WESTERN EUROPE SHOCKS SCANDAL 1/2
Journalists of foreign newspapers sat around in the press club in
in summer Rome
1990 and lamented that their paper had absolutely no nerve for the delicate Gladio story and its international dimension. For, the revelations of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti on August 3 to the Italian Senators concerning the existence of a secret NATO-linked stay-behind army across
Western Europe had come at a particularly disturbing moment.
Andreotti had made his far-reaching revelation just the day after on August 2, 1990 when
Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein had invaded and occupied . Newspaper editors and military advisers in Kuwait Paris, London and feared that the Gladio story might seriously damage the image of numerous Western democracies and above all destabilise the preparations for the Second Gulf War. For on August 2, in New Washington
Council passed UN Security Council resolution 660, ordering 'that
withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990'. Iraq
Western and world media thereafter focused on the 'Gulf story' and reported how the United States under President George Bush Senior in the world's largest military operation since the Second World War led a large coalition of countries including Germany, France, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, who in Operation Desert Storm in January and February 1991 expelled Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
Thus, quite by coincidence, the global media networks fed the world two bizarre stories at the same time: a clean war in the Gulf and the Gladio scandal in
Europe that did not happen.
Following the revelations of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti the scandal transgressed the Italian border when on October 30, former Socialist Prime Minister of Greece Andreas Papandreou confirmed to the Greek daily Ta Nea that in 1984 he as well had discovered a secret NATO structure in
very similar to the Italian Gladio which he had ordered to dissolve. Passionate calls for a parliamentary investigation of the secret army and its suspected involvement in the right-wing military coup of 1967 followed in Greece but were defeated by the acting conservative government. Defence Minister Varvitsiotis explained that a former Greek military attache in Washington who had worked in NATO would look at the accusations while he promised: Greece
'The government must not fear anything.
Greece the scandal swooped over to Germany where on November 5 Green parliamentarian Manfred Such, having learned of the scandal from the German daily TAZ, formally requested the German government of Helmut Kohl to comment on the suspected existence of Gladio structures in . Germany
While the German Defence Ministry contemplated a strategy how the request should be handled about the private television channel RTL shocked the German public by revealing in a special Gladio report that former members of Hitler's Special Forces SS had been part of Germany's Gladio network, while also in numerous other countries right-wing extremists had been recruited into the anti-Communist secret army.
Tensions heightened even more when German government spokesman Hans Klein in a confused manner thereafter publicly explained that 'the German Gladio was not, as has been claimed, a secret commando troop or a guerrilla unit', adding that he could not discuss details for reasons of strict secrecy.
Klein's statements caused an outcry among opposition Social Democrats and Green politicians who sensed a platform for the upcoming national elections.
Member of Parliament Hermann Scheer, defence expert of the German Socialist
Party (SPD), criticised that this mysterious right-wing network might well be some sort of a 'Ku-Klux-Klan', designed more for clandestine operations against the population and the opposition than for an unlikely Soviet invasion. Scheer insisted that 'in order to avoid that a cover up destroys the traces' an investigation of Gladio had to be carried out as soon as possible.
'The affair is a case for the national public prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt)', Scheer explained, 'because the existence of an armed military secret organisation outside all governmental or parliamentary control is incompatible with the constitutional legality, and therefore must be prosecuted according to the criminal law'
Socialist parliamentarian Wilfried Penner, a member of the parliamentary control commission (PKK) of the German secret service, emphasised that he had never heard of the secret NATO network and 'the mafiotic entanglements', stressing 'that this mess must be dealt with publicly, in front of all eyes'.
Also Burkhard Hirsch, the government controller of the secret service and PKK member, was 'extremely worried' because 'If something remains secret so long, then my life experience tells me, that there must be something rotten about the affair.'
Yet the call for a full-fledged investigation suddenly evaporated amongst the German
Socialists when the acting government revealed that also Socialist Ministers, during their time in office, had covered up the secret whereupon despite the protests of the German Green party the affair was dealt wi t h silently behind closed doors.
Belgium in the evening of November 7, Socialist Defence Minister Guy Coeme addressed a startled public when he confirmed that a secret NATO-linked army had also existed in . With an implicit reference to the Brabantmassacres in the 1980s during which people were gunned down by mysterious men in black in several supermarkets the Defence Minister added: ‘Furthermore I want to know whether there exists a l i n k between the activities of this secret network, and the wave of crime and terror which our country suffered from during the past years.' Belgium
Greatly disturbed, Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens confronted the flashlights of the press declaring: 'I have been Prime Minister for 11 years now, but I have been completely unaware that such a secret network existed in our country.'
