Italy: A Country under Military Occupation
February 3rd marked the nineteenth anniversary of the Cermis massacre. On the same day in 1998, a United States Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler warfare aircraft – deployed on a training mission over the Italian Alps and flying at dangerously low altitudes of between 260 and 320 feet – struck the cables of an aerial tramway cabin descending from the Cermis Mountain in Trentino.
The cabin was severed, plunging all of its twenty passengers to their deaths.
The investigation that followed was conducted with one clear objective in mind: to avoid a potential diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Rome since, as it turns out, this incident could have motivated Italian authorities to deny the Americans further employment of the Aviano Air Base – where the EA-6B was stationed – as the launch-pad for the US bombing campaign against Yugoslavia that was taking place at the time.
Despite their perpetration of crimes on Italian soil, NATO treaties stipulate that American military personnel serving abroad be tried in the United States under all circumstances, bearing once again testimony to the fact that Italy was – and still is – a country under military occupation with limited – if any – sovereignty.
The judiciary farce that followed saw the NCIS external personnel originally put in charge of the investigation only to be outmuscled and eventually replaced by a USMC committee that, guided by the conviction that the Corps’ honor had to be preserved at all costs, proved instrumental to the interests of their puppeteers.
President Clinton offered his “apologies”, whilst all evidence pointed towards the implausibility of a human mistake, such as the tape recorded by the pilots as a “souvenir” of their hovering over the Alps which emerged as the likely reason for the flight at an illegally low altitude – this evidence was covered up or destroyed.
The final outrage occurred in March 1999, when both USMC officers were acquitted of manslaughter or negligent homicide, with only pilot Richard Ashby serving four months of a six-month sentence for obstruction of justice in relation to the destruction of the “tourist” tape.
Thus, every year on the 3rd of February, all Italians are mercilessly reminded about the many aspects of a military occupation spanning the length of nearly eight decades.
With the exception of the diplomatic incident following the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, when the Italian government stood its ground in the face of American extra-territorial despotism, Rome has never been able to recover even a tiny fraction of its sovereignty since the end of WW2.
The total number of NATO military sites on Italian soil, ranging from fully-fledged nuclear fortresses like Aviano Air Base to remote US radar installations, is 113.
Despite the post-WW2 restrictions on the development of national nuclear capabilities, Italy is host to seventy American nuclear bombs, more than any other NATO member-state in Europe. Out of these, twenty are located at Ghedi Air Base, approximately sixty miles east of Milan, whilst the remaining fifty are stockpiled at Aviano Air Base in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, which is Italy’s north-easternmost region and, until the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia, NATO’s first line of defense against the communist bloc.
Although neither the US nor the Italian governments officially confirm the presence of such an arsenal in Italy, photographic evidence and independent research projects carried out on the Ghedi and Aviano’s military installations undeniably support such allegations.
According to a report compiled by the Nuclear Information Project – Federation of American Scientists in 2015, all NATO nuclear military sites in Europe recently underwent substantial renovation works in order to upgrade the poor security levels of their stockpiling facilities. Although these measures have been intended to boost the nuclear sites’ defense mechanism in the wake of terrorist threats, the sheer acknowledgement that such devices were stored unsafely for years – if not decades – raises alarming questions concerning their radiological repercussions on civilian population.
Indeed, it comes perhaps as little surprise that, in addition to fifty nuclear devices, Aviano is home to one of the most advanced cancer research centers in Italy. When paired with the statistics showing the surrounding area as having a higher incidence of tumors than the national average, the cause-effect relation between the US base and the oncological hospital becomes something more than a modest assumption. Nuclear hazard aside, Aviano Air Base houses the largest United States Air Force forward operating base and telecommunication center in Europe, with over three thousand American military and civilian personnel employed in the face of nine thousand local inhabitants. Over the years, this disproportionate ratio has translated into the derangement of the urban landscape and economy, with scores of US-friendly businesses, “wild west”-styled diners and dedicated shops being opened in Aviano, thus further contributing to turning this otherwise rural – and very Italian – settlement into an American colonial outpost.
Ninety miles west of Aviano, Camp Ederle is home to the US Army Southern European Task Force (SETAF) in charge of US military forces deployed in Italy, Turkey and Greece. The base accommodates approximately two thousand troops, comprising an artillery battalion with nuclear capabilities.
Further west, in the coastal town of San Bartolomeo, the SACLANT Undersea Research Centre and Experimentation carries out secret marine research. Concern surrounding the center’s activity is somehow amplified by the fact that the installation is not reported on any NATO map.
The lengthy list additionally comprises the likes of Camp Darby in Tuscany, where the largest depot of US munitions is located, the Marines Corps Security Forces and Submarine base in Naples, and Sigonella, which is home to the largest US Navy Base in the Mediterranean.
Moreover, the Sardinian location of Capo Teulada offers the US military and their allies – such as Israel – the opportunity to practice bombing campaigns over sixty miles of pristine coast and Mediterranean scrubs.
A few years ago, Wikileaks disclosed a cable in which US Ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler, in relation to Italian support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, claimed that Italy had conceded to virtually everything the United States had demanded. Sembler’s statement might just as well have served to describe Italy’s seventy-five-years-long subjugation to its American master.