For the last five years, Italy’s economy has been experiencing negative growth, -1,4 percent. The arms industry has been a notable exception: in 2014, the goverment issued export licences worth 2.6 billion euro, a 23 percent increase from the previous year. And nearly a third of these arms ended up in Saudi Arabia, that since March has been bombing Yemen with no UN authorization whatsoever. Nearly a third of these arms helped causing 6,000 dead.
Here, yet, nobody even knows that there’s a war in Yemen.
Nobody knows where Yemen is.
In Italy even if you have a MA in International Relations, like me, what you’ve got of colonialism is that Italy was different from Great Britain and France. It never was so cruel. Because in the end we Italians are sunny people, aren’t we? Sunny and funny. Everybody likes us. And so you study history, in your school, in your college years, but nobody tells you that the war in Ethiopia, in the 1930s, wasn’t a war of conquest, but of extermination: because we were different, it’s true, but only because Mussolini didn’t want neither assimilation, like France, nor indirect rule, like Great Britain: he simply wanted an Ethiopia without Ethiopians.
And in the end, Mussolini himself: the mastermind was Germany, was Hitler. Mussolini was just following, right? Because in Italy, if you study history, that’s what you are told. You are told that Mussolini was so dumb that he didn’t see the oil, and called Libya “a big box of sand”.
You are not told of the gas, of the concentration camps.
You are not told that in Libya we were the first to use airstrikes.
That’s Italy. We never take us seriously.
War? War is for Americans.
We have only support roles. Security, not fighting. Stabilization.
We have carabinieri, not soldiers.
Everybody loves us.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s top arms importer. In 2015 it spent 6.4 billion dollars, a 54 percent increase from 2014 – and for 2016 a further increase is expected, up to 9.8 billion dollars. One out of every seven dollars spent globally. And used to buy, among other things, 3,950 MK83 bombs, 2,245 Paveway IV bombs, and 209 Blu-109 bombs produced by RWM Italia: in total breach of Law 185/90 which prohibits the transfer of weapons to countries at war or with risk of human rights violations. And in total breach with the Arms Trade Treaty, which requires Italy to establish a strict system of monitoring and control.
These are the bombs which are being dropped even on MSF field hospitals.
But while in the UK, another country which is selling arms to Saudi Arabia, a group of lawyers has warned the government of legal action, and given it a 14-day deadline to suspend all export licences, while in the UK everything is on the Guardian here we have only the voice of Amnesty International, of Riccardo Noury, its spokesman, and our few experts. Giorgio Beretta, Francesco Vignarca. Enrico Piovesana. Here nobody cares.
And yet, should even Yemenites be of no value to us, and so Saudis, with women who can’t drive a car, and dissidents who routinely get hanged, stoned, beheaded in public, and like Raif Badawi, sentenced to a thousand lashes for the crime of journalism, should even all this be irrelevant to us, perhaps we should care that providing weapons to Saudi Arabia means providing weapons to the Islamic State: because it’s Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State that’s made it, the white Daesh we have nothing to object to, as Kamel Daoud put it on the New York Times, that is spreading the Wahhabi Islam which is the ideology of jihadist movements. And it’s Saudi Arabia to fuel them with its boundless wealth. Strengthening Saudi Arabia means strengthening ISIS.
We aren’t arming Yemen’s enemy, but our enemy.
A few weeks ago PM Matteo Renzi, yet, as if nothing happened, went to Riyadh to discuss business opportunities. Because arms don’t produce only dead: also contracts.
And while the foreign press talks of the Italian bombs, the Italian press mocks the nighttime brawl among our delegates over the Rolex watches gifted by King Salman.
War? War is for Americans.