Home News In the city of atomic bombs – Angelo Mastrandrea

In the city of atomic bombs – Angelo Mastrandrea

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In the city of atomic bombs – Angelo Mastrandrea

This article was published on March 5, 2022 on page 5 of number 17 of the Essential. You can subscribe here.

Observed by Ghedi, a town of 18,000 inhabitants about twenty kilometers from Brescia, the war in Ukraine appears even closer. Since the beginning of the Russian bombing, on the morning of Thursday 24 February 2022, the NATO base on the outskirts of the country has been in a “state of early warning”, and this means more trucks and armored vehicles around, and more movement of vehicles.

The Tornadoes and F35s are in the hangars, ready to take off at any moment to move to the war front. From here on 18 January 1991 the pilot Gianmarco Bellini and the navigator Maurizio Cocciolone left for Operation Desert storm in Iraq, were shot down by Saddam Hussein’s anti-aircraft and remained prisoners for 47 days.

Having obtained the go-ahead from parliament with the support of an enlarged majority in the Brothers of Italy, it is from this base defined as “operational” by NATO that part of the weapons that the government should take off with an airlift to Poland. Italian decided to send to Ukraine.

The list has been classified by the government like the approved decree, but parliamentary sources speak of mortars, Stinger missiles, Browning heavy machine guns, MG light machine guns, anti-tank launchers, K rations, Motorola radios, helmets and vests, for a total cost that it would be around 150 million euros.

For this reason, the Brescia Anti-War Committee, a galaxy of environmentalist and pacifist movements and organizations, organized a sit-in for Sunday 6 March in front of the main entrance to the base, while the Catholic Action associations, Acli, Movimento dei focolarini, Community Pope John XXIII and Pax Christi have appealed to the government to “now say no to nuclear bombs on our territory, in Ghedi and Aviano”.

Demonstrations for peace in Ghedi (Brescia) in 2018.

(Aleandro Biagianti, Agf)

On the same day, marches for peace are scheduled in dozens of cities and towns throughout Italy, while the Italian Peace and Disarmament Network, together with the CGIL and UIL trade unions, and the associations Anpi, Arci, Emergency, Legambiente and the Forum of the third sector has called a national demonstration in Rome on Saturday 5 March.

In a joint document, the organizers take sides against Russian aggression, criticize NATO for the expansion in Eastern Europe, ask the UN for “action for disarmament and active neutrality”, hope for a “cease the fire ”and“ the immediate withdrawal of troops ”and condemn the armed support for Ukraine.

“Political solutions must arrive from Italy and Europe, not military aid”, it says. “Sending weapons is not needed for peace, in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya it did not improve anything”, says Francesco Vignarca, one of the promoters. “Sending weapons to Ukraine at the moment is like blowing on the fire that has already broken out”, says the Comboni missionary Alex Zanotelli.

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In a super-protected area to which only the US military has access, twenty atomic bombs are kept that no one has ever seen. In 2019, a document of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly published on the internet and then modified it revealed its presence. The news had already circulated but no one denied it. Experts in military strategies and armaments explain that Ghedi’s nuclear weapons are the old hydrogen B61s, produced during the Cold War. The United States, however, would be replacing them with the new B61 model 12, which can be transported by the new F35 fighters, two for each aircraft.

When, on March 1, 2022, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the Tass news agency that “it is unacceptable to Russia that some European countries are harboring US nuclear weapons” and that “it is time to send them back home. ”, The town of Brescia suddenly became a potential target.

A possible atomic escalation could have devastating effects in these parts. In November 2020, the environmentalist association Greenpeace, taking up a study by the defense ministry, revealed that “an attack on the bases of Aviano (where another 30 nuclear bombs are kept, ed) and Ghedi could cause 2 to 10 million victims ”, A figure that depends on how the wind could spread the radioactive dust and on the timeliness of aid. “A scenario kept strictly secret, shared only with military and political leaders and with those responsible for nuclear safety”, reads the dossier, which cites a confidential interview with a former NATO control officer.

However, the municipality of Ghedi does not even have a plan to evacuate the inhabitants, a fundamental tool in an area at risk like this one. This was confirmed by the Northern League mayor Federico Casali, answering the questions of the activists of the May 28 social center in Rovato, a town 40 kilometers away, who met him to discuss the issue. “The Ghedi nuclear bombs are the greatest danger we have in these parts, yet there is no public debate on this issue and no one seems to care”, says Beppe Corioni of the Women and Men Against War Committee, which acts as a “pivot logistico ”for the demonstrations in front of the base.

