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Volume 4 • Number 2
S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 2
G E N E R AL E D I TO R Katherine McCaffrey • Montclair State University AS S OC IAT E E D I TORS Emily Martin • New York University Ida Susser • City University of New York Susan Harding • University of California, Santa Cruz BOOK RE VIE W E D I TO R Shirley Lindenbaum • City University of New York PH OTO E D I TO R S Paige Mazurek • School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Constance Sawyer • School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston M E D IA E D I TO R Matthew Durington • Towson University E D ITORIAL B OARD Don Brenneis • University of California, Santa Cruz Joe Dumit • University of California, Davis Louise Lamphere • University of New Mexico George Marcus • University of California, Irvine Frances E. Mascia-Lees • Rutgers University Mary Murrell • University of California, Berkeley Lorna Rhodes • University of Washington Dan Segal • Pitzer College Noelle Stout • New York University
E D I TO R I A L A S S I S TA N T S
Angela Orlando • University of California, Los Angeles Will Thomson • New York University Amiel Melnick • City University of New York http://www.paradigmpublishers.com/journals/an
Boulder • London
Anthropology Now, a general interest peer-refereed publication, is published three times a year in April, September, and December. Each issue contains feature articles about current anthropology research, plus surveys of new research projects, essays, interviews, photo essays, poetry, and book, film, and exhibit reviews on a wide range of topics of interest to anthropologists, students, and the interested public. SUBMISSIONS All submissions are peer reviewed and processed electronically. We’re looking for essays that are relatively short (3,000 words), fascinating, addressed to a general audience, and engaged in contemporary problems. There should be minimal jargon, few, if any references, and the essay should be shaped as a narrative. Readers’ attention should be grabbed quickly with a hook—be very clear about what is interesting, important, and unusual in what you have to say. If you are interested in submitting a manuscript, we ask you first to submit a one-page pitch for your proposed material. Briefly identify the argument you would like to advance, and tell us why it is important for the general public to understand. Once we receive the pitch, we will review it within two weeks and let you know whether you should write and submit the entire piece, or whether it would be more appropriate for another publication. Please e-mail your pitch as a Word attachment (not a pdf). Include a brief biographical statement. If you wish to include a sample illustration, it must be camera ready. Please do not use color in any illustrative material— grayscale or line art only. Photos may be sent as jpg or tiff files (color photos that are accepted for publication will be printed in black and white). Photos must be at least 300 dpi at the size of publication; 600 dpi is preferred. For extra-large files, please consult with the editor for special instructions before sending. E-mail submissions to: Katherine McCaffrey, General Editor, Anthropology Now, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “AN Submission” in the subject field. For further information about the publication, visit our Web site, http://paradigmpublishers.com/journals/an. ISSN: 1942-8200 Copyright © 2012 Paradigm Publishers Cover photo: Carl Gunhouse Cover designer: Andrew Brozyna Interior designer and typesetter: Jane Raese Production editor: Dianne Ewing Published in the United States by Paradigm Publishers, 5589 Arapahoe Avenue, Suite 206A, Boulder, CO 80303 USA. Paradigm Publishers is the trade name of Birkenkamp & Company, LLC, Dean Birkenkamp, president and publisher. Printed and bound in the United States on acid-free paper that meets the standards of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials.
Married to the Mob?
Uncovering the Relationship between the US Military and the Mafia in Southern Italy
“Yankee City”: Naval Support Activity, Naples Support Site with Mt. Vesuvius in background, Gricignano d’Aversa, Italy.
