NATO Summit: Protest Groups Debate NATO Supporters as Summit Nears

Allen Photo by Kristen Nemoto

Panelist and Loyola University Chicago Professor John “Jay” Allen Williams shares a beer 
with members from the Iraq Veterans Against the War. (Photo by Kristen Nemoto)

NATO logoBy Vicky Chukwuka and Kristen Nemoto
The Red Line Project

Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012

Held in a small auditorium fitting no more than 40 people, the National Strategy Forum sponsored a debate Thursday night between NATO experts and protesters in the Pritzker Military Library.

The featured panelists were Rick Rozoff, Iris Feliciano, former Ambassador J.D. Bindenagel, Professor John “Jay” Allen Williams and moderator Richard E. Friedman.

“Why is NATO here?” asked Friedman, president of the National Strategy Forum, starting off the discussion.  “Where do you think NATO is going and why does it need to change?”

Bindenagel, a vice president at DePaul University, offered his take.

“The United States foreign policy established itself (with NATO) to defend our western friends in Europe,” said Bindenagel, a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and a career diplomat.  “And promise them that we would come to their aid.”

Bindenagel acknowledged concerns many have about whether NATO is relevant to today’s “post-Cold war era.”

“Fast forward to 1999,” Bindenagel said.  “NATO has decided to intervene militarily on a humanitarian basis with the killings in Kosovo.  And that goes on to the question of Libya today, so there is a change in what NATO is doing and we’re right to debate on this issue.”

Rick Rozoff, an activist and organizer for the Stop NATO blog, shook his head in disagreement.

“The Prime Minister of Russia today says, ‘Military intervention with the affairs of other countries could lead to a full-fledged war including with nuclear weapons,” he said. “Would you believe 21 years ago, you would hear a statement like that?” 

Rozoff added that if NATO continues its missile shield in Europe, Russia may have to launch a pre-emptive attack against them. 

“This is a nightmare we’ve got to wake up from," he said. "We have got to demand de-militarization.”

Friedman said the bulk of the NATO summit will focus on three principle issues:  Afghanistan, alliances, and the economy.  All were topics the panelists agreed are major issues to discuss “social responsibility and national security.”

John “Jay” Allen Williams agreed with Friedman. Williams served with the NATO Inter-Allied Confederation of Reserve Officers and is now a political science professor at Loyola University Chicago.

“NATO is evolving," he said. "It is found to be a very useful organization of like-minded Western democracies with similar interests, similar values, and economic systems.”

Photo by Paul Tadalan

Panelists (from left): former U.S. Ambassador and DePaul Vice President J.D. Bindenagel., activist leader Rick Rozoff, Loyola University Professor John Allen Williams, Iris Feliciano, and moderator Richard E. Friedman.  (Photo by Paul Tadalan)

Williams said he believes NATO is so important, that if it weren’t to exist today “we’d have to create it.”

He argued that military force is the best solution to end genocide.

“Combat piracy, humanitarian relief, and peace-keeping ... These things require a use of force and NATO is an efficient way to do it,” he said.

Former Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Iris Feliciano opposed Williams sentiments regarding the mission of troops overseas.

“The troops on the ground are not trained for peacemaking – they are trained to kill,” she said.

As a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, she disagrees with promoting the use of violence to end violence. She claims, despite NATO’s intentions for peace, a soldier’s mission is to oblige the orders of chief personnel.

“NATO is lead by U.S. policy and it’s really a question of who’s leading who?” she said. “Just because NATO decides we are going to change the policy and direction, the troops don’t get to turn that switch off.”

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