A little more than a week after the approval of the parliamentary motion asking the government to “evaluate” the F-35 purchase program, Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini announced the approval of the transition to the second phase of the program: Italy will be buying another 27 fighter-bombers from the US, in addition to the 28 we’ve already bought. And in a few months, phase three (the final one) is also expected to be approved, and that will be the end of it.
The government must have worked at supersonic speeds, because we have never seen an “evaluation” be completed in such record time before (although one shouldn’t ask by whom, how, or where such an evaluation was performed). In reality, the Conte 2 government seems to have decided to ignore the request contained in the motion by the majority (which was approved), and instead followed the instructions of the Lega’s motion (which failed), which demanded that the government should proceed to the purchase of the F-35s without delay.
Tellingly, the Lega is celebrating victory, while the LeU is protesting and the PD is embarrassed. In 2014, the PD’s parliamentary group, with a motion put forward by Deputy Scanu (who was the ranking PD member of the Defense Committee at the time), asked for the budget for the purchase of F-35s to be halved. The M5S and Sinistra Italiana abstained, since the motion would not halt the program; however, it was, at the very least, supposed to be a step forward, a kind of “damage control.” That motion—shelved by then-Minister Pinotti, who, from her humble beginnings taking part in the Assisi Peace March, ended up a happy participant in another type of march altogether: the official military parades at the Imperial Forums—has been thoroughly ignored for five years.
Now, newly installed Minister Guerini—one of those who initially voted for it—has sunk both the Scanu motion and the commitment that the PD had made to review and halve the budget for the program. Forced to choose between the PD, who asked him to take another look at the program (at least to some extent), and the Lega, which called for the continuation of the purchases “without ifs or buts,” Minister Guerini chose to side with the Lega, thus betraying many of the hopes of those from the Catholic world, from which he hails both on a personal and on a political level.
The Catholics, together with many lay people, have mobilized in recent years to say that it is a national scandal to spend tens of billions of euros on fighter-bombers whose only purpose is to wage war and carry nuclear weapons. Just a few days ago, Pope Francis had said: “How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?” Dear Minister Guerini: let’s listen to Pope Francis instead of the Lega.
We told our pacifist friends from the M5S and LeU that they should not vote for the Scanu motion. It was nothing more than hot air, and, even worse, it was something that essentially gave a green light to the program of F-35 purchases.
We were right: that’s exactly it was. Now, we’re expecting a serious reaction. It’s not enough to put out a statement saying you disagree, or invoke the most well-worn of excuses: “We had no alternatives.”
For us at the Tagli le ali alle armi (“Clip the weapons’ wings”) campaign (Sbilanciamoci, Rete Disarmo, Rete della Pace), what has just happened is very serious and cannot be allowed to stand without consequences. We will make ourselves heard by the deputies and the political forces that have endorsed this decision. At this point, we expect concrete initiatives in Parliament, not press releases. We could never have imagined that a government consisting of the M5S, LeU and PD would give the go-ahead to the F-35 purchases, toeing the line dictated to them by the Lega. A line which puts them on the wrong side of peace, of disarmament, of nonviolence.
This is an ugly affair, one that the pacifist movement will not forget. And we will do everything possible to try to change the minds of those who are responsible for this choice.