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FTR #322 Miscellaneous Articles and Updates

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As the title indicates, this program brings up-to-date a number of stories covered in past FTR broadcasts, as well as covering new ones.

1. Continuing coverage of a bombing in Venice, Italy, the program highlights the possibility that the Strategy of Tension may be in the process of resuscitation. “Italy was threatened with a return to the dark days of terrorism as a powerful bomb ripped through the Venice courthouse in yesterday’s early-morning hours, destroying several stores and shattering windows across the city shortly before a visit by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Law enforcement officials would say only that a sophisticated bomb was used. But both government and opposition politicians linked the blast, which slightly injured two guards, with the violence between antiglobalization demonstrators and police at last month’s Genoa summit of the Group of Eight leading nations.” (“Bomb Explodes in Venice, Casting a Pall” by Yaroslav Trofimov; The Wall Street Journal; 8/10/2001; p. A7.)

2. The mayor of Venice gave voice to the anxiety felt by many Italians over the attack. “ ‘Italy has already experienced this strategy of tension in the past, when it was used by extremists on both sides,’ Venice Mayor Paolo Costa said in an interview.” (Idem.)

3. Further heightening speculation about a revival of the Strategy of Tension, a bomb exploded at the headquarters of the rightwing Northern League, part of the coalition government of Silvio Berlusconi. “A bomb exploded in an office of the rightwing Northern League in a small town near Padua early yesterday, less than a month after a courthouse was bombed in Venice. The attacks have led some government members to claim that the country is facing a campaign to destabilize the new administration of Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister.” (“Parties Suspect One Another Over Italian Bombing” by Jo Johnson; Financial Times; 8/24/2001; p. 2.)

4. The Northern League, predictably, charged the left with being behind the attack. “The League had predicted these bombs,’ said Roberto Castelli, justice minister and Northern League politician. ‘They are terrorist acts against change.’ The night before the bomb Umberto Bossi, Northern League leader, was quoted as saying the left wanted to ‘profit from terrorism in order to reverse electoral results’. Mr. Berlusconi has spoken of a ‘worrying escalation of violence’ aimed at the Italian government.” (Idem.)

5. Other observers had a different analysis. “But others have suggested Italian intelligence services may be reviving a ‘strategy of tension’—the term given to suspected collusion between parts of the Italian state, fascist terrorists and provacateurs in the 1970’s to discredit the left. Lawyers for the Genoa Social Forum, an umbrella group for anti-globalization groups, say they have evidence of links between hooligans and police.” (Idem.)

6. The make-up and history of the Berlusconi government is summarized in the conclusion of the article. “The inclusion in the government of the Northern League, which was once committed to the break-up of the Italian state, and of the National Alliance, which has its origins with Italy’s fascist past, has also been cited as a possible cause of recent bombs. Responsibility for the bomb in Venice and a fake one found last week at Rome’s busy Termini railway station has been claimed by various groups, including at least one that said it was a spin-off from the Red Brigades, the militant group notorious for kidnapping and murdering Aldo Moro, a former prime minister, in 1978. Yesterday’s bomb injured no-one.” (Idem.)

7. Silvio Berlusconi was a member of the P-2 Lodge of Licio Gelli. Highlighting an interesting aspect of Gelli’s flight from justice in the mid 1980s (after the disclosure of the existence of the P-2 and its role in Italian politics), in Switzerland, Gelli rendezvoused with a journalist with whom he was acquainted. Going to the appointed place of meeting, the journalist walked right past someone wearing the uniform of a U.S. Air Force General. That person turned out to be Gelli! When asked where he got the uniform, Gelli said he got it from his good friend George Bush, who had aided him in his escape! At the time the incident took place, Bush was Vice President of the United States. (Panorama [Italian news magazine]; 10/4/87.)

8. Turning to a mysterious suitor for US Airways, the program examines one Emil Bernard. The discussion engages in speculation that the mysterious Mr. Bernard may be associated with the remarkable and deadly Bormann Organization. “US Airways took a break from worrying about its future yesterday to ponder the identity and motives of the little-known investor who claims to want to buy the carrier. Emil Bernard, who chairs an unlisted company called Global Airlines, said on Sunday he would be prepared to offer $1.8bn, or $27 per share in stock and cash, for the airline. Industry executives have been able to find out very little about Global, except that it is an airline with no aircraft. Until last year Mr. Bernard had made headlines only for an unsuccessful proposal in 1978 to buy the San Francisco Giants baseball team and move it to Washington.” (“US Airways Attempts to Unmask its Mystery Suitor” by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson; Financial Times; 8/7/2001; p. 1.)

