On a sunny summer morning in 1980 a suitcase packed with TNT suddenly and unexpectedly exploded in the waiting room of the central rail station in Bologna, Italy. By the time the smoke cleared, 85 people were dead and hundreds more wounded. It was the worst man-made disaster in Italy since World War II. Over the course of the next year, investigations into the attack revealed the possible involvement of a shadowy, NATO-sponsored anti-communist front: Operation Gladio.
Richard Cottrell’s 2012 book Gladio: NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe is a detailed look at the role Gladio has allegedly played in shaping European politics during the last half century. Cottrell was part of the first British delegation to the European Parliament, elected from the Bristol constituency in 1979 and reelected in 1984. A former reporter for Britain’s ITV television network, he is known for his books The Sacred Cow and Blood on Their Hands, the latter an investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the 1971 murder of journalist Ann Chapman in Greece. We spoke with Mr. Cottrell about his book, the future of European integration and what role he believes Gladio continues to play in continental history.
COTTRELL: Basically from this one fuse-lighting statement: I read a report that on August 9, 2006, the ‘New Labour’ Home Secretary Dr. John Reid gave an extraordinary speech at a Demos think tank conference in London in which he virtually declared war on the private citizenry. This pompous token of the Blair government informed the lesser mortals that they ‘may have to modify their notion of freedom’, as a result of his plans to make the nation more secure. Freedom was the oxygen ‘misused and abused by terrorists.’ Notice the punishment of the many for any sins of the few, imaginary or otherwise, the stripe of both National Socialism and Soviet communism.
Less than a year later, on July 7 2007 the London Underground network was bombed (‘7/7’), supposedly by a small band of Jihadists. I immediately recognized the resurrection of the old Gladio strategy of tension which terrorized Europeans in the 1960’s and 70’s. Any connection between Reid’s curiously prescient remarks and the subsequent outrage is of course entirely co-incidental.
PARAPOLITICAL: Gladio: NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe was published in May of last year. Since that time the world – Europe, specifically – has been engulfed by a whirlwind of news: the previous government of Libya has been replaced, there have been almost daily riots in southern European capitals, trials in the Sledgehammer conspiracy in Turkey continue to plod along, the Pope has dramatically quit. Do you see the hand of Gladio in these or any other recent events?
COTTRELL: Ergenekon (aka Iron Mountain) the derin devlet organization behind Sledgehammer and some quite terrible contemporary atrocities is pure Gladio, as widely accepted in the Turkish media for some years. Without doubt modern Gladio is a brand which draws on the mentality and philosophy of its predecessor, meaning specifically the use of false flag terrorism and the famous ‘strategy of tension’ to scare electorates with the peril of the enemy in their midst. The communist bogey having somewhat (if not entirely) exhausted itself, the domestic stage is now crowded with menacing anti-globalists, ‘anarchists’ and Jihadists. Ergenekon, which is closely linked to the Pentagon and US intelligence, demonstrates the sheer portability of the brand. The plots and violence are intended to discredit the soft Islamic government now in power in Ankara, which the US dislikes. The names change, the tactics are the same. The US has an ingrained habit of knocking over Turkish governments, invariably with bloody consequences, over many years.
What is also new this time around on the Gladio carousel is the export model which appeared in Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequently Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and so forth. There is now an African model of Gladio, typified by the utterly phony Joseph Kony affair in Uganda and more recently the synthetic unrest in various French West African countries that just happen to be rich in mineral deposits which the West desires before the Russians and the Chinese grab them. The murders of western oil workers in Nigeria by alleged Jihadists are part of the same pattern. I have been reporting these events at www.endthelie.com, should anyone wish to keep up with my running commentary there. For sure you can’t keep a successful brand model down, not even I must say, in the United States. It is worth noting that the expansion of NATO far beyond the confines of its original European theatre has occurred without debate in any public forum. Planetary NATO in all but name was remarkably foreseen with astonishing clarity by the great American thinker James Burnham more than 60 years ago. The Alliance – notably poet in residence Madeleine Albright – has been quite open that ‘wars of resources’ are now an integral element of the armoury.