y friend Gabriella blurted out in surprise as we crested a hill on a lonely road, “It looks like an outlet mall!” We had been driving for quite some time past breezy fields of peaches, corn, and tobacco when we got our first sight of “Yankee City”—the massive, sprawling US military base north of Naples. Gabriella’s initial reaction was more accurate than she knew. A major part of the US Navy “support site” is its US-style “big box” shopping mall. Such malls are found on US bases the world over (even at Guantánamo Bay). On the otherwise open plain, characteristic of Italy’s south, the mall includes a Naval Exchange for everything from clothes to electronics, a commissary supermarket, a movie theater, US fast food restaurants, and rows upon rows upon rows of parking. The contrast between the base and surrounding countryside could not have been starker. As Gabriella (a pseudonym) and I drove somewhat nervously around the base—which was ringed by a ten-foot-high fence, security cameras, and motion detectors—we saw grids of roads crisscrossing the base, large swaths of manicured and
lavishly watered green grass, American football and soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas and barbecues, children’s playgrounds, skate parks, pools, and rows of neat apartment blocks. We were awed by this replica of an idealized American suburban gated community. The only signs of anything out of order were the trash and recycling bins, overflowing with garbage, piled high and spilling out onto the ground. That and the pop-pop-poppop-pop coming from the direction of town. We decided to assume it was just firecrackers but wondered if it might have been automatic gunfire. The trash and the popping reminded us that we were on the outskirts of Gricignano d’Aversa, a small town in the countryside of Campania, the agriculturally rich and economically poor region controlled by the Neapolitan mafia, the Camorra. Less well known than the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra has thrived out of the spotlight, inflicting heavy costs in blood and corruption. As Gabriella and I drove, I could almost hear the words of Roberto Saviano, the Italian investigative journalist who has lived in hid-
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Photo by author
ing since publishing Gomorrah, his famed exposé of the Camorra. “Never in the economy of a region,” Saviano writes, “has there been such a widespread, crushing criminal presence as in Campania in the last ten years.”1 (Gomorrah was reviewed by Jane Schneider and Peter Schneider in the April 2010 issue of Anthropology Now [volume 2, number 1].) No other Italian region has as many cities under observation for mafia infiltration. Between 1991 and 2006, out of a total of 170 decrees dissolving local governments in Italy because of organized crime infiltration, almost half—75—were from Campania. In the province of Naples alone, 41 local governments were dissolved.2 The Camorra system and its clans have integrated themselves into nearly every part of the social, political, and economic life of Campania. The US military is no exception. Down the dingy, potholed road from Gricignano’s sibling base, the naval facility at Naples’s Capodichino airport, sits the largest open-air drug market in Europe, dominated by the clans.3 To help describe the place, Saviano turned to the words of a magazine for US military personnel: “Imagine yourself in a Sergio Leone film. It’s like the Wild West. Somebody gives orders, there are shoot-outs and unwritten, yet unassailable laws. Don’t be alarmed. . . . Nevertheless, leave the military compound only when necessary.”4 I first visited Naples to investigate the various social impacts of the Navy’s presence but was quickly intrigued and puzzled by the presence of major US military facilities in the heartland of the Camorra. I started to wonder about the relationship between these two powerful, and—it must be said—
violent, international organizations. I wondered what to make of reports such as, for example, that the Navy has been renting apartments from the Camorra, that the builder of the Gricignano base has been strongly linked to the Camorra, that a US admiral’s suicide may have been related to scandals in Naples, or that, as some say, his death was a Camorra hit.
The Military and the Mob
As the story goes, the US military would never have made it to Naples were it not for the help of the Mafia. While the history may have been exaggerated over time, “It is,” as one historian says, “beyond doubt that the Allies occupied southern Italy with the help of the Mafia.”5 Although the Navy long tried to cover up the story,6 the lynchpin of this relationship was one of the most notorious gangsters in the New York City Mafia, Lucky Luciano (portrayed recently on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire). “Upon the entrance of the United States into the war,” New York Governor Thomas Dewey wrote in 1946, “Luciano’s aid was sought by the Armed Services in inducing others to provide information concerning possible enemy attack.” Dewey’s clemency letter was Luciano’s reward for helping Naval Intelligence officers concerned about protecting New York harbor and Allied shipping from possible labor strife and Axis spies and saboteurs in the early days of the war.7 From his cell, Luciano, who had close ties to the unions that controlled the docks, recommended fellow mafiosi to aid in the
Married to the Mob?
