NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe
A digest of the Book "NATO's Secret Armies" By Swiss historian Daniele Ganser
NATO’s Secret Armies published in 2004 by Swiss historian Daniele Ganser is arguably the most shocking book ever to be ignored by the mainstream consensus.
It describes in meticulously footnoted detail the existence of the so-called Gladio stay-behind networks which had been NATO’s best kept secret for forty or more years, and which briefly emerged into the daylight through a series of scandalous disclosures in Italy.
These stay-behind networks were, in essence, secret armies in fourteen European countries created with the intent of remaining dormant and being activated in the event of a Soviet land invasion.
Not only were these armies kept secret from the official governmental structures of the host countries – falling instead under the auspices of the CIA and MI6 – but compelling evidence emerged in the 90s to show that they went a long way beyond this original remit and participated in anti-democratic agitation and even terrorist atrocities.
The name Gladio, (or ‘Sword’ in Italian) was technically the name given to their operations in Italy, but has since come by extension to stand for the phenomenon as a whole. Evidence of such arrangements, which had been kept secret from both public and politicians democratically elected governments in the host countries for a quarter of a century was revealed through a series of scandalous revelations in Italy and other NATO countries during the 90s, and meticulously documented by Ganser.
The evidence contained in Ganser’s book, of terrorism directed against the people by secret armies funded and organised by NATO and answerable to NATO, MI6 and the CIA rather than the respective governments is so shocking that the initial reaction of most people would be to reject it. And yet the claims have been substantiated by juridical inquiries in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium and have been debated (and condemned) in the European Parliament.
Judge Felice Casson
The scandal originally came to light in Italy in 1984 when an Italian judge Felice Casson reopened the case of a terrorist car bomb in Peteano in 1972 and uncovered a series of anomalies in the original investigation. The atrocity which had originally been blamed on the communist Red Brigades turned out to be, in fact, the work of a right wing organization called Ordine Nuovo. Following the discovery of an arms cache near Trieste in 1972 containing C4 explosives identical to that used in the Peteano attack, Casson’s investigation revealed that the bombing in Peteano was the work of the military secret service SID (Servizio Informazioni Difesa) in conjunction with Ordine Nuovo. The intention had been to blame the bombing on the extreme left wing militant outfit, the Red Brigades. The right wing terrorist, Vincenzo Vinciguerra was arrested and charged and confessed to planting the bomb.
Judge Casson’s investigation also revealed that the Peteano bombing was the continuation of a series of bombings begun at Christmas 1969, the most well-known of which, on the Piazza Fontane in Milan, killed 16 and injured 80. The bombing campaign culminated on 2 August 1980 with a massive bomb in the waiting room of Bologna railway station which killed 85 and injured 200. It was one of the largest terrorist outrages on mainland Europe in modern times.
The Strategy of Tension
During his trial, Vincenzo Vinciguerra revealed that, in addition to discrediting left wing political groups, there had been a second, even darker aim behind the bombings, namely to inculcate a climate of fear among the general populace. This was known as the ‘strategy of tension’ which was intended to generate a pervasive sense of fear which would encourage the population to appeal to the state for protection.
Vincenzo Vinciguerra claimed during his trial:
‘You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public to turn to the State to ask for greater security.’
In a BBC documentary Gladio, he described the aim as to ‘destabilise in order to stabilise’… ‘To create tension within the country to promote conservative, reactionary social and political tendencies.’
In 1990 Judge Casson was given permission by prime minister Giulio Andreotti to search the archives of the Italian military secret service Servizio informazioni sicurezza Militare (SISMI) where he found proof of the existence of the Gladio network, and links to NATO and the United States. Following this, on 3 August 1990 prime minister Andreotti confirmed to parliament the existence of the Gladio networks but claimed they had ceased operating in 1972. This was subsequently revealed to be false by the Italian press. Andreotti then admitted the existence of the Gladio networks and their connection to NATO.
The secret Gladio army, as Andreotti revealed, was well armed. The equipment provided by the CIA was buried in 139 hiding spots across the country in forests, meadows and even under churches and cemeteries. According to the explanations of Andreotti the Gladio caches included 'portable arms, ammunition, explosives, hand grenades, knives and daggers, 60 mm mortars, several 57 mm recoilless rifles, sniper rifles, radio transmitters, binoculars and various tools'. Andreotti's sensational testimony did not only lead to an outcry concerning the corruption of the government and the CIA among the press and the population, but also to a hunt for the secret arms caches. Padre Giuciano recalls the day when the press came to search for the hidden Gladio secrets in his church with ambiguous feelings: 'I was forewarned in the afternoon when two journalists from "Il Gazzettino" asked me if I knew anything about arms deposits here at the church. They started to dig right here and found two boxes right away. Then the text also said a thirty centimetres from the window. So they came over here and dug down. One box was kept aside by them because it contained a phosphorous bomb. They sent the Carabinieri outside whilst two experts opened this box, another had two machine guns in it. All the guns were new, in perfect shape. They had never been used.'
(DG p. 12)
But he denied the claim of Vinceguerra that the Gladio armies had been involved in the domestic terrorism the country had witnessed. Despite that, a parliamentary commission in 2000 investigating Gladio explicitly rejected his denial and concluded to the contrary:
‘Those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been organised or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions and, as has been discovered more recently, by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence.’
The Scandal Spreads
Fortuitously for the powers-that-be Andreotti’s revelations coincided with Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and as a result did not garner the publicity they almost certainly otherwise would have. Even so, the scandal began to spread. In October Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou confirmed there had been a Gladio network in Greece. In Germany a TV programme shocked the nation by revealing how former members of Hitler’s Special Forces SS had been part of a German stay-behind network. The Belgian Parliament appointed a special committee to investigate the existence – confirmed by the defence minister – of a Belgian Gladio network.
Most sensitively the Belgian parliamentarians discovered that the secret NATO army was still active. They found that a secret meeting of Generals directing the secret stay-behind armies in the numerous countries in Western Europe had been held in the secret NATO-linked Gladio headquarters ACC as recently as October 23 and 24, 1990. The meeting of the ACC had taken place in Brussels under the chairmanship of General Raymond Van Calster, chief of the Belgian military secret service SGR (Service General de Renseignement).
In France President Mitterand claimed that the French Gladio network had been dissolved long ago but to his enormous embarrassment Andreotti then claimed the French had taken part in the recent meeting in Brussels. And so it went on. British defence officials refused to comment. In Portugal, contrary to official denials, a retired general confirmed there had been such a network in Portugal, while in Spain former defence minister Alberto Oliart claimed it was childish to
ask whether also under dictator Franco a secret right-wing army had existed in the country because 'here Gladio was the government'.
In Turkey former prime minister Bulent Ecevit went even further and admitted that a secret army had been involved in torture, massacres, assassinations and coup d’etats. Which prompted the serving defence minister Giray to retort "Ecevit had better keep his fucking mouth shut!" (DG p.20)
The EU Debate
In all, 12 EU countries were affected and on November 22 1990 the European Parliament debated the issue.
The tone was set by Greek parliamentarian Ephremidis:
'Mr. President, the Gladio system has operated for four decades under various names. It has operated clandestinely, and we are entitled to attribute to it all the destabilization, all the provocation and all the terrorism that have occurred in our countries over these four decades, and to say that, actively or passively, it must have had an involve- ment.' Ephremidis sharply criticised the entire stay-behind network: 'The fact that it was set up by the CIA and NATO which, while purporting to defend democracy were actually undermining it and using it for their own nefarious purposes.'
