February 3rd marked the nineteenth anniversary of the Cermis massacre. On the same day in 1998, a United States Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler warfare aircraft – deployed on a training mission over the Italian Alps and flying at dangerously low altitudes of between 260 and 320 feet – struck the cables of an aerial tramway cabin descending from the Cermis Mountain in Trentino.

The cabin was severed, plunging all of its twenty passengers to their deaths.

The investigation that followed was conducted with one clear objective in mind: to avoid a potential diplomatic confrontation between Washington and Rome since, as it turns out, this incident could have motivated Italian authorities to deny the Americans further employment of the Aviano Air Base – where the EA-6B was stationed – as the launch-pad for the US bombing campaign against Yugoslavia that was taking place at the time.

Despite their perpetration of crimes on Italian soil, NATO treaties stipulate that American military personnel serving abroad be tried in the United States under all circumstances, bearing once again testimony to the fact that Italy was – and still is – a country under military occupation with limited – if any – sovereignty.

The judiciary farce that followed saw the NCIS external personnel originally put in charge of the investigation only to be outmuscled and eventually replaced by a USMC committee that, guided by the conviction that the Corps’ honor had to be preserved at all costs, proved instrumental to the interests of their puppeteers.

President Clinton offered his “apologies”, whilst all evidence pointed towards the implausibility of a human mistake, such as the tape recorded by the pilots as a “souvenir” of their hovering over the Alps which emerged as the likely reason for the flight at an illegally low altitude – this evidence was covered up or destroyed.

The final outrage occurred in March 1999, when both USMC officers were acquitted of manslaughter or negligent homicide, with only pilot Richard Ashby serving four months of a six-month sentence for obstruction of justice in relation to the destruction of the “tourist” tape.

Thus, every year on the 3rd of February, all Italians are mercilessly reminded about the many aspects of a military occupation spanning the length of nearly eight decades.

With the exception of the diplomatic incident following the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, when the Italian government stood its ground in the face of American extra-territorial despotism, Rome has never been able to recover even a tiny fraction of its sovereignty since the end of WW2.

The total number of NATO military sites on Italian soil, ranging from fully-fledged nuclear fortresses like Aviano Air Base to remote US radar installations, is 113.



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