Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Bridges to peace

Fabio Alberti from the Italian 'Bridges to Baghdad' argues that the peace movement will have to keep Prodi to his commitment to withdraw from Iraq and calls for the government to initiate an international peace conference.

July 1, 2006
5 min read

Home by the end of the year, even earlier maybe. Italy’s foreign minister Massimo D’Alema declared during his flash visit to Baghdad on June the 7th that Italy’s military presence in Iraq will be over ‘by autumn’. So, a few weeks more, and then the most unpopular, the costliest and bloodiest Italian military experience since World War II will be over. Or not?

D’Alema remarked that the centre-left coalition which won the Italian political election a few weeks ago had a committment to the voters. In fact, ‘Italy will not be leaving Iraq, but will provide political and economic assistance to the new government’. Furthermore, the long overdue withdrawal of Italian troops from the southern Iraqi province of Dhi Qar, will be ‘agreed with the Iraqi government and with allies to ensure that no power vacuum will be left’, he explained. The Italian parliament will soon be debating whether or not to renew the mission in Iraq and, if so, how much to pay for it. The dice, though have been cast.

‘It has not been easy, but we did it’, comments Fabio Alberti, head of the NGO, Bridge to Baghdad. They’ve been working in Iraq since 1993, and two of their staff workers, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta were kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents a year and an half ago. Fabio Alberti, with the expertise his NGO had accumulated in more than ten years of field work in Iraq has been at the forefront of Italy’s peace movement. ‘When one million people demonstrated in Rome, on the 15th of February 2003 we all thought that war was going to explode anyway. And when part of the centre-left coalition decided to vote to send troops, we all knew that they were going to change their mind. We knew we were right, and we are sorry to be proven right, though. Had Berlusconi’s government listened to Italians, who were overwhelmingly against the war, we would have saved the lives of Italian soldiers. And we wouldn’t have been accomplices to an occupation based on lies and developed through violence and political blackmail’.

Italy’s peace movement has been working ever since the start of the war to bring the voice of peaceloving citizen into government offices. Shifting the balance inside the centre-left coalition and even among some parts of the right coalition is the most important achievement of the peace movement. ‘Without those demonstrations, without the debates and events we have held in the last three years all round Italy, I doubt the new government woud have put troop withdrawal into its election programme’ says Alberti, and I doubt even more if it would have kept its word.’

The new government still has to clarify the date when the homecoming will be completed. They also have to explain what ‘economic and political assistance’ means exactly. ‘We do not want to have a continuation of the occupation in civilian clothes’, says Alberti.

The primary goal of the Italian presence in Dhi Qar province and in the city of Nassiriya turns out to have been protection of the interests of Italy’s oil company, ENI. It had been granted by Saddam Hussein the oil concession in the fields around Nassiriya. No-one ever believed the siting of the Italian troops there was a coincidence. ENI hope to have a share of Iraq’s oil wealth. Iraqis resistance and US errors and horrors cancelled this hope. ‘Maybe they realised that it is a better business technique not to equal the US and British troops’, guesses Alberti, ‘nonetheless, it is very good news, which allows Italy to play a different game’.

Alberti has been calling for an international peace conference on Iraq ever since George W. Bush triumphanly declared ‘mission accomplished!’ And he wanted Italy’s strong peace movement to be part of it: ‘We have started good work with the Iraqi oil workers’ union, and with other civil society organisations which are against the occupation, but do not share the jihadist taste for civil war and bloodshed’ he says, ‘they should be part of any new Iraqi institutional architecture and political process. Their exclusion so far has left space for corrupt political parties and religious organisations. It has been a mistake, as big as the exclusion of neighbouring countries, from Iran to Syria, into a wider approach to Iraqi security issues. Democracy is not just voting; if we want – and we do want – a peaceful and democratic Iraq we have to move away from a technocratic approach. We need to trust Iraqis and count on their desire for peace and self-determination. It is the only way to defuse the civil war and the ethnic-religious partition of the country, which would be a catastrophe. Such proposals need to be supported by countries which are not involved in the occupation. Now Italy has a chance to push for it. If we are not at war, we can talk politics, and work for a respectful peace’.Fabio Alberti was talking to Enzo Mangini from Carta, a partner with Red Pepper in Eurotopia.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun