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Rep Sanchez Tells Italians They Must Accept New US Military Base, and That Convenience for Attacking Africa Is Key

Here's an update on Vicenza, Italy, from Stephanie Westbrook:
More here:

See below an informal trip report on a recent lobbying trip from Vicenza to DC as well as a rough translation of an interview with Rep. Loretta Sanchez appearing yesterday on the Vicenza newspaper. She was apparently in Venice on holiday and met with Dal Molin Special Commissioner Paolo Costa. She talks about the importance of Vicenza for Africom.

The original is at:

Vicenza and the base at Dal Molin "Here's why Obama wants it"

Vice-President of the "National Security" Committee visits Commissioner Costa in Venice. Loretta Sanchez: "These are options that have been voted by U.S. Congress, and it's not a coincidence that Defense Secretary Gates was reconfirmed. There will be no second thoughts"

Venice. "The military policy of the United States is passed by Congress.
That is why the position of the U.S. has not changed in the transition
between George W. Bush and Barack Obama." The words of Loretta
Sanchez, Democratic from California, key player on the Military Strategies
subcommittee of Armed Forces. Congresswoman Sanchez met yesterday
in Venice with the special commissioner for the Dal Molin project, Paolo
Costa. Closely linked to Hillary Clinton (she had supported her candidacy
for the presidency) Sanchez was indicated by Nancy Pelosi for the position
of vice president of the Committee on National Security. Sanchez is officially
in the Venice area on holiday, though it is not the first time that Costa has
met with her and is not the first time that Costa has given her an update on
the status of the major U.S. construction project.. Dal Molin will also be
discussed at the G8 that will be held at Maddalena (Sardinia, Italy) next
summer, and is one of the main issues. "But all the decisions have already
been made."

Why does even President Barack Obama believe in the Dal Molin project?
Why hasn't there been, as expected by opponents of the project, any
changes in the plans?

"We're working on a plan," replied Sanchez agreeing to answer some
questions from reporters, "to consolidate the presence of our troops in the
world, to be ready to intervene in sensitive areas such as Africa, the Middle
East, the former Soviet republics in Asia. We believe that to give an
effective response to these issues, to be closer to the places of possible
tensions and conflicts, it is essential to reinforce our troops in Italy. For this
reason we have chosen to unite the 173rd Brigade in Vicenza. There will be
no second thoughts. All decisions have been made by the two
governments. The plan and the allocation of the budget were voted by the
Congress. It is no coincidence that Obama has confirmed the Secretary of
Defense appointed by the Bush administration, that is Robert Gates."

Why is the role of Italy so important in the eyes of Americans, in the
international arena?

"First, because Italy is geographically located close to areas most at risk,
between Africa and the Middle East. And because Italy has been our
longtime ally. The U.S. shares the same value system and lifestyle. We can
count upon the Italian government, which from Prodi to Berlusconi has
done everything that was needed to promote the alliance and the plan of
consolidation of our troops at Dal Molin."

What type of military installation will be? "I can guarantee that the project
follows the most stringent environmental regulations."

"There are no better military structures than those planned at Dal Molin in
the world in terms of respecting the ecological balance," echoed
Commissioner Costa.

"There will be no artillery, no aircraft" continued Sanchez. " This will simply
be a place where paratroopers will stay with lighter equipment and their

Does the transformation of American command stationed at Camp Ederle
to Africom signify a change to the military targets of the Pentagon?

"No, it is the demonstration of an emphasis on the African continent. I
spoke with Obama about it. Africa needs help, even if operations are guided
by a military command, the objectives are not primarily military. My hope is
that the military strategies can be enhanced while investing fewer dollars. I
believe a lot in diplomacy and dialogue as President Obama.


