14 May 2007

The Strategy of Tension

We are at War

against International Terrorism,

defending our Values

and our Civilization.

Western anti-terror legislation does not allow the state to be considered in any way culpable for terrorist activities. As far as our elected representatives are concerned, terrorism is a problem of loosely associated groups of reactionary fanatics “attacking our freedoms”. The assumption, never explicitly stated for then it would be revealed, and easily and permanently ridiculed, is that the state is innocent, immune to indulging in such barbaric practices. Written into the rule of law itself, this assumption posits the state as a paternal Fuhrer, a God figure whom we must all entrust our lives and liberties to.

Yet whichever way you look at it, international terrorism has its origins in the state itself. There are many ways of understanding this, but perhaps the most pertinent for our purposes is contemporary history. We don’t need to go very far back either. Only twenty odd years, to the era of the Cold War, when we were also getting Trigger-Happy trying to defend the “Free World” from the “Evil Empire” of International Communism, as Ronald Reagan put it so aptly.

The “strategy of tension” denotes a highly secretive series of interconnected covert operations conducted jointly by the CIA and MI6 largely in Western Europe during the this period. Well-documented by several respected historians, confirmed by official inquiries, and corroborated by former intelligence officials, the “strategy of tension” is one of those unsavoury moments in contemporary history that we don’t learn about in school, or even university.

My favourite book on the subject, and the most authoritative in my view, is Dr. Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (2004). Published in the UK as part of the “Contemporary Security Studies” series of London-based academic press Routledge, Ganser’s study is the first major historical work to bring the “strategy of tension” into the mainstream of scholarship.

During the Cold War, indeed through to the late 1980s, the United States, United Kingdom, and Western European governments and secret services, participated in a sophisticated NATO-backed operation to engineer terrorist attacks inside Western Europe, to be blamed on the Soviet Union. The objective was to galvanize public opinion against leftwing policies and parties, and ultimately to mobilize popular support for purportedly anti-Soviet policies at home and abroad – most of which were really designed to legitimize brutal military interventions against nationalist independence movements in the “Third World”.

Ganser was a Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, before he moved to Basel University to teach history. Citing the transcripts of European parliamentary inquiries; the few secret documents that have been declassified; interviews with government, military and intelligence officials; and so on, Ganser shows how intimately the British were involved.

In fact, it wasn’t even an American idea – it was very much ours. The strategy of tension began on the order of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who in July 1940 called for the establishment of a secret army to “set Europe ablaze by assisting resistance movements and carrying out subversive operations in enemy held territory.” (p. 40) By 4th October 1945, the British Chiefs of Staff and the Special Operations branch of MI6 directed the creation of what Ganser describes as a “skeleton network” capable of expansion either in war or to service clandestine operations abroad: “Priority was given in carrying out these tasks to countries likely to be overrun in the earliest stages of any conflict with the Soviet Union, but not as yet under Soviet domination.” (p. 41) In the ensuing years, Col. Gubbins’ Special Operations branch of MI6 cooperated closely with Frank Wisner’s CIA covert action department Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) on White House orders, and in turn coordinated US and UK Special Forces, to establish stay-behind secret armies across western Europe. (p. 42)

Among the documents Ganser brings to attention is the classified Field Manual 30-31, with appendices FM 30-31A and FM 30-31B, authored by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to train thousands of stay-behind officers around the world. The field manual was published in the 1987 parliamentary report of the Italian parliamentary investigation into the terrorist activities of “P2”, the CIA-MI6 sponsored Italian anti-communist network. As Ganser observes: “FM 30-31 instructs the secret soldiers to carry out acts of violence in times of peace and then blame them on the Communist enemy in order to create a situation of fear and alertness. Alternatively, the secret soldiers are instructed to infiltrate the left-wing movements and then urge them to use violence.” In the manual’s own words:

