the whole world is watching: veterans to return medals in nato/poverty protests this weekend

All eyes will be on Chicago this weekend, as thousands of protesters from all over North American converge on the the NATO summit. The symbolism could not be more trenchant, as Chicago was the scene of protests and rebellion against an earlier US war, and famously out-of-control police violence.

Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and other veterans' and peace groups will march under the banner of Coalition Against NATO/G8 War and Poverty Agenda, co-sponsored by a long list of peace and social justice organizations, including ADAPT, a radical disability-rights organization (people I love), Michael Moore, the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Military Families Speak Out, and Occupy Chicago, among others. At the end of the march, veterans will ceremoniously return their NATO service medals to denounce the disastrous 11-year war in Afghanistan.

In Toronto, US war resisters and their supporters will hold a solidarity demonstration in conjunction with Afghans For Peace and the Canadian Peace Alliance.

The IVAW statement:
We, Afghanistan and Iraq veterans, from around the country have united with CANG8 Coalition against NATO/G8 war and poverty agenda to converge in Chicago on May 20th for a unity march to the NATO summit and ceremoniously return our service medals to NATO generals. We were awarded these medals for serving in the Global War on Terror, a war based on lies and failed polices. This endless war has killed hundreds of thousands, stripped the humanity of all involved, and drained our communities of trillions of dollars, diverting funds from schools, clinics, libraries, and other public goods.

Iraq Veterans Against the War calls on fellow service members, veterans, Chicagoans, and everyone who believes in justice, dignity, and respect for all peoples to join us in the streets on May 20th. On this day, we will hold a nonviolent march to the site of the NATO summit where we will ceremoniously return our military service medals. We will demand that NATO immediately end the occupation of Afghanistan and relating economic and social injustices, bring U.S. war dollars home to fund our communities, and acknowledge the rights and humanity of all who are affected by these wars. We wish to begin a process of justice and reconciliation with the people of Afghanistan and other affected nations, fellow service members, veterans, and the American people.

The city of Chicago will host the NATO summit from May 20th-21st. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an organization of western military superpowers whose combined military might is the world's largest and most powerful military force. The NATO mission in Afghanistan has dragged on for over a decade, to the detriment of the people of Afghanistan, military service members and their families, and our communities.

The recent news that the G8 summit, originally set to take place in Chicago this May, has been moved to Camp David shows that the world's large economies fear the mass mobilization and collective organizing of the people of Chicago. NATO should also be advised that the world's military superpowers, responsible for unjust wars, occupations, and militarism, are also not welcome in our hometown. We are emboldened by the knowledge that Chicagoans' call for popular mobilizations was enough to move the G8 out of our city. We must now harness this same people power to send the message loud and clear to NATO that they too will be met with resistance. Furthermore, even though the G8 and NATO will now be held apart from each other, we know that these two summits, and the interests they represent, are linked. War, austerity, poverty, and economic exploitation by the 1% go hand in hand.

It is time for us to take a stand and make our voices heard. We stand in international solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and all the people of the world who are demanding their right to self-determination, their human rights, and economic justice.
Afghan peace and justice activist Malalai Joya writes in Rabble about this weekend's demonstrations.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to travel to attend the protests against NATO. But from here in Kabul, I can tell you that the whole world will indeed be watching Chicago this weekend.

The protesters remind us all that the government of the United States is not representative of the people of the United States. It's encouraging to see so many people willing to take action and stand up against this unjust and disastrous war.

Recently U.S. President Obama travelled to Kabul to meet Afghanistan's so-called President Hamid Karzai. Both leaders used this meeting to pretend that they are ending this war when they are really trying to continue it even longer.

Obama knows that the U.S. people are turning against the war, and both men know that the Afghan people are against this war and reject the foreign occupation of their country. So on one hand they claim the war will end in 2014, while on the other hand they say that U.S. troops will remain in some capacity until 2024.

When 2024 comes closer they will probably say they plan to remain in Afghanistan until 2034. The reality is that the U.S. and their NATO allies plan to dominate Afghanistan and the larger region militarily for the next generation. They need this for geostrategic reasons. They want to control the energy and mineral resources of our countries, and they want to maintain military superiority against China and other competitors.

No one can believe the words of Obama and others who say they are working for peace even while they continue to make war and to kill our people in bombings, night raids and now more and more drone attacks that kill civilians every week and sometimes every day in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

This weekend's protests will likely face repression. But it's vital that people take to the streets to raise their voices. Here in Afghanistan, many peace and women's rights activists literally risk their lives to hold protests against the occupation and against the fundamentalist warlords.

I know Chicago is something like President Obama's "hometown," because he lived there many years and it was in the state of Illinois that he was first elected. My hometown is in Afghanistan's remote Farah Province. I was elected in 2005, when I was only 26 years old, to represent Farah in Afghanistan's Parliament. Because I spoke out and denounced the occupation, the warlords and the Taliban, I faced threats, assassination attempts -- and then they even kicked me out of Parliament in 2007. [Read more here.]

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