On January 25, the host committee for the G8/NATO summit in Chicago in May unveiled a new slogan for the event, “The Global Crossroads.” The mood of the organizers is upbeat and positive. This is a grand opportunity to market Chicago with an eye for the tourist dollar and the city is ready, the committee assures us, to deal with any “potential problems.”
One of the potential problems that the committee is confident that it can overcome, according to a report by WLS-TV in Chicago, is “the prospect of large-scale protests stealing the stage as the world watches.” The new slogan stresses the international character of the event and the prestige and economic benefit that hosting world economic and political leaders is expected to bring to Chicago. “We're a world class city with world class potential," declares Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "If you want to be a global city, you've got to act like a global city and do what global cities do," says Lori Healey who heads the host committee and who previously led the city’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Olympics.
All indications, unfortunately, are that Chicago is preparing to “act like a global city and do what global cities do” and it appears to want to follow the lead of other “global cities” in dealing with mass demonstrations threatening to “steal the stage;” think Tehran, Beijing, Cairo, Moscow and Seattle, to name a few.
One of the chilling developments the hosting committee announced was that the Illinois State Crime Commission is “urgently seeking Iraq-Afghanistan combat veterans to work security positions for the G8 summit.” The commission's chairman clarifies that is for “private security” and not to work with the Chicago police. As in other “global cities,” these veterans will be used as private mercenaries without the legal protections and benefits of public employees. The Veterans Administration reports treating about 16% of the 1.3 million of veterans of these two wars for post-traumatic stress disorder and many more do not seek help. In answer to a potentially volatile situation in the streets of Chicago, the commission is not seeking workers trained in conflict resolution, but it has an urgent need for ex-soldiers trained in the violent chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan. These veterans urgently need treatment and meaningful employment, but at the “global crossroads,” they are offered only temp jobs as rent-a-cops protecting the interests of their exploiters.
Beyond touting the overblown promise of money that the summit is expected to bring ("To penetrate international markets takes time and money," said Don Welsh, Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau) the city and its welcoming committee do not encourage education or reflection on what NATO and the G8 are and what they do. Despite its claims, NATO was never a defensive alliance. It is structured to wage “out of area” wars in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as to “contain” China. NATO’s creed is aggressive, expansionist, militarist and undemocratic. The G8 represents the economic interests of its member states. It is not a legal international entity established by treaty but acts outside the law, with NATO as its enforcer. Chicago law enforcement might better spend its resources on preparing to arrest and prosecute the war criminals, terrorists, torturers, and racketeers coming as invited constituents of G8 and NATO rather than getting ready for mass arrests of citizens coming to Chicago to exercise their right to protest these crimes.
The morning after the host committee unveiled its new slogan, some of us with the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence met to discuss our part in the response to the city of Chicago “bringing the war home” by welcoming NATO and G8.
We at Voices found ourselves in agreement with the host committee that Chicago is indeed a global crossroads. This is true not for the world’s financial elite, war profiteers, military brass and heads of state officially welcomed there in May, but for those who come to Chicago from the all over the continent and around the globe to visit or to make their lives there without the criminal intent of NATO and the G8. In May, especially, Chicago will be a global crossroads for the thousands of good people who will gather in the city to lend a hand and take to the streets for justice and peace.
Chicago in May is also a crossroads in that it is a critical place and time for us all to take stock of where we have been and where we are going. We are at a crossroads – do we continue on the road of war and economic exploitation of the planet that NATO and the G8 are committed to, or do we abandon that road and turn a corner toward economic justice and a world at peace. We are at a crossroads and our choices are stark: global domination and the economic and ecological devastation that it makes inevitable or global community.
With this in mind, Voices for Creative Nonviolence decided to call our efforts leading up to the NATO and G8 summit, “At A Global Crossroads: Turn Against War.” We are starting the ground work for a walk starting on May 1 from Madison, Wisconsin, to arrive in Chicago in time for the summit on May 19.
Brian Terrell is a former mayor of Maloy, Iowa.