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NATO summit in Istanbul - Part 1

Today is the 24th of June, only three days remain before the start of large scale anti-NATO actions here in Istanbul. Because I am here and intend to participate in those actions I thought I would begin posting brief updates for those of you back in "Cascadia". Although some people's interest in international politics sometimes seems limited to post-major media ambulance chasing, maybe these posts, along with Istanbul Indymedia and other Turkish sites, will help give a clearer picture of events.
The protests will be inspired by a wide range of ideologies and passions that will be reflected in the many different motivations and goals demonstrated by its participants. The Turkish communist party, Islamic groups, anarchists, and ecology and peace activists are among the many factions that will compose the estimated 100,000 person march on the 27th. The following day marks the begining of the summit itself, and what happens on that day seems to be anyone's guess. The area around the summit center has been declared a "red zone" ( a concept that is certainly familiar to anyone that has attended a major demonstration in the last few years) and will be defended by some 40,000 riot police and armed soldiers. Furthermore, all major streets leading to the summit area will be closed and many others guarded by search points, armed squads, and other militaristic obstructions. Lastly, some media outlets have reported the planned presence of 1000 CIA agents who have been given liberty to "shoot to kill" should the red zone be breached. Though there is no doubt that the defenders of militarism will brutalize and imprison many, and though it is quite unlikely that the summit can be stopped or even influenced, tens of thousands will brave the odds to make their voices heard.

As one might expect, the relationship between NATO and Turkey is somewhat different than that enjoyed by France, Germany, or other members of the wealthy, and exclusive western imperialist family. But Turkey occupies a position within NATO that goes beyond simple economic classifications, as well. The most striking departure from NATO's western ideology is Turkey's status as a Muslim nation. Although the government and much of civil society are more or less thouroughly secularized, the importance of this distiction can not be overlooked. The role of Turkey as a Muslim member of NATO is clear; both to provide credibility to NATO's imperialist endeavors in or near Islamic states, and to use that credibility to influence those same states' positions when their quiet political or economic assistance is desired. However important Turkey's religious orientation may be in understanding it's place in imperialist hegemony, it is only secondary to the culture of militarism that pervades all of Turkey and makes its military sevitude to western nations possible.

"Every Turk is born a soldier" so goes the popular Turkish saying. The military serves a uniquely crucial role in the structure of Turkish society. Military service is compulsory for all men. Without completion of this service men do not have legal access to employment, travel, passports, marriage and a host of other traditionally essential facets of life. Thus, with only the rarest exceptions, men most undergo the break down of their individuality and learn to adapt to a one-dimensional existence of hierarchy, obedience, and violence. This situation has not only been tolerated, but even celebrated by the Turkish left for decades. Only in the last 14 years has intentional and determined resistance to serving the military system come into existance.

In 1990 two young anarchists, Vedat Zencir and Tayfun Gonul declared their consciencious objection. Since that time many more (predominately, but not exclusively anarchist) have declared their total objection, which is to say refusal of both military and any alternative state service. Though threats of imprisonment have only occasionally been followed through on, every one of the objectors faces a de facto life sentence should the military decide that they are worth its time. Beyond the looming threat of indefinite incarceration, the objectors must also deal with the restrictions mentioned above. Finding employment is difficult, dreams of travel to other countries are nearly impossible, and every day of their lives involves some struggle with society, family, or friends as they continue to stand up against this all-pervasive and fully culturulized oppression.

The effects of militarization of culture find perfect expression in Turkey. Partiarchy, strict social conformity, envŭronmental destruction, and even industrialization are tied to the institution of military service. It is because of all of this, and more, that the NATO summit seems to take on a more profound meaning in its upcoming setting.

While the NATO delegates meet behind the machine guns and chemical weapons of their minions, while peoples across the globe writhe beneath the heel of imperialism, and while americans prepare themselves to grovel before their cathode-ray democracy, the objectors and many more like them will throw themselves against the walls, knowing full well that they "have nothing to lose but their chains".