As Foreign Ministers from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) countries met to mark the military
alliance’s 70th anniversary, a broad coalition of organizations from across the United States and the world
organized a series of actions to protest the organization’s ongoing use as a tool for imperialist war and occupation. Vancouver-based Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) was an active part of the “NO2NATO2019”
coalition which came together to organize the main protest in front of the White House, and sent a delegation
of six organizers to participate and emphasize Canada’s criminal role in this warmongering organization.
In the words of NATO’s first secretarygeneral (1952-1957), Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay NATO’s original mandate
was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” The main vehicle of post World War II
anti-Communist hysteria lost its main bogeyman when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. It now states that its
purpose “is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means.”
Practically that has meant continuing as a military alliance which has served as a convenient “international community” cover for imperialist war and occupation. NATO forces bombed Yugoslavia for 78 days straight to break up the country in 1999, they took a leadership role in the 2001 war and ongoing occupation of Afghanistan, and also continue to train military forces in Iraq. It was a seven month NATO bombing mission which destroyed Libya in 2011 – turning Africa’s most prosperous nation into rubble fought over and controlled by competing warlords.
Despite its murky mandate, NATO has grown from 12 signatory nations to 29. They are pushed to spend at least 2% of
their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on the military. Last year Colombia became a “fully accredited global partner”. This geographically extraordinary move can be explained given the current military buildup and attempted coup against its neighbour Venezuela.
Given this ongoing US-led aggression against Venezuela, “Hands Off Venezuela!” joined “No to NATO, War
& Racism!” as the two main slogans of the White House rally.
MAWO organizers arrived in the week before the rally to help with final organization, and also to participate in
some lead-up actions. This included a Code Pink Women for Peace action in front of a Venezuelan diplomatic building
in Washington, DC which had been taken over by pro-coup Venezuelans with the support of the US government. There
was also a solidarity action in front of the Embassy of Ireland. Two Veterans for Peace organizers Ken Mayers and Tarak Kauff were being held in Irish jail under charges of “trespass and criminal damage” after they had entered the Shannon airfield base to inspect a plane which they believed to be carrying up to 300 armed U.S. troops.
The March 30 demonstration was held in Lafayette Park, which borders the White House grounds. Organizers had
worked hard to jump through countless bureaucratic hoops secure permits. Rally set-up requirements included all
equipment being inspected by police sniffing dog before entering the park!
MAWO co-chair Alison Bodine was a co-MC for the first part of the rally with Virginia Defenders for Freedom
Justice and Equality organizer Jacqueline Luqman. They welcomed anti-NATO activists from Ukraine, Mexico,
Argentina, Belgium Greece and Wales, as well as groups from Boston, New York, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Connecticut among many others.
U.S. President Mike Pence addressing NATO foreign ministers with an aggressive pro-war, anti-immigrant
message, said “We must adapt our alliance to confront emerging threats … whether that’s Russian aggression, uncontrolled migration, cyber attacks, threats to energy security, Chinese strategic competition, including technology and 5G, and many other issues.” Meanwhile, Alison and Jacqueline welcomed a diverse group of
pro-peace speakers articulating an entirely different vision for the world - based on social justice, self-determination and cooperation among oppressed peoples. This included Cassia Laham of the United
National Antiwar Committee (UNAC), Reiner Braun of the No to NATO, No to War Network in Belgium, Ajamu Baraka
of the Black Alliance for Peace, Andre Francois - President of Boston School Bus Driver Union, USW 8751, and Patrick McCann of Veterans for Peace.
The 1,000 strong rally group then made their way through the busy DC streets. The Cherry Blossom Festival was in full swing so there were large crowds of people everywhere to see and hear demonstrators chanting, “No to NATO, No to War!” and “U.S. Hands Off Venezuela!” That same day in Caracas, tens of thousands rallied to defend Bolivarian Revolution, despite repeated attacks on Venezuela’s electrical grid.
MAWO’s delegation wore matching campaign shirts and held a large banner demanding “Canada out of NATO Now!
Money for Jobs, Healthcare, Education, Housing and Environment! Not War!”
The rally returned to Lafayette Park for a continuing speakers program including William Camacaro – a Venezuelan member of the Bolivarian Circles New York, Loan Tran of the International Action Centre, Kevin Zeese and
Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance, and music by Luci Murphy and Ben Grosscup of the People’s Music Network.
All in all the action last more than four hours and involved dozens of organizations. The overwhelming message was
that on its 70 anniversary NATO should be disbanded not celebrated. The war at home and abroad rages on and it’s
always poor, working and oppressed people who pay the biggest price and bear the biggest burden. Organizing in “the belly of the beast” under a President who promotes and encourages war and racism is no easy task,
but the NO2NATO2019 rally confirmed that there are many organizations across the U.S who are still fighting and that they are also connecting with groups around the world confronting the same issues.
This was the real significant international meeting, not NATO’s anniversary.
Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) was happy to actively participate in the organizing an execution
of the successful march and rally and will continue to do everything it can to encourage international cooperation and ongoing organizing against the U.S and Canada war machines. NATO belongs in the scrap heap of history and it’s up to us to put it there.
NO TO NATO, NO TO WAR!
HANDS OFF VENEZUELA!
MONEY FOR HEALTHCARE,
HOUSING & EDUCATION, NOT FOR WAR & OCCUPAPTION!
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