Manfred Manera

Was the US involved in neo-fascist Italian terrorism?

The aftermath of the Bologna station bombing, August 1980 (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

Last month, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi promised to declassify government documents involving two organisations: Gladio, an anti-communist paramilitary group linked to Nato and the CIA, and a masonic lodge known as P2. These two groups are believed by some to have been involved in the darkest moments of post-war Italian history.

For much of the latter half of the 20th century, Italy had the unenviable position of being the epicentre of European terrorism. The blast at the Bologna train station in 1980, which left 76 people dead and more than 200 wounded, was at the time the bloodiest terrorist attack ever suffered by a European country. The bombing was pinned on a small neo-fascist militia called Armed Revolutionary Nucleus. But many Italians remain convinced that the attack emerged from a wider far-right network. Draghi’s decision to declassify the papers came on the 41st anniversary of the Bologna killings.

Post-war Italian psychology was shaped by the overwhelming forces of the USSR stationed just a couple of hours drive from the north eastern border

Post-war fascism in Italy was predicated on a ‘strategy of tension’. The term, coined by British journalist Neal Ascherson in the Observer in 1972, describes all sorts of plots, including assassinations and false flag terrorist acts, carried out with the aim — not of destabilising the country — but of consolidating power and justifying emergency laws. When I asked Senator Felice Casson, the prosecutor who headed the investigation into Gladio, what his opinion was of Draghi’s decision, he replied ‘Fuffa!’ — ‘just crap’. Casson explained: ‘It’s just an announcement. There is not the courage nor the will to disclose the involvement of foreign powers.’ In 2001, Guido Salvini, a judge involved in the Massacres Commission, claimed: ‘The role of the Americans was ambiguous, halfway between knowing and not preventing and actually inducing people to commit atrocities.’

The truth of such claims — denied by the US State Department — remain unverified.

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