GLADIO: A Legion of Sleeper
On October 24, 1990, the history of another clandestine army saw the
light in Italy: Gladio. Its name alluded to a small double edged sword
of Roman times which appears in the standard of the supreme military
command of NATO. The mentioned day, Italian prime minister, Giulio
Andreotti, revealed to an overwhelmed Parliament the existence, in
several European countries, of a secret network of anti-Communist
activists created by NATO in the 50's, and still effective at the time of
the public revelation.
According to Andreotti, "after World War II, the fear to Soviet
expansionism and the inferiority of the forces of NATO, in relation to
the International Communist Movement, lead the nations of Western
Europe to examine a new and unconventional forms of defense. Therefore,
they created in their respective territories a hidden network of
resistance destined to perform intelligence work, as well as to carry
out acts of sabotage, propaganda and guerrilla warfare, in case of
The Gladio exposé crossed the European ministerial cabinets quickly and
declarations of the governments implicated in this network followed one
another. Andreas Papandreu revealed that, between 1955 and 1984, a
mysterious paramilitary organization called the Skin of the Red Goat
had acted in Greece, wherein it coexisted with a special unit of the
Greek Special Forces and the secret services of the CIA, with the
purpose of "fighting the communist danger".
In France in Minister of Defense confirmed that Gladio had existed
indeed in years 50, but would not have been active during the Gaullist
presidency (1958-1968), a presidency characterized by the French
nonalignment with U.S. policy. The governments of the German Federal
Republic and Luxembourg also recognized the existence of Gladio in
their countries, while new information allow glimpses that Holland and
Norway were also participants of said organization.
In November of the year 1990 the Belgian network of Gladio was
dismantled and a report of the Swiss Parliament stated that a
clandestine military organization called P-26 had operated in the
Helvetic republic until that same month, when it was also dissolved.
Finally, in December of 1990 it was known that in 1958 Sweden and the
CIA had collaborated in the creation of a defensive mechanism (that had
had continuity until at least 1978) to confront a possible Soviet
It also came to light information on the existence of a Turkish Gladio,
which since 1984 had dedicated its effort to fight against the Kurd
separatism, whereas in Spain the issue was not as clear. In 1996, 65 of
the 79 hiding places of arms created by the US during the Cold War to
face a hypothetical occupation of the USSR, were dismantled in Austria.
According to the Austrian Minister of the Interior, in those hiding
places "there were thousand of tons of explosives and hundreds of
artillery projectiles". Therefore, Gladio had been present in most
Western Europe countries preparing the resistance machinery against a
possible communist invasion. How it arose and was organized the network?
ARMED ANTI COMMUNIST NETWORKS
Gladio was born and gained momentum in this frame of fear of Soviet
expansionism, first, by the US, and later by NATO (organized in 1949).
Gladio would have had the function to quickly unfold a stay-behind armed force upon a
communist invasion. This dormant force would have been deployed
progressively and the already organized and armed networks of activists
of different European countries would then coalesce into a one and the
They were actually called the stay-behind
groups, whose origins and
blueprints were diverse: From the models provided by the anti Nazi
resistance in some countries, to the ones offered by the Werwolf Nazi
(the Third Reich equivalent of Gladio). Thus in Gladio varied
operatives would have come together; largely drawn from and based upon,
the reconversion of ex-nazifascists and extreme right-wing combatants
into anti-Communist urban guerrillas.
It would have been in Italy, the country with the largest communist
party of Western Europe (with 1,771,000 affiliates), where the first
initiatives in this direction would have been significant. In Italy the
formation of clandestine anti-Communist groups like the Osoppo came
about in 1946 and the Italian Freedom Army in 1947. This type of groups
had numerous ex- fascists amongst their members which may have
accounted to as high as eighty percent of their total membership.
The anti-Communist mobilization took place in all Western Europe,
protected by the United States Information Services. As a result, in
the Belgium of the late 40's several anti-Communist organizations
existed. In 1949, for example, the Belgian National Front of
Independence was created, whose goal was to gather together all
patriotic anti-Communists. A registry in its headquarters allowed to
discover plans to create networks of combatants in case of Soviet
In this manner Gladio would have articulated a set of dispersed
anti-Communist networks throughout Western Europe; an operation
initially conducted by the U.S. and U.K. intelligence services and
later by NATO. This project would have gather a collection of extreme
right and ex- nazifascists combatants as well as a diverse and trained
personal of political militancy. Diverse, but anti-Communist.
