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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Italy – You Had Your Accountability Moment, Now Take Responsibility

By now almost everyone has heard about the firestorm that has been unleashed in Italy over the death of an intelligence officer and the wounding of a hostage by U.S. troops as they were driving to Baghdad Airport after her release. There are several different versions of what happened floating around and several different viewpoints on who is to blame.

But we’re going to skip all the finger pointing right now because I want to take a look at the emotional impact of what is happening in Italy. Let me preface this discussion by saying that upon hearing about the incident I felt sorry for not only the Italians involved, but also for the U.S. troops involved because they undoubtedly regret what happened. This must be a very hard time for the family of the Italian killed and I sympathize with their grief.

However, I do not sympathize with the faux grief that the Italians are displaying in spades. It all started when right wing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi went on TV and played the crying game – putting on a farcical attempt to hold back faux tears. This is the guy who overruled his whole country and decided to send over 3,000 Italian troops to Iraq in the first place. This is a guy who is so scummy he makes Dick Cheney look like a clean whistle – he has had over a dozen trials involving
bribery, tax fraud, illegal financing ( money laundering), false accounting, embezzlement, and bribing a judge. This is a guy who, when it looked like investigators were about to open the door to his dirty basement, had his party push a law through that granted him immunity from prosecution. Add in evidence of ties to the Mafia, the utterance of ‘Nazi’ slurs, and threatening to investigate ‘subversive’ judges (judges who were overseeing his corruption and bribery cases) and you start to scrape the tip of the iceberg that is Berlusconi. I guess no one does dirty politics like Italians.

But the Italians continue to go along with him. Sure any expert on Italian politics will tell you that since his party was elected in 2001 (and he was appointed Prime Minister), his party has lost seats in the mid-term elections and in the EU elections. However, if you look more closely, you’ll see that he actually didn’t do so bad. In fact, “Mr. Berlusconi's Forza Italia [the party he founded in 1994] and its partners generally matched their local election performance of two years ago or showed a slight improvement” in the mid-term elections and although his performance in the EU elections were less than hoped, “polls indicated no major shift in support for Berlusconi's governing coalition.” Make no mistake about it – the Italian government and its policies are supported by Italians and they are responsible for the outcome.

The blogger Raed of Raed in the Middle cuts right to the point in a post titledItalians, Shame on Youwhen he says:

If you, Italians, had one man (killed by the US army) to pay your respect to, Iraqis are having tens of thousands of civilians that are being killed because of the war Italy is supporting.

The time has come for the Italian people to demand that their government pull out its troops from Iraq. This will be the right step to take now, to avoid further destruction in the relationship between our people.

This doesn't mean that you will be freed of the responsibility you hold for the damage caused by the illegal war on Iraq, but at least you won't be directly responsible for the atrocities that are going to happen in the future.

Yes, the Bloogeyman is an American, and yes, he is being somewhat hypocritical – given that we Americans had our own ‘accountability moment’ a few months ago – but there are many Americans opposed to this war and who are working tirelessly to make those representatives who support it pay a political price. Just last year the Italian Parliament defeated a motion calling for the withdrawal of Italy’s troops – these are your representatives. There is no reason – if the majority of Italians really don’t support the war, and if they really feel sorrow every time an unfortunate incident occurs – for Berlusconi’s party to have remained standing after the mid-term elections.

Maybe more Italians support the war than openly admit – at least if Italians are going to support war they should understand the consequences and not shed faux tears every time they feel a pin prick while bludgeoning another country to death. There is ‘outrage’ right now in Italy over what happened – will they do anything about it? Or, will Silvio Berlusconi emerge victorious again, crying on the outside, but smiling secretly inside...