Commentary. Four generals have lined up behind a direct attack against M5S Defense Minister Trenta, and one cannot fail to glimpse, in the background of all this, the influence of the far right, newly emboldened after the European elections.

Four generals ‘behind the hill’ strike at M5S on Republic Day

“Freedom and democracy are not compatible with those who are fueling conflicts, with those who are trying to create senseless oppositions between identities, with those who are fomenting clashes, who keep searching for someone to call an enemy; with those who are limiting pluralism,” said the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, at the concert for the diplomatic corps that started off the celebration of June 2, Republic Day.

To our understanding, these salutary words set us on the right track—if nothing else, they made us remember that June 2 is Republic Day in Italy, not Armed Forces Day.

And, most importantly, they reminded us that if we adopt the perspective of the high-minded message coming from the Quirinal Hill as we examine the scenarios currently taking place around the Mediterranean and on the international scene, we have in these words a message that can and should be interpreted as a rejection of any and all racist identitarianism and of the search for enemies at all costs; a message of peace, a message for an Italian Republic tethered to our Constitution, which, in Article 11, states clearly that it “rejects war as a means of solving international conflicts.”

That might seem so obvious that it hardly needs to be said—however, it does bear repeating, since we are once again faced with a conflict within the ill-fated “government contract,” which has been rendered rather threadbare by the results of the European elections, with the boost given to Salvini’s sovereignist populism and the merciless cutting down to size of the M5S.

After the crisis brought on by the Lega’s undersecretaries who are mired in judicial investigations, after the clash of words around who actually decides whether the ports will remain closed to migrant reception, and whether saving human beings should be treated as a crime, and after the latest soap opera around Tria’s letter to the European Commission, controversy has again erupted within the government coalition, now regarding the role of the army.

Four generals have lined up behind a direct attack against M5S Defense Minister Trenta, and one cannot fail to glimpse, in the background of all this, the influence of the far right, newly emboldened after the European elections. Thankfully, we are not in 1936 Republican Spain, and there is no generalissmo Franco looming on the horizon; we are in modern-day Italy, where everyone has a smartphone. However, the mythology of the “four generals” and their ostentatious declaration with mutinous undertones still strikes a very unwelcome chord.

Also thankfully, the aforementioned generals are not on active duty, but retired. However, they chose not to join the unions and the “regular” retirees in their protest march on Saturday morning against the initiatives of the current government, which will shrink their incomes, as they will no longer be tied to the increases in the cost of living. The four generals (Camporini, Tricarico, Arpino and Preziosa) declared that they would not take part in the June 2 celebrations, and attacked the government on two points: for one, criticizing the “offensive” talk about cutting down the “golden pensions,” a move that is more than a little self-interested on their part; and, secondly, protesting against Minister Trenta’s idea of dedicating the June 2 festivities to “inclusion.”

In effect, their protest aims at restoring the central place of weapons of war and those who bear them in the Italian Republic. There is little of value to be gained from this scandal, as the controversy appears, at the very least, a sterile and dishonest one.

It seems that Italy cannot manage to put up a united front even on the anniversary of the Republic.

As the missionary Father Alex Zanotelli cogently pointed out, the four generals should rest easy, because the government is, unfortunately, not in the least bit anti-war.

Quite the contrary. Our “contract-based” government has kept up the current level of weapons spending, amounting to €70 million per day. The RWM-branded bombs, made in Italy, are quietly being delivered to fuel the massacres in Yemen. And last but not least, Minister Trenta recently took part in the christening ceremony for the hull of the Trieste military vessel, which will cost a total of €1.4 billion, a multifunctional floating fortress with amphibious assault capabilities, which will carry helicopter gunships and many F-35 fighters, plus a battalion of 600 soldiers ready to disembark and set up a military occupation if desired (but which will certainly not be tasked with rescuing desperate refugees)— a project approved by the previous Renzi government.

The four generals can rest easy, safe “behind the hill,” as Francesco de Gregori put it in his classic song Generale, recounting the horrors of the First World War. In the end, we will manage to find an enemy—whether internal or external. No one needs to worry that we might actually heed the President’s call for peace.

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