Listening To Italy
If There Wasn’t Nato – Andre Vltchek
a comment from Orecchiette
Vltchek’s own introduction to his speech: Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder, printed in this issue of Labour Affairs is slightly misleading as it could be read to imply that he was speaking to the assembled parliament. It was however a conference held in the Palazzo Montecitorio, the Parliament building in Rome on 29 January 2016 and organised by Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle, M5S. The topic was: If there wasn’t NATO.
Grillo’s outline for the M5S’s conference started by posing the question: What is the role of NATO today? It went on to say: How has an organisation conceived as a defensive military alliance transformed itself over the years into an instrument of death and aggression. Is there a way that Italy can escape from any future war of invasion, as in the case of Libya? What measures should an M5S government adopt?
Grillo’s website lists the four platform speakers. The first speaker was Mairead Corrigan, described as a Nobel Peace Prizewinner. Corrigan, a catholic, was one of two women (the other was Betty Williams, a protestant), who started The Peace Movement in Northern Ireland. It was non-political and largely ineffective. Both won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Her speech was posted by the Peace People on 3 February. The second speaker was André Vltchek, described as War reporter and author with Noam Chomsky, of On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare , published in 2013.
Two other anti-NATO speakers gave their views. Alessandro Di Battista, a leading M5S MP made a populist speech that focussed on how his country had effectively been stripped of its independence and political sovereignty by the actions of foreign governments and NATO. He talked about how this had been done with the acquiescence of the previous President, Giorgio Napolitano and the press, and now the current Premier Matteo Renzi was not being critical.
From Di Battista’s point of view, and this is incontestable, the use of NATO’s bombs and armaments has resulted not in peace but in chaos, terrorism and for the Italians particularly, many refugees. We should, he said, be concentrating on making a decent future for our children by finding them jobs. Then, he went on, why are the readily identifiable arms-suppliers simply not stopped? The US came in for particular criticism as being a country that just acts in its own economic interests.
There were a couple of mentions of the situation in Libya which is just across the Mediterranean sea from Italy. That NATO could prosecute another, future invasion from Italian territory was mentioned and was obviously a point of great concern to the conference.
The main speakers were followed by five speakers from the floor. Elio Teresi represented Sicily’s No MUOS group. MUOS is a significant US base in the south of the island. The local population are profoundly unhappy about having to live close to an extremely powerful surveillance installation. A locally commissioned research project conducted some time ago concluded that the installation was likely to be potentially damaging to their health. This was embarrassing to the Italian government which then downplayed it. Teresi also spoke about how the commercial airport at Trapani on the west coast is used by US planes. On occasions NATO actually forces precedence and the airport is closed to normal traffic.
There was very little reporting of the conference in the Italian press, although some of the speeches can be found on YouTube. A relevant piece, perhaps a precursor, was published in October 2015, when L’Espresso which is part of La Repubblica, ran an interview with Chomsky. A fascinating piece, it dealt with America’s hypocritical stance in the world as well as attributing the current jihadi terrorism to the destabilisation of Iraq by the US. There were other interesting themes but it is unlikely to have been noticed by many.
The conference paper delivered by Vltchek answered and described the concerns of the conference. Towards the end Mairead Corrigan answered a question about how women could make constructive interventions. She said that an enormous 90% of her initial supporters were ordinary politically-uninvolved women who were motivated to join her in saying that they wanted change. Women should give a lead, she said. She also dropped in the fact that she was married in Rome and honeymooned in Assisi – a woman who knows how to get her audience on her side.