PARAPOLITICAL: In the book you explain that Gladio “was designed to penetrate terrorist organisations of both Left and Right. The manipulators then exploit the resultant disorder to discredit and disable established Left-wing forces in Europe from posing a threat to the established political order.” Can we challenge you on that point? During investigation of the Bologna train station bombing members of the right-wing Terza Posizione were implicated. It later turned out an Italian intelligence operative and P2 member, Pietro Musumeci, had planted evidence. Terza Posizione were followers of the writings of the so-called “super fascist” Julius Evola whose philosophy outlines an opposition to modernity and “the twin pillars of evil” (capitalism and communism). Would you be open to the idea that Gladio existed to destabilize all forms of anti-Atlanticist groups, regardless of their leftist or rightist orientation?
COTTRELL: First Bologna.
The attack was planned and carried out by secret intelligence services – notably military intelligence SISMI – with the aid of their associates in the murky underworld of resurgent Italian fascism. Giuseppe Valerio Fioravanti, a former child actor in the Italian cinema, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the outrage. Fioravanti was among the founders of the neofascist Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionary (NAR). The same organization was implicated in the bombing of the Agricultural Bank in Milano’s Fountain Square in 1969, which began the anni di piombo (the ‘years of lead’). Senior members of Terza Posizione (Third Position) came under suspicion in relation to Bologna but nothing was proven. It seems probable that the highly equivocal former SISMI director, General Giuseppe Santovito – Maltese Knight, P2 member, associate of organized crime, whose finger prints were on many Gladio scandals, including the assassination of Aldo Moro – personally activated the Bologna massacre. He certainly perverted the course of justice in the investigation of the attack on Pope John Paul II. On that account he fled to the US late in 1981. Returning to Italy a year later he was promptly arrested and charged for complicity in the Bologna bombing. He died before he could appear in court, a famous Italian solution. Why Bologna? It was always known as the ‘Red City’ because of the great concentration of communist strength there. The intention was to cloak the Brigate Rosse (the Red Brigades) with responsibility for the outrage. The annual commemoration is marked by many thousands.
As for the historical origins of Gladio we know that it was originally designed as a ‘stay behind’ army to frustrate Soviet invaders. When that task lapsed, due to lack of demand, the Allied Coordination Committee specifically switched the role of the otherwise redundant secret armies to ‘combating internal subversion’ (official top secret minute circulated to all Alliance member states in the summer of 1959). Henceforth much of Europe was subjected to synthetic terrorism (hard and soft) to dramatize and inflate all agencies of the Left, and their sympathizers (the state execution of Italian ex-premier Aldo Moro in May 1978 a tragic example) as working for Moscow. This was indeed an ‘Atlantic’ Cold War agenda precisely because NATO was in charge of it. However a good deal of the action, so to speak, was sub-let to Right-wing terrorists and affiliated organizations. The dividing line between guns for hire, neo-fascist groups and professional criminals, the secret armies and the deep state was invariably seamless. Little has changed there. The need to protect and preserve the Atlantic Consensus is paramount.
PARAPOLITICAL: Gladio: NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe discusses a secret agenda for NATO’s stay-behind armies in western Europe in great detail. On another front we’ve seen, since 1991, the United States become a major cheerleader for European integration, pushing for inclusion of Turkey in the EU and deriding recent anti-EU tendencies in the UK. A few years ago the French newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur called the eastern European republics – whose current political leaders were, twenty years ago, young activists receiving money and training from the U.S. – “America’s Trojan Horses.” Whose interest, in your view, does the EU primarily serve?
