NATO Summit A Show Of Force
The NATO summit held in Chicago last weekend reflects everything that is wrong with our society.
The NATO summit put on display how we can and do conjure up foreign and domestic threats to justify government control of our society. For it is fear that justifies not just our obscene military spending, but more importantly, the official violation of our civil and constitutional rights and the concession of political power to corporations.
This fear is then used to justify a growing military alliance even when there is no credible threat. It is the basis for the militarization of our police force, the erosion of our civil liberties and globalization of our economy.
This fear arises because the United States, more than any other country, still lives in the shadow of the Cold War. The culture of fear created at that time and continuing to this day frames our every government action and our federal spending of almost $1 trillion per year on our "security." The NATO summit is the celebration of that culture of fear and constitutes a show of force.
The governing elite in the industrialized world, and these are the people who attend the summit, have framed their governance task in terms of security, not growth, freedom or peace. It is absurd, but we spend billions of dollars on antimissile batteries in Poland and Romania and the newly dreamed up East Coast Missile Shield to guard against Iran, which is not and never will be a threat.
Ronald Reagan's Star Wars film fantasies continue to haunt us and cost us. The only thing they guard is the profits of the military-industrial-security corporations and their Congress.
We are supposed to fear not just Russian missiles, Muslim fanatics and the very idea of China but any organized group that protests the militarization and globalization of our society. And there were protesters aplenty in Chicago: the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, National Nurses United, Occupy Wall Street, the Mental Health Movement, Iraqi Veterans against the War, Poverty Agenda, Muslim Peace Council, the Coalition against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Occupy Chicago, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and many more.
In total, 60 people were arrested, but no one anywhere that I could find, pro or con, gave an estimate for the number of protesters. Now that is really tight control.
Prior to the summit, the FBI and Chicago Police Department regularly announced dire warnings of terrorism, chaos and violence. None of this materialized, but it did intimidate and deter as intended. The best the police could come up with were some guys they accused of making Molotov cocktails - or maybe beer. Most of the detainees have been released; few were charged.
The Chicago NATO Summit was creating fear not only with all the shiny new equipment but also the latest in unconstitutional, but supposedly legal, police tactics. The police can and did use pre-emptive arrest, holding without charges, disappearances and threats of charges of terrorism to create fear. In the far western suburbs no one was allowed to get on the train to the Loop with a backpack or any liquid. Most of the downtown transit stations were closed.
This NATO Summit was, in effect, a show of force. The G-8 Summit about joblessness was more important. It had to be hidden at Camp David in Maryland.
This might be an age of government austerity, but not when it comes to security for a NATO summit. In just the last couple of months, Chicago police have spent more than $1 million on riot gear getting ready for this summit. The city even bought a sound cannon to be used to disperse crowds.
Homeland Security spending is where the real money is, and not just in Chicago. Fargo, N.D., hardly a hotbed of terrorism, used $8 million to arm its police officers with assault rifles and Kevlar helmets in every squad car. They bought an armored truck with a rotating turret for $256,643. Its biggest use is for picnics!
Remember, this money is used to make property and wealth secure, not life and limb or people - unless those people are corporations. This spending creates austerity elsewhere, like in our schools and hospitals.
And just in case you have any doubts about the readiness of our government to manipulate the citizenry, a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 would remove the 1948 ban on dishonest U.S. government propaganda aimed at American citizens.
They will soon be able to legally misinform, that is lie to, the American public to influence public opinion.
A resident of Mt. Gretna, Heise holds a Ph.D. in economics and is professor emeritus of economics at Lebanon Valley College. His column appears every other Thursday. He maintains past columns and can be reached through his blog, paulheise.blogspot.com.