Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Piazza dei Signori Americani?

Many Americans are aware of the terrible costs of the Iraq war in lives and money, among Americans, coalition partners and most especially Iraqis. For those interested in some of the other costs of this war, such as the current perception of the American military abroad, the case of an airport called Dal Molin in the northern Italian town of Vicenza provides a useful barometer. As I had mentioned earlier, the American military wants to expand this airport and convert it into an American air base and then connect it with the current American army base there, Caserma Ederle. The Americans, in fact, had announced that an agreement had already been reached during the Italian government of the former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. But there’s just one problem with this agreement – they forgot to ask the local people of Vicenza what they thought about it and now there are problems. After much agitating, tomorrow there will be an unprecedented meeting at the town’s famous Piazza dei Signori to decide whether or not to submit this decision to a popular referendum. In order to pull off this town meeting, an enormously high level of security has also been necessary to keep the anticipated angry crowds under control, not only at the Piazza, but also at other civic offices. The local paper, Il Giornale di Vicenza, refers to this level of security with words such as senza precedenti (“without precedent”), or, using words that recall the Nazis of WWII, these offices are called Aula bunker (“bunker entrances”), or the local government is referred to as a municipio sbarrato (“barricaded municipality”).

It’s important to keep a few things in mind about this situation. The Italians are among our closest allies in the entire globe, second only to Britain, and an overwhelming majority are disgusted at us over the toxic miasma in Iraq. The damage to American interests that this disgust has produced and is producing should not be underestimated and is not the fault of the Italian left or any other party. The fault lies squarely upon the shoulders of the current American administration, whose hubristic imperial policies have and will not only cost us a helluva of a lot more money (to relocate bases...), but will also make us less safe and more isolated as we take up with unsavory characters in other corners of the globe to replace the good friends we have now.

O yes, in the photo one sees the two columns that grace one end of the Piazza dei Signori at Vicenza – the Piazza of the Lords. The left column was built by the Venetians. The lion was the symbol of their imperial rule and it was Venetian custom to build such lion-topped columns among their subjects. Note the book under the lion’s right paw – it is open. This signifies that the people of Vicenza had willingly agreed to become a satellite of the Venetian empire without battle. Had the book been closed, as is in other places and on top of other columns throughout the Venetian empire, it would have signified that the Venetians needed to resort to coercive measures on the Vicentini. Tomorrow, should the local and national Italian governments not allow there to be a popular, democratic referendum and go on to push through the expansion of the American base without public approval, then we might rightly say that a column topped with an eagle holding a closed book in his talons should be erected on the Piazza dei Signori Americani.


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