COTTRELL: For me this is an especially interesting question because I formerly lived and worked in Poland for some years and also spent time in Bulgaria, Russia, Estonia and the Ukraine. I have an unpublished work (lack of time) entitled Holy Ghosts: How the CIA hi-jacked the Polish Revolution. This describes the extremely subtle and clever penetration of the Solidarnosc political and trade union movement by western intelligence and how the famous Round Table negotiations between the Communist Party, the Roman Catholic Church and Solidarnosc that brought an end to Communist rule, were controlled and manipulated in order to reduce Poland to a subject state of the EU. In April 2010 a Polish Air Force plane carrying the crème de la crème of the Polish ruling civilian and military class, including the president, the prickly Eurosceptic and Russophobe Lech Kaczynski, crashed near Smolensk in Russia, due to as yet unexplained reasons. All ninety-six on board perished. My investigations suggest that the aeroplane was brought down by a ground to air missile. The bungled landing attributed to the dead pilot attempting to land in thick fog was certainly a crude concoction. I believe this terrible affair was a direct continuation of the same agenda described above and incidentally, a rare instance of co-operation between western and Russian Gladio-type methods.
The EU is the child of the Marshall Plan and the federation of international agencies set up following WW2: World Bank, IMF, Bank of International Settlements, NATO and so forth, all with the active aid and assistance of Prince Bernhard’s Bilderberg organization. So in more than one sense the EU and North America (the U.S. and Canada) already form an increasingly integrated bloc. The military task is completed. The next step is to link the two continents within a seamless free trade area, a proposal which has now moved into the front line political arena. The current economic heavy weather is likely to provide a good deal of useful impetus for this truly Orwellian project, so we must ponder how much of the economic turmoil is actually genuine and how much is got up for propaganda purposes. (The elastic strategy of tension, yet again). Lenin (among others) always asked, why waste a good crisis?
PARAPOLITICAL: Your two terms as a Conservative deputy in the European Parliament occurred several years before the UK Independence Party was formed and at a time when the thought of a Lib Dem-Conservative coalition might have seemed fantastical. In light of these changes, your new book, and some years of intervening history, we’d be interested to hear how, or if, your personal political beliefs have evolved or changed since you left public service. Also, what are you working on next?
COTTRELL: I don’t find these changes quite as fantastical as you suggest. We have been on the road towards collectivist politics – by which I mean the Hegelian tendency for opposites in political terms to attract each other – for quite some time. The regime of Margaret Thatcher made it impossible for any practical challenge to be mounted from the Left, so the Left responded by tacking to the Right. The authoritarian Blair was a natural flowering of what he himself called ‘cherry picking,’ trading policies across traditional party frontiers. The German situation is identical. In France, the ‘socialist’ Franciois Hollande is a natural conservative with strong autocratic leanings. His political litany is closer to Petainism. Sweden is a small country which used to be regarded as the epitome of nanny Scandinavian social democracy. It would be more accurate now to describe it as a one-party neoconservative state in which the role of the moderate Left has been utterly marginalized. Two very high profile murders of prominent politicians, clearly out of the Gladio playbook, helped things along. The situation in the United States – and for that matter, Canada – requires no elaboration here.
If you dam rivers the water tends to take another course. This is why we see the rise of anti-party movements such as UKIP, the Grillini (‘crickets’) in Italy, the Tsipras coalition in Greece, the burgeoning anti-euro movement in Germany, not excluding the Nationalists in Scotland. These developments disturb and unnerve the entrenched elites and they will react. So far as I am personally concerned the Conservative party left me, rather than the other way about. Thatcher ensured that the once important radical strain of Conservative thinking – that which we can trace to predecessors including Disraeli, Joseph Chamberlain – was destroyed root and branch. The modern Conservative party reflects the continuing trend in the direction of one-party autocracy, dragging the miserable ‘Liberals’ with it. The Labour opposition proclaims an ideology close to the take on emergent national socialism which the Conservatives parade.
My current important project is to work for an independent political force that will run candidates on a transnational basis in the elections to the European Parliament next year. Branded rather loosely around the concept of The Gladiators (from my book) I hope this will flower as a wide reaching group determined to halt the drift of all European nations to an Orwellian, total surveillance police state. The EU is a centralized construct with a Death Star nature to destroy democratic freedoms and civil liberties, irrespective of the actions in that direction by national governments. Aristotle wrote in his Politics that doing nothing is specifically a choice and I don’t think that we can afford the luxury of that option for the sake of future generations. It is time to make a firm stand against Big Brother.