9. The assets of the elusive Mr. Bernard are altogether enigmatic. “James Sprayregen of Kirkland & Ellis, which acted as TWA’s counsel [during an earlier attempt by Bernard to take control of TWA], said: ‘We were unable to confirm the financial wherewithal of Mr. Bernard’s group and as a result elected not to proceed with his proposal.’ Other people close to TWA said Mr. Bernard’s proposed offer to buy TWA was sent on a single sheet of plain paper and stated that if TWA would not accept his terms of $3.75 per share he would make another offer of $4.75.” (Idem.)

10. Bernard’s background in running airlines appears to be minimal. “Mr. Bernard’s spokesman, John Scott, has described him as a real estate investor. Regulators said yesterday he had not been granted any prior approval to run an airline. . . .Global said last year it had agreed to buy 450 aircraft from Alliance Aircraft, a start-up with no manufacturing plant. Nothing has come of the agreement. Mr. Scott also announced last year that Global would seek an American Stock Exchange listing. The exchange said yesterday there was no application pending. Mr. Bernard has no listed telephone number or website, and could not be reached yesterday.” (Idem.)

11. Continuing discussion of the Bormann organization, the program turns to one of the many companies that appear to have had dealings with the Bormann group—the giant ConAgra food company. The firm was involved in a labor dispute of almost two years’ duration. (“Teamsters Reach Deal with ConAgra, Ending Strike” by Nancy Cleeland; Los Angeles Times; 8/18/2001; p. C8.)

12. One of the firms absorbed into ConAgra was the Bremen-based firm Becher GmbH. Founded by SS Colonel Kurt Becher with proceeds gleaned from the Holocaust, the firm grew into a leading grain-trading firm. (“Nazi Money Trail Heats Up after 50 Years” by Greg Steinmetz; Wall Street Journal; 4/28/97; p. A1.)

13. Revisiting a subject that has occupied a great deal of discussion in past programs, the broadcast cites one of the relatively few articles touching on Haj Amin al-Husseini—the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The first leader of the Palestinian National Movement and an officer in the SS, the Grand Mufti was one of the most important Axis operatives in the Muslim world.

The program highlights Grand Mufti’s role in suppressing Palestinian dissent against his anti-Semitic policies. “. . .When Westerners puzzle over why it’s so hard for Israel to find moderate interlocutors among the Palestinians—historically among the best educated, most entrepreneurial, and liberal of Arab societies—a sad but simple part of the answer is that a great number of he Palestinian elites who might have filled that role were either killed or persuaded to leave long ago. Those now living prosperously in Europe, America or the Gulf states have little interest in returning to fight both Israel and Yasser Arafat for this little patch of dry land. The creation of such a situation was exactly the intent of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and foremost Arab political and religious leader in Palestine under the British mandate. During the late 1930’s, his forces killed hundreds of Jews. But even more important to him was getting rid of any Arabs who might tolerate a Jewish presence. Many were killed, often in mass executions. Others fled.” (“Where Have All the Moderate Palestinians Gone?”; Wall Street Journal; 8/14/2001; p. A14.)

14. Turning to the continuing warfare in the former Yugoslavia, the broadcast sets forth allegations from the German press that US advisors to Macedonian rebels were among the fighters evacuated under UN auspices. “Among the rebels that were withdrawing, there were 17 ‘instructors’—former US officers that provided military training for the rebels. Not only that: the Macedonian security forces claim that 70% of the equipment that the guerilla fighters took with them are of US production, among which are some of the most sophisticated third generation night vision devices.” (“US Advisors Were Helping the Albanian Rebels;” Hamburger Abendblat; 6/28/2001.)

15. It has also been alleged that British mercenaries were among the ethnic Albanians fighting in Macedonia. “Former British soldiers are fighting the Macedonia security services as part of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, Scotland on Sunday has learned. Sources with in the NLA confirmed that 12 British nationals were fighting with them in the Kumanovo region, along with at least two Dutch men and a German.” (“British Fighters Seek Thrill of Battle in Macedonia’s Struggle” by Conal Urquhart; Scotland on Sunday; 7/15/2001.)

16. Next, the program sets forth an eerie item of discussion (repeated in FTR#326 and in FTR#349.) The broadcast highlights the theft of a briefcase containing top-secret documents about counterintelligence and counterterrorist operations in New York. (“FBI Terror Expert Lost Track of Top-Secret Plans” by David Johnston [New York Times]; San Francisco Chronicle; 8/19/2001; p. A8.) The FBI expert in question, the [late] John O’Neill, was in charge of the Bin Laden investigation for the FBI. The broadcast delineates a disturbing aspect of the documents stolen from O’Neill in the summer of 2000. “Officials identified one document in the briefcase as a draft of the annual field office report for national security operations in New York. The closely guarded report contained a description of every counterespionage and counterterrorism program in New York and detailed the manpower for each operation.” (Idem.) In August, O’Neill left the bureau to become director of security for the World Trade Center. He was killed on 9/11, approximately two weeks after this program was broadcast!

17. One of the more revolting media positions taken in recent years was assumed by writer and social critic Gore Vidal. Vidal began a correspondence with convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and (ultimately) ended up lionizing this fascist murderer. (The evidence is overwhelming that McVeigh and Nichols did not act alone. Nonetheless, Vidal’s embrace of McVeigh is preposterous. Since this program was broadcast, Vidal has topped it off by blaming World War II on Franklin Delano Roosevelt!) (“Vidal Casts McVeigh as a Hero” by James Bone; The London Times; 8/8/2001.)

18. As if Vidal’s take on the Oklahoma City bombing and World War II wasn’t startling enough, the program covers the proposed role of a proto-fascistic UFO cult in the drive to clone human beings. The Raelians are a group founded by a French ex-race car driver, after his alleged contact with a space alien. (“Cloning Clash” by Edward Epstein; San Francisco Chronicle; 8/8/2001; pp. A1, A10.)

19. The program concludes with discussion of the state of America in the late summer of 2001. Journalist Robert Parry noted the contrast between the World War II generation of Americans (as epitomized in the movie Saving Private Ryan) and the current crop. “Near the end of Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic Saving Private Ryan, Captain John Miller—played by Tom Hanks—lies dying, wounded after a desperate battle to defend a bridge in Normandy. He signals to Private James Ryan to come close and whispers a final message. ‘Earn this,’ Miller tells the young soldier. ‘Earn it.’ The admonition seems harsh. In the movie, Ryan—played by Matt Damon—had lost his brothers in the Normandy invasion and fought bravely himself. He chose to say with his unit to defend the bridge rather than leave his post for safety when Miller’s patrol arrived to ‘save’ him.” (“A Time to ‘Earn This’ by Robert Parry; ConsortiumNews.com; 8/9/2001; p. 1.)

20. “Like many real soldiers who served in World War II, the fictional Ryan would seem to have done more than his fair share in the defense of his country and in the battle against tyranny. Yet, the message from a dying Capt. Miller to the young Private Ryan was ‘earn this.’ What a difference a generation or two can make!” (Idem.)

21. After Parry notes the many areas of disintegration of the country, he goes on to re-emphasize the contrast between Miller, Ryan and the Bush generation. “In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the Washington news media is more concerned about demographics than democracy. It’s a different time and ethos from the one depicted in Saving Private Ryan. Fifty-seven years ago, American soldiers were battling their way across Europe, contributing to the end of one of history’s most tyrannical regimes. That victory gave rise to democratic aspirations around the would, fueling the hope that all nations might finally accept the founding American principle, that governments must derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. At the end of Saving Private Ryan, the scene of Ryan on the bridge in France merges into the face of Ryan as an old man. He has returned to Normandy and searched out the gravestone of Capt. Miller. Fighting back tears, Ryan says he has tried to live a good life and has thought every day about Miller’s admonition to ‘earn this.’ He says it is his greatest hope that ‘I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.’” (Ibid.; p. 6.)


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