Friday, April 4, 2008

Bucharest from the bottom up

Over at the Dominion weblogs site, Amy Miller writes about the situation in Bucharest from the vantage point of those who want to see NATO dismantled [gingerly edited]:

26,000 security personnel
Largest NATO summit in history opens in Bucharest

[ ...] City residents were encouraged to leave town, with schools and workplaces closed for the duration of the summit. Bucharest's Police Chief publicly warned that protests against the summit would not be tolerated.

All protest permits were denied, making anti-NATO demonstrations illegal. Activists attempting to enter Romania from other European Union countries say they were denied entry with no cause given. Many local activists have been followed by the secret services, had visits to their homes, with family members receiving threats and intimidation. ...

[On April 2, the opening day of the summit] hundreds of police made a sudden attack on the legally rented convergence center that local activists had set up to house demonstrators from abroad, as well as serve as a space to organize actions.

Wearing ski masks and carrying sub machine guns a team of 80 special forces moved into the space where people were in the process of cooking and talking.

Albert, one of the 60 activists who were arrested spoke to me from the police station: "... There is nobody inside. Everybody who was inside was taken by the police. They beat everybody inside, and everbody got arrested." ... (link to Amy Milller's blog)

There is some Youtube video (link here, screenshot above) of the Romanian jendarms going about their thuggish ways this week.

Here's the mainstream press version, courtesy of the International Herald Tribune:
Romanian police question 46 anti-NATO demonstrators after scuffle
Wednesday, April 2, 2008

BUCHAREST, Romania: Romanian police say they are questioning 46 anti-NATO activists about scuffles that broke out before the start of a NATO summit in Bucharest.

Police spokesman Christian Ciocan says 10 of the activists are German and the rest are Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Romanian citizens. ...

Ciocan has told The Associated Press that the activists are not being formally detained, but investigators want to identify them.

There are unconfirmed media reports that at least one of the demonstrators was beaten during the scuffles. (link)

So what did the NATO leaders accomplish at the summit? Reportedly, much less than NATO hawks were hoping for. On NATO expansion, there was a cautious move eastward. On the addition of troops to Afghanistan, there was a commitment by French President Sarkozy to send 700-1000 more troops. Poland will send some 500 more.

Inter Press Service has more:
AFGHANISTAN: More, But of What
Analysis by Claudia Ciobanu

BUCHAREST, Apr 4 (IPS) - At the Bucharest summit, NATO adopted an undisclosed "comprehensive" security strategy in Afghanistan, which combines military with civilian efforts. The publicised discussions on Afghanistan, however, were focused on the numbers of troops. ...

At the Bucharest summit, leaders from NATO, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the World Bank, and donor countries committed to a long-term "comprehensive political-military plan" for Afghanistan.

The text of this document was kept confidential, but its principles were made public as a "strategic vision" which includes an effort to give a more central role in peace-building to the Afghan government and other international organisations besides NATO. The "vision" document also states the goal of having an 80,000 strong Afghan army by 2010.

But with the details undisclosed, it remains unclear whether NATO will actually be able to pull off a change of strategy.

"NATO is a military alliance. It has no economic or political capacity to speak of," Barnett Rubin from New York University, author of a widely read blog on Afghanistan told IPS. "Therefore, NATO is not the right organisation to pull this off. The emphasis on NATO reinforces the emphasis on the military aspect of the struggle, which U.S. commanders estimate is about 20 percent of the whole." ...

According to the "strategic vision" document, NATO is fighting against "extremists and terrorists such as the Taleban or al-Quaeda." But [Dr. Ana Pejcinova, a development worker who recently returned from Helmand province] says it is necessary to look behind the "extremism" tag. "The massive rise in attacks is mainly due not to the Taleban, but to numerous armed groups whose recruits have lost everything -- land, assets, families, and so on -- many from U.S. indiscriminate bombing campaigns.

"The Western conventional armies are facing [an] unconventional - and what is turning into a popular - armed movement in Afghanistan. Although every tactical battle is won by conventional hard power, the strategic goals are actually undermined by each tactical victory: winning (militarily) over locals only recruits more locals to join or support the insurgency." ... (link)
Some media reports say that France's contribution will be about 700 troops, while others say it will be about 1000. Last month, Canada's Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said that the 1000 extra troops which the Manley panel called for had to come from just one country. Regardless, virtually every commentator has stated that the French commitment will satisfy the demand. Standards change with circumstances, it would seem.

The announcement by Sarkozy, initially made in front of Britain's parliament rather than in France, is another example of Western leaders' contempt for democracy, as polls indicate that the move to bolster French forces is deeply unpopular.

From the Angus Reid Monitor:

Polling Data

Do you support or oppose Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to increase the number of French troops in Afghanistan?





Not sure


Source: BVA / Sud-Ouest
Methodology: Face-to-face interviews with 970 French adults, conducted on Mar. 28 and Mar. 29, 2008. No margin of error was provided. (link)

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