Skip to comments.Viva Italia! A Strong Ally
Posted on 07/15/2003 7:23:27 AM PDT by Valin
It's the Bastille Day--so expect a lot of talk about the Franco-American relations. But did anyone mention the Italian-American bond on June 2, Italy's Republic Day?
The regrettable feature of international relations is that friends get ignored--while, well, not-exactly-friends get all the attention. Italy had backed the war in Iraq despite the hostile feeling among other EU members. Its 800 soldiers and police are already patrolling Iraqi streets - and this without the "precise mandate" from the United Nations that France is demanding.
Yet when its Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, got into some hot water recently over a quip he had made, the European press savaged him--while the U.S. media, and hence the public, barely noticed. In this moving Hot Flash a year ago, Brandon Bosworth expressed his appreciation to Italy--"probably the most pro-American nation in Western Europe:
Much is written about Americas rocky relationship with the accursed nation of France (justifiably) as well as our supposed special relationship with the United Kingdom (perhaps optimistically). But little is said about our good friends along the Mediterranean, the Italians.
Italy is probably the most pro-American nation in Western Europe. More Italians support President Bush than do French or Germans (big surprise) or even Britons (legitimate surprise). Two months after the terror attacks in New York and Virginia, Premier Silvio Berlusconi led a pro-U.S. rally in Rome that attracted nearly 100,000 people.
He told the audience, Were here today to say were citizens of New York. Most participants waved American flags. According to one vendor, she sold several thousand flags in just two hours. One man and his son traveled for two hours to be there, saying, Were here to show solidarity with the United States and condemn terrorism.
Of course, the anti-American Left held their own counter-demonstration, which also attracted a few thousand participants. Interestingly, as in the case of a similar Washington, D.C. rally, the Leftists had originally planned to demonstrate against globalization but post-9/11 decided to hold an anti-war march instead. This further confirms suspicions that the Left just likes to march a lot, no matter what the cause. At one point during the Rome march, some radicals began stomping on an American flag.
An elderly woman managed to pick the flag up and kiss it before the demonstrators took it from her and threw it to the ground. I suppose the old Commie saying always Red, never yellow wouldnt apply to folks whos idea of courage is intimidating old women and manhandling inanimate objects.
More recently, Italy hosted several large celebrations to coincide with Americas Independence Day. On July Fourth, some national television and radio channels dedicated twenty-four hours of programming to celebrating American art, films, food, entertainment, history, and culture. At a celebration in Rome, U.S. ambassador Mel Sembler commented, America has no finer ally than Italy.
Also on July Fourth, the Palazzo Reale museum in Milan began a summer film and concert series in homage to New York. The music of the Big Applefrom the jazz of Harlems Cotton Club and Charlie Parker to the (often Italian-inspired) disco of the notorious Studio 54will be a key part of the series.
Its no coincidence that this series is beginning on the Fourth of July, according to Milanese cultural commissioner Salvatore Carruba. In fact, its a sign of our citys aim to strengthen ties with expressions of American culture. No doubt good marketing sense is involved as well.
After all, the museums New York Renaissance exhibit, which opened in March, has received more visitors then any other contemporary art exhibit in Italy.
The warm feelings Italians have toward the United States start from the top. Premier Berlusconi has been strongly pro-American, as have some members of his cabinet, who are refreshingly free of most typical European biases against the American way of business, politics, and culture.
For example, defense minister Antonio Martino was educated in the U.S. at the University of Chicago, where he studied with Milton Friedman. Like Friedman (and F.A. Hayek and James Buchanan) he served as president for the free-market Mont Pelerin Society.
Martino shocked Italys chattering-classes this past May when he expressed his fondness for Americas Second Amendment, noting that it was something Italians should consider adopting. After all, as Martino has said, Gun control disarms law-abiding citizens, not criminals.
Those in the Italys business world have reasons to love America, too. According to our State Department, the U.S. is the fifth-largest supplier of goods to the Italian market, and the largest supplier outside the European Union. Trade between the two nations in 2001 totaled $34 billion, with the United States importing about $23 billion worth of Italian goods.
The large presence of U.S. military forces in Italy surely pumps up the local economy as well. There are six American bases and 16,000 military personnel in the country.
The U.S. Navys Sixth Fleet is headquartered in Naples. As is often the case with military installations, several businesses surrounding the bases owe their livelihood to the patronage of servicemen.
America and Italy are also tragically linked by the threat of Islamic terrorism. The Vatican was also on the al-Qaeda list of sites to target on 9/11. In the months since, Italy has foiled numerous terror plots. These plots have included schemes to poison Romes drinking water, bomb an ancient church in Bologna, and destroy the new courthouse in Agrigento.
American intelligence forces have uncovered possible al-Queda plans to attack Jewish targets throughout Italy. The U.S. Treasury Department believes the most important base of al-Qaeda in Europe is in Milan. Clearly, Italy has a very large stake in the War on Terror.
But theres more to the relationship between the two nations then politics or business or terrorism. Everyday Italians know they have a special bond with America. After all, many have at least distant relatives in the U.S. According to the Census Bureau, we are home to over 11 million Italian-Americans, about the same number as African-Americans and Asian-Americans combined. And Italian-Americans have managed to do well here, as their compatriots in the Old Country are well aware.
For example, when speaking to the proverbial man on the street in Italy, it is astonishing how many know of and respect Rudy Giuliani. They know that one of their own made it big, becoming mayor of one of the greatest cities in the world, and it fills them with pride.
They know about all the great Italian-Americans who became big successes fields such as film, music, literature, and sports. Plus, something about the fact there are Little Italys throughout the U.S. (whens the last time you saw a Little France?) just brings us that much closer together.
What really makes me appreciate the bond between Italy and America are the experiences of my friend Mike Tallackson. A sailor in the U.S. Navy, Mike was stationed in Naples around the time of the 9/11 attacks. He would often send me e-mails describing the kindness of everyday Italians, who would bring milkshakes and other drinks to the American servicemen serving guard duty for hours on end in the hot Neapolitan sun. One letter in particular has stuck in my mind. Within days of the attacks, Mike wrote:
The morning after the events, an Italian man carrying flowers approached me. He explained to me that his parents were in New York and he could not for the life of him get in contact with them. He then proceeded to break down in my arms, sobbing, and despite his tears and emotion-filled voice, he was able to muster, God Bless America," leaving me the flowers as a remembrance.
That sums up the relationship between our two nations better than any trade figures or political speeches ever could.
Brandon Bosworth is a TAE associate editor.
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It is in the breaking news sidebar!
One of those young Americans was my father. I wish he had lived to hear Silvo Berlusconi's thanks.
God bless Berlusconi and Italy, our loyal friends.
This can't be right...11 million Italian Americans, the same as African and Asian combined? There's way more than 11 million Italian Americans than that, as well way more than 11 million African Americans. That's gotta be a misprint.
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