Ganser writes of the EU debate:
Thereafter, as a first point of criticism following the preamble, the resolution of the EU parliament 'Condemns the clandestine creation of manipulative and operational networks and calls for a full investigation into the nature, structure, aims and all other aspects of these clandestine organisations or any splinter groups, their use for illegal interference in the internal political affairs of the countries concerned, the problem of terrorism in Europe and the possible collusion of the secret services of Member States or third countries.' As a second point the EU 'Protests vigorously at the assumption by certain US military personnel at SHAPE and in NATO of the right to encourage the establishment in Europe of a clandestine intelligence and operation network.' As a third point the resolution 'Calls on the governments of the Member States to dismantle all clandestine military and paramilitary networks.' As a fourth point the EU 'Calls on the judiciaries of the countries in which the presence of such military organisations has been ascertained to elucidate fully their composition and modus operandi and to clarify any action they may have taken to destabilize the democratic structures of the Member States.' Furthermore as a fifth point the EU 'Requests all the Member States to take the necessary measures, if necessary by establishing parliamentary committees of inquiry, to draw up a complete list of organisations active in this field, and at the same time to monitor their links with the respective state intelligence services and their links, if any, with terrorist action groups and/or other illegal practices.' As a sixth point the EU parliament addresses the EU Council of Ministers, above all in its reunion as Defence Ministers, and 'Calls on the Council of Ministers to provide full information on the activities of these secret intelligence and operational services.' As a seventh point, the resolution 'Calls on its competent committee to consider holding a hearing in order to clarify the role and impact of the "GLADIO" organisation and any similar bodies.' Last but not least in its final point the resolution explicitly addresses both NATO and the United States, as the EU parliament 'Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the Secretary-General of NATO, the governments of the Member States, and the United States Government.'
The dog barked loudly, but it did not bite. Of the eight actions requested by the EU parliament not one was carried out satisfactorily. Only Belgium, Italy and Switzerland investigated their secret armies with a parliamentary commission, producing a lengthy and detailed public report.
(DG pages 23 – 24)
THE SILENCE OF NATO, CIA AND MI6
NATO reacted to these revelations in November 1990 with confusion. Against a background of newspaper headlines typified by the Guardian’s ‘Bombs Used at Bologna came from NATO unit’, spokesmen first denied the stories and then denied the denials by saying it was a subject which couldn’t be discussed on grounds of military secrecy.
The Portuguese press reported on November 7 a confirmation, NATO secretary General Manfred Woerner was quoted as telling in secret 16 ambassadors of NATO countries, Worner confirmed that the military command of the allied forces - Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) - coordinated the activities of the "Gladio Network", which had been erected by the secret services in various countries of NATO, through a committee created in 1952.
German press confirmed that the so-called Secret Armies were co-ordinated in a special secure wing of NATO HQ in Casteau. Access was via a bank vault type door and papers were circulated with the stamp ‘American Eyes Only.’
The revelations began to mount and a picture emerged of a NATO Clandestine Planning Committee, responsible for the Gladio armies; of protocols which actively protected right-wing extremists from pursuit since they would be useful in anti-Communist activities. The CPC was run by the US with the UK and France as junior partners, with CIA members present at their meetings. Despite numerous revelations from those who took part, the official NATO position was (and is) one of denial. Official CIA response to information requests has been to neither confirm nor deny. In the UK, MI6 was even more cagey, prompting John Simpson on BBC 2’s Newsnight programme in April 1991 to say
'Britain's role in setting up stay-behinds throughout Europe was absolutely fundamental', ... it has emerged that other European countries had their own stay-behind armies - Belgium, France, Holland, Spain, Greece, Turkey. Even in neutral Sweden and Switzerland there has been public debate. And in some cases enquiries have been set up. Yet in Britain, there is nothing. Save the customary comment of the ministry of defence that they don't discuss matters of national security.'
Paradoxically, despite the secrecy, an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum tacitly admitted the existence of the stay behind networks, and subsequent to this, two former Royal Marine officers admitted to having spent time at Fort Monckton near Portsmouth where MI6 and members of the SAS trained foreign gladiators.
The original models for the secret armies had been set up in the UK during WW2 by Section D of MI6. Arms caches were buried in anticipation of a German invasion. Initially, this was a purely domestic affair, but in 1940 with the inception of Special Operations Executive (SOE) the same tactics were taken behind enemy lines throughout occupied Europe. Officially SOE was closed down in 1946 and gave way to a successor - Special Operation (SO) - created under the auspices of MI6 to translate the same networks into resistance in countries overrun by the Soviets. Surviving secret units of the Axis powers were targeted and members of the defeated were sometimes recruited for the new anti-Soviet stay-behind networks.
As the Gladio scandal erupted in 1990 the British press observed that 'it is now clear that the elite Special Air Service regiment (SAS) was up to its neck in the NATO scheme, and functioned, with MI6, as a training arm for guerrilla warfare and sabotage'. Specifically the British press confirmed that 'an Italian stay-behind unit trained in Britain. The evidence now suggests that it lasted well into the 1980s', adding 'it has been proved that the SAS constructed the secret hides where arms were stockpiled in the British sector of West Germany'. Some of the best data on the secret British hand came from the Swiss parliamentary investigation into the secret Swiss stay-behind army P26. 'British secret services collaborated closely with an armed, undercover Swiss organisation [P26] through a series of covert agreements which formed part of a west European network of "resistance" groups', the press informed a stunned public in neutral Switzerland. Swiss judge Cornu was given the task to investigate the matter and in his report 'describes the group's [P26] collaboration with British secret services as "intense", with Britain providing valuable know-how. P26 cadres participated regularly in training exercises in Britain, the report says. British advisers - possibly from the SAS - visited secret training establishments in Switzerland.' Ironically the British knew more about the secret Swiss army than the Swiss government, for 'The activities of P26, its codes, and the name of the leader of the group, Efrem Cattelan, were known to British intelligence, but the Swiss government was kept in the dark, according to the report. It says that documents giving details about the secret agreements between the British and P26 have never been found.' Swiss Gladiators during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s trained in Great Britain under British Special Forces instructors. Training, according to Swiss military instructor and alleged Gladio member Alois Hurlimann, also included non- simulated real action operations against IRA activists, probably in Northern Ireland. This Hurlimann carelessly revealed in Switzerland during an English language course conversation hour when in poor English he reported that in May 1984 he had taken part in secret trainings in England which had also included a real, non-simulated assault on an IRA arms depot, in which Hurlimann, fully dressed in battle fatigues, had participated, and in which at least one IRA activist had been killed.
John Major’s government continued to peddle the line of not commenting on security matters but headlines continued. Newsnight in April 1991 highlighted the evidence that the Gladio networks had operated politically with subversion of the Left. This was reinforced a year later in three ground-breaking documentaries for the BBC by Allan Frankovich.
Mainly based on interviews, and focusing almost exclusively on Gladio in Italy and Belgium, Francovich's BBC documentaries feature in front of the camera such key Gladio players as Licio Gelli, head of the P2, Italian right-wing activist Vincenzo Vinciguerra, Venetian judge and Gladio discoverer Felice Casson, Italian Gladio commander General Gerardo Serravalle, Senator Roger Lallemand, head of the Belgian Parliamentary inquiry into Gladio, Decimo Garau, former Italian instructor at the Sardinian Gladio base, William Colby, former Director of CIA, and Martial Lekeu, former member of the Belgian Gendarmerie to name but a few. 'The stay-behind effort, in my view, was simply to be sure that if the worst came to worst, if a Communist Party came into power, that there would be some agents there who would tip us off, and tell us what was happening and be around', Ray Cline, Deputy Director of the CIA from 1962 to 1966, explained for instance in front of Francovich's camera. 'It's not unlikely that some right-wing groups were recruited and made to be stay-behinds because they would indeed have tipped us off if a war were going to begin, so using right-wingers, if you used them not politically, but for intelligence purposes, is o.k.', Cline went on the record. The papers on the next day in London reported that 'It was one of those programmes which you imagine will bring down governments, but such is the instant amnesia generated by television you find that in the newspapers the next morning it rates barely a mention.
Made in the USA
Most people would no doubt be deeply surprised to learn which country became the first target of covert action by the CIA after its inception in 1947. It was Italy. Under the auspices of top secret document NSC 4-A CIA Director Hillenkoetter was empowered to take a range of covert actions to prevent a communist victory in Italy’s forthcoming elections.
The 'reason for so great secrecy was altogether clear', the official CIA history records, for 'there were citizens of this country at that time who would have been aghast if they had learned of NSC 4-A'.
A year later and another directive, the notorious, NSC 10/2 was passed which authorised the CIA to carry out covert actions anywhere in the world. Covert action was defined as activities
'which are conducted or sponsored by this government against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups but which are so planned and conducted that any US Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorised persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them'.
Specifically this included
'propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world'.
