A strategy of tension (strategia della tensione) is an alleged way used by world powers to divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, as well as false flag terrorist actions. According to historian Daniele Ganser, "It is a tactic which consists in committing bombings and attributing them to others. By the term 'tension' one refers to emotional tension, to what creates a sentiment of fear. By the term 'strategy' one refers to what feeds the fear of the people towards one particular group".
The term "strategia della tensione" was coined in Italy during the trials that followed the 1970s and 1980s years of lead ("anni di piombo"), during which terror attacks and assassinations were committed by apparently neofascist terrorists (with such names as Ordine Nuovo, Avanguardia Nazionale or Fronte Nazionale). Some claim that these groups were in fact acting on instructions from the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies, the P2 masonic lodge and Operation Gladio, a NATO secret "stay-behind" army officially set up to perform guerilla and resistance activities should Italy be successfully invaded by the Soviet bloc (there were equivalent armies in most Western states).
These groups began to pursue an ostensibly extreme right-wing anti-communist agenda using violent means, including false flag bombings that were then blamed on extra-parliamentary left-wing militant organizations, to discredit the political Left in general at a time in Italy when the Italian Communist Party was very close to entering government, a possibility the US would naturally have wanted to impede. It should be noted that the actions carried out by these extreme groups primarily designed to agitate and control public opinion, creating fears about the Communist Party. At the time, they created massive public concern and widespread paranoia. According to the "strategia della tensione" theory, this was deliberate. Examples of such actions include the 1972 Peteano bombing, long thought to have been carried out by the Red Brigades, but for which the neofascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra has been imprisoned, the attempted assassination of former Interior Minister Mariano Rumor on 17 May 1973 or the Bologna railway station bombing known as the Bologna massacre of 1980.
The aim of these actions was to make the public believe that the bombings were committed by a communist insurgency, to promote the formation of an authoritarian government, and to prevent the strong Italian Communist Party (PCI) from joining the ruling Democrazia Cristiana (DC) in a national unity government (the "Historic Compromise" between Aldo Moro and Enrico Berlinguer, respective leaders of the DC and of the PCI). An astonishing observation of the terrorism in Italy that was blamed on communists is that it coincided with election victories for the communists at the polls. So as the PCI was gaining popular support, the number of civilian-targeted bombings, random knee-cappings, and high-profile kidnappings blamed on communist terrorists increased markedly.
Furthermore, starting with the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing and the 1972 Peteano attack, several bombings carried out by the far-right were at first blamed on anarchists (for the first one) and, for the second one, on the Red Brigades (BR) — although it was later found that neofascists, such as Vincenzo Vinciguerra, had organized them. Piazza Fontana's bombing, in December 1969, marked the beginning of the "strategia della tensione", which ended around the time of the Bologna railway station bombing in 1980.
In 2000, a Parliamentary report from the Olive Tree coalition concluded that the strategy of tension followed by Gladio had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country". Members of the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), part of the Commission on Terrorism headed by senator Giovanni Pellegrino and created in 1988, also described the Italian peninsula since the end of World War II as a "country with 'limited sovereignty'" and as an "American colony The centrist Italian Republican party described the claims as worthy of a 1970s Maoist group. Aldo Giannuli, a historian who works as a consultant to the parliamentary terrorism commission, sees the release of the Left Democrats' report as a manoeuvre dictated primarily by domestic political considerations. "Since they have been in power the Left Democrats have given us very little help in gaining access to security service archives," he said. "This is a falsely courageous report."
The US state department has denied involvement in terrorism and stated that some of the researchers, like Ganser above, have been influenced by a Soviet forgery, US Army Field Manual 30-31B.
In December 1969, four bombings struck in Rome the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II (Altare della Patria), the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, and in Milan the Banca Commerciale and the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura. The later bombing, known as the Piazza Fontana bombing of 12 December 1969, killed 16 and injured 90, marking the beginning of this violent period.
Giuseppe Pinelli, a young anarchist, was first accused of the crime. After his suspicious death, which was claimed to be suicide by the authorities, investigator Luigi Calabresi — accused of being the murderer — came under violent criticism from the left; he would eventually be murdered a few years later. Nobel prize laureate Dario Fo wrote a piece on Pinelli's death, Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
After Pinelli, the police investigated another anarchist, Pietro Valpreda. He quickly became a hero to the left, who perceived him to be a victim of a plot to attribute a fascist bombing to the left. The leftist environment produced an investigative book, La strage di Stato ("The state massacre"), in which they claimed the state was attacking anarchists because they (by definition) could not have a political party to defend them, as communists would have had. As it would turn out through years of painstaking investigation, the bombing was indeed a work of the extreme right, even though the connection of the state to these acts is not yet clear.
Neo-fascist terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie was then arrested in Caracas, Venezuela in 1989 and rendered to Italy to stand trial for his role. Delle Chiaie was however acquitted by the Assise Court in Catanzaro in 1989, along with fellow accused Massimiliano Fachini.
In 1998, David Carrett, officer of the U.S. Navy, was indicted by a Milanese magistrate, Guido Salvini, on charge of political and military espionage and his participation in the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, among other events. Judge Guido Salvini also opened a case against Sergio Minetto, Italian official for the US-NATO intelligence network, and pentito Carlo Digilio. La Repubblica underlined that Carlo Rocchi, the CIA's man in Milan, was surprised in 1995 searching for information concerning Operation Gladio, thus demonstrating that all was not over.
A June 20, 2001 conviction of Italian Neo-fascists Doctor Carlo Maria Maggi, Delfo Zorzi and Giancarlo Rognoni was overturned in March 2004. Carlo Digilio, a suspected CIA informant, received immunity from prosecution by becoming a witness for the state (in agreement with the pentiti laws).
According to Ordine Nuovo member Vincenzo Vinciguerra: "The December 1969 explosion was supposed to be the detonator which would have convinced the political and military authorities to declare a state of emergency."August 4, 1974, 12 died and 105 were injured in the bombing of the train Italicus Roma-Brennero express at San Benedetto Val di Sambro.
Bologna railway bombing killed 85 persons and injured 200. A long, troubled and controversial court case and political issue ensued. The relatives of the victims formed an association (Associazione tra i famigliari delle vittime della strage alla stazione di Bologna del 2 agosto 1980) to raise and maintain civil awareness on the Bologna massacre. On 23 November 1995 the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) issued the final sentence:
As recently as July 2008, two Turkish ex-generals were arrested for allegedly planning to spark mass demonstrations and violent clashes against the government. This, in turn, would justify a military takeover of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamic government.
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