FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 

Dublin, Ireland.

Why? Because the Italians are unable to do so. Euro-skepticism is thriving in Italy. However NATO-skepticism or US-skepticism is missing. Trump, the individual, might be a concern but the presence of the US military on the Italian peninsula is a sacred cow.

The US war machine is expanding in Italy at the same rate as the expansion of the refugee numbers – the numbers that are infuriating Rome. However, the connection between one and the other is redacted from the Italian debate.

Indeed in Europe as a whole, the link between US military bases and refugees is ignored. Blindness, it seems, is the preferred response of official Europe to the refugee crisis. As a result, the vulgar hostility shown to the North African and the Middle Eastern migrants in Europe contrasts with the sacred silence surrounding the presence of the American army in Europe.

It’s as if the refugee crisis is a metaphysical mystery – as if it has no cause. You would think that the wars that caused the movements of people into Europe would encourage the Europeans to question and check the war markers. But this thought is too rational for Europeans today. Instead, Europe questions the bona fides of the victims of war, rather than the intentions of the warmongering USA.

The latest political fiasco in Italy is exemplary. The latest general elections in Italy (March) eventually produced a government in May / June that is dominated by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. However, no sooner was this rebellion against the Italian status quo in power, than it turned into a racist rant.

Leading this rant was the Northern League – the coalition partner of the Five Star Movement. The leader of ‘the League’ – Matteo Salvini – is Italy’s latest tough guy. And as Italy’s new interior minister he gets to pick on whoever he wants. And without a word of protest from the Five Star Movement, Salvini picked on the weakest people in the world – the African refugees sailing on substandard boats across the Mediterranean – direction Italy.

In June, a boat called the Aquarius – chartered by a French NGO – had 630 African refugees on board and was looking to dock in an Italian port. Salvini said no. And the rest of the Italy agreed. Italy had officially turned its back to Africa’s war refugees.

The sinister fact, though, is that Italy continues to embrace the US war machine that creates Africa’s war refugees. Despite Italy’s new “rebel” leadership and new “tough guy” image, Italy continues to be a subservient third class member of the US Empire. In other words, Italy today may act the “hard man” in the Mediterranean when confronted with African refugees. But when face to face with America’s Mediterranean war machine: Italy is a coward.

The proof is in the numbers. A 2007 blog listed 113 US military bases in Italy. Everything from submarines to bombers, and from radars to grunts, fill up these bases. And in 2017 the Pew Research Center released the numbers (as of 2016) of active duty US military personnel based in foreign countries. Italy had the fourth highest number of US soldiers present on its soil: 12,088. Only Japan (38,818), Germany (34,602) and South Korea (24,189) had a greater US military presence inside their borders. The latter three countries, however, have been on the frontline of the Cold War for decades. Italy has not.

So how come Italy houses the fourth largest US garrison in the world? Why does Italy have so much US military hardware and the US personnel needed to enable this firepower – on its soil? How come Italy, in the sense of US military numbers, is more important than Afghanistan, Iraq, Britain and Qatar? And why is only a minuscule few talking about it?

The subtitle of a 2013 TomDispatch.com article explains all. “How the Pentagon Is Using Your Tax Dollars to Turn Italy into a Launching Pad for the Wars of Today and Tomorrow”. The writer of this informative piece, David Vine, outlines the meaning for Italy – of America’s “War on Terror” and America’s “Pivot to Africa”. (Vine counts only 59 US bases in Italy).

Since the year 2000, the USA has basically turned the Italian peninsula into a dagger, that’s stabbing at the Mediterranean in general, and at Africa in particular. The wars against Islam and AFRICOM changed America’s relationship with Italy. In 2005, the US navy moved its European headquarters from London to Naples. In 2008, United States Army Africa (USARAF) set up shop outside Venice (Vicenza). And Sicily (the Sigonella base, near Catania) became a major center for US drones and other attack and surveillance aircraft – directed at Africa.

As the Soviet threat to Europe vanished in the 1990s – new enemies had to be found in the 2000s. New wars had to be invented. America couldn’t just let Europe be free. And because of Italy’s unique geopolitics (it’s blessing and it’s curse) the US military moved in like a parasite. Italy became Europe’s ‘Okinawa’.

It could be said that all this was written in the stars (the Five Stars?). The USA is in the DNA of contemporary Italy. The infamous American, Allen Dulles, no less, managed and manipulated the birth of post-World War II Italy. Dulles running around lake Como, in the north of Italy – in 1945 – saving the Nazis from the partisans, sums up that birth (see David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard). And it has been downhill ever since.