Even though the definition seemed to include everything imaginable - including activities in countries of the ‘free world’ - Hillenkoetter’s successor claimed that by 1951 the CIA covert ops had already ‘far exceeded’ even this.
Gladio-orchestrated coups in Italy.
One reason the US focussed such attention on Italy was the country had become an ideological battleground between left and right after the Second World War. The communist party was popular and strong and ranged against it on the right stood an ad hoc coalition of the Italian military secret service, right wing extremists as well as the Mafia and the CIA. Much of the wartime fascist bureaucracy survived, with the support of the US. Most notoriously, Prince Valerio Borghese (whose partisan army had killed hundreds of communists during the war), was saved from execution by the protection of the US. Such was the American determination that Italy should not go communist that President Truman signed a top secret order in 1950 which explicitly included invasion of Italy as an option if the country should turn red.
In April 1963 the socialists and communists did well in the polls, with members of the socialist party given cabinet posts but the success was short-lived. The following November Kennedy was assassinated and five months later the Italian socialists were forced out of office by a right-wing coup orchestrated by the CIA and Gladio units.
Code-named 'Piano Solo' the coup was directed by General Giovanni De Lorenzo whom Defence Minister Giulio Andreotti of the DCI had transferred from chief of SIFAR to chief of the Italian paramilitary police, the Carabinieri. In close cooperation with CIA secret warfare expert Vernon Walters, William Harvey, chief of the CIA station in Rome, and Renzo Rocca, Director of the Gladio units within the military secret service SID, De Lorenzo escalated the secret war. Rocca first used his secret Gladio army to bomb the offices of the DCI and the offices of a few daily newspapers and thereafter blamed the terror on the left in order to discredit both Communists and Socialists.47 As the government was not shaken, De Lorenzo in Rome on March 25, 1964 instructed his secret soldiers that upon his signal they were to 'occupy government offices, the most important communication centres, the headquarters of the leftist parties and the seats of the newspapers closest to the left, as well as the radio and television centres. Newspaper agencies were to be occupied strictly for the time only that it takes to destroy the printing machines and to generally make the publication of newspapers impossible.'48 De Lorenzo insisted that the operation had to be carried out with 'maximum energy and decisiveness, free of any doubts or indecisiveness' and, as the Gladio investigation put it, made his men 'feverish and biting'.49 The Gladiators equipped with proscription lists naming several hundred persons had the explicit order to track down designated Socialists and Communists, arrest and deport them to the island of Sardinia where the secret Gladio centre was to serve as a prison. The document on 'The Special Forces of SIFAR and Operation Gladio' had specified that 'As for the operating headquarters, the Saboteur's Training CAG is being protected by a particularly sensitive security system and equipped with installations and equipment designed to be useful in case of an emergency.'50 In an atmosphere of greatest tension the secret army was ready to start the coup. Then, on June 14, 1964, De Lorenzo gave the go-ahead 71and with his troops entered Rome with tanks, armoured personnel carriers, jeeps and grenade launchers while NATO forces staged a large military manoeuvre in the area to intimidate the Italian government. Cunningly the General claimed that the show of muscle was taking place on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Carabinieri and, together with feverishly anti-Communist Italian President Antonio Segni of the right-wing of the DCI, saluted the troops with a smile. The Italian Socialists noted that somewhat unusually for a parade the tanks and grenade launchers were not withdrawn after the show but stayed in Rome during May and most of June 1964 .
A second CIA-backed right-wing coup, code-named Tora-Tora,, was planned for December 1970 but was called off at the last minute. Reportedly, the phone call that aborted it came from President Nixon himself.
As a consequence, the Left continued to gain ground in Italy. Foreign secretary Aldo Moro together with president Giovanni Leone flew to the US but were told by Kissinger that on no account should the Left be included in government. Aldo Moro’s wife Eleonora later testified that the words used to her husband were, "You must abandon your policy of bringing all the political forces in your country into direct collaboration. Either you give this up or you will pay dearly for it.'" (DG p.79)
Subsequently Moro was kidnapped and murdered.
The Senate commission investigating Gladio and the terrorist bombings suspected the CIA and the Italian military secret service to have organised the abduction and murder of Moro. It therefore reopened the case but found that almost all files on the Moro kidnapping and murder had mysteriously disappeared from the archives of the Ministry of the Interior.
