“Sometimes I wonder how the fuck we’re to stop what’s going on up there in the mountains,” he says, pointing to the east. “I just hope our presence will be useful.”
Gino glances at me and then continues to stare intently at the rising hills. This, I think, is a good man. And he is alone. He is sick, too. His solitude is his illness. He must wonder if deep down everyone feels the same implacable solitude. If I too feel it. But I don’t believe he considers solitude as punishment. Sometimes solitude is peaceful. Gino has only his TV, his dedication … and his solitude which I think he coddles like a hypochondriac cuddles his manias. His solace might be a conviction that someday the whole world will become the same and that nobody will belong any place. Some days he must relish his solitude, court it, as if it were his true self. As if solitude were a virtue in a world in which organized society spoils things and makes people unclean. On the other hand, maybe he believes he is destined to wander in the world, forever a stranger. Since I tend to be like that too, I understand him. I know he hears solitude’s melody. For chronic solitude can become a companion.
Gino thinks aloud: “I’m certainly not convinced of our usefulness. But I would like to believe that my work is a mission and that the mission is accomplishable. But what choice do I have?” he adds, looking at me with a dreamy look in his dark eyes as if thinking of faraway places. In that moment I see that Gino Rocca conceals his reflective nature behind his mask of hyper activity, a mask underneath which powerful transformations are taking place. Though he tries to maintain a modicum of calm, it must be difficult for him to contain his desperation. That effort must confuse him because at the same time he must be conscious of an emotion of tenderness he’d surely once known which restricts and controls his anger. I wonder if he has come to think that such an emotion must eventually come down to pity and which fuels his solitude in the world. Genuine pity is a painful feeling for most people. Perhaps the capability of feeling pity distinguishes people one from the other. I sometimes see it in their eyes … its presence, or its absence. It’s the specific nature of the lonely look of solitude that I note. Like that of Oreste that day at Vanya’s. Each solitude is different. Like fingerprints … or DNA. Gino’s solitude must be his awareness of injustice that has made him so dedicatedly one-tracked. And homeless. Gino must have long thought that everybody has to have his own place in the world.
When Gino takes the Scilla exit toward the Aspromonte rising darkly to the east, an age-old Italian idiom comes to my mind. In Greek mythology, Scylla—Scilla in Italian—was a monster that lived and controlled one side of the narrow strait between the mainland of the peninsula and Sicily, just opposite its enemy, aggressive Charybdis, or Cariddi today, that controlled the other shore. The two sides were within arrow’s range of each other, so close that mariners trying to avoid Charybdis passed too close to Scylla … and vice versa. The Italian idiom “between Scilla and Cariddi”, still used today especially in the political world, has come to mean finding oneself blocked between two mortal dangers, the choice of either of which brings harm and destruction.
“What you’re about to hear is probably the most secret and explosive piece of information in these parts,” Gino begins, as he turns into the mountains.
For a while we drive in a weighty silence that intensifies as the narrow road begins to climb and a more genuine wildness materializes around us. I feel like a trespasser. My stomach muscles inexplicably contract when I see a sign for the Montalto area indicating that it is two thousand meters altitude above the seas.
Gino leans forward studying the terrain and suddenly turns from the road into a space hardly wider than a trail, winding among rocks, shrubs and then, abruptly, a wall of tall trees stops us. Scilla is far behind. Cariddi is another world. At a snail’s pace we enter a circular clearing from which several paths branch off in various directions into thick woods. Two black vans and three military-looking trucks covered with canvas are parked there haphazardly in the dirt and dried mud.
“What’s this place?” I ask.
“Welcome to the home of theEsercito di Difesa della Patria,” Gino says sardonically. “This is where the secret army, the new Gladio, is trained.”
“So the EDP really exists!”
“And I thought it was top secret,” he says in surprise. “Just goes to show you.”
“What do they learn here?”
“Soldier business. How to kill. Urban warfare. Explosives. You name it.”
“You know the history of Gladio, I suppose.
“Yes, I know about Gladio,” he says smugly, as if aware that he had the story of his life in his grasp. “The secret army organized by American Intelligence and NATO a half century ago to crush the European Communist parties … especially in Italy. But ostensibly a parallel army to fight the supposed threat of Soviet invaders of West Europe. But also to carry out terrorist acts against the Italian state … providing the pretext for tightened control over the country. Prime Mister Andreotti himself revealed the Gladio story in a speech before Parliament in 1990. But Gladio never died. Much of the world is still hostage to its strategy of tension … a ring of fear to justify state wars, state terrorism and military interventions.”
“I was at the G8 in Genoa,” I say. “They were there too.”
Gino looks at me, the surprise vivid in his eyes that I know what he’s talking about. We are both thinking the same thoughts: tension strategy thrives all over the world for manipulating and controlling public opinion: fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs … and false flag terrorist actions; that’s what super secret Gladio was up to in Italy; organizing terrorist acts and blaming them on Communists; spreading fear and then passing laws restricting the freedoms of the people. People fell for the propaganda of the threat of a Soviet invasion: the scary image of Russian Cossacks watering their horses in Vatican fountains.
