U.S. weapons base in Italy expands — trees are first casualties

In front of the U.S. milartary base, Camp Darby, in Italy.

This article was published in the Sept. 21 issue of Il Manifesto, written by that newspaper’s expert on militarism. Although it describes the expansion in only one of the many overseas U.S. military bases, Camp Darby in Italy, its expansion reveals the continued drive to war by U.S. imperialism to increase its military reach worldwide. Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto translated the article.

The first trees have already been cut down, the others marked with paint: 937 trees are now being removed in the “protected” natural area of the San Rossore Regional Park between [the Italian cities of] Pisa and Livorno. The slaughtered trees are the first “collateral damage” of the massive reorganization, begun these days, of the infrastructure of Camp Darby, which contains the largest U.S. arsenal in the world outside the United States.

Even if the U.S. command promises to replant more trees than those cut, the construction of a railway and other infrastructure, fragmenting the natural habitats, will upset a vast ecosystem.

The project involves the construction of a new railway section that will connect the station of Tombolo (on the Pisa-Livorno line) to a new loading and unloading terminal. The trains will cross the Canale dei Navicelli on a new rotating metal bridge. The loading and unloading terminal, almost 65 feet high, will consist of four 575-foot-long tracks capable of accommodating nine wagons each, for a total of 36 wagons.

The terminal will be joined to the ammunition storage area by large trucks. By means of trolleys handling containers, incoming weapons will be transferred from railway wagons to trucks and those leaving the base will be transferred from trucks to railway wagons. The terminal will allow the transit of two trains per day, which will connect the base to the port through the normal lines of the Italian state railways.

The reorganization of the infrastructure, which has just begun, is based on the plan to carry out the increased transit of weapons from Camp Darby. The current connection via canal and the base road with the port of Livorno and the Pisa airport is no longer sufficient.

The U.S. continuously supplies the 125 bunkers at Camp Darby with over a million artillery bullets, bombs for aircraft and missiles, plus thousands of tanks, vehicles and other military equipment in these bunkers (according to approximate estimates).

Since March 2017, enormous ships have been calling at Livorno on a monthly basis. The ships unload and load weapons that are continuously transported to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern ports. U.S. forces and allies use these weapons in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

You do not need to be a skilled technician to understand what the dangers are for the population of the Tuscany region. Moving thousands of high-powered explosive warheads continuously in a densely populated area involves obvious risks. Even though the project managers describe their strategy as taking into account “human health and public safety,” an accident with catastrophic consequences cannot be excluded.

Neither can anyone rule out the possibility of sabotage or a terrorist attack that could cause the explosion of an entire train loaded with bombs. This is confirmed by the fact that the plan provides for the construction of a second terminal which will be used for verification and inspection operations of the “suspect wagons.” Those are wagons on which a bomb could have been installed (for example, inside a container). Such a bomb, exploding on command, would cause a catastrophic chain reaction.

What have the authorities done about this danger? Instead of carrying out their duties to protect the citizens and the territory, the region of Tuscany, the municipalities of Pisa and Livorno, and the Park Authority have not only approved the strengthening of Camp Darby, but have contributed to carrying it out. The civil works carried out in recent years for real or alleged economic development projects (such as luxury shipbuilding) — in particular the works to improve the navigability of the Navicelli Canal and the rail links to the port of Livorno — are exactly those demanded for years by the command of Camp Darby.

Its most prominent representative, [U.S. Army Garrison Italy Cmdr. Col. Erik M. Berdy], has been received in recent months with all the honors by the president of the Tuscan Regional Council, Eugenio Giani (Democratic Party), who has committed to promoting “integration between the U.S. military base of Camp Darby and the surrounding community,” by the mayor of Livorno, Filippo Nogarin (Five Star Movement), and that of Pisa, Michele Conti (League). The representatives of these three major parties  have expressed substantially the same position supporting military expansion. The trees of the park can be cut down and the bombs of Camp Darby can circulate on Italian territory, thanks to the mutual consent of the politicians.

In a July 11 interview in La Nazione, Col. Berdy said Camp Darby plays a key role in the Pentagon’s logistics, supplying the U.S. land forces and areas in much shorter time than it would take if they were supplied directly from the U.S. The base supplied most of the weapons for the wars against Iraq, Yugoslavia, Libya and Afghanistan.

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