The final 370-page report of the commission concluded in 1995 that, ‘It emerges without the shadow of a doubt that elements of the CIA started in the second half of the 1960s a massive operation in order to counter by the use of all means the spreading of groups and movements of the left on a European level.’
However these words were not strong enough for some Senators who continued the investigation under the chairmanship of Senator Pellegrini and concluded in June 2000 that
'those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been organized or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions and, as has been discovered more recently, by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence.
Ganser continues his inquiry with an exhaustive but depressingly familiar account of the same anti-democratic crimes being played out in the other countries of Western Europe, both within and without NATO, namely: France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Greece and Turkey.
Prudent precaution or Source of Terror?
At the end of his book, Ganser asks this question in an attempt to draw out the historical lessons. The answer is of course both. The strategic need for the stay-behind armies was reasonable in the light of what was known at the time, but the excesses directed against the people and democratic institutions of the host countries amounted to a wholly unacceptable assault on the sovereignty of these countries, of a sort that was familiar in Warsaw Pact countries but which was assumed to be absent from NATO countries. The terrorist bombings proved to be a means by which Pentagon planners were able to take their own (imaginary or delusional) fears about the rise of the Left and turn them into very real and concrete fears for the populace. The swiftness with which the fear of Communism has since been transmuted following the end of the Cold War into a fear of Islamic terrorism, along with the arrival of the whole security-military- industrial-complex paraphernalia of the ‘War on Terror’ illustrates that this is almost a modus operandi of military planners. It’s as if they can’t help themselves. In light of this information, there is now a vast army of people around the world who reject the official government narrative of what happened on 9/11 and suspect there may have been US government complicity in the attacks. Opponents cry out that such a thing is unthinkable and that ‘they’ would never do such a thing. But as Ganser’s meticulously footnoted history of the Gladio armies makes clear: it may be unthinkable but it certainly isn’t unprecedented.
Ganser’s Conclusion in full:
'Prudent Precaution or source of Terror?' the international press pointedly asked when the secret stay-behind armies of NATO were discovered across Western Europe following the Gladio revelations in Italy in late 1990. After more than ten years of research and investigation the answer is now clear: Both. The secret stay-behind armies of NATO were a prudent precaution, as the available documents and testimonies amply demonstrate. Based on the experiences of the Second World War and the rapid and traumatic occupation of most European countries by the German and Italian forces, military experts feared the Soviet Union and became convinced that a stay-behind army could be of strategic value when it came to the liberation of the occupied territory. Behind enemy lines the secret army could have strengthened the resistance spirit of the population, helped in the running of an organised and armed national resistance, sabotaged and harassed the occupying forces, exfiltrated shot down pilots, and gathered intelligence for the government in exile.
Based on the fear of a potential invasion after the Second World War highly placed officials in the national European governments, in the European military secret services, in NATO as well as in the CIA and the MI6 therefore decided that a secret resistance network had to be set up already during peacetime. On a lower level in the hierarchy citizens and military officers in numerous countries of Western Europe shared this assessment, joined the conspiracy and secretly trained for the emergency. These preparations were not limited to the 16 NATO member countries, but included also the four neutral countries in Western Europe, namely Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, on which the author is preparing a second publication. In retrospect it has become obvious that the fear was without reason and the training had been futile for the invasion of the Red Army never came. Yet such a certainty was not available at the time. And it is telling that the cover of the network, despite repeated exposures in many countries during the entire Cold War, was only blown completely at exactly the same moment when the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed. The secret stay-behind armies of NATO, however, were also a source of terror, as the evidence available now shows. It has been this second feature of the secret war that has attracted a lot of attention and criticism in the last decade, and which in the future will need more investigation and research. As of now the evidence indicates that the governments of the United States and Great Britain after the end of the Second World War feared not only a Soviet invasion, but also the Communist Parties, and to a lesser degree the Socialist Parties. The White House and Downing Street feared that in several countries of Western Europe, and above all in Italy, France, Belgium, Finland and Greece, the Communists might reach positions of influence in the executive and destroy the military alliance NATO from within by betraying military secrets to the Soviet Union. It was in this sense that the Pentagon in Washington together with the CIA, MI6 and NATO in a secret war set up and operated the stay-behind armies as an instrument to manipulate and control the democracies of Western Europe from within, unknown to both European populations and parliaments. This strategy lead to terror and fear, as well as to "humiliation and maltreatment of democratic institutions', as the European press correctly criticised.
