Tuesday, April 29, 2008

War & terror: Hurrah! for the state

1) Feeding the Death Machine: Joe Montgomery

"The Things That Carried Him," by Chris Jones, is the true story of Sgt. Joe Montgomery's death in Iraq and his nine-day journey home to Scottsburg, Ind., to be buried. It's a very strange article -- essentially the story of the transportation of a corpse -- and Jones makes it even stranger by telling it in reverse chronology, beginning with the funeral and moving slowly backward to the moment when Montgomery was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

But somehow it works, and in its painstaking accumulation of detail, it becomes a deeply moving story about how ordinary Americans live and die and attempt to help one another salvage a measure of meaning and dignity in terrible circumstances.

Growing up, Joe Montgomery was a skateboarder and a Nine Inch Nails fan with a goofy haircut and an anarchist symbol tattooed on his arm. He married his high school sweetheart and got a job in a steel forge. But no matter how hard he worked, he couldn't support his wife and three kids, so in 2005, he joined the Army.

On May 22, 2007, Montgomery and his platoon were marching down a dirt road, heading toward a farm where insurgents were rumored to hide weapons, when a buried bomb exploded. Montgomery became the 3,431st American serviceman killed in Iraq.

His body was placed in an aluminum "transfer case," packed in ice, and flown to Kuwait, then to Germany, then to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the U.S. military maintains the world's largest mortuary. Montgomery arrived in a shipment of 14 corpses -- 10 soldiers, two Marines and a body too mangled to be identified...

The Australian armed forces in Afghanistan have also just lost a soldier. Jason Marks, 27, was killed and four others wounded during a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan (Matthew Burgess, Aussie soldier killed in Afghanistan, The Age, April 28, 2008). According to KRudd, there's more on the way: "Mr Rudd today paid tribute to the dead soldier, but warned further casualties were likely. “I think the nation needs to steel itself for higher casualties than we have had so far,” he said" (Samantha Maiden, More Afghanistan deaths likely: Rudd, The Australian, April 28, 2008).

Iraq : Documented civilian deaths from violence : 83,221 – 90,782

2) la Città Eterna goes Fascist (again)

Berlusconi candidate wins Rome election
The Associated Press
April 28, 2008

ROME: Residents of Rome have elected the Italian capital's first right-wing mayor since World War II and given Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives another major victory, final returns from local elections showed Monday.

Gianni Alemanno took 53.6 percent of the vote versus 46.3 percent for Francesco Rutelli, a former two-time center-left Rome mayor, according to the municipality...

Alemanno is a leader of the National Alliance, an Italian 'post-fascist' party (the NA formed in 1993). Formerly, he was a member of the fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), which included elements of Mussolini's Fascist Party, and was established in 1946 by the remnants of the Salò Republic, immortalised by Pier Paolo Pasolini in Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma ('Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom'). The film, incidentally, is banned (that is, refused classification) in Australia, and has been since 1998.

Alemanno is also married to Isabella Rauti, the daughter of far-right activist Pino Rauti (a former member of the MSI and also the Ordine Nuovo/New Order), and wears a Celtic cross, which in Australia, Italy and elsewhere is recognised as a symbol of the far right, though he of course insists it is a 'religious symbol'.

3) "Who did you say the good guys were again?"

During the 1960s and 1970s, members of the New Order routinely attacked anarchist and left-wing activists. On May 28, 1974, members of the Order were suspected of involvement in the bombing of an anti-fascist demonstration in the Piazza della Loggia, killing eight. Other outrages committed by Italian fascists and the Italian and US states during this period included the Piazza Fontana bombing in December 1969 (which killed 16 and injured 90), the bombing of Italicus train on August 4, 1974 (killing 12 and wounding 105 others), and the Bologna railway bombing of August 2, 1980, which killed 85 and injured 200.

At the time, the Italian authorities blamed the Piazza Fontana bombing on anarchists (much like the Melbourne May Day Committee blamed the 9/11 attacks on "anarchists"). Giuseppe "Pino" Pinelli, a railway worker, was one of those accused. Arrested by police, he was thrown by them from the fourth floor window of a police station on December 15, 1969, and died. His story was later immortalised by Italian playwright Dario Fo in The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. Naturally, no police were ever punished for his murder, although one interrogator, Commissioner Luigi Calabresi, was later shot dead outside his home in 1972. In 1988, Leonardo Marino, an ex-Fiat worker, former armed robber and member of Lotta Continua, gave himself up to the police, claiming responsibility for the murder of Calabresi. He later implicated others, including some of the leaders of the group, Adriano Sofri, Ovidio Bompressi and Giorgio Piotresetafani: see Carlo Ginzburg, The Judge and the Historian, Verso, 1999.

YouTube (among other sites) also has a passable 1992 BBC documentary on the subject of Operation Gladio, a NATO-sponsored project (officially) begun in 1948 and (officially) ended in 1990. The project, managed largely by US and UK authorities, involved the creation of parallel state structures, and utilised members of the European far right (Nazis, Fascists and their epigones) to conduct terrorist campaigns against the left. The monkey business was justified by reference to the threat of 'Soviet' invasion. Speaking of monkeys, Three Monkeys contains a brief history of the Operation: N.A.T.O. Gladio, and the strategy of tension, October 2005. (See also The Parallel History Project on Cooperative Security (PHP), which "provides new scholarly perspectives on contemporary international history by collecting, publishing, and interpreting formerly secret governmental documents".)

The term 'strategy of tension' refers to the ability of such networks as those derived from Operation Gladio to create or to sustain political crises. In this context the (far) right and the forces of 'law and order' are to offer themselves to a frightened population as constituting a viable alternative to violent social disorder (thus shoring up entrenched power and privilege). Gianfranco Sanguinetti's chapter 'On Terrorism and the State' (1975) provides an invaluable analysis of the strategy in the context of recent Italian politics (the English translation is by notbored).

"It wasn't just about killing Americans, and killing pigs, at least not at first. It was about attacking the illegitimate state that these pawns served. It was about scraping the bucolic soil and exposing the fascist, Nazi-tainted bedrock that the modern West German state was propped upon. It was about war on the forces of reaction. It was about Revolution."

From the introductory chapter to The Gun Speaks: The Baader-Meinhof Gang at the Dawn of Terror, Richard Huffman