For more on Vicenza, see:

Vicenza-DC Trip Report: Marching on the Pentagon, Interrupting a Hearing
and Meeting with Congress

On March 20, I accompanied a delegation from Vicenza, Italy, involved in
the struggle against a new U.S. military base at Dal Molin, to Washington
DC. The focus of the trip was to lobby Congress to block funding on the
project that is strongly opposed by the local population. You can also hear a
radio interview on our trip on CodePink's new weekly show, Pink Talk:

The dates of the trip allowed us to participate the day after our arrival in the
national protest march organized by ANSWER on the occasion of the 6th
anniversary of the invasion of Iraq ( The
principal slogan of the march was "Occupation is a Crime - From Iraq, to
Afghanistan, to Palestine." We were invited to speak from the stage,
surprising a few Italians who were in the crowd. Cheers rang out as Cinzia
Bottene, Vicenza City Council member and one of the leaders of the No Dal
Molin movement, reminded demonstrators that the first troops to parachute
into Iraq deployed from Vicenza, troops are just returning from Afghanistan
and Vicenza was just recently named command for ground troops for
Africom. "Your struggle is our struggle. And only working together will we
ever achieve peace!"

Two of the main organizers of the march, James Circello and Eric Murillo,
had both been stationed in Vicenza at the existing base of Ederle. James,
in fact, went AWOL from Ederle in 2007, and after turning himself in later
that year at Fort Know, he was released from service. Both are now part of
Iraq Veterans Against the War and we were particularly pleased to march
with them.

The march started near the Lincoln memorial and proceeded to the
Pentagon and on to the weapons manufacturers in Crystal City - including
the offices of Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing - ending at the
DC headquarters of former Halliburton subsidiary KBR. One hundred flag
draped coffins representing the victims from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Palestine as well as the U.S. were left at the entrance to the building.

The police presence was alarming, including sharpshooters on the roofs of
buildings, but the singing of the women of CodePink helped diffuse the
tension. According to the organizers, 10,000 people participated in this first
anti-war demonstration of the Obama Administration.

That Monday began a week of meetings with Congress. We had initially set
two appointments with Pentagon officials, however after being asked for our
personal data for the security clearance, both appointments were canceled
with no reason given. So we were doubly pleased to march on the

And on Tuesday, we got an unexpected chance to make ourselves heard to
Pentagon officials. At midnight on Monday, we learned that there would be
a hearing of the full Armed Services committee the following day. Testifying
would be none other than General Craddock, Commander of the U.S.
Military's European Command. The citizens of Vicenza had tried repeatedly,
and unsuccessfully, to arrange a meeting with Gen. Craddock. So we
decided to attend the hearing, and interrupted the General with chants of
"No new base in Vicenza, Italy." See Video at: We learned later from the
coverage on C-Span, that the General went on to recognize the opposition
in Vicenza later in the hearing, referring to us as a small group who "thinks"
there are problems but are mistaken. It was these "supposed" problems,
including environmental risks - the site for the new base lies above a major
ground water source - and the Italian government's refusal to perform an
environmental impact study, as well as the fact that Vicenza already hosts 6
U.S. military installations, that led to widespread popular opposition against
the base, even causing a major political shift in the city last year. And that
was the message that we tried to drive home to Congress.

As with our first lobbying trip to Washington in May 2007
(, we focused on the two
subcommittees most directly involved in the question of military bases,
Readiness under Armed Services and Military Construction under
Appropriations. We met with the Chairs and members of these committees
on both the House and Senate sides.

Many members with whom we met were sympathetic to our cause. Rep.
Sam Farr of California was unaware of the situation in Vicenza, but
commented, "I represent a district with a similarly sized city, Salinas. If the
U.S. military had plans to build a base in my city, I'd be doing the same
thing you are." He assured us he would talk with his colleagues and "ask
tough questions" in the subcommittee hearings.

Civil Rights Movement leader and Congressman from Georgia, John Lewis,
was also very supportive. He was well aware of the issue of foreign bases
thanks to the work of the Raging Grannies in Atlanta.