“There may be times when Host Country Governments show passivity or indecision in the face of Communist subversion and according to the interpretation of the US secret services do not react with sufficient effectiveness… US army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince Host Country Governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger. To reach this aim US army intelligence should seek to penetrate the insurgency by means of agents on special assignment, with the task of forming special action groups among the most radical elements of the insurgency… In case it has not been possible to successfully infiltrate such agents into the leadership of the rebels it can be useful to instrumentalise extreme leftist organizations for one’s own ends in order to achieve the above described targets… These special operations must remain strictly secret. Only those persons which are acting against the revolutionary uprising shall know of the involvement of the US Army…” (p. 234-297)

The existence of this secret operation exploded into public controversy when in August 1990 upon the admissions in parliament by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, the existence of ‘Gladio’ was exposed as a secret sub-section of Italian military-intelligence services, responsible for domestic bombings blamed on Italian Communists. Ganser documents in intricate detail how a subversive network created by elements of western intelligence services – particularly that of the US and UK - orchestrated devastating waves of terrorist attacks blamed on the Soviet Union, not only in Italy, but also in Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, Greece, i.e. throughout western Europe. Despite a number of European parliamentary inquiries; an European Union resolution on the Gladio phenomenon; NATO’s close-doors admissions to European ambassadors; confirmations of the international operation from senior CIA officials; and other damning documentary evidence; NATO, the CIA and MI6 have together consistently declined to release their secret files on the matter.

The Strategy of Tension simply isn’t part of our historical consciousness. Very few historians of the Cold War are fully conversant with it, let alone academics working in international relations and political science. This is despite the fact that it played an instrumental role in physically constructing a threat, projected into the USSR, which did not ultimately exist. Ipso facto, the Strategy of Tension belongs to the waste-bin of history.

The immense fear and chaos generated by the impact of the Operation Gladio phenomenon throughout western Europe was instrumental in legitimizing the interventionist policies of the Anglo-American alliance in the South, throughout the Cold War period. Although the Soviet Union was supposed to be the real threat and source of terror, and thus the ultimate object of the over 70 military interventions conducted since 1945 [see William Blum’s Killing Hope (London: Zed, 1995)] the Soviet threat was in fact actively exaggerated ideologically – and even physically constructed through clandestine operations – to mobilize the comprehensive militarization of western societies. This does not mean that many government officials did not believe their own propaganda. But we now know that there was a secretive sub-section of the Western intelligence community, known only to very few members of elected governments, that was involved in this.

The number of people who were killed across the “Third World” as a consequence of this militarization process is shocking, its implications genuinely difficult to absorb. According to Dr. J. W. Smith, a US development economist who runs the Institute for Economic Democracy in Arizona, in our glorious self-evidently noble fight to defend the “Free World” from imminent Soviet attacks, invasions, and general inconceivably irrational hell-bent pure evilness, Western states:

“… were responsible for violently killing 12 to 15 million people since WW II and causing the death of hundreds of millions more as their economies were destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care for their people. Unknown as it is, and recognizing that this has been standard practice throughout colonialism, that is the record of the Western imperial centers of capital from 1945 to 1990” [Smith, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the 21st Century (2003)]

12 to 15 million people from 1945 to 1990.

I have to repeat these figures to myself to absorb their implications.

Repeat these figures to yourself.

Six million Jews in the Second World War, and now 12 to 15 million innocents in the post-WWII period. The former in the name of German lebensraum. The latter in the name of the free market.

Yet as a society, as a Civilization, we are oblivious, utterly blind, to our historic complicity in the systematic destruction of "Other" societies who fail to conform to our (deluded) self-image of universal prosperity.

It is a blindness with which we remain afflicted.

Consider Blair’s rendition of the “War on Terror” in early 2007, as “a clash not between civilizations”, but rather “about civilization.” The War on Terror is therefore a continuation of “the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace the modern world and those who reject its existence.”

And what is this "progress", this "modernity" that should be embraced? The "progress" that slaughtered millions of men, women and children across continents, in Nicaragua, El Salvador, in Somalia, Rwanda, in Kenya, Malaya, in Oman, Iraq, etc. etc. (in no particular order and with significant omissions)?

If this is modernity then I must be a backward, semi-feudal ignoramus. Along with most of the population of the entire world. But then, who cares what the world says? Bush, Blair, and their enlightened ilk are no doubt the modern civilized ones. As long as they do what they think is right. Right???


  1. As usual, I didn't know that. Therefore thanks a lot!!!

  2. A well researched book. I`ll get round to reading all of it one day!

    Here`s the documentary on Operation Gladio from BBC`s Timewatch series (in 3 episodes directed by Allan Francovich); just scroll down.

    And for more documentaries, etc. just click on video on the left...


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  5. Wow, this is really boring stuff!!!

  6. Excellent article many Thanks Nafeez.
    The only thing missing Imo was how the IRA and Ireland fitted into the Operation Gladio terrorist picture that was painted by the CIA and MI6.

  7. "If this is modernity then I must be a backward, semi-feudal ignoramus"

    Doesn't this comment of yours also apply to the sharia-driven Islam you profess to follow and propagate?????

    Horses for courses.

  8. Once again, good to see you back in the saddle.

  9. Hmmm. Anyway, good post as usual Nafeez and nice to see you back into the swing of things with your blog. The pendulum seems to be swining our way a little bit. Some more friends of mine have been reading your books recently too. Hope all is well with you.

  10. orrlqmI came across your article on http://www.uruknet.de/?s1=1&p=s6495&s2=19 & http://freebooter.interfree.it/tst.htm. My English, I hope is good enough to comment.

    “…as a Civilization, we are oblivious, utterly blind, to our historic complicity in the systematic destruction of "Other" societies who fail to conform to our (deluded) self-image of universal prosperity….”

    Sorry but you are wrong. We are aware and we are informing others on MSM of the future INTERNET

    What you have written about is being carried out NOW:

    Document details ‘US’ plan to sink Hamas
    By Mark Perry and Paul Woodward

    How Do You Live With It When Your Country Becomes the Fourth Reich!?

    The Existentialist Cowboy
    Read the comments
    Especially the comments by Eric Lindblad

    In December of 2006 it was reported on various foreign websites that the United States was running a CIA/French intelligence led terror group in Egypt for the urpose of recruiting "foreign fighters" to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to attack U.S. and French soldiers.

    I presume this was to prolong U.S. presence in Iraq and justify the so-called "war on terrorism".

    In the age of shameless mass murdering, serial killers and rapists under the guise of occupation terrorism these vile barbarians are not ashamed any more.
    The abominators did not stop at the end of colonialism/imperialism they carried on with their perfidy.
    The first 5 Italians caught by the Iraki Resistance and denied by il mafisos berluschi that there were Italians were MERCENARIIES hired by US.
    The judge in charge of the investigation said so.
    In any case the scumbag thug who hired these mercenaries is said to show his macho –ismo another mussolini thug was said to breakfast with dynamite on the table with his cappuccino. (pity it did not reduce him into pieces)
    His job was to plant the human mines and he is said to have contract with US-ato=Nato & European government + Israeli government.
    Us-ato would than hire him to remove them at the appropriate time. He made a lot of money.
    The Italian secret service sisme’s head in Somalia was under investigation in the Ilaria Alpi murder, now he is drawing a fat salary with US-ato. Somalia was used by the nuclear weapons state to dump their radio-active waste in Somalia and today I saw on the news the mafia state send their goons to Somalia.

    Another secret service running parallel to the Italian sisme during the mafia reign, bush’s staunch ally , il mafioso berluschi, is involved in the rendition of Abu Omar, the Imam of Milano. The individual accussed says that he worked with & for many European countries, USSrael & US-ato and with the approval of the government, hell the man even had use of the government computers and personnel and the berluschi, the sleaze bag says , not true and plays the buffoon

    Anonymous _ what has Sharia got to do with this article. You have read Brio Harris article on How to be an expert in…..

  11. Operation Gladio is not just about the CIA or MI5/MI6. Ultimately, the Strategy of Tension is further evidence that exposes the terrorist nature of America in general.