wartime campaign and had fellow gangster Meyer Lansky introduce them to Naval Intelligence officials. (Luciano later claimed that he was responsible for the arson that triggered the military’s concern about sabotage. If true, it would be “classic Mafia style,” as historian Salvatore Lupo explains: “Threat and protection from the same source!”)8 Although some histories appear to inflate the roles of Luciano and the Mafia in preparing for the Allied invasion of Sicily, Luciano and other mafiosi appear to have at least provided information about the island and local contacts to help with the 1943 landing and occupation.9 What is equally clear is that these connections only deepened after the invasion. Allied leaders drew on the assistance of local mafiosi—who had been violently targeted by Mussolini—and in some cases appointed them as mayors. In these positions, bosses served as brokers between the Allies and locals, provided interpretation, and fulfilled other important jobs. Even Lupo, who thinks this “conspiracy thesis” has been overblown, says the Allied administration was “riddled with mafiosi.”10 Once they declared themselves “anti-fascist,” the allies had “trusted partners . . . able to police society,” as historian Tom Behan notes wryly, “very effectively.”11 During the occupation of Naples, connections with organized crime only expanded. As in Sicily, where the Mafia coordinated the distribution of gas coupons and tires for the trucks supplying the black market,12 the looting and skimming of Allied food supplies and merchandise became endemic, perhaps approaching 60 percent of unloaded goods in a devastated port city
with hundreds of thousands homeless and hungry. An entire contraband system for food, clothing, cigarettes, appliances, and other goods became “rooted in Naples,” despite largely disappearing elsewhere in Italy after the war. The infamous New York Mafia boss Vito Genovese was at the center of this developing black market. The head of the Allied Military Government—and the former lieutenant governor of New York—Colonel Charles Poletti selected Genovese, who had been the manager of Lucky Luciano’s gambling and New York drug operations, as his interpreter.13 Taking advantage of his relationship with Poletti, Genovese and one of the newly appointed Mafia boss mayors, Don Calogero Vizzini, used Allied military trucks to smuggle oil, sugar, and other goods off Sicily’s docks. The US Army eventually arrested Genovese in August 1944 for his black-market activities and returned him to New York. After the poisoning death of the prosecution’s prime witness, Genovese soon became leader of the Genovese crime family.14 In turn, the vacuum created by Genovese’s arrest was filled by his former boss Luciano, who was newly returned to Italy by Governor Dewey’s pardon and was setting up his revitalized operations in Naples.15
Genovese and . . . Don Calogero Vizzini used Allied military trucks to smuggle oil, sugar, and other goods off Sicily’s docks.
Volume 4 • Number 2 • September 2012
The Mafia was not the only criminal organization revitalized by the Allied occupation. Equally targeted by the fascists, the Camorra was, after the liberation of Naples, resurrected thanks to the members of the Sicilian and New York mafias. Initially, bosses like Luciano employed Neapolitans in their profitable enterprises. Over time, the employees came to lead the Camorra on their own.16 Older than any other Italian criminal organization, the Camorra dates to at least the late 18th or early 19th century (possibly to 1825 and men imprisoned in a military base—Naples’s Castel Nuovo, or New Castle).17 Whatever its exact origins, the Camorra grew in power through most of the 19th century until a decline followed Italy’s unification in 1861.18 Another period of growth emerged in the early 20th century before Mussolini’s rule crippled Italy’s criminal organizations. However, with the opportunities provided by the Allied occupation amid widespread misery and a resulting “culture of illegality,” the Camorra rebounded through its involvement in the theft and black-market resale of millions of dollars of Allied troops’ supplies, corruption, and prostitution.19 Occupying US forces were not just passive victims of Camorra thieves. After the war, GIs frequented the Quartieri Spagnoli for black-market goods.20 Mostly, however, the flow of goods went in the other direction. As was the case around US bases across Italy and elsewhere in the world, military personnel often became a source for
cheap, desirable consumption items, like cigarettes and later blue jeans, which they sold to locals for their own use or resale.21 Even US military trucks went missing, as they were used by the Camorra to transport stolen weapons across Europe without suspicion.22 Happily for the Camorra, US troops never left Italy after World War II. Following a temporary reduction in US and Allied forces,23 the United States began building up its presence in and around Naples following the 1954 signing of the Italian-American “Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement.” At a time when the CIA was secretly backing the Christian Democracy party against popular communist and socialist parties, the agreement allowed for the stationing of US forces in Italy under conditions that still remain secret (and which are possibly in violation of the Italian constitution). 24 Over time, the Navy concentrated many of its facilities in the part of Naples called Agnano, before moving those facilities to the twin bases of Gricignano and Capodichino in the 1990s. US forces built other bases in nearby Gaeta, Ischia, Lago Patria, Varcaturo, Marinaro, Grazzanise, Mondragone, Montevergine, Nisida, and Carney Park (an isolated and slightly surreal US-style recreation center located in the crater of an extinct volcano).25 These strictly US bases are in addition to several NATO bases in Naples. In total, there are around 10,000 US military personnel, civilian employees, and family members in the “US military community” around Naples.26 Across Italy, there are more than 13,000 US troops, in addition to thousands more civilians and family members. They occupy what the Pentagon
Married to the Mob?
