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Resisting US Bases in Italy: No a la base si a la pace!

Desiree Fairooz

Vicenza, four hours north of Rome between Venice and Milan, is a classically Italian city with two important footnotes.

It's a U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site, home to numerous architectural works by the Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio, widely considered the most influential architect in the history of Western architecture. Citizens of Vicenza and its surrounding suburbs live in neighborhoods characterized by manicured lawns and gardens, clay roofs, Italian tiled walkways, coffee bars and immaculate streets and bus stops.

And just outside the city one finds the U.S. Army base called Caserma Ederle, headquarters of the 173rd Airborne Brigade of the United States Army where troops take off on missions to Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress and the Pentagon have plans to build an additional base outside their city, in the Dal Molin airfield, to facilitate future deployments to the Middle East, North and sub-Saharan Africa, where the U.S. military are pressing for a permanent presence.

A city so classically Italian, such a placid scene, is obscenely tainted by the cadence of U.S. Army soldiers stomping through the town plaza disrespectful of the ground they tread (see video of Army soldiers running through the city here).

So says Cinzia Bottene, a not-so-ordinary mother of a teenaged son who gave birth to the No Dal Molin Movement, took on her nation's government and the U.S. military by saying,  "No, not in my town!"  She was recently elected to the city's council on this platform.  This July 4, four days before President Obama arrives for the G8 summit in Italy's L'Aquila (a location selected for its difficulty for protesters to reach), she helped lead the charge in a national demonstration for Italians to protest the three-year military presence in Vicenza and "celebrate" their Independence Day.

I first met Cinzia when she arrived to Washington, D.C. in May 2007 and stayed at CODEPINK's  house there. She and three other Italians came to meet with members of Congress and the Pentagon to voice their opposition to the once secret plans to build Dal Molin near their homes.

I met Cinzia again in December 2007, as an invited member of CODEPINK, to attend in solidarity one of the numerous No Dal Molin actions that mobilized tens of thousands to Vicenza protesting the new base. Cinzia welcomed me and other CODEPINKers who visited before me, to her beautiful home and her gourmet cooking all the while planning, writing and practicing her speeches with the help of other members in the movement.

A year and a half later, Cinzia returned to D.C. in hopes of pressing the new Obama administration on this important issue. She and three others of the No Dal Molin movement even demonstrated during an House Armed Services Committee hearing, raising their "NO DAL MOLIN" banner and chanting during the testimony. Returning to D.C. a month later, Cinzia testified before a Congressional committee imploring members to hold back funds for the construction of the new base.

We applaud our sisters-in-peace, Cinzia, Laura, Thea, Eufrosine and Stephanie for their peaceful efforts.  We stand in solidarity with them as they call for the departure of  U.S. Military forces from their homeland. No a la base si a la pace!

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Desiree Fairooz has served as the main organizer of the CODEPINK house in Washington, DC for nearly two years and has also facilitated demonstrations on and off the Hill with other CODEPINK activists in DC. Desiree, a former children's librarian and schoolteacher, is from Arlington, Texas where her family still resides.

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