We were surprised to find support from Rep. Solomon Ortiz from Texas,
Chair of the Readiness Subcommittee. Ortiz had experienced a similar
situation, albeit from the other side of the coin. The people of his district in
southeast Texas had struggled against the federal government and
Pentagon to maintain a base set for closure. He had been in Vicenza in
2007, however had only met with Italian government and U.S. military
officials. When shown the photo of the site for the new base, in a residential
neighborhood completely surrounded by houses and just one mile from the
historic center of this UNESCO World Heritage site, he noted, "That's some
serious encroachment." He was disappointed to learn that the Pentagon
had canceled our meetings and assured us he would look into it.

On this trip, we also turned our attention to the Oversight Committee,
meeting with the Chair of the Subcommittee on National Security and
Foreign Affairs, Rep. John Tierney of Massachusetts. Oversight is the
principal investigative committee of Congress; therefore there was a
distinctly different feel to this meeting. He informed us that the committee
already had plans for an investigation on the network of foreign bases.
Tierney has already done much work on Africom, holding hearings last year
and was interested to know about the new command in Vicenza.

As during the trip in 2007, our best ally in Congress was Rep. Dennis
Kucinich who remarked, "This is absurd, and it must be stopped. The only
way we are going to have peace is treat others with mutual respect." He
questioned the need for the new base, as well as existing bases. "If Italy felt
under threat of attack, you'd call us for help, right? You'd send us a text
message, wouldn't you?"

On the Senate side, as was to be expected, there was less support and
more realism. We did learn a few things. For one, Sen. Tim Johnson's
office, confirmed concerns that the U.S. military has big plans for Vicenza,
saying it would become a major hub. And Sen. Evan Bayh's office noted
that the opposition is quite well known. "You have quite a good Internet
presence." He also told us that President Obama's defense budget will slip
into May following the Congressional version of spring break.

In a meeting with Speaker Pelosi's office, we talked about her recent trip to
Italy in which she repeatedly thanked Italy for hosting U.S. troops. We
asked, "Is insisting on the new base despite widespread popular opposition
the best way to express gratitude?"

One of the most common comments we heard throughout the week was
that this is very difficult to stop at this point, that funding for the project has
already been approved in two parts. "You're too late on this." It's interesting
to note that Congress approved the first funds June 2006, just one month
after the citizens of Vicenza learned about this project that had been kept
secret, even from some City Council members! In any event, the people of
Vicenza have known all along what they were up against, and that certainly
never stopped them.

One of the most heartening aspects of the trip was learning that the issue of
U.S. bases on foreign soil is ever more present in the discourse of activists,
as well as members of Congress and the media. At the march on the
Pentagon, several other speakers mentioned the issue in their speeches.
And unlike our first trip to DC, many more members of Congress and their
staff were also aware of the opposition in Vicenza and the issue of bases.
References to the issue are even showing up in the mainstream media. The
Washington Post recently published an article (
suggesting that cuts to military spending look also at the network of foreign
bases, as proposed by yet another recent article on the Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists ( And Republican
Congressman Ron Paul's recent article, Imagine an Occupied America
( caused a bit of a stir.

This newfound attention to foreign bases in the U.S. is in part thanks to the
No Bases conference held in Washington just a couple of weeks before our
trip, which was attended by Enzo Ciscato of Vicenza and included a
Congressional lobbying day. And I can't help but think that the very
successful, vibrant, active movement in Vicenza has also helped put the
spotlight on the issue.

While we did receive some support from members of Congress, we all know
they won't move without pressure from constituents. If your representative
or senators are on the committees that count, or even if they're not, please
contact them letting them know you stand with the people of Vicenza in
opposing the new U.S. base at Dal Molin.

House Readiness Subcommittee (Armed Services)

House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and
Related Agencies (Appropriations)

Senate Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support

Senate Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and
Related Agencies

Stephanie Westbrook

PS: As with 2007, the best part of our trip was staying at the CodePink
house. The house is now open to activists staying in DC, so if you need a
place to stay, this is the best in the district!
( And drop by for the
Wednesday potluck if you are in the area. For more on CodePink, see their
web site ( as well as this article on The Nation on
the eve of the inauguration, naming CodePink Most Valuable Progressives:


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