Experts of the Cold War will note that Operation Gladio and NATO's stay-behind armies cast a new light on the question of sovereignty in Western Europe. It is now clear that as the Cold War divided Europe, brutality and terror was employed to control populations on both sides of the Iron Curtain. As far as Eastern Europe is concerned, this fact has long been recognised, long before it had been openly declared. After the Red Army had in 1968 mercilessly crushed the social reforms in Prag, Soviet leader Leonid Breschnew in Moscow with his infamous 'Breschnew doctrine' had openly declared that the countries of Eastern Europe were only allowed to enjoy 'limited sovereignty'. As far as Western Europe is concerned the conviction of being sovereign and independent was shattered more recently. The data from Operation Gladio and NATO's stay-behind armies indicates a more subtle and hidden strategy to manipulate and limit the sovereignty, with great differences from country to country. Yet a limitation of sovereignty it was. And in each case where the stay-behind network in the absence of a Soviet invasion functioned as a straightjacket for the democracies of Western Europe, Operation Gladio was the Breschnew doctrine of Washington. The strategic rationale to protect NATO from within cannot be brushed aside lightly. But the manipulation of the democracies of Western Europe by Washington and London on a level which many in the European Union still today find difficult to believe clearly violated the rule of law and will require further debate and investigation. In some operations the secret stay-behind soldiers together with the secret military services monitored and filed left-wing politicians and spread anti-Communist propaganda. In more violent operations the secret war led to bloodshed. Tragically the secret warriors linked up with right-wing terrorists, a combination that led - in some countries including at least Belgium, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey - to massacres, torture, coup d'etats and other violent acts. Most of these state-sponsored terrorist operations, as the subsequent cover-ups and fake trials suggest, enjoyed the encouragement and protection of selected highly placed governmental and military officials in Europe and in the United States. Members of the security apparatus and the government on both sides of the Atlantic who themselves despise being linked up with right-wing terrorism must in the future bring more clarity nd understanding into these tragic dimensions of the secret Cold War in Western Europe.
If Cold War experts will derive new data from NATO's stay-behind network for their discourse on limited sovereignty during the Cold War, then international legal experts and analysts of dysfunctions of democracies will find data on the breakdown of checks and balances within each nation. The Gladio data indicates that the legislative was unable to control the more hidden branches of the executive, and that parliamentary control of secret services is often non-existing or dysfunctional in democracies on both sides of the Atlantic. Totalitarian states have long been known to have operated a great variety of largely uncontrolled and unaccountable secret services and secret armies. Yet to discover such serious dysfunctions also in numerous democracies comes as a great surprise, to say the least. Within this debate of checks and balances military officials have been correct to point out after the discovery of Operation Gladio and NATO's stay-behind network that there can never be such a thing as a 'transparent stay-behind army', for such a network would be exposed immediately in case of invasion and its members would be killed by the invasion force. Parliamentarians and constitutional lawyers meanwhile have been equally correct to emphasise that both the armed forces and the secret services of a democracy must at all times be transparent, accountable, controlled and supervised closely by civilian representatives of the people as they represent the most powerful instruments of the state.
This clash between mandatory secrecy and mandatory transparency, which lies at the heart of the Gladio phenomenon, directly points to the more general question of how much secrecy should be granted to the executive branch of a democracy. Judged from the Gladio evidence, where a lack of transparency and accountability has lead to corruption, abuse and terror, the answer is clear: The executive should be granted no secrecy and should at all times be controlled by the legislative. For a secret government, as it manifested itself in the United States and parts of Western Europe, can lead to abuse and even state terrorism. The growth of Intelligence abuses reflects a more general failure of our basic institutions', US Senator Frank Church had wisely noted after a detailed investigation of CIA covert operations already in the 1970s. Gladio repeats this warning with a vengance.
