Strategy of tension
The strategy of tension (Italian: strategia della tensione) is a tactic that aims to divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, and false flag terrorist actions.
The theory began with allegations that the United States government and the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 supported far-right terrorist groups in Italy and Turkey, where communism was growing in popularity, to spread panic among the population who would in turn demand stronger and more dictatorial governments.
- 1 Italy
- 2 Turkey
- 3 Others
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The term "strategy of tension" recurred during the trials that followed in the 1970s and 1980s Years of Lead ( "anni di piombo"), during which terror attacks and assassinations were committed by apparently neofascist terrorists related to the Operation Gladio.
It was primarily members and international supporters of the Italian Communist Party who invented and popularized the term "strategy of tension". They meant to draw attention to the crimes of the Italian Right and Far-Right parties who were allegedly supported by the foreign belligerents.
Much attention has been on Operation Gladio, Italy's branch of the secret pre-positioned NATO "stay-behind" armies of Western Europe. These armies were set up to perform resistance, partisan, and guerrilla activities in the event of Soviet invasion; equivalent units were set up by other NATO members in their states. It is claimed that Gladio units were engaged in destabilization at the behest of the United States and other Western governments, intelligence agencies (e.g., the CIA), the P2 masonic lodge, the Order of the Solar Temple, various Church-related organizations, and domestic influences such as organized crime. The claims are backed by judicial proof which establish that European fascist dictatorships of the time (the Greek junta and the secret services of Francisco Franco) were heavily involved in supporting and arming Italian neo-fascist and neo-nazi groups such as Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale. For instance, Avanguardia Nazionale hitman Pierluigi Concutelli used an Ingram MAC-10 SMG to assassinate magistrate Vittorio Occorsio in the 1970s. It has been proven that Avanguardia Nazionale secured the weapon from the CIA via Franchist Spain. General Gianadelio Maletti, commander of the counter-intelligence section of the Italian military intelligence service from 1971 to 1975, stated that his men in the region of Venice discovered a rightwing terrorist cell that was supplied military explosives from Germany, and he alleged that US intelligence services instigated and abetted rightwing terrorism in Italy during the 1970s.
Carlo Digilio, an Italian neofascist codenamed "Uncle Otto" coordinated CIA activities in the Italian Regions of Veneto and Friuli from the 1960s to the 1970s, recruiting former fascists to serve the NATO and U.S. interests in Italy. He himself had been recruited in Verona by U.S. Navy captain David Carrett.
These groups began to pursue an ostensibly extreme right-wing anti-communist agenda using violent means, including false flag bombings that were then blamed on extra-parliamentary left-wing militant organizations, to discredit the political Left in general at a time in Italy when the Italian Communist Party was very close to entering government. It should be noted that the actions carried out by these extreme groups were meant primarily to agitate and control public opinion, creating fears about the Communist Party. At the time, they created massive public concern and widespread paranoia. According to the "strategia della tensione" theory, this was deliberate. Examples of such actions include the 1972 Peteano bombing, long thought to have been carried out by the Red Brigades, but for which the neofascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra has been imprisoned, the attempted assassination of former Interior Minister Mariano Rumor on 17 May 1973 or the Bologna railway station bombing known as the Bologna massacre of 1980.
The Guardian (UK), in an article published on June 24, 2000, reported that the parliamentarians of the Left Democrats, wrote a report to a subcommittee of the Italian Parliament about what they viewed as United States support for 'anti-left terror in Italy', and the activities of Gladio. The report by the Left Democrats claimed that the aim of this alleged support for Gladio was to make the public think that the bombings were committed by a communist insurgency, to promote the formation of an authoritarian government, and to prevent the Italian Communist Party (PCI) from joining the ruling Christian Democracy (DC) in a national unity government (the "Historic Compromise" between Aldo Moro and Enrico Berlinguer, respective leaders of the DC and of the PCI).
An astonishing observation[by whom?] of the terrorism in Italy that was blamed on communists is that it coincided with election victories for the communists at the polls. So as the PCI was gaining popular support, the number of civilian-targeted bombings, random knee-cappings, and high-profile kidnappings blamed on communist terrorists increased markedly. Furthermore, starting with the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing and the 1972 Peteano attack, several bombings carried out by the far-right were at first blamed on anarchists (for the first one) and, for the second one, on the Red Brigades (BR) — although it was later found that neofascists, such as Vincenzo Vinciguerra, had organized them. Piazza Fontana's bombing, in December 1969, marked the beginning of the "strategia della tensione", which ended around the time of the Bologna railway station bombing in 1980.
