Searchlight Magazine, Italy
Italy - An endless cycle of terror
May 2002 Issue
by Alfio Bernabei
Italy's fascist-infested democracy is now coming under real strain. Terrorists calling themselves "The Red Brigades" struck again at the end of March in Bologna, killing Marco Biagi, a university professor and govern-ment consultant on labour and employment policy.
These terrorists are once more enveloped in the mystery of their true political function and affiliation. In the past their activities have been used by American-backed right-wing and fascist forces as levers in the strategy of tension that came about within the framework of the Anglo-American Stay Behind Gladio networks dating back to 1949.
Now the old questions are being asked again. Whose interests are these terrorists serving? Who is likely to benefit from their actions at a time of increased tension in the face of renewed confrontation between a government lacking credibility and the trade unions?
The attempts to find some answers have reopened speculation about the so-called "second generation Red Brigades", which came into existence in 1974-75. According to General Gianadelio Maletti, the director of Italian military counter intelligence in the early 1970s, later found guilty of collusion in the protection of fascist terrorists, "second generation Red Brigades" were probably recruited by the Italian Secret Service and other "parallel agencies" acting under the supervision of the CIA in order to infiltrate the original movement of the Red Brigades, known as the "nucleo storico".
In his testimony given last year before the Commissione Stragi (Commission on terrorist massacres), General Maletti, who in order to escape justice took refuge in South Africa under apartheid, said that the creation of "second generation Red Brigades" was discussed at the highest level of the Italian government. He did not deny that some of their members were trained at Campo Maraggiu, in Sardinia. This was the secret training ground for the Gladio forces, which were linked to a network of fascist organisations. The favourite of the CIA, and undoubtedly of Henry Kissinger himself, was Ordine Nuovo, led by Pino Rauti, the avowed admirer of Hitler and Himmler. Only last year Rauti made an electoral deal with Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia. At the very top of the secret plans however was the fascist Licio Gelli, head of the notorious P2 Masonic Lodge.
Gelli, known to the CIA and friendly with the former US President Ronald Reagan, recruited about 1,200 members, including Maletti and other heads of the secret services and the military. P2 was later described by an investigative commission as a "government within the government". It was a subversive organisation, a military coup in waiting, with men ready to take control of key structures throughout the country. An attempted coup did in fact take place during the night of 7-8 December 1970, when the Home Office in Rome was briefly taken over. Known as the "Borghese coup", it was called off at the last minute apparently because Gelli did not get the green light from the United States.
On the list of P2 members found in Gelli's villa in Tuscany was the name of Berlusconi. Among the many mysteries in the tycoon's early career concerning the source of the funds that enabled him to buy estates in Milan and later launch his television channels with licences given to him by the corrupt Christian Democratic-Socialist government, the Gelli link highlights the Gladio-P2-Berlusconi-CIA jigsaw.
Berlusconi is now flanked by deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini, the former secretary of the fascist MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano), and by Umberto Bossi of the racist Northern League. The rise of what has been described as the most dangerous political triad in Europe appears to be the successful fruition of a long sought objective. "The CIA wanted to assist nationalism with the extreme-right contribution", declared Maletti to the Commission.
Given the efforts of both the United States and Britain in setting up the Gladio network in Italy in 1949, which relied on fascists as the most trusted soldiers to keep the Communists at bay, it would seem that Prime Minister Tony Blair's steadfast support for and efforts to give legitimacy to Berlusconi's government, even when it appears anomalous and disreputable in the eyes of the world, is just a rerun of old alliances outside parliamentary democracy going back more than 50 years.
As for the Red Brigades, the key members of the "nucleo storico" were captured and most of them have since publicly recognised the futility and anachronism of any attempt to win over by force an entire population to the idea of establishing a communist state against the intentions of established left-wing parties. One wonders, therefore, what lies behind these new recruits who commit a terrorist act, such as the killing of Biagi, that so clearly strengthens the Berlusconi coalition and more specifically prompts the entire military to spring to its defence.
