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As NATO Coalition Unravels in Afghanistan, Global Activists Question Military Alliance’s Existence

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Delegates from more than 60 countries are taking part in this year’s NATO summit in Chicago. Many international peace activists have also traveled from across the globe to take part in the protests in the streets. “We do not need NATO any longer,” says German peace activist Reiner Braun, chair of the international coalition, “No to War, No to NATO.” “The old enemy of the NATO — the Warsaw Pact — is over. But NATO still continues. It spends $1 trillion per year, and we need this money for jobs, for healthcare system, for education.” [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: That was Toshi Reagon singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Train Is Bound for Glory,” recorded live Saturday night at a concert organized by Portoluz here in Chicago marking Woody Guthrie’s centennial, also marking the protests at the NATO summit. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Chicago.

German delegates from more than—well, delegates from more than 60 countries are taking part in this year’s NATO summit here in Chicago. Meanwhile, many international peace activists have also traveled to the United States to take part in the protests.

REINER BRAUN: My name is Reiner Braun. I am coming in from Germany. I am the executive director of International Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms and the chairperson of the international coalition, No to War, No to NATO.

I am here to protest against [inaudible], a reflection of the Cold War era. We do not need NATO any longer, because the old enemy of the NATO, the Warsaw Pact, is over. But NATO still continues. It spends $1 trillion per year, and we need this money for jobs, for healthcare system, for education. So we really have to overcome NATO. NATO, for us, is the biggest military alliance in the world, which make wars, not only in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq and other places. And we need peaceful conflict solution and alternatives to war. And this is the reason we are here protesting with our American friends, with our sisters and brothers here, against this huge NATO summit in Chicago.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, NATO leaders—presidents, generals—argue that multilateralism is important. For example, they say they’re here to figure out a way to eventually end the war in Afghanistan. Your response to that?

REINER BRAUN: You know, 2014, this means more than two years. In the last two years, about more than 5,000 people—soldiers died, and about 25,000 civilians died. I think we cannot wait again for two long—two years longer ’til the troops come home. I think the idea of the French president immediately to start withdrawing the troops, this is the right idea, and we are supporting his ideas. We think the troops have to come home immediately and so quick as possible. What we need is a negotiation process in Afghanistan, in the region. All parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, have to sit together at one table, negotiate a peace process. And we need the same with the countries around—the countries in the region.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting. Right after the Socialist president of France, François Hollande, was inaugurated, one of his first acts was to go to Germany to meet with your president, with Angela Merkel. Why? And what about the approach that Germany is taking?

REINER BRAUN: You know, historically, we have close relations to France. And by the history of these two common countries, this is a big, big success. You know, we had wars between Germany and France for hundreds of years. So it’s a big success we are now peaceful neighbors. They are coming together to find a solution for the economic crisis in Europe, austerity solution, which is not our solution. But Merkel also wants to convince Hollande to give up his plans for bringing the troops home in the beginning of 2012. And this, we absolutely disagree. So I am so happy that Hollande, at a press conference next to the President of the United States, underlined his idea to bring the troops from Afghanistan home in 2012. This is a big step forwards to peace in Afghanistan.

AMY GOODMAN: What is an alternative to NATO?

REINER BRAUN: The alternative to NATO is a common security project in Europe and between Europe and the Atlantic Ocean, having in mind that we have to solve common economic, common social, common environmental problems. For this, we need a huge amount of money, so we have to reduce the military budget tremendously to have this money for peaceful and social affairs.

AMY GOODMAN: German peace activist Reiner Braun from Berlin, also at the NATO summit. He participated in an alternative summit and protested the NATO summit.

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