The report from the Left Democrats of Italy to a subcommittee of the Italian Parliament apparently concluded that the strategy of tension followed by Gladio had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country". Members of the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), part of the Commission on Terrorism headed by senator Giovanni Pellegrino and created in 1988, also described the Italian peninsula since the end of World War II as a "country with 'limited sovereignty'" and as an "American colony" The centrist Italian Republican party described the claims as worthy of a 1970s Maoist group. Aldo Giannuli, a historian who works as a consultant to the parliamentary terrorism commission, sees the release of the Left Democrats' report as a manoeuvre dictated primarily by domestic political considerations. "Since they have been in power the Left Democrats have given us very little help in gaining access to security service archives," he said. "This is a falsely courageous report."
The existence of US Army Field Manual 30-31B lends even more credibility to the accusations that the CIA tried to destabilize democratic nations to foster the U.S.' interests. The United States maintains that such a manual is a forgery and have found soviet defectors willing to testify that it was put together by the KGB. However Licio Gelli, grand master of the P2 masonic lodge involved in all of the murkiest and bloodiest episodes of the "strategy of tension" repeated openly and bluntly (for example to BBC journalist Allan Francovich) to have received his copy directly from the hands of CIA men.
Piazza Fontana bombing
In December 1969, four bombs struck Rome's Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II (Altare della Patria), the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, Milan's Banca Commerciale and the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura. The later attack, known as the Piazza Fontana bombing of 12 December 1969, killed 16 and injured 90, marking the beginning of this violent period.
Giuseppe Pinelli, a young anarchist, was interrogated about the crime, and died in police custody. After his suspicious death, which was claimed to be suicide by the authorities, investigator Luigi Calabresi came under violent criticism from the left and many intellectuals, considering him the person responsible for Pinelli's death; Calabresi would be murdered two and a half years later. Only in 1997 the courts condemned Leonardo Marino and Ovidio Bompressi for carrying out the crime, and Adriano Sofri and Giorgio Pietrostefani for ordering it. At the time of the murder, all four belonged to the extreme left-wing group Lotta Continua. After Pinelli, the police investigated another anarchist, Pietro Valpreda. He quickly became a hero to the left, who perceived him to be a victim of a plot to attribute a fascist bombing to the left. The leftist environment produced an investigative book, La strage di Stato ("The state massacre"), in which they claimed the state was attacking anarchists because they (by definition) could not have a political party to defend them, as communists would have had.
Neo-fascist terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie was then arrested in Caracas, Venezuela in 1989 and rendered to Italy to stand trial for his role. Delle Chiaie was however acquitted by the Assise Court in Catanzaro in 1989, along with fellow accused Massimiliano Fachini. Both were declared not guilty.
In 1998, David Carrett, officer of the U.S. Navy, was indicted by a Milanese magistrate, Guido Salvini, on charge of political and military espionage and his participation in the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, among other events. Judge Guido Salvini also opened a case against Sergio Minetto, Italian official for the US-NATO intelligence network, and pentito Carlo Digilio. La Repubblica underlined that Carlo Rocchi, the CIA's man in Milan, was surprised in 1995 searching for information concerning Operation Gladio, thus demonstrating that all was not over.
A June 20, 2001 conviction of Italian Neo-fascists Carlo Maria Maggi, Delfo Zorzi and Giancarlo Rognoni was overturned in March 2004. Carlo Digilio, a suspected CIA informant, received immunity from prosecution by becoming a witness for the state (in agreement with the pentiti laws). All were declared not guilty.
According to extreme right-wing Ordine Nuovo member Vincenzo Vinciguerra: "The December 1969 explosion was supposed to be the detonator which would have convinced the political and military authorities to declare a state of emergency."
Bombing of Italicus train, August 4, 1974
August 4, 1974, 12 died and 105 were injured in the bombing of the train Italicus Roma-Brennero express at San Benedetto Val di Sambro. Responsibility was claimed by the neo-fascist terrorist organization Ordine Nero.
1974 Piazza della Loggia bombing in Brescia
The first judicial investigation concerning the 1974 Piazza della Loggia bombing led to the condemnation in 1979 of a member of the Brescian far-right movement. However, this first sentence was canceled in 1983 and the suspect absolved in 1985 by the Court of Cassation. A second investigation led to the accusation of another far-right activist, who was thereafter absolved in 1989 because of insufficient proofs. A third investigation is still in activity. On May 19, 2005, the Court of Cassation confirmed the arrest warrant against Delfo Zorzi, a former member of the Ordine Nuovo neo-fascist group, who was also suspected of being the material executor of the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing. Alongside Delfo Zorzi, his neo-fascist comrades Carlo Maria Maggi and Maurizio Tramonte, all members of the Ordine Nuovo group founded in 1956 by Pino Rauti, are also suspected of having organized the Piazza della Loggia bombing.
