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After G20, Mass Protests Await Obama at NATO Meeting

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After the G20 talks, President Obama will stop in France and Germany to take part in a NATO summit marking its sixtieth anniversary. Mass demonstrations are expected with thousands of protesters from over twenty European countries and the United States. We go to Strasbourg to speak with Andreas Speck, a member of War Resisters International and one of the lead organizers of the protests against the NATO summit. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: After the G20 talks, President Obama’s next stop will be France and Germany to take part in a NATO summit marking the sixtieth anniversary of the alliance. There are mass demonstrations planned there with thousands of protesters from over twenty European countries and the United States.


AMY GOODMAN: Some 25,000 French and German police are taking up positions around three cities on both sides of the Rhine. The summit runs Friday and Saturday in the French city of Strasbourg and the German cities of Kehl and Baden Baden.

We are going to Strasbourg now to speak with Andreas Speck, a member of the War Resisters International, one of the lead organizers of the protests against the NATO summit.

We welcome you, Andreas, to Democracy Now! Explain what the plans are and why you’re out in the streets.

ANDREAS SPECK: Yeah, hello. I’m now here in the camp in Strasbourg. And our plans are — well, there’s quite a range of activities happening in the next days here in Strasbourg and also in Baden Baden. Tomorrow, on Friday, there will be a counter-conference in Strasbourg with a lot of workshops and discussion about NATO, what NATO means in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, but also for the countries in Europe, the war on Afghanistan and so on. On Saturday — also on Friday in Baden Baden, there will be attempts to blockade the reception and working dinner of all the heads of state and government and the reception by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Saturday, everything will focus on Strasbourg, because the official summit will open in Strasbourg at 10:00 in the morning. And early in the morning, there’s a coalition called Block NATO, will be a part of that, which will try to blockade all the entrances to the NATO summit. There’s quite a huge security zone around the NATO summit area, and we will try to blockade the entrances to the security zone. They will be setting up a fence in the middle of the city of Strasbourg to protect the summit. And there’s a lot of — thousands of citizens of Strasbourg that got special passes, because they live in this area, and they can only get in and out of the security zone accompanied by police with the special passes. So we will try to blockade that.

AMY GOODMAN: And exactly what your demands are?

ANDREAS SPECK: Well, obviously we are focusing on the war in Afghanistan and saying troops out of Afghanistan immediately, but we’re also going much further than that, because we are opposed to NATO in principle. We want NATO to dissolve. It should have been dissolved at the latest when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1990. But from our point of view, it never had really a right to exist, and we want NATO to dissolve. We don’t think it serves any good in the world. It’s certainly not a force for democracy, what it always claims to be. It’s an imperialist force trying to protect the interests of Western capitalism all over the world. And especially since 1990, we could see a development of NATO becoming increasingly involved in military operations all over the world.

And with this NATO summit, they will start to discuss a new NATO strategy, which will continue this development for NATO to become a global military intervention force. And the war in Afghanistan is central in that it’s the first major military operation of NATO, and the future of NATO depends on it being successful. That’s why they’re trying to put so many resources into this war, and that’s also why we focus on this war. We say troops out of Afghanistan immediately and, in the long term, a dissolving of NATO.

AMY GOODMAN: Andreas Speck, the level of police presence?

ANDREAS SPECK: There’s a lot of police here. We had a lot of police repression out of — people were not allowed into — from different parts from Germany into France. Several people got arrested. They got banned by the German authorities of leading Germany — got arrested for breaking this ban or trying to break this ban and will be in prison until Sunday. Also, we know that people in Germany, all over Germany, certain activists, got contacted by the police and have to report to police every day during the summit time, so they cannot leave their cities to come to Strasbourg.

There’s a lot of police in Strasbourg already. We had a small clash two nights ago at the camp. The police was provoking some confrontations. They are checking a lot of papers. Whenever you go into town, there’s a high risk that they will check your papers, and that can take a longer time or less time depending on who you are and what they think of you. So there’s a lot of police repression over here, which is very visible and creates a bit of tension. But at the same time, we have a lot of people here in the camp. Thousands of people are camping here in the south of Strasbourg.

AMY GOODMAN: Andreas, I just want to interrupt. Who did you say has to report to the police every day?

ANDREAS SPECK: Certain activists known — activists who are known by the police who live in different cities of Germany. They have been contacted and have to report to police in their city, which means they cannot leave their city, because every day they have to go to the police station and say, “I’m here.” So that’s been preventing them from leaving their home to come to Strasbourg or Baden Baden to join the protests.

AMY GOODMAN: Tony Benn, finally, a comment on President Obama coming for the first time as president to Britain. Can you explain the level of popular sentiment around the issue of the war in Afghanistan? In the United States, in the mainstream media, there’s very little criticism of the expansion of the war. Today, the Pentagon calling for 10,000 more troops, on top of the 17,000 that Obama has promised. Tony Benn?


AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Tony Benn, are you still with us?

TONY BENN: I’m still there. Do you need me?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes. I’m just asking if you can explain the level of popular sentiment around the war in Afghanistan, with President Obama calling for more troops, the 17,000 more than the Pentagon today, calling for another 10,000 on top of that. Little idea in this country in the mainstream media — little is heard of those who are opposed to the war in Afghanistan. What about in Britain and around Europe?

TONY BENN: Well, you see, Britain invaded Afghanistan in 1839, a year or two before I was born, and we captured Kabul. And the following year, we were thrown out and lost 15,000 troops, British troops, were killed in the retreat. We went in again in 1879, and we were thrown out again.

The Russians went in, and I led a delegation to the Soviet ambassador in 1958 [sic] to complain about the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, and he said, “Comrade, we have to do it, because there are terrorists there.” And who was he referring to? Osama bin Laden. And who was funding Osama bin Laden? George Bush, the first George Bush. And, I mean, the thing is ludicrous.

And I’m not very good at geography, but I didn’t know the North Atlantic extended to Afghanistan. And the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is being turned into the French Foreign Legion for the White House. And so, there’s great opposition. Troops are dying. And it is an unwinnable war, but it’s also an immoral war. So opposition is very strong here against the Afghan war.

And I think that President Obama has made a mistake, but sometimes a mistake has to be learned by the person who makes it. And just as in the Vietnam War we were told there would be the great Tet Offensive and it would set it all right, but I fear this is going to go wrong, too.

Probably the most immediate danger, however, is the Israel threat to bomb Iran. And when I went to Iran in 1976 as the Energy Secretary, American policy then was to persuade the Shah to adopt nuclear power. And I had three hours with the Shah in Tehran, and I was told the American government were very keen that Iran should adopt nuclear power. So, you see, the whole thing is hypocritical, and the arguments used are cynical.

And people are seeing through it. I think there’s a greater awareness of what’s happening in the world among people than has ever been possible before the internet and television and satellite stations like Al Jazeera and so on. So I’m hopeful it will come right, but I’m afraid more lives will be lost as people learn they have got it wrong.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, Tony Benn, former British member of Parliament, current president of the Stop the War Coalition, spoke at the G20 protest in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday; also want to thank Andreas Speck, member of the War Resisters International, one of the lead organizers of the protests against the NATO summit.

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