The killing has come at a time when the government is facing the reemerging opposition led by a trade union movement still capable of mobilising up to three million people on a national demonstration and bringing the country to a standstill in defence of workers' rights. The unions have flatly rejected Berlusconi's attempts to depict them as the breeding ground for terrorism. Their aim is to protect Article 18 of the Workers' Statute, which requires the reinstatement of anyone who is sacked without good reason. Biagi was one of the architects of a change in the Statute that would have made hiring and firing easier. He knew he was in danger. He had complained to the authorities about their decision to take away his escort and leave him unprotected.
In order to divert attention from this crucial detail, soon after the killing government officials claimed to know that the terrorists had used the same "Red Brigade weapon" that two years earlier had killed Massimo D'Antona, another government consultant on employment legislation, who had worked under the previous government. Later, however, it transpired that this detail could not be verified. In D'Antona's case the killers had picked up all the bullets in order to cut all links to the weapon that had fired them.
There will be arrests of course. But those really responsible for the Biagi killing will remain shrouded in mystery. This is not just because some of the most recent terrorist attacks, such as the bomb at Il Manifesto, have turned out to be the work of fascists attached to Third Position, but also because the Bologna killing bears the hallmarks of a very professional operation. "If you look at the spot where it took place you begin to realise that it was carried out with military precision", a source told Searchlight. "Via Valdonica, in the heart of the ex Jewish ghetto of Bologna, is under the constant gaze of dozens of people, with narrow points of entry and exit. This is definitely not the place where amateurs can strike with enough confidence to get away virtually unseen."
The return of terrorism is bound to reopen the questions about the strategy of tension and the "years of lead", one of the darkest chapters in Italian history, and increase the sense of menace to the country's fragile democracy. After 20 years of fascism followed by utter subservience to the United States, which for over 40 years propped up the Christian Democrats' corrupt string of governments infected by the Mafia, financial malpractices and nepotism, many Italians fear for the future of their shaky institutions, especially the judiciary, which has come under the attack of the present government.
The current political situation bears similarities with 1922, when Mussolini was invited to form a government backed by the country's industrial class and by popular consensus achieved through nationalistic fervour and a show of strength. Berlusconi is the industrial class and simultaneously the owner of the key instrument of consensus-making apparatuses, his television channels and huge media empire. Last year a large numbers of Italians voted not so much for parties in the moral ethical tradition but for the embodiment of the aggressive values they had heard advertised: plutocracy, fascism and racism.
There are also similarities with 1963 when for the first time since the Second World War the CIA-backed Christian Democratic Party appeared shaken by the first centre-left-government of Aldo Moro and by trade union militancy. The Stay Behind structure immediately stirred. The attempted coup d'état by General Giovanni de Lorenzo in 1964 was a flop, but it succeeded in mobilising the fascist and neo-fascists forces and thus ignited the fuse of the strategy of tension. Terrorists began to strike. How many members of the Red Brigades were in fact fascists acting as agents provocateurs to weaken the left and strengthen the military we shall probably never know.
Investigations in over 300 killings during the "anni di piombo" have all too often led to the capture and imprisonment of the foot soldiers carrying out the attacks. At the point their commanders would have been unmasked, documents have disappeared, tapes have been erased and witnesses have been killed in an endless and so far successful sidetracking operation. Even the assassination of the Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978 remains a mystery. Only last month Michele Landi, a computer expert who had been working on the investigation into the D'Antona killing, was found dead. "I do not think it was suicide," said a magistrate who knew him well.
When D'Antona was killed members of Digos, the Italian anti-terrorist squad, and some military intelligence sources indicated to Searchlight that those responsible were probably to be found among the fascists. The last four years have seen many bombings, arsons and assaults all claimed by what appear to be non-existent "left groups" who when investigated turn out to consist of followers, if not members, of Roberto Fiore's Forza Nuova. The assassination of Biagi is likely to turn out to be part of a recreated Gladio-style strategy, now adapted to prop up the most dangerous political triad in Europe.
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