NATO is one of a handful of guises used by American politicians and their hangers-on to give the illusion of broad consent for policies whose real aim is to boost U.S. government power over other nations, peoples, and their resources.
It would be bad public relations for the U.S. government, which claims to speak for only 4% of the world's population, to nakedly assert its "right" to rule over the majority. History has shown that the most efficient way to rule is to fool populations into believing they have a stake in being ruled, rather than baldly asserting that rule through force. And so phrases like "international opinion" and "the world community" are bandied about by politicians and commentators to cover for a system ruled by a tiny minority, and driven by greed and contempt for real democracy. When George H. W. Bush announced his grand coalition to launch the first U.S.-Iraq war, he dubbed it "the coalition of the willing." In the anti-war movement, we dubbed it "the coalition of the bribed and bullied," a motley collection of dictators and "elected" rulers whose "willingness" was purchased through arms deals and threats. In supporting the war, they were thumbing their noses at the express wishes of the overwhelming majorities of their populations.
Today NATO has taken on much the same character, with smaller nations providing funding and handfuls of troops to an essentially American enterprise. In this it is more reminiscent of Roman Empire legions, and its tributary hangers-on, than it is of any grand democratic experiment.
Our primary objections to the U.S. government, and the NATO and other military alliances it leads, can be boiled down to five points:
1) The U.S. and other foreign troops have no right to occupy and coerce people in countries who do not want them. U.S. troops are currently in at least 130 countries around the world, and poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majorities of most of these countries do not want them there.
The profoundly anti-democratic nature of these occupations can be seen in places like the Philippines, where a clause of that country's constitution expressly prohibits stationing of foreign troops on their territory. The toothless Pakistani parliament has outlawed U.S. drone attacks and bases on their territory time and again, without effect.
This abrogation of the popular will of other nations, in concert with corrupt leaders bolstered by the U.S., goes a long way to explain why the U.S./NATO "war on terror" is ultimately a fruitless exercise. It's really not concerned with opposing terror per se, but about using NATO terror to coerce other nations to do the United States' bidding.
The peoples of the Third World are but chess pieces on the "great game" of the U.S. government versus other emerging economic/military powers such as China, and the peoples of the world largely know this. Hence, the U.S. government is the single best recruiter for terrorism that there is.
2) With no real provocation, the U.S. repeatedly threatens war on other countries. All of the excuses that were used to launch war on Iraq, for example, are now being recycled to justify war on Iran:
WMD's? No real evidence for them, but who can blame Iran for wanting nukes given that it is surrounded by nuclear-armed Pakistan and India on the east, nuclear-armed Russia on the north, nuclear-armed U.S. war vessels on the south, and nuclear-armed Israel on the west.
Violating international treaties? The U.S. and Israel do this routinely, and the latter refuses to even sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and collaborated with apartheid South Africa on their respective nuke programs.
Brutally suppressing its own people? The U.S. sends arms to a host of governments which equal the Iranian theocracy's horrible human rights record.
3) The U.S. and its NATO allies support dictators who routinely commit gross human rights abuses. Through "extraordinary rendition" of people to the dictators' torture chambers, NATO countries actively abet this brutality. The Wikileaks revelations of U.S. diplomatic cables showed the deep cynicism of both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations. Our State Department clucked about the brutality shown by Syria's Assad, Mubarak's Egypt and Ghadafi's Libya, while shipping innocent people to be tortured by those regimes.
The Saudi dictatorship is guilty of every human rights abuse that Iran is accused of the brutal suppression of religious minorities, women, and gays. Freedom of the press, speech and labor rights are non-existent. Last year the Saudis committed the same sin that was the alleged cause of George H. W. Bush's war on Iraq invading another nation. Where as Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait to grab more oil supplies, the Saudi dictatorship invaded Bahrain so as to crush that country's democracy movement. And the Obama administration's response? More arms to the Saudi dictators so that they can repress their own people and others.
4) The U.S. and NATO funding of war robs the peoples of the world of resources for basic necessities. The U.S. spends as much on war as the rest of the world combined, while more than half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. With our military spending at record levels under the Obama administration, it is no accident that the U.S. is alone among industrialized countries in not providing low-cost or free higher education and health care. It is no accident that our primary education and public transit systems are third rate, and our level of homelessness an international embarrassment.
5) The increased propensity for war destroys civil liberties at home. Through the National Defense Authorization Act, we've seen the destruction of habeas corpus, a right won with the Magna Carta in 1215. Through his policy of assassinating people abroad, we have the irony of a constitutional law scholar president who thinks he has the right to play judge, jury, and executioner. Whereas our country had only sporadic wars a few decades ago, we are now in permanent war. Empire and military coercion abroad cannot help but militarize and brutalize our domestic life. Andy Thayer is an organizer for the Coalition Against the NATO/G8 War & PovertyAgenda (www.CANG8.org) and a co-founder of GLN.