Bologna railway bombing, August 2, 1980
The Bologna railway bombing killed 85 persons and injured 200. A long, troubled and controversial court case and political issue ensued. The relatives of the victims formed an association (Associazione tra i famigliari delle vittime della strage alla stazione di Bologna del 2 agosto 1980) to raise and maintain civil awareness on the Bologna massacre. On 23 November 1995 the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) issued the final sentence:
- confirmation of life imprisonment to the Neo-Fascist terrorists Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro — who have always pleaded innocent — as executors of the attack
- sentence for investigation diversion to Licio Gelli (headmaster of Propaganda Due – aka P2), Francesco Pazienza and to SISMI officers Pietro Musumeci and Giuseppe Belmonte.
- Stefano Delle Chiaie, friend of Licio Gelli has been accused of involvement
Role of Italian Intelligence Services
In 1974, Vito Miceli, P2 member, chief of the SIOS (Servizio Informazioni), Army Intelligence's Service from 1969 and SID's head from 1970 to 1974, was arrested on charges of "conspiracy against the state" concerning investigations about Rosa dei venti, a state-infiltrated group involved in terrorist acts. In 1977, the secret services were reorganized in a democratic attempt. With law #801 of 24/10/1977, SID was divided into SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare), SISDE (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Democratica) and CESIS (Comitato Esecutivo per i Servizi di Informazione e Sicurezza). The CESIS had a coordination role, led by the President of Council.
It was a very simple strategy: Bombs were built by chemistry students, some of them were optimistic and believed that it could bring an independence to their colleagues in Yugoslavia and Romania. Other people were pesimistic and believed that the leadership would be replaced by people more loyal to Moscow, after which would come what Senator Giulio Andreotti has called "the great silence".
Turkey has a history of involvement in similar plots. The Turkish branch of Gladio, known as Counter-Guerrilla, allegedly followed a similar strategy in Turkey in order to justify the 1980 military coup. Turkish secret police are also believed to have instigated the bombing of the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1955, leading to the Istanbul Pogrom against the Greek minority of Istanbul.
Assaults on Cumhuriyet and the Council of State
In 2008 over a hundred people, including several generals, party officials, and a former secretary general of the National Security Council were arrested for participation in Ergenekon, an alleged clandestine, secular ultra-nationalist organization with ties to members of the country's military and security forces. Alleged members have been indicted on charges of plotting to foment unrest, among other things by assassinating intellectuals, politicians, judges, military staff, and religious leaders, with the ultimate goal of toppling the pro-Western incumbent government in a coup that was planned to take place in 2009.
Operation Cage Action Plan
Operation Cage Action Plan is the name given to an alleged plot by radical fringes of the Turkish secular establishment created in order to destabilize the governing Justice and Development Party party by pitting political and religious minorities against them.
Operation Condor in South America and events in Algeria during the 1990s (see Organisation of Young Free Algerians). Stefano Delle Chiaie apparently had a hand in both what was happening in Italy and with Operation Condor, as he met with Michael Townley (a US expatriate, DINA agent). It has been claimed that Delle Chiaie was involved in the murder of General Carlos Prats in Buenos Aires, Argentina on September 30, 1974. Delle Chiaie, along with fellow extremist Vincenzo Vinciguerra, testified in Rome in December 1995 before judge María Romilda Servini de Cubría that Enrique Arancibia Clavel (a former Chilean secret police agent prosecuted for crimes against humanity in 2004) and Michael Townley were directly involved in this assassination.
In popular culture
- Daniele Ganser,Nato's secret armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, New York: Routledge, 2005. 315 pages (ISBN 0-7146-8500-3)
- Philip Willan, Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy, London: Constable and Company, 1991. 375 pages (ISBN 0-09-470590-9)
- Stuart Christie, Stefano Delle Chiaie: Portrait of a Black Terrorist, London: Anarchy Magazine/Refract Publications, 1984. 182 pages (ISBN 0-946222-09-6)
- Chernyavsky, V., ed. The CIA in the Dock: Soviet Journalists on International Terrorism, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983. 176 pages.
- Giuseppe De Lutiis: "Storia dei servizi segreti in Italia", Roma : Editori Riuniti, 1984(1994). 313 pages (ISBN 883593432X)
- Mario Monicelli, We Want the Colonels, 1973
- Mario Monicelli, Un borghese piccolo piccolo, 1977
- Margarethe von Trotta, Marianne and Juliane, 1981
- Renzo Martinelli, Five Moons Plaza, 2003
- Guido Chiesa, Lavorare con lentezza – Radio Alice 100.6 MHz, 2004
- Paolo Sorrentino, Il divo, 2008
- Operation Gladio
- Paladin Group
- Piazza Fontana bombing, December 12, 1969
- Piazza della Loggia bombing, May 28, 1974
- Italicus Express bombing 1974, August 4, 1974
- Bologna massacre, August 2, 1980
- Enrico Mattei's 1962 death
- Aldo Moro's 1978 murder
- Carmine Pecorelli's 1979 murder
- Mariano Rumor (Christian-Democrat), Interior minister, attacked in 1973
- Giulio Andreotti, Christian-Democrat minister and prime minister
- Francesco Cossiga, Christian-Democrat minister, prime minister and president
- Propaganda 2 secret masonic Lodge
- Licio Gelli, P2 leader
- Divide and rule
- Wedge issue
- False flag
- Reichstag fire
- PDF (154 KB), December 29, 2006, on Voltaire network's website (French): "It is a tactic which consists in committing bombings and attributing them to others. By the term 'tension' one refers to emotional tension, to what creates a sentiment of fear. By the term 'strategy' one refers to what feeds the fear of the people towards one particular group".
