatives. They stand against the war policy of NATO, against today's wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, against the intervention strategy and reinforce their claim to 'No to NATO'. They refuse to accept the EU linked with NATO and ask for a drastic reduction of military spending: we do not want to pay for your crisis , nor for your wars."
NATO of course is responding by trying to keep the protests away from Strasbourg. They have arranged for the city government to outlaw protests. In response No to NATO says, "We want to express our rejection of this kind of politics and want to give the citizens of Strasbourg and the social movements the opportunity to publicize their rejection without any obstacles. These are the demands for the prefecture which turned down the proposal of the NATO Preparatory Committee to demonstrate against NATO in the inner city of Strasbourg on 4th of April. The implementation of the NATO Summit will turn Strasbourg into a fortress; this is not acceptable for its own citizens and for the thousands of peaceful demonstrators form all parts of the world.
"Extraordinary security parameters will be enacted: the establishment of a red zone, the labeling of the citizens, the establishment of an all-encompassing new video surveillance system. For us this staging of heads of states in the city centre of Strasbourg – a closed off city – and its inhabitants who will be unable to have a normal daily life, having no freedom of movement, is unbearable and makes it impossible for us to unveil NATO's real face. Whereas the citizens will pay for the summit and the glorified presentation of NATO their dissenting opinion is to be marginalized."
For activists back here in the US it should be reassuring and exciting for us to see so much effort being organized to shut down the US empire. But we have to do our part as well. We can start by calling for the closing of US bases and for major cuts by Congress in the Pentagon's bloated budget. None of us have to do this on our own. When we work together as a globalized movement we can really begin to make progress.
These are the kinds of issues that will be featured at the upcoming Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases that will be held at American University in Washington DC on February 27-March 2. The Global Network will be one of 20 peace groups sponsoring this important event. Key peace movement activists from around the US and all over the world will be attending and presenting. A protest vigil at the Pentagon will kick off the weekend beginning at 4:00 pm on February 27.
For registration information see the conference web site at: www.projectonmilitarybases.org