Italy plus lovely moneyNo other country besides Italy gives in so easily to blackmail. It readily stumps up huge sums in ransoms or insists that terrorists be handed over to get hostages released. Recently, for example, after Repubblica reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo was kidnapped by the Taliban, it immediately put pressure on Afghanistan’s President Karzai to secure his release, and readily took Mastrogiacomo back in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban prisoners.

Sure, other countries negotiate too: we have just done so with Iran over the return of our 15 sailors. But we did not strike such a disgraceful bargain. Under Italian law, the families of Italian kidnap victims automatically have their assets frozen to stop them paying ransoms; but what’s the point, when the government will do it for them?

What really sticks is that they got their man out, but did nothing for his driver and interpreter, who were kidnapped with him and later butchered. The Italian government should now pledge to take care financially of the families of the two victims, and decree a minute’s silence in workplaces in their memory.

However, the Italian government should focus on the long-term consequences of their actions if they want to go on being seen as a civilised country that does not buy and sell the right to life.

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Terrorism is tempting with its tremendous possibilities. It offers a mechanical solution, as it were, in hopeless situations. … the principles of terrorism unavoidably rebound to the fatal injury of liberty and revolution. Absolute power corrupts and defeats its partisans no less than its opponents. A people that knows not liberty becomes accustomed to dictatorship: fighting despotism and counter-revolution, terrorism itself becomes their efficient school. Once on the road of terrorism, the State necessarily becomes estranged from the people.

The Bolshevik Myth by Alexander Berkman in Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas (Vol. 1) by Robert Graham, ed. (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2005) p. 312.

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