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NATO Comes to Chicago, Highlights Violence and Inequality at the Heart of the System

Much like the NATO summit, the system is set up not to spread wealth but to preserve and protect it, not to relieve chaos but to contain and punish it.

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Chicago illustrates how the developing world is everywhere, not least in the heart of the developed. The mortality rate for black infants in the city is on a par with the West Bank; black life expectancy in Illinois is just below Egypt and just above Uzbekistan. More than a quarter of Chicagoans have no health insurance, one in five black male Chicagoans are unemployed and one in three live in poverty. Latinos do not fare much better. Chicago may be extreme in this regard, but it is by no means unique. While the ethnic composition of poverty may change depending on the country, its dynamics will doubtless be familiar to pretty much all of the G8 participants and most of the Nato delegates too.

The gated communities – like the one in which Trayvon Martin was killed – have been erected on a global scale to protect those fleeing the mayhem wrought by our economic and military policies. This was exemplified last March when a boat with 72 African refugees fled the Nato-led war in Libya. When the boat found itself stranded it sent out a distress signal that was passed on to Nato which had "declared the region a military zone under its control", and then promptly ignored it, as did an Italian ship. The boat bobbed around in the Mediterranean for two weeks. All but nine on board were left to die from starvation, thirst or in storms, including two babies.

"We can talk as much as we want about human rights and the importance of complying with international obligations," said Tineke Strik, the special rapporteur charged with investigating the case. "But if at the same time we just leave people to die – perhaps because we don't know their identity or because they come from Africa – it exposes how meaningless those words are." When Alejandro Jaime's parents hear Emanuel talk about "showcasing the greatest city in the greatest country", they doubtless receive his words with similar disdain.

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