A coalition of organizations gathered at The People’s Church in Chicago Saturday to discuss options for a NATO-free future.
Alejandro Villatoro of Iraq Veterans Against the War shared his story before the crowd, recalling his first deployment to Iraq in 2003.
“From what I was told, Iraq was posing a threat to the United States,” he said. “A few weeks later we realized we could find no WMDs and no Al Qaeda links. Then we started hearing the phrase ‘liberating Iraq.’”
After this experience, Villatoro said he took the initiative to learn everything he could about the wars.
He expressed no faith in the United States’ ability to transfer Afghanistan back to its own military, saying the equipment and training they have is simply not enough.
“We’re putting pressure on the Afghan military to take over, yet we are giving no support.”
Villatoro will be among the veterans marching on Sunday before returning their medals.
“The reason I’m returning my medals tomorrow is because I did not accomplish anything,” he said. “We were awarded medals for participating.”
Tania Unzueta, donning a shirt printed with ‘Undocumented’ on the front and ‘Unapologetic’ on the back, spoke for the Immigrant Youth Justice League.
One measure she advocated for is called the DREAM Act. First introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2001, the bill would give legal status to undocumented immigrants who came before 16 and have completed two years of college or military service.
Unzueta’s grandparents, who she had not seen 18 years, came from Mexico and heard her speak.
“I believe that we can build a movement that doesn’t want to speak for others, but that fights for others to have the same access to speaking for themselves,” said Unzueta.
Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, walked to Chicago from Madison, Wis. and spoke at Saturday’s Counter Summit.
“When the Soviet Union dismantled that was the golden opportunity to say ‘ok, we don’t need to have ourselves armed to the teeth,’” she said.
Kelly said it’s important that people should distance themselves from “what seems comfortable and routine and normal, because things aren’t normal right now.”
Local poet Jose Olivarez read several pieces, some inspired by his family being evicted from their home in Calumet City.
“Three months from now, this room will be a Bank of America asset. My dust fresh, hovering, like a ghost,” his voice echoed through the church.
More than 150 people attended the Counter Summit Saturday.