If U.S. diplomacy moved quietly and cautiously inside the NATO summit in Chicago, U.S. democracy roared outside with a noise and persistence that must have reminded a few old-timers of the protests during the 1968 Democratic Convention.
One old-timer among the demonstrators outside McCormick Place on Sunday on the opening day of the two-day summit was the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He appeared right at home amidst a squadron of women hoisting signs declaring “Afghans for Peace.”
Afghanistan and the ongoing war was certainly a key item on President Barack Obama’s agenda.
Obama reportedly ignored Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai received his full attention when they agreed on a timetable for ending the conflict in the battle-torn nation.
Ending the turmoil in Afghanistan would be a great benefit for both countries, Karzai stated, indicating a development that would mean “Afghanistan is no longer a burden” on the international community and particularly the U.S. troops who have spent nearly a decade there.
“We recognize the hardship that the Afghan people have been through,” Obama said. “Both of us recognize that we still have a lot of work to do. The loss of life continues in Afghanistan. There will be hard days ahead, but we’re confident that we’re on the right track.”
Their agreement about a two-year phase of withdrawal is clearly on the right track, but it may not be moving fast enough for the thousands of protesters who have demonstrated vigorously over the last week or so without any evidence of violence. Several have been arrested, however, including five men allegedly involved in terrorist activity.
Three of those charged were, according to court documents, plotting to attack Obama’s campaign headquarters and other targets. The accused claim they were entrapped by police informants.
The inability of the United States and its allies to reach an accord with Pakistan on the shipping of materials from there to Afghanistan is the source of some contention, though much of it stems from the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers by U.S. air strikes along the border of the country last year.
Also, there may still be some acrimony on Pakistan’s part after last year’s raid that left Osama bin Laden dead. That incident may be mollified to some extent since Zardari appeared to be pleased that the leader of the group that killed his wife was now dead.
While the protests continue in Chicago, so do the festivities that include Michelle Obama’s event at the Art Institute of Chicago for NATO spouses. A tour of a South Side youth center was also on the agenda for the spouses.
Along with the problems with Pakistan, Obama was taking heat on the domestic front after one of his surrogates, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, went a bit too far on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday with his comment in support of “private equity” and citing Bain Capital, a target of Obama’s campaign to diminish Romney, as doing some good things.
Look elsewhere in the paper for a detailed account of the mayor’s ill-timed remarks that have already been captured and used against the Obama campaign.