Italy Sends Infantry Into The Cities

When there is an immediate crisis, like right after 9/11 or after the attack on magistrate Paolo Borsellino in Sicily, a government can choose to send the army out onto the streets and give them some police powers. I remember black-clad special forces guarding ‘points of interest’ in Holland in 2001 – truly a very rare occasion. It’s a move meant to improve security and I’m all for that – given that the country is in a state of immediate crisis.

Italy is not experiencing a security crisis of any kind – or rather, any kind other than a media-induced panic due to no more than a handful of incidents with mainly Eastern European immigrants. Not bad for a country of fifty-eight million. But, in an apparent bid to add to the fears the media and anti-immigration parties have been whipping up, the new Berlusconi government has decided to send the armed forces into the cities and give them some police powers. If you weren’t fully convinced that there is an acute crisis, we’ll fill your streets with infantry to change your mind.

If there’s a crisis, it’s because the country is thoroughly corrupted and it’s civil servants are terminally lazy. Why don’t Roma nomads set up illegal camps in Holland? Because they know they wouldn’t last a day and a half. And so they come here. Why are the streets of Rome full of people illegally selling (mostly stolen and/or fake) goods? Because the police, the financial police, and the carabinieri leave them alone. They walk or drive by as if there’s noone there. Of course I can’t say that someone’s filling someone else’s pockets with crisp Euro bills in order to be left alone, but it sure as hell looks that way. And don’t get me started on the biggest and most enduring crisis this country is going through – that of the mafia. There will be soldiers in mafia capital Naples for sure, but not in Gioia Tauro or in San Luca, to name just two smaller towns with an enormous mafia problem. Hell no, let’s not seriously fight the mafia. That’s too close for comfort, isn’t it, Silvio?

There’s your crisis and it has nothing to do with immigrants, nor will it be solved by the army. Now tell me how I am supposed to feel safer with 2500 heavily armed boys on the streets, with no training whatsoever for doing police work. Our regular Polizia is already a liability sometimes.



  1. Italians are, to my mind, more or less used to soldiers in the streets. The carabinieri are essentially military police, though most tasks they fulfill are those of civilian police in other countries. But they apear in the cities really like military. And you are of course aware of the sprawling police organizations that make the country more or less unsafe, because they never heard of phenomenons like ‘cooperation’ or ‘coordination’. Between the Corpo Forestale and the Carabinieri there is the Guardia di Finanza, the Polizia Communale, the Polizia Stradale, the Polizia Regionale, the Polizia Provinciale, even the Polizia Lagunare (a Venezia) not to mention the Guardia Costiera. So I think everybody in Italy really fails to see the difference if the army is sent in — even the weatherforecast on television is read by a member of the Air Force (not the Navy) in full uniform. By the way: there’s no country in the world that gives their armed forces more beautiful names: Aeronautica Militare ,Marina Militare. To my mind the most beautiful military expressions ever used are of course the’cacciabombardiere’ and the ‘carro armato’. Please forgive and old lover of Italy this outburst…

  2. Ah, but you are dead right there. On both counts – the bewildering number of (para)military organizations and ‘forze dell’ordine’ here, and the names. I watched this year’s parade during Republic Day and saw how every branch of the armed forces have their own special forces unit, or two. They all appear to want to stake out as much territory as they can. And they are fond of pompous uniforms, too.

    And those names… from the Bersaglieri to the Lagunari and the rather new Cacciatori della Calabria, it’s music.

  3. Oh, that annual parade. The Bersaglieri still running and playing their oldfashioned music — I once saw them driving an armoured car at full speed through a corn field in Northern Italy, with the black shining cock’s feathers waving cheerily behind them — war is not so bad, I thought. Last year (or the year before) the most beautiful sight in the parade was the new cars of the Polizia Stradale: Lamborghini Gallardo. Later that year I saw one on the motorway Naples-Rome, with a blond female member of the Polizia Stradale at the wheel. You try and beat that.

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