Sixty six Italian governments later – a guy who wants African war refugees to drown in the Mediterranean is running the show. While the thought of desperate Africans entering Italy upsets Matteo Salvini – he seems unperturbed by the thought of a foreign army ‘at war with Africa’ basing itself in Italy. Something is amiss.

It’s not logical to attack the symptom (refugees) and ignore the cause (war). Unless – of course – the cause is embedded into the structure. Then it is logical to protect the cause – otherwise the structure collapses. And that’s the absurd situation Italy is in today. The sovereignty it wants to defend includes the presence of a nefarious foreign power, deep within the structure of the country.

So Salvini’s slogan “Italians First” in truth means “US Military First”, “Italians Second” and “African Refugees Last”. That’s the structure of Italy today. And the Five Star Movement and Salvini’s League are part of the structure. These new political parties are not rebellious, but are structural. They do not represent a threat to the ‘Italy’ Allen Dulles created. And they don’t represent a threat to ‘the world’ Allen Dulles created.

Stuck in a militarized structure that has ‘Made in the US Empire’ written all over it – in invisible ink, because the US bases are protected by the local media – ordinary Italians today misdirect their anger and confusion.

And because it is a deep structural problem, the solution is not a fake rebellion but a real revolution. One that sees African refugees as political allies rather than as social problems. One that has ‘working class’ written all over it.

More articles by:

Aidan O’Brien lives in Dublin, Ireland.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
July 18, 2019
Timothy M. Gill
Bernie Sanders, Anti-Imperialism and Venezuela
W. T. Whitney
Cuba and a New Generation of Leaders Respond to U.S. Anti-People War
Jonathan Cook
How the Goliath of the Jerusalem Settler Movement Persuaded the World It’s Really David
William Hartung
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids
John G. Russell
The Devolution Will Be Televised: Our Body-cam President
Judith Deutsch
Psychology Stories: Children
Dean Baker
The Coal Industry is Not a Major Employer
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists
Thomas Knapp
National Polls Don’t Mean Much. Here’s Why.
Thomas Mountain
Africans Solving African Problems; Bringing Peace to Sudan
Ann Garrison
History Is Happening: WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate
Elliot Sperber
Don’t Open the Door 
July 17, 2019
Manuel García, Jr.
Ye Cannot Swerve Me: Moby-Dick and Climate Change
Charles Pierson
Sofi’s Choice
Gary Leupp
Epstein, Jane Doe, and Trump
Rebecca Gordon
I Had an Abortion and Now I’m Not Ashamed
Peter Bolton
In the US and Brazil, Two Trends Underline the Creeping Fascism of Both Governments
Michael Kidder
“Go Back Where You Came From:” an Episode From Canada
Steve Early - Rand Wilson
How Big Strike 30 Years Ago Aided Fight for Single Payer
John W. Whitehead
Sexual Predators in the Power Elite
Michael Welton
Teach the Children Well: the Unrealized Vision In Teaching and Learning in the Residential Schools
Khury Petersen-Smith
Iran’s Not the Aggressor, the US Is
Russell Mokhiber
Kip Sullivan and Dr. Matthew Hahn on How Value Based Programs Are Undermining Medicare and Single Payer
George Ochenski
A Fearless and Free Press is Essential to Our Democracy
Lawrence Wittner
Billionaires and American Politics
Dean Baker
Cheap Shots at the Trump Economy
July 16, 2019
Conn Hallinan
The World Needs a Water Treaty
Kenneth Surin
Britain Grovels: the Betrayal of the British Ambassador
Christopher Ketcham
This Land Was Your Land
Gary Leupp
What Right Has Britain to Seize an Iranian Tanker Off Spain?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Democratic Virtues in Electing a President
Thomas Knapp
Free Speech Just isn’t That Complicated
Binoy Kampmark
The Resigning Ambassador
Howard Lisnoff
Everybody Must Get Stoned
Nicky Reid
Nukes For Peace?
Matt Johnson
The United States of Overreaction
Cesar Chelala
Children’s Trafficking and Exploitation is a Persistent, Dreary Phenomenon
Martin Billheimer
Sylvan Shock Theater
July 15, 2019
David Altheide
The Fear Party
Roger Harris
UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Bachelet’s Gift to the US: Justifying Regime Change in Venezuela
John Feffer
Pyongyang on the Potomac
Vincent Kelley
Jeffrey Epstein and the Collapse of Europe
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Hissy-Fit Over Darroch Will Blow a Chill Wind Across Britain’s Embassies in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
Juggling with the Authoritarians: Donald Trump’s Diplomatic Fake Book
Dean Baker
The June Jobs Report and the State of the Economy
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail