U.S. Government Hates Democracy (Lessons From Italy)
By Mickey Z
17 December, 2006
As far as I'm concerned, we can't
put forward enough reminders of how the U.S. government about peace,
freedom, justice, etc. aside, the land of the free is not even remotely
interested in spreading democracy. There is an abundance of evidence
to back up this assertion. For now, I offer the example of post-World
War II Italy. Mussolini was gone but the U.S. elites had no intention
of letting Italy slip through the cracks.
When the war-weary Italian people went to the polls in 1946, the Italian
Communist Party and the Socialist Party combined to gain more votes
and more seats in the Constituent Assembly election than the U.S.-favored
Christian Democrats. This was not surprising, considering that a worker-
and peasant-based movement fought off six German divisions during the
liberation of northern Italy...with the invaluable aid of the Communist
party. As a 1948 election loomed on the horizon, however, the U.S. realized
that certain perceptions of reality needed to be seriously altered.
"It was at this point that the U.S. began to train its big economic
and political guns upon the Italian people," William Blum explains
in Killing Hope. "All the good ol' Yankee know-how, all the Madison
Avenue savvy in the art of swaying public opinion, all the Hollywood
razzmatazz would be brought to bear on the 'target market'."
Downplaying the quite impressive anti-fascist credentials of the communists
and the potentially embarrassing record of collaboration with Mussolini
displayed by the Christian Democrats, the U.S. cleverly framed the battle
around, what Blum calls "the question of 'democracy' vs. 'communism'
(the idea of 'capitalism' remaining discreetly to one side)," and
the most powerful election issue was that of U.S. aid.
The influential American media obediently did its part with the January
21, 1947 New York Times proclaiming that, "Some observers here
feel that a further Leftward swing in Italy would retard aid."
By March 22, 1948, Time magazine was labeling a potential leftist victory
in Italy to be nothing short of "the brink of catastrophe."
As the election neared, the CIA pulled out all the stops. Blum has documented
some of the steps taken in this "awesome mobilization of resources."
A few representative examples should offer an idea of the propaganda's
scope and depth:
A letter-writing campaign from Italian-Americans to their friends and
families in Italy was guided by "sample letters" provided
by the U.S., that included such passages as: "A communist victory
would ruin Italy. The United States would withdraw aid and a world war
would probably result."
Short-wave broadcasts to Italy warned that "under a communist dictatorship
in Italy," many of the "nation's industrial plants would be
dismantled and shipped to Russia and millions of Italy's workers would
be deported to Russia for forced labor."
The stars of Hollywood, like Gary Cooper and Frank Sinatra, were called
upon to make Voice of America radio broadcasts and/or engage in fundraisers
for causes like "the orphans of Italian pilots who died in the
As for more direct aid, the CIA admitted to giving $1 million to Italian
"center parties," although Blum says the figure could be as
high as $10 million. In case all the funny stuff failed, the CIA also
took the precaution of organizing Operation Gladio, a secret paramilitary
group in Italy, "with hidden stockpiles of weapons and explosives
dotting the map," says author Mark Zepezauer. While the rationale
for such intervention was the always-handy "threat of Soviet invasion,"
Zepezauer reveals the actual purpose of Operation Gladio, e.g. its "15,000
troops were trained to overthrow the Italian government should it stray
from the straight and narrow."
They needn't have bothered because, after the circus left town, the
Christian Democrats stood as the clear winner with 48 percent of the
vote. The future course of Italy had effectively been charted.
Stop me if you've heard this one before...
Mickey Z. can be on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.
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