    Even when the media addresses this issue, it will try to damage control guilt for this terrorism to a few individual USA (or allied) spy agencies, in order to cover for America more broadly.

    But the CIA and MI5/6 are merely covert political tools used by America and England to further their national interests.

    Focusing primarily on the CIA or MI5 without confronting America--or England--is analogous to criticizing the Gestapo, without challenging Nazi Germany in general.

    Indeed, if any nation that is on America's hit list (like Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or pre-2003 Iraq) had hypothetically staged a terrorist black ops like Operation Gladio, you can be sure that America and its propaganda press would accuse these countries of being terrorist *nation states*--and not merely criticize their individual intelligence agencies.

    There is a double standard at work here:

    America and its allies routinely demonize or castigate Muslim nations as "terrorist" ... in order to fabricate an imperial pretext to invade, threaten, or regime change those countries.

    But when the USA or its partners commit terrorism, these actions are first denied and then only belatedly revealed decades later, when it is politically safe to do so.

    Even then, Anglo-American terrorism is usually framed by the media as the product of individual policies or specific spy organizations--and in no way reflective of the true nature of the American Empire or its (bogus) democratic values and civilization.

    In the final analysis, however, America must be judged by the criteria and standards that it presumes to apply to other nations.

  12. I think you will have a long and prosperous career preaching to the converted.

    But still, I am suprised to see these third rate apologies for the totalitarian left dredged up once again. I can see how it flows smoothly into the modern version, blaming every crime by islamic extremists on the west; it follows pretty much the same logic.

    Cheers to the red brown alliance.

  13. 2 must reads here for you, Nafeez.

    First one from January; second one is an interview with Seymour Hersh in the last few days:



  14. The Strategy of Tension in Italy was aimed more at discrediting anarchism than Communism. The late 60's and 70's saw mass movements develop that were outside the control of the traditional organisations of the left (trade unions, the Italian Communist party etc) and more in keeping with the tendency of working class Italians to act in sympathy with anarchist ideas. See the attempted frame up and subsequent murder of anarchist railwayman Giuseppe Pinelli for example. Otherwise a very good article.

  15. Pepik has an interesting background. He posts regularly at 911ConspiracySmasher. I remember him taking me to task once because I merely posted a link to one article at the WakeUpFromYourSlumber website. Accused me of being a "jew hater" and that I supported Holocaust denial (I never have). I asked him about the Israeli bombing of Gaza's main power plant last year and asked him to at least acknowledge that the action may have been in breech of the Geneva Conventions. He couldn't come at it. He repeatedly refused to acknowledge in any way that this denial of electricity to 700,000 Palestinians might have been morally objectionable. I asked him in a series of exchanges to clarify his position on the human rights of Palestinians. Specifically, I asked him repeatedly if he could merely state or affirm that "PALESTINIANS ARE HUMANS TOO" and that their civil and human rights were worth consideration. He refused to do so. He just couldn't let the words out of his mouth. He could not even acknowledge that Palestinians were human. He's a racist piece of crap.

  16. anonymous, you say

    In December of 2006 it was reported on various foreign websites that the United States was running a CIA/French intelligence led terror group in Egypt for the purpose of recruiting "foreign fighters" to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan to attack U.S. and French soldiers.

    Any links? Also any on the 5 Italians caught by the Iraqi resistance? thnx.

  17. Of course, my thought is that if the Americans thought it would help to kill a few Europeans to manipulate their governments to be anti-Soviet, then wouldn't it be easy enough for the same people to kill a few Americans to manipulate their government to be anti-Islamic?

    This is not to say who might be behind the killing, the manipulations, or would benefit from such covert work.

    However, the fact is, they learned how to do these things in one place, so it doesn't seem out of the question that they would be able to bring it home when the need arose.

