Palazzo Papers, Anyone?

Palazzo Papers, Anyone?

As Prime Minister-elect Romano Prodi take the reins of power, Italians should seek evidence of Berlusconi’s true role in the run-up to the Iraq War.


How do you say “Sore Loserman” in Italian? Silvio Berlusconi.

Despite outspending his opponent, using his media companies to get far more coverage than allowed and rewriting the election laws in the last year to gut his opponents, Prime Minister Berlusconi was defeated last week by Romano Prodi and the center-left Union coalition.

It was close–only 25,000 votes separated the two coalitions, out of 38 million cast–but the Union’s advantage was decisive, winning both houses. In addition, the election was mostly about Berlusconi–and most Italians just said basta.

This is good news for the international antiwar movement–Italians rejected one of the pro-war poodles (Berlusconi was one of the “Killer B’s,” along with Bush and Blair), and Prodi has promised to bring the troops home “as soon as possible.”

Yet in the past week, Berlusconi has refused to concede; tried to initiate a “grand coalition,” promised to “resist” if denied and threatened to bring down the new government, though it has yet to take office; claimed electoral fraud, despite the inconvenient fact that his own government was in charge of the election; suggested that he and his coalition partners were the “moral victors” (in the foul-mouthed and flamboyant Silvio’s case, a funny choice of words); and one of his allies even accused foreign postal systems of subverting overseas ballots.

Nor has George Bush, ever busy, found the time to call Prime Minister-elect Prodi and congratulate him–even from Camp David this weekend, where he was hiding out because Cindy Sheehan was in Crawford. Nor has the Pope managed to pick up the phone. Hmmm…

Being an election-fraud aficionado, I find this highly entertaining. But I hope and trust that my Italian brothers and sisters will keep one eye on the electoral prize and the other eye on the transition period.

Here’s why: When Prime Minister José María Aznar’s party was ousted in Spain, Aznar’s team immediately shredded the paper files and erased the hard drives before José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero took over. Aznar doubtless wanted no evidence left about the truth of his maneuverings after the Madrid bombing, or of his dealings with the Bush Administration on the Iraq War. Perhaps Aznar has already called Berlusconi with that reminder, since it is doubtful that Silvio would want any concealed documents released in the coming months that would remind Italy and the world of his up-to-now-secret conversations with Bush and Blair prior to the start of the Iraq War.

In two weeks, it will be one year since the Downing Street memo leaked in London, thanks to journalist Michael Smith and some anonymous dedicated public servant(s). That memo, and the ones that followed, have made a huge impact on the public’s perception of the dishonesty and untruthfulness of both George Bush and Tony Blair. Think of it: A memo leaked in London had an impact on both sides of the Atlantic–and still is, judging from Bush’s and Blair’s disapproval ratings.

Were similar memos to be released by the new government of Italy, it would solidify the truth about the lies that were told by these three leaders to dupe their nations into an illegal, immoral, pre-emptive war on a nation that was not an imminent threat.

So here’s my appeal: Please, Italian civil servants–make copies of all memos. Put your files on disks. Create alternate folders. Keep the truth from being shredded and erased. Let the people know if and when the Berlusconi crowd puts pressure on you to erase the prewar history, the forged Niger papers, the renditions. And then share that truth, soon, with the rest of the world.

Since the Italian prime minister’s residence is the Palazzo Chigi, maybe we’ll call the Italian version of the Downing Street memo the Palazzo Papers.

Whatever we call them, it sure would be interesting to see them posted on Italian websites.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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