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NATO’s Secret Armies. Operation GLADIO and the Strategy of Tension

Dr. DanieleGanser

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Jan. 9, 2016

Our guest this week is Swiss historian Dr. Daniele Ganser, author of the seminal book NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe, who joins us for a fascinating (though at times unsettling) conversation on the subject of Operation GLADIO.

Shortly after WWII a Europe-wide network of secret armies was organised under the aegis of NATO, tasked with providing military and intelligence resistance in the event of a feared Soviet invasion. Modelled on the resistance movements of the war years, many of these “stay behind” units remained faithful to their original mandate. But by the early 1960s – under the pressures of anti-communist politicking and flirtations with the Far Right – some of these groups began to morph into something more sinister, linking up with extreme right-wingers who carried out acts of false-flag terrorism, harassment of left-wing parties and coups d’état.

But was this morphing simply an unforseen consequence of the unaccountability and instability of the network itself? Or was it, at least in part, engineered by the very Anglo-American establishment which gave birth to the project in the first place? And to what extent, therefore, can such acts of terror be seen as manifestations of ‘the strategy of tension’, carried out by the State against its own citizens for the purposes of control at home and geopolitical gain abroad? (We also discuss: Operation Northwoods, the so-called War on Terror, 9/11 and the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks.)

Original Audio      Notes                                                                                                         Transcribed by Sarah Brand & Julian Charles

Julian Charles:  Hello everybody, this is Julian Charles of, coming to you, as usual, from the depths of the Lancashire countryside here in the UK. Today is the 27th of January 2015, and I am very privileged to be able to welcome to the programme Dr. Daniele Ganser, who is author of the seminal book,NATO’s Secret Armies : Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe. Dr. Ganser is a Swiss historian specialising in contemporary history since 1945 and international politics, whose research centres in peace studies, geostrategy, covert warfare, resource wars and economic policy. He teaches at the University of St. Galen and the University of Basel, and is also founder and Director of the Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research, which is also in Basel. Dr. Ganser, thank you for joining us.

Daniele Ganser:  Thanks very much for having me.

JC:  It’s great to be speaking to you at long last. I’ve given very cryptic information about you in my opening remark, so could you give us a fuller impression of the work that you do?

DG:  Yes, the information you provided is correct. I am forty-two years old, have two kids, and live in Switzerland. I research secret warfare, looking at resource wars, special operation forces, secret services, and I’m interested in peace research and in human rights. So, I’m an activist academic, one of those academics who feel it’s not right that we’re stuck in this world of violence.

JC:  Now, we’re going to be discussing the specific issue of Operation Gladio (as it’s normally called), and we’re going to be centring in your research that led up to your book, NATO’s Secret Armies. I understand that your book was based on your PhD studies, so what prompted you to get interested in this subject in the first place?