- The Guardian, 25 March 2001, "Terrorists 'helped by CIA' to stop rise of left in Italy," http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/mar/26/terrorism
- Willan, Philip. "US 'supported anti-left terror in Italy'", The Guardian, June 24, 2000.
- (Italian) "Commissione parlamentare d'inchiesta sul terrorismo in Italia e sulle cause della mancata individuazione dei responsabili delle stragi (1995 Parliamentary Commission of Investigation on Terrorism in Italy and on the Causes of the Failing of the Arrests of the Responsibles of the Bombings)". 1995. Archived from the original on 2006-08-19. Retrieved 2006-05-02.
- (Italian) "Strage di Piazza Fontana – spunta un agente Usa". La Repubblica. February 11, 1998. Retrieved 2006-05-02. (With links to juridical sentences and Parliamentary Report by the Italian Commission on Terrorism)
- (English)/(Italian)/(French)/(German) "Secret Warfare: Operation Gladio and NATO's Stay-Behind Armies". Swiss Federal Institute of Technology / International Relation and Security Network. Archived from the original on 2006-04-25. Retrieved 2006-05-02.
- Dossier Stragi by the Democrats of the Left (Italian)
- "US 'supported anti-left terror in Italy'". The Guardian. June 24, 2000.
- "Misinformation about "Gladio/Stay Behind" Networks Resurfaces". United States Department of State. 20 January 2006. Retrieved October 22, 2010.
- Daniele Ganser (2005). NATO Secret Armies - Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. London: Franck Cass. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-7146-5607-6.
- (Italian) La strage di Stato
- (Italian) "Strage di Piazza Fontana spunta un agente USA". La Repubblica. 1998-02-11. Retrieved 2006-02-02. (With original documents, including juridical sentences and the report of the Italian Commission on Terrorism)
- Italy in the 1970s, p.178, John Earle, David & Charles, London 1975.
- See Daniele Ganser, NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Frank Cass, London, 2005. Extracts and documents available here.
- Güven, Dilek (6 September 2005) “6–7 Eylül Olayları (1)”, Radikal
- State connections to murder of journalist Hrant Dink being ignored, warns BIANET, IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET), 2008
- Acar, Erkan (2008-09-06). "Ergenekon has links to security and judiciary bodies". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
- Burke, Jason (2008-05-04). "Mystery of a killer elite fuels unrest in Turkey". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- Rainsford, Sarah (2008-02-04). "'Deep state plot' grips Turkey". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- Berkan, Ismet (2008-04-08). Türkiye. "Ergenekon'un yakın tarihi (4)". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-09-24. "Bugün 'Ergenekon' adıyla andığımız, benim zaman zaman 'AKP gitsin de nasıl giderse gitsin örgütü' adını da kullandığım 'oluşum'..." (English)
- Düzel, Neşe (2008-01-28). "2009’da kıyamet gibi kan akacaktı". Taraf (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-08-14. "Ergenekon operasyonunda tutuklananlar da 2009’da darbe yapmayı planlamışlar. Adamın aklına durup dururken 2009 iyi bir sene diye gelmedi herhalde. 2009 insanın aklına bir şeyler getiriyor. Şimdiki genelkurmay başkanı 2008 yazında emekli oluyor. Darbecilerin dayandığı, güvendiği bir şeyler olmalı ki, 2009 için böyle bir hesap yapıyorlardı." Partial English translation in Dumanli, Ekrem (2008-01-29). "Coup in 2009". Today's Zaman. and Balci, Kerim (2008-07-27). "Question of the decade: What if Ergenekon had succeeded?". Zaman. Retrieved 2008-08-21.
- "Darbe hazırlığını kamera yakaladı". Taraf (in Turkish). ANKA/CN/BÜN. 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
- Junta’s Cage Operation Action Plan against non-Muslims uncovered
- Vital rights ruling in Argentina, BBC News, August 24, 2004
- (Spanish) Arancibia, "clave" en la cooperación de las dictaduras, La Jornada, May 22, 2000
- The Strategy of Tension on libcom.org