  18. Jundullah;


  19. The "Stay Behind Network" system used in the strategy of tension was not disbanded with the Cold War but continues to be used today for other purposes like America's "regime change" operations:

    "The Strategy of Tension: NATO’s Hidden Terrorism"
    by Silvia Cattori*


    "SSB: Donald Rumsfeld’s Personal Secret Service"
    by Thierry Meyssan*


  20. http://radicalmuslim.blogsome.com/2007/05/30/the-mega-mosque/

    49,981 signatures have now been received on a terrible petition against the London 'Mega mosque' based on incorrect and inciteful information. This shows the existence of the intolerance and Islamophobia in Britain.

    The mosque would provide a place of worship and show Britains tolerance and multiculturalism. It is now the duty of Muslims and evey citizen to sign the counter-petition to BUILD the ‘Mega Mosque’. Please sign at the link below, email it to your friends, post it in forums you visit and promote this on your site/blog.


  21. Good points made. The states such as USA, UK and Israel are the biggest terrorists.

  22. Came here via Rachel's blog ( rachelnorthlondon) Have to say its an interesting read, but one has to remember that as a fourth generation British subject myself I have a genuine interest in the world after 9/11 and 7/7. Indeed having lost someone in the Tube where Rachel was I find sometimes that both sides have to reconcile with each other rather than adopt a stance that the other side has all the making up to do.

  23. I have heard of this Operation Gladio before from several sources. It is good to have the references for the deeper research into this scandal. I have read and enjoyed Nafeez's book The War on Truth, and admire his courage and intellectual honesty in dealing with difficult subject matter, especially for someone with a name like "Nafeez" in the present cultural environment we are embedded in and the onslaught of anti-Islam propaganda we are subject to in our daily lives.

  24. Sorry kenj, if you spend time at jew hating conspiracy websites, you are a jew hating conspiracy loon.

    Anyway, I'm sure you're right at home here. Nafeez likes to promote conspiracy theories too, although he's too calculating to actually endorse them himself.

    Good luck fighting the Illuminati and the zionists.

  25. I'm just glad to see you writing again Nafeez!

    - Emanuel

  26. Nafeez,

    I lost your email address. Please email me at the webmaster account that you know.

    Emanuel Sferios

  27. i am visiting this sit mid-essay regarding th strategy of tension in italy and subsequentl browsed through the coments on this page.I am writin in response to Jmal' post, and whilst i support plans for this "Mega Mosque" i must protst to you statement that it would tach us tolerance and multi-culturalism as i it is something we lack. Britin is a hugely multicultural country and it is not a matter of intolerance buy lack of integration between the various ethnic community in the U.K, for which all parties involved are culpable. With regard to the "Islamaphobia" you mentioned, i agree, it IS present in british society however not due to hatred or prejudice, it is simply tht in the context of contemporary British society it is due to a common sentimen among native brits that we are being forced into a state that is overly poitically correct and i feel that whilst people do not resent other ethnicities we resent the feling of constantly being forced to side-step around one another for fear of seming racist and as a result feel unable to celebrate ou differences. This is not fault of any individual or group but th nature of ou society and it is this that must be changed from within.

    Good luck raising the support you need. Simon

  28. Very interesting papers , Jeffrey Bale has written.
    “The „Black‟ Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the „Strategy of Tension‟ in
    Italy, 1968-1974” (1994), 619 pages
    Committee: Richard A. Webster (chair); Gerald D. Feldman; Peter (Dale) Scott

    “Right-Wing Terrorism and the Extraparliamentary Left in Post-World War II Europe: Collusion or
    Manipulation,” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 32 (1987), pp. 193-236. (On the , "Strategy of Tension.")

    Review of Martin A. Lee, The Beast Reawakens: Fascism’s Resurgence from Hitler’s Spymasters to
    Today’s Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists, in Terrorism and Political Violence 10:1 (Spring
    1998), pp. 174-7.
    (Lee's book is a classic on Neo-Fascism.)

    Co-Editor of Cold War Guerrillas: Covert Paramilitary Operations in Europe, 1944-1990, book in
    Co-Editor of “New Religious Movements” and Extremist Politics, book in preparation.
    “The Literature on „Gladio‟,” review essay in preparation for Intelligence and National Security.


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