Wed, May 23, 2012 - Page 9 News List

NATO talks security and peace in a city that has neither

It is paradoxical that a city of such inequality should host a global summit that brutally maintains such problems

By Gary Younge  /  The Guardian, CHICAGO

Illustration: Mountain People

On Friday morning in Brighton Park, a neighborhood in southwest Chicago, about half a dozen Latina volunteers in luminous bibs patrolled the streets around Davis Elementary School. The school sits in the crossfire of three gangs: the Kings, the 2/6s and the SDs (Satan’s Disciples). The trees and walls nearby are peppered with “tags” denoting territory and mourning fallen gang members. There is a shooting in the area every couple of weeks, says Mariela Estrada of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which facilitates the volunteers.

That evening, just a couple of blocks away, a 14-year-old, Alejandro Jaime, was shot dead while out riding his bike with his 11-year-old friend. According to witnesses, a car knocked them both off their bikes. They picked themselves up and ran. A man got out of the car and shot Alejandro in the back.

“Although it’s the city’s job to provide public safety, we had to respond, since our children are in danger,” said Nancy Barraza, a Parent Patrol volunteer.

The next morning, world leaders started arriving in Chicago for the NATO summit where, just 20 minutes from Brighton Park, they would discuss how to maintain international security. The dissonance between the global pretensions of the summit and the local realities of Chicago could not be more striking. NATO claims its purpose is to secure peace through security; in much of Chicago, neither exists.

When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel brought the summit to Chicago, he boasted: “From a city perspective, this will be an opportunity to showcase what is great about the greatest city in the greatest country.”

The alternative “99 percent tour” of the city, organized by the Grassroots Collective that came to Brighton Park, revealed how utterly those who claim to export peace and prosperity abroad have failed to provide it at home.

The murder rate in Chicago in the first three months of this year increased by more than 50 percent compared with the same period last year, giving it almost twice the murder rate of New York. And the manner in which the city is policed gives many as great a reason to fear those charged with protecting them as the criminals. By the end of July last year, police were shooting people at the rate of six a month and killing one person every two weeks.

This violence, be it at the hands of the state or gangs, is both compounded and underpinned by racial and economic disadvantage. The poorer the neighborhood, the more violent; the wealthier, the safer. This is no coincidence. Much like the NATO summit — and the G8 summit that preceded it — the system is set up not to spread wealth, but to preserve and protect it; not to relieve chaos, but to contain and punish it.

NATO is not an impartial arbiter in this state of affairs, but the military wing of a political and economic project that makes it possible. Neoliberal globalization and the inequities that come with it cannot exist without force or the threat of it.

“The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist,” said Thomas Friedman, an ardent advocate of free-market globalization. “McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”

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