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Resea/Review

Marcos Ferreira Navarro


Graduado en Historia por la Universidad de Len. Estudiante por la Universidad
Nova de Lisboa y la Universidad de Granada.
GANSER, Daniele, NATO'S Secret Armies: operation Gladio and terrorism in
Western Europe, Londres: New York, Frank Class, 20051.
Almost ten years have passed since Daniel Ganser published his books about the
activity of the NATOs secret armies in Western Europe during the Cold War
period. Perhaps as for other topics, it would not make sense to write a review
about a book which was written nine years ago, but this is not the case. The
parallel NATOs armies are an ill-known topic about which there are just a few
investigations. Actually, one of the main resources about the topic is (still) the
documentary created by Allan Francovich that was released in 1992. In this sense,
Gansers book is, so far, the best investigation that has been done about the
NATOs secrets armies.
The first thing that has to be pointed out is that the investigation of the Swiss
investigator was done mainly throughout secondary sources. This is normal
because since the discovery of the stay-behind armies in Western Europe, the
governments of the countries involved have been avoiding to offer information
about it. Furthermore, just three countries of a total of seventeen (Italy, Belgium
and Switzerland) decided to carry out an investigation about this topic. In all of
cases these researches offered very limited information about what occurred,
about how it occurred and which countries and personalities were the key figures
in all this stay-behind terrorist apparatus. Thus, there are just a few original
documents about the scandal, whereupon, the main information came from
secondary sources such as newspaper articles or testimonies of witnesses of the
1

Existe una versin en espaol editada por el Viejo Topo y puesta en el mercado en el ao
2010. Vid. GANSER, Daniele, Los Ejrcitos secretos de la OTAN: La Operacin Gladio y el
terrorismo en Europa occidental, Matar, Espaa, 2010.

operation.
What were the NATO's Secret Armies? The secret armies of NATO was a parallel
and illegal structure constructed short after the end of the World War II in order to
have a paramilitary organization ready to resist in case of a Soviet sponsored
invasion over Western Europe. Sponsored, with money, weapons, and other kind
of resources, by CIA and MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service from England), and the
coordination provided by NATO, those armies were installed around the Western
Europe, even in countries that did not form part of the NATO by that time such as
Austria, Sweden or Spain. In addition, those armies where composed by far right
wing supporters and driven by the secret services of those countries where the
armies were set. Once the Western powers realized that the authorities of Soviet
Union were more worried to protect and secure their influence zone in Eastern
Europe, the targets of the Secret armies were modified. The common enemy was
still the same (the communism) but the specific enemy were the communist (and
in some cases even social-democrats) parties in Western Europe.
Thus, during the entire Cold War, those parties or associations which defended the
leftist ideas where chased by the secret and order services and far right
organizations that acted in collaboration with those services in a dirty war. This
dirty war encompassed acts such as kidnappings, hardcore propaganda against
leftist political parties and important leftist figures or killings perpetrated against
them. Another important strategy followed by these illegal armies was the Fake
Flag attack. In other words, the far right organizations, with the support and direct
collaboration of the secret and order services of Western countries, attacked in
public spaces such as train station or squares, in order to accomplish a great
massacre and then, put the blame into the left organizations with the final
objective to turn the public opinion against the leftist ideas, organizations and
important leftist personalities. This strategy was carried out in all the Western
European countries. Nevertheless, it was in Italy and in France where the secret
war reached its maximum level. The reason for that was simple. Both in Italy and
in France, their communist parties (Partito Comunista Italiano and Parti
Communiste Franais) had an extended base of support because the leading role

that both parties had in order to organize and construct the resistance to the
Fascism during the II World War. The PCF, but especially the PCI supposed a real
danger to the social, political and economic establishment of France and Italy
because there were real chances that they could accede to the power throughout
the rules of the liberal democracy, something that the economic and political elites
from EEUU, Italy and France and other western powers could not permit. Thus,
with the collaboration of far right paramilitary groups, the secret and order
services of Italy and France, with the aid of MI6 and CIA and with the
coordination of NATO, the secret armies were able to carry out acts to undermine
and criminalize the leftist ideas and movement.
How can the NATO's secret armies be explained and comprehended? It would be
extremely naive if we supposed that the secret armies were just installed to be
ready against a hypothetical invasion by the Soviet Union. After all, at the
beginning of the decade of 1950s it was clear that the Soviet Union would not try
with that invasion. Nevertheless, the secret armies were not dismantled, but they
were reinforced. Whereupon, the possible Soviet invasion was not more than an
excuse to install secret organizations which had two main purposes: on one hand,
to avoid that the communist parties, despite the fact that they accepted the
political rules of the Western countries, achieved a sort of political power; on the
other hand, the United States could interfere and control the most important
internal affairs of their counterparts in Western Europe through those secret
organizations and armies, which supposed an attack against the national
sovereignty.
Briefly, reading the book written by Daniele Ganser will provide the lector with a
dark, but important operation carried out inside the big picture of the Cold War. In
addition, the lector could have the chance to reflect about the hypocrisy and
double moral of the policy makers of the Western powers. Meanwhile they are
leading (since the attack caused by Al-Qaeda September 11, 2001) a crusade
against terrorism, at the same time, they do not permit to investigate deeply the
terrorism carried out by them. Perhaps, after all, the BND (Secret Service of
Federal Republic of Germany) and other Western secret services were similar to

the evil and horrific Stasi (Secret Service of Democratic German Republic) and
their Eastern counterparts. It could be pointed out in a more general reflection that
the Western European countries, just like the Eastern European ones were
interfered by the Soviet Union, were controlled somehow by the United States,
enjoying some type of limited sovereignty.