Apparently, to recruit its members the military in each country were
contacted, but also, in some cases, simple citizens of proven
anti-Communist conviction were contacted to be later trained in secret.
In such way, a web of clandestine activists would have been formed with
the purpose of confronting a Soviet occupation; thus, the creation of
deposits of arms distributed strategically in each country.
In case of a fast advance of Soviet armored vehicles, the gladiators
were to harass the enemy from the rear, in order to gain time
allow the arrival of Anglo-American reinforcements that would create a
stable front battle.
CRIMES WITHOUT PUNISHMENT?
By the time the 60's and 70's came around (specifically on May 1968, a
new French extreme left came into being) it became clear that the
Soviets would not launch an invasion of Western Europe. Then the
priority of Gladio probably became to fight the "enemy within": the
revolutionary Marxist terrorism and the growth of the communist parties
or leftist electorate which were becoming strong enough to introduce
substantial political changes.
In this assumed new period of activity for Gladio, these activists of
NATO could have resorted to other means in their fight against the
leftist forces, concretely the so-called "strategy of tension", which
used the violence with perverse aims, although it could not be proven.
This strategy consisted of criminal attacks of supposed neofascist
origin which were then
apparently alternated with others which were apparently coming
from the extreme left. This strategy initiated a scaling up of
massacres to discredit to the institutions of the State. This spiral of
violence - inspired and instigated by individuals close to Gladio -
would have the purpose of driving the population to a level of
insecurity which would move them to demand authoritarian governments
or, plainly speaking, dictatorships.
Therefore numerous covert activities were attributed to Gladio: "Four
attempts of coup d'etats in Italy, a successful putsch in Greece [the
Coup of the Colonels of 1967], dozens died in the wave of terrorism
which traumatized Europe in the years 1970-1980, strange relations with
the Mafia and international delinquency, close relationships with the
great financial scandals that even splashed the Vatican (Ambrosiano
Bank), the disintegration of the Italian State [... ], the suspicions
which they still exist in relation to the kidnapping and murder of Aldo
Moro", wrote in 1994 investigator Jean-François Brozzu-Gentile.
The conclusion which may be extracted of the analysis of the activities
of the evolved Gladio is that some
individuals wanted to create chaotic situations which would to lead to
strong anti-Communist policies. It should not be forgotten that
the greatest fear of the West during the Cold War was that the
countries of Western Europe would fall in the Soviet orbit.
WHY WAS THE EXISTENCE OF GLADIO
EXPOSED IN 1990?
Probably the revelation of the existence of Gladio, simultaneous to its
(official) dissolution, allowed (forced?) NATO and the governments who
integrated it to abandon an obsolete, resource consuming and no longer socially acceptable
to an even more enlightened European leadership. In addition, in
November of 1989, the Soviet block had begun to crumble with the fall
of the wall of Berlin and the Gorbachev era had initiated a distention
stage in which the USSR gave many concrete examples of internal crisis.
Therefore, the revelations of Andreotti about Gladio in 1990 served
(forced?) to (officially) dismantle an already unnecessary structure
which constituted another legacy of the Cold War. Therefore, the
informative avalanche that promised revelations on yet to be resolved
crimes came to nothing.
In fact, while simultaneously acknowledging its existence and
officially dissolving it, a smoke screen was created to cover
Andreotti's presumed responsibilities on the crimes which were
officially imputed to him: Gladio, could have been behind everything
and everything was dissolved into nothing.
Its end, surrounded by and aura of mystery, was in accordance with the
motto written on the walls of its center of training of Capo Marragiu
(near the Alguer, in Sardinia): Silencio libertatem servo ("I serve to
the freedom in silence").
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CASTELLS, M., ¿La guerra de verdad?, La Vanguardia (22-11-2003).
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Omisión e silenzi della Reppublica. Calusca Edizioni, 1992.
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LAURENT, F y
N. SUTTON, Lorchestre noir, Stock, 1978.
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