The military is not confined to the three and a half kilometers of barbed wire surrounding the base

Sunday 6 March is the third in a year. Despite the restrictions linked to the Covid pandemic, the pacifists protested against the expansion of the facility to accommodate 30 F35 fighter-bombers, which were added to the Air Force Tornadoes already present.

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The works, entrusted by the ministry of defense to Matarrese spa for a cost of 91 million euros, began in September 2020. According to the tender, they should be completed this year. The safety devices were renewed and two new runways were built, a command building and another for the flight simulator, some depots and 15 hangars, each of which can accommodate two F35s.

The inauguration of the runways took place on October 18, 2021, when the fighters took off for a simulation of atomic warfare in the skies of Northern Italy. The exercise, called Steadfast noon (inexorable noon), lasted a couple of weeks, during which the citizens of Ghedi had to live with a deafening and incessant noise, while the planes departed and glided at any time of day or night. . The goal was “to ensure that NATO’s nuclear deterrent” remains “safe and effective”, the Atlantic Alliance press office explained in a statement.

The war games that started from the military base in October did not, however, cause particular alarms in the population. The citizens of Ghedi are used to the noise of take-offs and landings, to the war simulations, to the signs warning of the risk of “low-altitude” flights and to mobile phones that suddenly go offline. “Every two years we are forced to redo the roofs because the tiles jump due to the vibrations”, says one craftsman. They seem addicted even to atomic risk.

The demonstrations attract many pacifists from the surroundings, especially from Brescia, but in Ghedi those who participate are a minority. “It’s not about apathy, it’s about connivance. This city is at one with the base and its politics is an expression of the power of the military, ”says Loris Gallina, an activist from the Together left circle. No one is able to say how much Italian and US soldiers weigh on the local economy, but it is certain that they influence the choices of the administration and the entire city life.

Peace demonstration in Ghedi (Brescia) in 1981.


The military is not confined to the three and a half kilometers of barbed wire that surround the airstrips, hangars and warehouses. It has been since the mid-fifties that the buildings of the Blue Village, built by the Ministry of Defense to house the Red Devils of the sixth Air Force flock with their families, have been the residential district par excellence of Ghedi. The military rent and buy houses, go to restaurants and shop in the village. Furthermore, they have always had an eye for those who live in these parts. ù

On November 4, 2021, on the occasion of the feast of the armed forces, they opened the doors of the base, inviting citizens to a guided tour and organizing an exhibition on war aircraft. “At the time of compulsory conscription there was not a Ghedese who was sent far from here”, says Gallina again. He is one of the few who did not want to do military service in Ghedi. Many residents work on the base and have no interest in questioning it.

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In addition, the Rwm has its headquarters here, a bomb factory that in 2016 had obtained the authorization from the Renzi government to sell almost 20 thousand Mk bombs to Saudi Arabia, for a value of 411 million euros.


In July 2019 the first Conte government blocked the supply, after the Italian Peace and Disarmament Network, the European center for constitutional and human rights in Berlin and the Yemeni Mwatana for human rights had found fragments of bombs with the serial number of the company in the rubble of a bombing in Yemen that had exterminated a family of six. The revocation of the contract became definitive at the end of January 2021, but the news went almost unnoticed in Ghedi.

A very different reaction from that which occurred in the nineties in the neighboring Castenedolo, where Valsella was forced to abandon the production of anti-personnel mines also thanks to the mobilization of workers, or in the other Italian factory of the Rwm, in Domusnovas in Sardinia, where local workers and pacifists have launched a campaign for the conversion of the plant.

Thus, in the worst week for Europe since the end of the Second World War, another story is taking place in Ghedi. It happened that the owner of a bar reported on the television program Le iene of being threatened by a gang of North African children led by a local trapper. After the service was broadcast, someone set fire to the shutters of the club and the far right took the opportunity to take to the streets against immigrants.

On February 25, while a few hundred meters away the military declared the “state of early warning” for the war in Ukraine, the streets of the town were covered with posters reading “Stop invasion”. Not the Russian one but that of “mass immigration”. A hundred neo-fascists, who also arrived from Brescia, paraded waving Italian flags, taking it out on Africans and North Africans and showing off a repertoire of racist insults.

The mayor was forced to disassociate himself from the demonstration and to replace his security delegate, Ivan Bertocchi, who had organized it. Some passers-by objected to the neo-fascists. Only the presence of the police in riot gear avoided the physical confrontation.

This article was published on March 5, 2022 on page 5 of number 17 of the Essential. You can subscribe here.

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