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Radio News Bulletin
Chicago, NATO and a tragic paradox
22 May 2012, 8:19 AM | Source: Matthew Hall, SBS
Karzai and Obama were meeting in Chicago before the official start of the NATO summit, the largest meeting of member countries in the organisation’s 63-year history that also included the Afghan presence and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
NATO, of course, now leads the western world’s intervention in Afghanistan (Australia, too, contributes to ISAF) and Afghanistan obviously dominated discussions. Mainly, it appears, discussions about how to get the hell out of there.
NATO member governments are slashing defence budgets and fighting public opinion on their roles in the country while their militaries attempt to continue their jobs with (planned) dwindling troop numbers.
Unsurprisingly, the summit has also attracted attention for events that are off the official agenda. On Sunday, approximately 50 military veterans led a protest that centred on them throwing their service medals into the street.
“I am giving back my global war on terror service medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Jason Heard, a former combat medic who spent 10 years in the US Army. “I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in these countries and around the globe.”
The protest began as an orderly march but ended when the protestors, numbered in their thousands, met riot police, mounted officers and a variety of fences. A melee followed when some protestors, including members of the Occupy movement and other groups, broke from the main group and pushed toward the summit venue.
This was an idea not well received by the cops. Police said 45 arrests were made and four officers were injured, including one with a knife wound. Some protestors were badly beaten by truncheons.
(Here’s my favourite picture of the protests)
By the end of Sunday, five people had also been arrested on terrorist-related charges that included a plan to attack targets including President Obama's Chicago HQ and the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (President Obama’s former chief of staff) with Molotov cocktails.
But about President Karzai’s American tax payer money. A lot of American dollars may be being spent in Kabul but not so much on the other side of Chicago. On Friday night, on the South Side of town, as NATO’s great and good discussed security, a 14-year-old boy was shot dead while riding his bike.
According to reports, Alejandro Jaime was riding his bike with an 11-year-old friend when a car struck the boys, causing them to fall off their bikes and run. As they ran, someone got out of the car and shot at Jaime.
This is not an isolated tragedy in Chicago. As Gary Younge highlighted in The Guardian: “The mortality rate for black infants in the city is on a par with the West Bank; black life expectancy in Illinois is just below Egypt and just above Uzbekistan. More than a quarter of Chicagoans have no health insurance, one in five black male Chicagoans are unemployed and one in three live in poverty.”
Mayor Emanuel said before the NATO summit: “From a city perspective, this will be an opportunity to showcase what is great about the greatest city in the greatest country.”
Or, perhaps, the worst.