The journalists noticed that the Prime Minister 'so self-confident in other circumstances' was 'far from being relaxed'
Whereupon the Belgian parliament decided to form a special committee to investigate the Belgian stay-behind and after having closed down the network a year later presented a valuable 250 pages strong public report
Most sensitively the Belgian parliamentarians discovered that the secret NATO army was still active. They found that a secret meeting of Generals directing the secret stay-behind armies in the numerous countries in
Western Europe had been held in the secret NATO-linked Gladio headquarters ACC as recently as October 23 and 24, 1990.
The meeting of the ACC had taken place in
under the chairmanship of General Raymond Van Calster, chief of the Belgian military secret service SGR (Service General de Renseignement). Brussels
The General was furious when journalists followed the lead and his phone kept ringing all the time.
He first lied to the press when on November 9 he flatly denied having chaired the international ACC meeting, claiming that Gladio was a purely Italian affair. Later he admitted that indeed a secret network had also been erected in
after the Second World War 'to collect information in case of a Soviet invasion'. Belgium
While he angrily insisted that there was 'no direct link with NATO', he refused to reveal further details and at the same time emphasised: 'We have nothing to hide.
In France the government of Socialist President Francois Mitterand attempted to avoid further embarrassment when on November 9 a low key official claimed that in France the secret army 'had long been dissolved'.14 In addition General Constantin Melnik, chief of the French secret services from 1959 to 1962, in the leading French daily spread the rumour that the French Gladio had 'probably already been dissolved after Stalin's death in 1953, and certainly did not exist anymore at the time when De Gaulle was President of France [thus after 1958]'.
The French press sided with the government who was preparing for the war in the
Gulf and refrained from asking sensitive questions and hence 'an affair which made front page headlines in the other daily European newspapers only got a small note at the bottom of the page in Paris'
Italian Prime Minister Andreotti mercilessly shattered the French cover-up when on November 10, 1990 he declared with some amusement that
France also had taken part in the very recent meeting of the Gladio directing body ACC in on October 23, 1990. Somewhat embarrassed, French Defence Minister Jean Pierre Chevenement thereafter attempted to limit the damage by claiming that the French secret army had been completely passive. 'As far as I am aware it never had more than a sleepers' role and a role of liason.' Asked by the radio journalist whether Belgium France would now face similar political turmoil as Italy and , after speculations about domestic and terrorist activities of the secret Gladio army, the Defence Minister calmly replied: 'I don't think so'. Belgium
Journalists noted that the government was making every effort to prevent that the Gladio revelations were recognised as 'a domestic monstrosity'
, spokespersons at the Defence Department declared day after day to the inquisitive British press: 'I'm afraid we wouldn't discuss security matters', and 'It is a security matter. We are not speaking about it', and 'We cannot be drawn into discussing security matters.' Great Britain
As the press continued to raise the Gladio topic day after day British Defence Secretary Tom King tried to handle the thoroughly distressing affair with a casual joke: 'I am not sure what particular hot potato you're chasing after. It sounds wonderfully exciting, but I'm afraid I'm quite ignorant about it. I'm better informed about the Gulf.'20 In the context of the preparations for Operation Desert Storm and the war against
, the British parliament did not press for a parliamentary investigation or an open parliamentary debate but backed the government of Prime Minister John Major. And still in summer 1992 there was no official British explanation on Gladio, leaving journalists as Hugh O'Shaughnessy to lament that 'The silence in Whitehall and the almost total lack of curiosity among MPs about an affair in which Britain was so centrally involved are remarkable. Iraq
In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers, in office since 1982, decided to deal with the sensitive topic by writing a letter to parliament on November 13 in which he confirmed the existence of a secret army also in the Netherlands while stressing that there 'was never any NATO supervision over this organisation'.
Thereafter Lubbers' and Dutch Defence Minister Relus Ter Beek briefed Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee behind closed doors on the sensitive details of the Dutch Gladio. 'Successive Prime Ministers and Defence Ministers have always preferred not to inform other members of their cabinets or Parliament', Lubbers declared to parliament, adding that he was proud that some Ministers had kept the secret.
While parliamentarians criticised the inherent danger of a secret army unknown to parliament or the population at large, it was decided not to carry out a parliamentary investigation of the secret network, nor to present a public report. 'I don't particularly worry that there was, and perhaps still is, such a thing', Hans Dijkstal of the opposition Liberals said. 'What I do have problems with is that until last night Parliament was never told.'
In neighbouring Luxemburg, Prime Minister Jacques Santer on November 14,
1990 took a stand in front of parliament and confirmed that a secret army linked to NATO had also existed in Luxemburg. 'The only activities of these persons, and this is the case for the entire time period in which this network has existed, have been limited to the training in preparation of their missions, including the training of how to behave individually in a hostile environment, and how to coordinate efforts with allied c o u n t r i e s ' , Santer insisted.
The request of parliamentarian Jean Huss of the Luxemburn Green Alternative Party which asked first of all for an open debate in parliament on the issue, and in the second place for the establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the topic, was declined in a majority decision.
In Portugal When the international press related that 'In Portugal, a Lisbon radio station has reported that cells of the network associated with Operation Gladio were active during the 1950s to defend the rightist dictatorship of Dr Salazar', the government in power reacted with a flat refusal.25 Portuguese Defence Minister Fernando Nogueira on November 16, 1990 declared that he had no knowledge of the existence of any kind of Gladio branch in Portugal and claimed that there existed neither in his Defence Ministry, nor in the General Staff of the Portuguese Armed Forces 'any information whatsoever concerning the existence or activity of any "Gladio structure" in Portugal'.
A retired General disagreed with the claim of the government and under the condition of being allowed to remain anonymous confirmed to the press that a secret parallel army also existed in
'dependent on the Defence Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and the Ministry for Colonial Affairs'. Portugal
In neighbouring Spain, which similar to Portugal during most of the Cold War had been a right-wing dictatorship which fought the political opposition with terror and torture, Alberto Oliart, Defence Minister in the early 1980s, considered it to be 'childish' to ask whether also under dictator Franco a secret right-wing army had existed in the country because 'here Gladio was the government'.
Denmark, Defence Minister Knud Enggaard due to public pressure was forced to take a stand in front of the Danish parliament Folketing where on November 21 he rejected the claim that 'any kind' of NATO-supported CIA organisation had been erected in . 'Further pieces of information on a secret service operation in case of an occupation is classified material, even highly classified material', the Defence Minister emphasised, 'and I am therefore prohibited from giving any further information in the Danish parliament'. Member of Parliament Pelle Voigt, who had raised the Gladio question in parliament, noticed that 'the Defence Minister's answer was contradictory and an indirect confirmation of the fact that Denmark , too, had its secret network'. Denmark
Thereafter a discussion of the secret army took place behind closed doors in the committee of the Danish parliament concerned with the supervision of the secret service.
Norway When in the press started to confront the government with Gladio questions, it was provided with what arguably was the shortest comment on the continent of a government concerning the secret army. 'What Hansen said then still applies', Defence Ministry spokesman Erik Senstad explained in a reference to 1978 when after the discovery of the Norwegian stay-behind Defence Minister Rolf Hansen had admitted the existence of a secret army to the Norwegian parliament. Rear Admiral Jan Ingebristen, who in 1985 had stepped down as head of the Norwegian Supreme Defence Command intelligence service, amidst public criticism insisted that it was only logical that the armies had to remain secret: Norway
'There is nothing suspicious about it. But these are units that would stay-behind in occupied territory and it is therefore necessary that they be kept top-secret.'
In Turkey the ruling elite took a stand on the Gladio issue on December when General Dogan Beyazit, President of the Operations Department of the Turkish military and General Kemal Yilmaz, Chief of the Turkish Special Forces confirmed to the press the existence of a secret NATO army in Turkey directed by the 'Special Warfare Department' with the task 'to organise resistance in the case of a Communist occupation'.
While the Generals stressed that the members of the Turkish Gladio were all good 'patriots' the press and former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit stressed that the secret army called Counter-Guerrilla had been repeatedly involved in torture, massacres and assassination operations as well as the coup d'etats the country had suffered from and was presently employed to fight the Kurdish minority in the country. Thereafter the ruling military refused to answer questions from parliament and civil Ministers, and Turkish Defence Minister Giray warned that 'Ecevit had better keep his fucking mouth shut!'
As the Counter-Guerrilla continued its operations, even the US State Department in its 1995 human rights report noticed that in Turkey 'Prominent credible human rights organisations, Kurdish leaders, and local Kurd asserted that the government acquiesces in, or even carries out, the murder of civilians.'
The report of the State Departement noted that 'Human rights groups reported the widespread and credible belief that a Counter-Guerrilla group associated with the security forces had carried out at least some "mystery killings'". In the
, journalist Lucy Komisar tried to gain more information but found that her government was hardly different from the Turkish Generals when it came to military secrets. '"As for United States 's role, Pentagon would not tell me whether it was still providing funds or other aid to the Special Warfare Department; in fact, it wouldn't answer any questions about it." Komisar was repeatedly turned away: "I was told by officials variously that they knew nothing about it, that it happened too long ago for there to be any records available, or that what I described was a CIA operation for which they could provide no information.'" One Pentagon historian said, 'Oh, you mean the "stay-behind" organisation. That's classified.' Washington