In Italy, I found that the anti-war movement has been growing steadily. IVAW was invited by a national organization called Un Ponto Per, or “A Bridge Towards.” This group is an umbrella organization for several smaller peace groups that enjoy popular support from the Italian population as well as radio and television media. The stories of American GIs who have begun to oppose the war and the administration have been incredibly inspiring for them; stories of Adam Kokesh, Kelly Dougherty, and Camilo Mejia.
The peace movement has been consistently but slowly growing, and Un Ponto Per is eager to learn from the anti-war groups in America such as Veterans for Peace, IVAW, and Military Families Speak Out. My guide, Phillip Rushton, gained notoriety not long ago when he published a book of MFSO letters translated into Italian. From that point on, the book has garnered attention and helped to build a bridge between the American and Italian anti-war movements.
Italy has a large base of support for ending the Bush administration’s “reign of terror,” as many have come to despise the outright lies and fabrications used to justify the war. As in America, there is no question as to the illegitimacy of invading Iraq. Seeing such a clear violation of international law, many wonder why Bush was reelected. The call for impeachment here seems stronger here than I noticed in the US. Walking the streets of Rome, nearly every vertical surface is plastered with “No Bush, No War” posters.
Italian troops entered Iraq in November 2003 and at one point reached nearly 3,000 in number, the third largest troop contingent in Iraq after the US and the UK. Facing significant opposition to the war, the government withdrew all Italian troops from Iraq in November 2006, after losing 33 soldiers in combat. However, 2,000 troops remain in Afghanistan, which the Italian majority would like to see returned home. Their presence, as well as repeated concessions to the Bush administration, has made Italians feel that their government has become a servant state to the US.
Additionally, the Italian government has approved a US land grab in Vicenza, where the 173rd Airborne Brigade will likely double in size. This action was approved without popular vote in Italy, in fact it came as a surprise to many Italians (especially the local population of Vicenza; when the facts became clear, a permanent sit-in was established after a crowd of 200,000 held a massive protest).
IVAW will also maintain contact with the Italian anti-war movement, as we have much to learn from one another and many Italian soldiers have expressed interest in becoming unofficial members. As of right now, IVAW is not able to branch out into an international organization, but perhaps in the future we can welcome fellow Italian veterans of Iraq into our ranks. It is encouraging to be reminded that the US is not the only country who is fighting to end the war in Iraq. On June 9th, when President Bush visited Rome, he was met with enormous protests from several thousand Italians throughout the country chanting “No Bush, No War;” plain language even our stumbling orator-President should understand.