The long ides of march of Aldo Moro


“Italy Accuses US Envoy Steve Pieczenik of Aldo Moro Murder” PHOTO/I B Times/Duck Duck Go

How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,
In states unborn, and accents yet unknown.

— William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

“Beware the Ides of March”—or even the day after. On the morning of 16 March 1978 in Rome’s central via Fani, the Red Brigades (BR) kidnapped Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, head of the Christian Democratic Party (DC), killing five agents of his entourage. The fifty-five days of his detention in a secret “people’s prison” and eventual assassination by his captors on 9 May 1978 marked the climax of over thirty years of internal and external opposition to post-fascist Italy’s chartering its own political and economic course by “parallel convergences.” It is worth revisiting this long and twisted story as an early template for the bad faith with which the US Empire deals with the world today. It is not a story for conspiracy-phobes.

The plot of all plots: whodunnit?

Moro himself coined the phrase, “parallel convergences,” hinting at dark forces behind the facade of the legitimate state. The executors of Moro’s death are not in doubt. The BR condemned him to death on 29 April 1978 for “advancing counterrevolutionary programs in the service of bourgeois imperialism,” shooting eleven bullets into his body curled up in the trunk of a red Renault on 9 May. Moro’s phrase “parallel convergences” challenged translators at the time. Today, we understand it, in part, as the network of economic international elites, whose interest state intelligence structures serve—the CIA first among peers. I asked Douglas Valentine, author of The Phoenix Program and exhaustive histories of CIA, DEA, FBI, what the phrase meant as Moro used it. Valentine said, “A CIA/military intelligence guy I knew well, Col. Tully Acampora, told me that JFK’s station chief in Rome starting mid-1963, Bill Harvey, was sent there to help . . . General Giovanni di Lorenzo, head of Italy’s military intelligence and security services, subvert the government of Leftist Prime Minister, Aldo Moro.”

“Leftist”? Aldo Moro had toyed with the idea of joining the Socialist Party, but he was a devout Catholic and chose the DC instead. He was, however, interested in national sovereignty, the relief of emigration from the underdeveloped South, and an autonomous energy policy of trade with the Middle East. Only a year before the arrival in Rome of CIA station chief, Bill Harvey, the Mafia murdered Italian Energy Minister, Enrico Mattei, a close associate of Moro’s, after Mattei’s fruitful overtures for fair trade with oil-rich, Third World countries. Behind the Mafia lurked the “Seven Sisters,” as Mattei dubbed the cartel of the American oil companies—and the services of the CIA together with Italian secret services. The Italian director, Francesco Rosi, made a film about this dramatic event, titled, The Mattei Affair. The journalist who helped him with research disappeared, presumed killed by the Mafia.

Cold War: Italy’s “Stability” Must Be Secured

Italy’s vassalage to the US in the Cold War mattered tremendously—more than Americans know. One of the earliest directives by the then-recently established US National Security Council made no bones about Washington’s intentions should the Italian Communist Party win the parliamentary elections in 1948. The US, the directive punctuated, would intervene “even at the cost of a civil war.”

Throughout the Cold War, the US considered Italy a front-line state. The “iron curtain” ran vertically north south from Poland’s Stettin on the Baltic Sea to Italy’s Trieste on the northeast tip of the Adriatic Sea. Italy’s eastern neighbor was communist Yugoslavia (until 1948 allied with Moscow) and further south, across a narrow stretch of sea, communist Albania, also allied with Moscow until 1961. Indeed, as NATO and American military bases grew to dot Italy over the decades, their missiles pointed east, at Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

Furthermore, Italy’s central Mediterranean location, especially Sicily’s, provided the US with a key asset location for control of the Middle East. US policymakers were determined to preserve this essential geopolitical asset in their sphere of influence. As they saw it, one thing only threatened American hegemony in Italy: the vastly popular and respected Italian Communist Party (PCI), the largest communist party in Western Europe, which had been one of the two “hero” parties of the Resistance against the Nazi-fascist occupation in WW II from 8 September 1943 to 25 April 1945. In 1948, the PCI, allied with all left parties as the Popular Front, would almost certainly have won the parliamentary elections without the funding of a red-scare campaign by the CIA and the fomented fatal incidents and violent clashes at party rallies that seemed to sound the thunder of a coming civil war. Intimidated, the people voted a majority to the he DC, 48% of the vote; close behind came the Popular Front with 30% of the vote. “Without the CIA. The Communist Party . . . would surely have won the elections in 1948,” writes Jack Devine, former CIA chief-of-station in Rome, in his book, Good Hunting.

In the early 1950s, Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles and Ambassador to Italy, Claire Boothe Luce, insisted that the PCI be outlawed. All Italian political parties, from extreme right to left, refused. They, justifiably pointed out that, because the PCI had been one of the main forces of the Resistance, there would be civil war in Italy if such a measure were enacted. For the Americans, communists in power endangered the security of NATO and the policy of control of the Middle East. When in 1953 William Colby became director of the CIA in Italy his task was to direct clandestine political actions to contain the influence of the PCI. As he wrote in his memoirs, “My task was to prevent that Italy fall in communist hands at the next elections.” Keeping the PCI out of the executive was made a condition, agreed upon by President Harry Truman and Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi (DC), for the distribution of funds through the Marshall Plan for post-war reconstruction of Italy. Still in the 50s, a secret accord, “Plan Demagnetize,” stipulated a close collaboration between the intelligence services of the US and Italy’s to set back the influence of communism on Italian society.

In the Pre-Dawn of the Cold War: Mustering Their Mafia and Fascist Battalions

This communist threat had been identified and organized against as early as the allied landing in Sicily, in July of 1943. The OSS (predecessor to the CIA), founded in 1941 with 13,000 agents by OSS chief “Wild Bill” Donovan, had assigned the “Italian Section” to James Jesus Angleton, who came from a masonic family and would head the CIA’s Israeli desk by 1950. Angleton recruited a “Mafia Circle”—so denominated in CIA documents—to help with the allied landing in Italy. The circle was made up of Mafiosi (including Michele Sindona, who would become notorious for the crack-up of the Franklin National Bank in 1979) suggested by the gangster, Lucky Luciano, whom American naval intelligence approached in prison in Clinton, New York. The “Mafia Circle,” however, was not dissolved after the Allies’ smooth landing; it widened. The circle rushed to liberate other Mafiosi long imprisoned by Mussolini’s regime. Officials of the American occupation put the “ liberated “Mafiosi in important positions of administrative, police, and military power throughout Sicily to function as an anti-communist network of collaborators. As mayors, for example, the appointees would eventually exert regional influence on the elections and policies of senators and deputies in the parliament in Rome throughout the life of the first Republic—and close ties with the Interior Ministry and its secret services.

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