Thirty years ago this month, the extreme left terrorist group, the Red Brigades murdered former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro who they’d kidnapped and held for nearly two months. Moro was the head of the Christian Democratic Party, which was moving towards a parliamentary coalition with the Italian Communists, a move opposed by some in the far left and which worried western power, particularly the US. Italy’s interior minister at the time was Francesco Cossiga, who took a hard line and refused to negotiate with the Red Brigades for Moro’s release. In an interview with Cossiga, EuroNews has tried to get at the truth of an incredibly tangled tale involving allegations of CIA involvement and claims of vital clues sent via a Ouija board.
EuroNews : “You’ve been accused of refusing to negotiate with the Red Brigades, because you actually wanted Moro to be killed.”
Francesco Cossiga: “Why would I have wanted Moro’s death? If I hadn’t refused to negotiate the state would have collapsed and we would have found ourselves in a crisis, which it would have been very difficult to get out of. And on top of that I was nothing compared to someone like Moro.
EuroNews: “There are some who say that as long as Cossiga and Andreotti are alive, the truth about what really happened with Moro will never been known.”
Cossiga: “There are some who don’t want to accept this one thing: that Aldo Moro was killed by the Red Brigades. Some in the former Christian Democratic Party – who turned Moro into an icon, a left-winger, an enemy of the United States – they don’t want to accept that Moro was killed by people from the left. It must inevitably be that he was killed by the right, by the Americans, by the CIA. Otherwise, it just doesn’t work for them.”
EuroNews: “You never believed Italian politician Romano Prodi’s explanation that he heard the name of the street where Moro was held at a seance. Why would Prodi lie about that?”
Cossiga: “He didn’t lie, he said that because he didn’t want to reveal his sources, especially at a time like that. But even now, if he revealed who told him, I don’t know how long his informant would remain alive. He and the others invented this story of a seance and words spelled out on Ouija board to be able to make the information public and protect their source.”
EuroNews: “A US hostage negotiator, Steve Pieczenik, who you brought to Italy to advise on getting Moro released, has said that a statement – supposedly from the Red Brigades – that Moro’s body was in Lake Duchessa, 100 kilometres north of Rome was false and put out by the government. He implied that statement was intended to test what Italian public opinion would be to Moro’s death.”
Cossiga: “It’s important to note that after the Lake Duchessa message, the resistance to negotiating weakened considerably: it was then that the leaders of the Christian Democratic Party, including me – who had decided on this tough, no negotiation policy – changed their approach. It was then that the Socialists started negotiations. The Socialists did not trust us, and wanted to carry out the negotiations on their own. If they had talked to me about who they made contact with, we would probably have been able to find where Moro was being held.”
EuroNews: “In France the so-called Mitterrand Doctrines, under which Italian far-left activists who fled to France were not extradited, seems no longer to be in place. Is France collaborating with Italy over the extradition of alleged terrorists?
Cossiga: “You want my opinion? So many years have passed. You know I’m the person who was branded a Nazi, and accused of being responsible for torture and ordering killings, and lots, lots worse. I always felt there should be a blanket amnesty, that we should draw a line under the whole period when it was almost like a civil war, rather than reviewing the individual cases.”
EuroNews: “One of those France wouldn’t extradite was novelist Cesare Battisti, is he also a murderer?”
Cossiga: “He’s both. Being one doesn’t exclude being the other. It’s as if you’d asked me if Caravaggio was a major painter or a violent man, who killed someone in a bar fight : he’s one and the same.”
EuroNews: “Outside Italy, Berlusconi’s election victory has been greeted with irony, scorn, even some embarrassment. Are those other countries being snobbish, or is Italy really an anomaly?”
Cossiga: “The first person to telephone him was Spain’s Prime Minister Zapatero. The second, who reacted enthusiastically, was Wilfried Martens, the President of the centre-right European People’s Party. Tony Blair, who was in Rome at the time, met with the left-wingers Massimo D’Alema, Walter Veltroni, and Francesco Rutelli, but who did he have dinner with? Mr Berlusconi. And it’s important to note that I didn’t vote for him. And you must keep in mind, I know the English: they are extremely snobbish.”
EuroNews: “You’ve said that the exclusion of the radical left from Parliament could create the right conditions for terrorism to reappear. Are there any indications that could happen?”
Cossiga: “The radical left took the extreme left as its reference point. I remember a big rally in Genoa, in memory of Carlo Giuliani, the anti-G8 demonstrator shot dead by police in 2001, a gathering which was addressed by the Senate leader, Bertinotti. He gave a very rousing speech and was enthusiastically received. The police did not intervene and at the end Bertinotti said: ‘Now, everyone stay calm and go home’ and there was no trouble. But these days, who would say something like that to them? Veltroni or Rutelli? Veltroni who is known as an admirer of Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Obama, or Rutelli, who is the spokesman for the Italian Episcopal Conference? You think they’d listen to them? Dream on!”