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from issue no. 03 - 2005

The speech by the president of the Verdi-l’Unione group in the Senate, 9 March 2005

In the sights of the “Falluja cowboys”

The death of Calipari in Baghdad is not a “tragic accident”. In reality the American soldiers are terrified and shoot at anything that moves. It is no longer possible to remain stuck in a collective nightmare shaped by the crazy strategies of the armed export of democracy

by Stefano Boco

A US marine looking at the city of Falluja razed to the ground by American troops

A US marine looking at the city of Falluja razed to the ground by American troops

Honorable President of the Council, honorable members of the government, honorable colleagues, not more than three weeks ago in this Chamber, on the occasion of the discussion on the refinancing of the Italian mission in Iraq, we restated our deep convictions about the aggressive nature of the mission and restated our firm no to the continuation of what could not be considered – it is not and never was – a mission of peace.
Today the Verdi Group expresses its own deep regret at the loss of Nicola Calipari, a state official who, instead, saw his role within that context as working for peace and solidarity. He did so to the end at the cost of his own life. He was a state official who, in our view, had profoundly perceived what in that scenario, in that state of emergency, might serve to save human lives, how to interpret danger signals and shape more realistic and detailed analyses of the indecipherable inferno of Iraq.
When after 11 September, we decided - in this Chamber and not only here – that the priority was to potentiate the intelligence system in a context coordinated and shared with the European Union and the United Nations in the fight against terrorism, we meant to give preference to the security and prevention systems over the military option.
This government, in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, instead preferred to go for toughness rather than intelligence work and diplomacy. We consider that the direction given to our foreign policy to be extremely dangerous.
It has cost human lives and the squandering of a legacy of civil and political gains as a peace-bearing country and contributor to all the most important peace-keeping missions on the globe (from East Timor to Kosovo, from Albania to Eritrea); a legacy for which all of us should be grateful to our armed forces, to our state officials, to our diplomats, to our volunteer workers and those active in humanitarian organizations, to all those who, like Nicola Calipari, have given their lives for the idea of this country as an agent of peace.
Nevertheless, on this occasion, we ask, and the large majority of Italians are asking: are we truly convinced, are you truly convinced – I address myself obviously to the government and the majority – you are engaged in a mission of peace, and not a war, a real war?
Are you truly convinced that it is right to stay and so be co-responsible for the 17,000 dead Iraqis, for the 1,500 dead Americans and for the many casualties of all nationalities. Last Friday’s tragic epilogue raises these questions in an even more urgent manner.
It is the New York Times, fellow members, that has raised questions about the nonchalant use of arms to stop vehicles approaching a check point. The incident does not seem to be an isolated case; it seems to be a recurrent drama in the long months of occupation of Iraq. According to the rules of engagement applied there, American soldiers are authorized to open fire as soon as they feel threatened. Again according to the New York Times, on 18 January last American soldiers fired more than fifty shots at a car that approached without slowing, and there were no terrorists on board, only a family of six Iraqis: mother and father massacred and four children who emerged covered in blood.
I would like to remind you that in Northern Ireland and in Israel “errors” and horrors of this kind have never – I say never – been tolerated. Today, unfortunately, we find ourselves faced with a situation that risks being set, in history also, in the framework of “tragic accident”. We don’t believe that it is possible to classify it simply as that.
In fact, the government admits that there is a substantial difference between what has been declared by the American authorities and what in reality happened. There are many obscure points to the incident and all of them must lead to real deliberation, in a context in which we are convinced sustainers of non-participation in a war operation.
The government’s reconstruction presented to the Chamber by Minister Fini we judge to be detailed and meticulous: why is it so different from that of the American administration? We have the sensation that the mixed commission of inquiry that you, President of the Council, presented officially here today will serve little use if the role of the Italian commissioners is not going to be a real role, endowed with the possibility of investigating thoroughly and independently, with the same prerogatives as those of the American military investigators, who have often, too many times, covered up responsibilities, minimized and buried. Incidents like that of Friday last are commonplace in Iraq: the American soldiers – and this is documented by authoritative reporters – are ill-prepared to handle the situation in Iraq.
American intelligence does not seem to shine for its capacity to deal with the situation. I must remind you, with grave concern, of the statements of Seymour Hersh, the journalist who 35 years ago exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and who now, more recently, revealed the scandalous torture in the Abu Ghraib prison: in Iraq Hersh was witness to terrifying episodes involving US soldiers.
They are terrified and shoot at anything that moves, as in the case of a few weeks ago: when an armored car was hit by an explosive, the US soldiers jumped out of the vehicle and begin to fire wildly, also killing a group of children who were playing football nearby. That is the reality of Iraq, those the horrors we witness daily.
And, once again, I hope you won’t want to continue to claim that we are on a peace mission, that we are under the blanket of UN action. But what is the UN role, if Baghdad and its airport are controlled by frightened and uncoordinated young lads, hated by the civilian population because perceived as an occupying force? Where is the peace-building operation that is every time mistakenly invoked?
A woman from Falluja, amid the ruins of her house, shows the layer of cartridges from the bullets fired by US troops

A woman from Falluja, amid the ruins of her house, shows the layer of cartridges from the bullets fired by US troops

You persist in claiming that we are not in a war situation and thereby set yourselves outside the strategy that great European countries have adopted now for some time: the call for a radical change of scenario, the involvement of the whole international community, the withdrawal of the troops, the launching of a large-scale plan of reconstruction.
We hope that Calipari’s sacrifice serves this at least: to make you reflect on the horror of this war and on our country need to change course in foreign policy. You see, we forcefully sustained the government’s action so that all ways were tried to free Giuliana Sgrena; we are convinced of the worth of the line chosen by the government on the occasion of the kidnapping of the two Simonas, as well as on other occasions, and also in this case, which then however turned into a tragedy for everyone.
But it is from here that our deepest re-thinking must start: it is not possible to veer this line, which is that of diplomacy and negotiation, of a bloodless solution and the search for dialogue; it is not possible to allow intelligence strategies to be dictated to us by the Americans, it is no longer possible to remain stuck in a collective nightmare shaped by the crazy strategies of the armed exportation of democracy.
In conclusion, Mister President, I want to say that to men such as Calipari, to men like him, we Verdi give our everlasting thanks; to his family we say, in a heartfelt way, that we shall never forget him; to you, ministers and President of the Council, we ask you quietly to find the courage to reflect and, if possible, to rethink your options.

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