It can hardly be overemphasised that running a secret army and funding an unaccountable intelligence service entails grave risks every democracy should seek to avoid. For the risks do not only include uncontrolled violence against groups of citizens, but mass manipulation of entire countries or continents. Among the most far-reaching findings on the secret war, as seen in the analysis, ranges the fact that the stay-behind network had served as a tool to spread fear amongst the population also in the absence of an invasion. The secret armies in some cases functioned as an almost perfect manipulation system that transported the fears of high-ranking military officers in the Pentagon and NATO to the populations in Western Europe. European citizens, as the strategists in the Pentagon saw it, due to their limited vision were unable to perceive the real and present danger of Communism, and therefore they had to be manipulated. By killing innocent citizens on market squares or in supermarkets and blaming the crime on the Communists the secret armies together with convinced right-wing terrorists effectively translated the fears of Pentagon strategists into very real fears of European citizens.
The destructive spiral of manipulation, fear and violence did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union and the discovery of the secret armies in 1990, but on the contrary gained momentum. Ever since the vicious terrorist attacks on the population of the United States on September 11, 2001 and the beginning of the 'War on Terrorism' fear and violence dominate not only the headlines across the globe but also the consciousness of millions. In the West the 'evil Communist' of the Cold War era has swiftly been replaced with the 'evil Islamist' of the war on terrorism era. With almost 3,000 civilians killed on September 11, and several thousands killed in the US-led war on terrorism so far with no end in sight, a new level of brutality has been reached.
Such an environment of fear, as the Gladio evidence shows, is ideally suited to manipulate the masses on both sides into more radical positions. Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaida terror network manipulated millions of Muslims, above all young male adults, to take up a radical position and believe in violence. On the other side also the White House and the administration of George Bush junior has fuelled the spiral of violence and fear and lead millions of Christians and seculars in the United States and in Europe to believe in the necessity and justice of killing other human beings in order to enhance their own security. Yet human security is not being advanced, but on the contrary decays, as the atmosphere is drenched with manipulation, violence and fear. Where the manipulation and the violence originate from and where they lead to, is at times very difficult to dissect. Hitler and the Nazis had profited greatly from manipulation and the fear in the wake of the mysterious Reichstagsbrand in Berlin in 1933, whereupon the Third Reich and Second World War followed. In 2001 the war on terrorism began, and once again radical critics have argued that the White House had manipulated 9/11, the largest terrorist attack in history, for geostrategic purposes.
As people across the globe share a vague sensation 'that it cannot go on like that' many search for an exit strategy from the spiral of violence, fear and manipulation. In Europe a consensus is building that terrorism cannot be defeated by war, as the latter feeds the spiral of violence, and hence the war on terrorism is not part of the solution but part of the problem. Furthermore also more high-tech - from retina scanning to smart containers - seems unable to really protect potential targets from terror attacks. More technology might even increase the challenges ahead when exploited for terrorist purposes and asymmetric warfare, a development observable ever since the invention of dynamite in the nineteenth century. Arguably more technology and more violence will therefore not solve the challenges ahead. A potential exit strategy from the spiral of fear, manipulation and violence might have to focus on the individual human being itself and a change of consciousness. Given its free will the individual can decide to focus on non-violent solutions of given problems and promote a dialogue of understanding and forgiveness in order to reduce extremist positions. The individual can break free from fear and manipulation by consciously concentrating on his or her very own feelings, thoughts, words and actions, and by focusing all of them on peaceful solutions. As more secrecy and more bloodshed are unlikely to solve the problems ahead the new millennium seems a particularly adequate time to begin with such a shift in consciousness which can have positive effects both for the world and for oneself.
- Nato's Secret Armies - Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe
- Document:Strategy of Tension: The Case of Italy - A reproduction of a page from Executive Intelligence Review by Claudio Celani dated 2011-07-02
- CIA - A paper by Daniele Ganser
- Operation Gladio - A paper by David Guyatt
- Document:1980 Massacre in Bologna - An article by Thierry Meyssan dated 6 July 2005
- Operation Gladio - Wikipedia Page
- $100,000,000 to Crack A Lone Nut? - Radio show with an interview with Daniele Ganser on Operation Gladio