Gino: “Gladio’s job was to eradicate leftism.”
“Gladio also trained its troops in the mountains,” I recall. “In the Abruzzo near Rome and in Sardinia—in places like this. Terrorist bombings followed. And leftwing terrorists—also manipulated by the CIA/NATO/U.S.A.—were blamed.”
Crazy how people never get it. The people are afraid. Their fear grows, more special laws are passed and thousands of leftists are imprisoned. Keep the populace afraid so that promises of security will be believed. Fear is the point. You create it with lies. That’s why the state suppresses dissent, for truth is the enemy of every authoritarian state. The state media defined Communists as the enemy. Anything is justified to crush them. Communism and terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists … and immigrants too. Gino knows all this.
“I still find it incredible that people in Italy, in Europe … in the whole western world … don’t know or maybe don’t want to know about Gladio.
“Right!” Gino says. “People don’t try to understand why terrorism. Or who the real terrorists are. Now that secret army is like reborn right here in Rhèghia’s mountains,” Gino repeats, staring out the window in such a dejected way that I don’t mention Parliamentary investigations of Gladio and the 300-page report on Gladio operations in Italy and its connections with the United States. People are ignorant of the detailed report that explains Gladio and blames the U.S.A. It shows that the massacres, bombings and para-military actions were organized or supported by shadowy men within Italian state institutions, by men linked to American Intelligence.
“A bomb inside the Banca Nazionale dell’ Agricoltura on Milan’s Piazza Fontana in 1969 marked the beginning of the strategy of tension,” Gino adds. “The Piazza Fontana massacre. Sixteen dead, fifty-eight injured. The bombing took place at the height of the biggest strike wave that Italy had seen since the end of WWII. Automobile and sheet metal workers were aggressive and militant. The bombing stopped the strike wave dead in its tracks. Then the police ran wild, hauling suspected leftist sympathizers in for questioning and intimidating their families, while the government passed emergency laws against suspected terrorists. This method of social control came to be called ‘the strategy of tension’, tension being a key factor in psychological conditioning. Police and the media blamed the Piazza Fontana bombing on a pathetic group of anarchists, the Bakunin Club, which had been penetrated by the Italian intelligence service. The railroad worker Giuseppe Pinelli and the male dancer Pietro Valpreda were accused. Pinelli was pushed to his death from a fourth-story window of police headquarters, while the mass media vilified Valpreda as a subhuman beast. More than twenty years after the fact, information emerged that the bombs of Piazza Fontana had been placed by GLADIO operating under the control of NATO intelligence, afraid the strike wave might lead to the entry of the Italian Communist Party into the government. Throughout the seventies and into the eighties the USA, NATO and Italian ruling circles were obsessed with keeping the Communists out of the Rome government.”
I tell Gino of an chance interview I had with the ex-chief of the CIA. After a lunch with my newspaper’s director in the Grand Hotel, William Colby—there for a conference—sat down next to me at the hotel bar. I recognized him from press photos. “We exchanged some bar talk about Italy before I revealed I knew who he was and asked him about Gladio … intended as a provocation. To my surprise he bragged that the covert action branch of the CIA after World War II built throughout Western Europe what in intelligence trade parlance were known as ‘stay-behind nets’. He said the Pentagon didn’t take a stand on the subject of the secret NATO stay-behind armies because it was not even questioned by the US press. The networks were clandestine, ready to be called into action as sabotage forces when the time came. ‘In 1951,’ Colby said, ‘the chief of the CIA in Western Europe sent me, then a young intelligence officer, to help build the stay-behind network. A secret army. All top secret back then. Our aim was to create an Italian nationalism capable of halting the slide to the left,’ he said as if speaking of ancient Greek history. When I remarked that they used right-wing terrorists to create it, Colby didn’t even blink. Gino, those people are really convinced of their exceptionalism.”
In that moment a big, powerful-looking man dressed in jungle green emerges from the woods and approaches us. A prickle of alarm careens down my spine and stops its race in mid-back where it remains for the long seconds before Gino says:
“This is Edoardo la Torre. You can trust him.”
“What do you want, Gino Rocca?” the man asks, leaning forward and peering at me and stroking his automatic weapon tenderly. “And who is this?” he adds nodding at me.
“You can trust him too, Edoardo,” Gino says gently. “Are you ready? Can we go back to town.”
Since Gino had not revealed the real purpose of our ascent of the Aspromonte, I had no inkling that the man standing near the driver’s side of the car with his weapon cradled in his arms would turn out to be one of the most complex, curious but conscientious persons I was ever to know, a soldier of fortune and member of the EDP, the Esercito della Difesa della Patria, the reborn Gladio.Without a word the huge figure of Edoardo climbs into the back seat.