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Chicago: My kind of (NATO) town

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Officials from more than 50 states are expected at the NATO summit in Chicago [EPA] by Pepe Escobar

Lock down. A ring-of-steel. An ocean of Chicago cops. The Secret Service. The National Guard. Security perimeters. Steel fencing. Concrete barriers. Upgraded riot gear. Mayor Rahm Emanuel - former White House Chief of Staff and President Obama confidante - targeting "strategic areas". "Extraction teams" ultra-ready to snatch and grab pinpointed protesters in a "low intensity conflict" environment.

Last but not least, the LRAD (long-range acoustic device) - a sound cannon more lethal than Metallica on a bad night, bound to "ensure a consistent message is delivered to large crowds", according to the Chicago Police Department.

What's that? Baghdad under the surge? A remake of The Blues Brothers, starring the ghost of John Belushi and Obama as Aretha Franklin (or James Brown)?

No: it's NATO taking over Chicago for its 25th summit. Make no mistake; "We're on a mission from God".

Unthinkably thinkable

Not immune to the dire extrapolations of "low intensity conflict", the Obama administration shifted the G8 summit - which is preceding NATO's - from Chicago to the isolated Camp David. Still, there will be protests. There may be blood. Because there's also increased awareness in the US of how the G8 and NATO - both unelected and unaccountable - are essentially tools of the 0.1 per cent.

The Chicago summit will amplify the "Strategic Concept" NATO adopted at the Lisbon summit in November 2010.

It's crucial to identify the backstage players. The "concept" was devised by a selected group of wise men (and a woman), co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Jeroen van der Veer, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell up to June 2009.

Talk about a Western-centric corporate/military/energy symbiosis.

Before this Third Millennium NATO concept was announced, the chairman of Lloyd's of London and former director of French energy giant Total, Lord Levene of Portsoken, alongside NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, characterised it as just a "fresh approach to managing risk".

Yet, added Lord Levene, "we must be prepared to think the unthinkable".

The "unthinkable", according to Lloyd's was codified in a "360 Risk Insight program" and some "Realistic Disaster Scenarios", while NATO forged a "Multiple Futures" project.

So the world may exhale a sigh of relief; finally the "unthinkable" became thinkable, courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell and assorted Big Oil players; insurance giants such as Lloyd's; Rupert Murdoch's notoriously altruistic News Corporation; mercenary outfits such as DynCorp and Academi (formerly Blackwater); Dick Cheney's cherished Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) and Halliburton - and, last but not least, NATO.  

Let me bomb you with my values

NATO came to light in 1949 as the US counterpunch against the USSR across the European chessboard. The Soviet Union imploded 21 years ago. Yet NATO - like James Bond's diamonds - is forever. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is already thinking about the 22nd century.

Last month, in a Pentagon/NATO funfest in Norfolk, Virginia, Hillary stressed the Chicago summit would "recognise the operational, financial and political contributions of our partners across a range of efforts to defend our common values in the Balkans, Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa."

The "common values" record is not exactly stellar. After spending decades quaking in its boots at the prospect of being squashed by the Red Army, NATO fought its first European war in 1999 - the 78-day unilateral bombing of Yugoslavia. Let's call it a win.

Then NATO set out to defend the West in the intersection of Central and South Asia - Afghanistan. After 11 quagmire years, it has been soundly defeated by a bunch of nationalistic Pashtuns with Kalashnikovs and rocket launchers.

And then there's NATO bombing our "common values" into Northern Africa in its first war on the continent, in Libya. Not exactly a win - as the new Libya is turning out to be a somewhat racist, hardcore Islamist heaven mixed with militia hell, duly exported to bewildered neighbours such as Mali.

On top of it, NATO refuses to acknowledge it killed scores of civilians in Libya during its R2P - responsibility to protect - mission, on behalf of civilians.    

Still, from the point of view of the Strategic Concept, what matters is that NATO is closer to converting the Mediterranean Sea into a remixed Mare Nostrum, a NATO lake (there's that nagging Syria question to be dealt with); and it is all over the place patrolling the Arabian Sea.

Tag along, partner

NATO itself is billing Chicago as a forum on three main issues; the "commitment to Afghanistan"; "capabilities" to "defend its population and territory" (even if one has to bomb or occupy parts of Central Asia or Africa), all bundled up as  "challenges of the 21st century"; and the "network of partners across the globe".

The NATO partnership thing is a multi-headed Hydra. It includes a Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the Kosovo Force, Operation Ocean Shield (off the Horn of Africa), Operation Unified Protector (in Libya), Operation Active Endeavour (across the Mediterranean) and even a Pacific gambit; Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, South Korea and Tonga, for instance, are part of NATO's "Troop Contributing Countries" in Afghanistan.

Then there's a gargantuan Partnership Cooperation Menu (with over 1,600 possibilities); the Russian-NATO Council (RNC); and a drive to get some sort of partnership with the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) - all in the name of "security on a global level". The BRICS are not exactly enthusiastic.

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, European affairs director at the National Security Council (NSC), and a former Pentagon deputy assistant secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the mid-1990s, justifies this maze as NATO's need to be "more deployable". Or in NATO speak, the need for "improving interoperability".

No fewer than 50 nations are interoperable-quagmired in Afghanistan. Iraq will inevitably be annexed to the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Libya will get into the Mediterranean Dialogue. And the same will happen to Syria (but only after regime change).

That's the Strategic Concept in practice; NATO expansion ballooning to infinity. The plan is to build a "hub of relationships around the world". 

No wonder that was the meat of the matter at a major meeting last month at NATO's cavernous HQ in Mons, near Brussels. Picture the military bosses of NATO's 28 member states, plus the chiefs of defence staff of 22 non-NATO nations who have troops in Afghanistan - and that includes everyone from Armenia, Bahrain and Georgia to Jordan, Mongolia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Welcome to NATO as Globocop. Forget about the UN. And if you are one of those myriad small NATO partners, beware what you bargained for. Sooner or later the Pentagon and NATO - after all NATO is the European arm of the Pentagon - will want a military base in your country. And the Western industrial-military complex will make a killing selling you all sorts of fancy, pricey and useless weapons.   

Defence? Nah, just joking

Rasmussen already stressed that, in Chicago, NATO will announce "initial operational capability" for the joint US-NATO interceptor missile system in Europe. A fabulous business, incidentally, for Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

Sherwood-Randall added that this is a NATO missile defence "based on the ability to employ US assets under NATO command". Translation, if any was needed; it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that Pentagon swing (that applies even more in Africa, where AFRICOM started its first war, in Libya, with a Tomahawk barrage, before command was transferred to NATO).    

NATO spin is this is a "defence system" for Europe against North Korean or Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles. Not really; this system is bound to be integrated into the Pentagon's first strike capability. Russian intelligence has a pretty good guess who's supposed to be the real target.     

Here's Retired Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky, quoted by Voice of Russia: "Why spend hundreds of billions of dollars just to intercept three or four Iranian missiles? And why would Iran attack Europe when 70 per cent of its foreign trade is with the EU?"

Yet NATO won't have its targets set only in terms of strategic encirclement of Russia. It's about to enter the War of the Drones in full. It flirts with another "humanitarian" intervention - in Syria, or, much easier, in Mali. The Pentagon will spend a mere $4 billion to modernise its tactical nuclear weapons based in Europe. And then there's the crucial battle to rule the Arctic.

Globocop is on a roll. Today Chicago; tomorrow, the stars. No Buddy Guy blues apply; NATO's theme song's got to be Over the Rainbow.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is named Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).


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