To Ambassador Ronald Spogli,Florence, February 12, 2007

Florence, February 12, 2007
To Ambassador Ronald Spogli
US Embassy, Rome

Distinguished Ambassador,

As US citizens in Italy, we write to ask you to put an end to our Embassy's meddling in Italy's political affairs.

Your letter, signed by four other ambassadors and designed to put pressure on the Italian government to continue its participation in the war in Afghanistan, was an unheard of and unacceptable interference by the US Embassy in the democratic process of this country, as well as being offensive to the great majority of Italians who, as shown in the opinion polls, have expressed their desire that Italian troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan in accordance with Art. 11 of the Constitution which declares that Italy repudiates war as a means of resolving international conflicts.

A few days later, the US Embassy committed a second serious blunder. It addressed to US citizens in Italy a letter warning of the potential dangers for those of us intending to demonstrate in Vicenza on February 17, together with Italian citizens, against the creation of a US megabase, the largest offensive base abroad. This demonstration is described as "anti-American" in the letter, which advises us to stay away from the city from 16 to 18 February so as to avoid becoming "targets of anti-American demonstrators".
The contents of the letter do not correspond to reality, they disseminate fear and ignorance, and insult the intelligence of the Americans in Italy and the democratic reality of Italian society.

First of all, the February 17 demonstration is not anti-American; it is a protest against the US government's request to build a new US megabase in the vicinity of Vicenza's city centre, a city recognized by UNESCO as part of humanity's cultural heritage. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of the people of Vicenza and of Italy as a whole do not want yet another US base (there are already about 20 US military installations in the country). On 2 December 2006, some 30,000 people demonstrated in Vicenza against the base - a colorful and peaceful march in which US citizens from Florence and Rome participated without experiencing any "anti-American" incidents whatsoever. Indeed, our presence there was much appreciated.

To distribute a letter to US citizens saying that they incur dangerous risks in Italy because of a political demonstration is a barely veiled attempt to discourage or indeed to silence those who wish to express their disapproval of the Bush administration's policies of war and occupation.
As Ambassador, you do of course represent the Bush and Cheney administration. However, the last mid-term elections in the USA demonstrated that this government no longer represents the majority of the population, especially as concerns foreign policy and war. US society is sick of militarism and increasingly our compatriots are saying: Enough!

At the demonstrations against the bases, in Vicenza, Camp Darby, Aviano, Sigonella, at the anti-war demonstrations in Italy, in so many other countries as well as the USA (were the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Washington and other US cities on January 27 dangerous "anti-Americans"?) people are protesting not against the American people but against the violence of the war and military occupation, not just in Iraq (more than 655,000 dead since the start of the war) but also in Afghanistan and Palestine. They protest against the military takeover of the land and the economy, against the presence of foreign bases with their stocks of nuclear weapons and depleted uranium. Amnesty International demands the closing down of Guantanamo and all secret prisons and a halt to the secret CIA flights (as in the Abu Omar case), as well as an end to the practice of torture and the violation of human rights. Are these demands "anti-American"? They ask for another world, with a new culture of peace and global justice.

We, US citizens in Italy, like millions of our compatriots in the USA, oppose the policy of waging wars abroad and the abrogation of civil rights at home, pursued by the Bush and Cheney administration while serious social problems are ignored. In the USA we have the worst health system in the western world, with some 50 million people not covered by any medical insurance. We have the highest number of prisoners in the world (we represent 5% of the global population and have 25% of the world's prisoners), with more than 4,000 on Death Row. We demand funds not for the armed forces but for health, schools, the environment, jobs, urban renewal, public transport, and solidarity with the rest of the world.

Forty years ago during the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King said "We are at a point in our lives when each of us needs to act so that our country survives its own folly. All those with human convictions must decide what form of protest is most appropriate for them, but we must all protest". He added “There comes a time when silence is treachery.”
We, US citizens in Italy, will be in Vicenza on February 17 because for us the demonstration against the base and against wars is also a show of support to the majority of US citizens who want to see a change of direction in US foreign and domestic policy.

We therefore ask you to send a further letter to our compatriots in Italy to say that the February 17 protest in Vicenza, far from demonstrating "anti-Americanism" - a sentiment not widely shared in Italy and especially not amongst those who are for peace – is in fact a fine example of the exercise of fundamental democratic rights, in which US citizens in Italy are invited to participate and will participate.

US Citizens Against the War (Florence)
US Citizens for Peace and Justice (Rome)

P.S. We take this opportunity to recall that the case of the murder in Baghdad of the Italian agent Nicola Calipari and the attempted murder of Giuliana Sgrena is not yet closed. We ask that the full cooperation of our government be extended to the Italian legal authorities.