USS Forrestal aircraft carrier in the port of Naples, 1959.
counts as at least 68 bases from Aviano and Vicenza to Pisa/Livorno and Sicily. After Germany, Japan, and South Korea, there are more US bases in Italy than anywhere else outside the United States—out of a total of more than 1,000 US bases abroad.27 Revived by its relationship with US forces, the Camorra eventually overtook the economic power and influence of the Mafia, shifting from black-market activities, small-scale extortion, and racketeering to become an “international business syndicate.”28 The Camorra’s major advance in scale and scope came in the 1970s when the clans found lucrative money-making opportunities in construction, concrete, public contracts, garbage, and especially international drug trafficking. This turned the Camorra into a global economic powerhouse, grossing an estimated €12 billion per
year, employing 20,000 people, with affiliates across Europe, South America, and in the United States.29
It Takes a Villaggio
Until the late 1990s, thousands of US military personnel and their families lived in the Villaggio Coppola—Coppola Village. Secluded among pine woods along the Mediterranean north of Naples, the development today feels like a scene out of Mel Gibson’s post-apocalyptic classic Mad Max. When I visited in 2010, the “road” to the beach ended in a rutted mess of broken pavement, gravel, and a pile of dumped trash. Some of the Villaggio Coppola was torn down years ago. The buildings that remain are mostly decaying four-story hulking
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US Navy/Naval Historical Center
concrete blocks scarred by missing roofs and naked rebar and shadowed by shabby high-rises. As the power and influence of the Camorra grew after the war, the clans deepened their relationships with local politicians and legal businesses. A three-way system developed between camorristi, politicians, and businessmen. As Italian academic Felia Allum explains, “the three sets of actors . . . operated a cartel arrangement, with the common goal of diverting public funds and making huge profits.” The model was fairly simple: Responding to a public contract, “the Camorra provided companies for the subcontracts, supplies for the work (cement, tools, diggers, bulldozers, etc.) and provided good working conditions in return for 3 to 5 percent of the contract.”30 Built in the 1960s, “The City of Abuse” is a case in point.31 Saviano says it’s like nothing in Italy. “Eight hundred sixty-three thousand square meters of cement: the Coppola Village. They did not ask for authorization. They didn’t need to. Around here construction bids and permits make production costs skyrocket because there are so many bureaucratic palms to grease. So the Coppolas went straight to the cement plants. One of the most beautiful maritime pine groves in the Mediterranean was replaced by tons of reinforced concrete.”32 More than half of the Villaggio was built illegally on public land; the rest was built on private land taken by one illegal means or another. The concrete, iron, wood, and labor came courtesy of the Camorra. Litigation followed, but the Coppolas only had to pay a nominal fine—assessed by a judge with an apartment in the towers.33
Making their name on the Villaggio, the Coppola family and its most prominent members, brothers Cristoforo and Vincenzo, remain Campania’s “richest and most powerful” construction group.34 The family hails from the Camorra stronghold of Casal di Principe, which Saviano explains is “the capital of the Camorra’s entrepreneurial power.” It provides locals with “a guaranteed respect, a sort of natural fear.” Saviano notes, “Compared to Casal di Principe, Corleone,” the Sicilian town made famous by the Godfather, “is Disneyland.”35 When some of the Villaggio’s towers were torn down after barely four decades of occupancy, the Coppolas profited again with Vincenzo doing the demolition.36 Ironically enough, Cristoforo helped found a business to revitalize the environmental and economic life of the coast around the Villaggio. His partner was Vincenzo Schiavone, a member of the Camorra’s murderous Casalesi clan.37 Here, thousands of US military personnel and their families lived until the commanding officer in Naples, Admiral Michael Boorda, ordered them to leave “because of the poor condition of the buildings and high crime.”38
To replace this and other housing, the Navy convinced Congress to build a new housing development and naval station. To whom did the military turn when it was looking for a developer? The Coppolas. Or at least to Cristoforo and four of his children, who control the Mirabella group, following a
Married to the Mob?
contentious split between Cristoforo and Vincenzo. The Navy had been working on plans for a new base since a series of 1982 earthquakes hit Agnano, briefly blocking the one access road to the Navy base. The Navy’s initial plan, “Project Pronto”—Project Quick—moved slowly and was eventually rejected by the US Congress in 1988 because of high costs. Two years later, Congress approved a two-pronged plan to build an operations base at the Capodichino airport and a support site for housing, a school, shopping, and other amenities at another location. The military already controlled 54 acres at the airport, where it once had an air base. This meant Congress didn’t have to buy the land and only had to pay to build facilities at Capodichino. For the support site, Congress and the Navy decided to use a procedure called “lease-construction.” Rather than paying land and construction costs, the Navy would invite developers to bid to build the base to the Navy’s specifications. The developer had to control the land, but the Navy would agree to lease the site for thirty years. After that, the developer would get the buildings back, with the right to rent them to the Navy or someone else. The initial costs to the US government would be nearly zero. All the construction and land acquisition costs would be paid by the developer, although the developer would have the security of a tenant paying a guaranteed rent. Lease-construction allowed Congress to appropriate no more than the costs of the Capodichino facilities or about one-third of the estimated $700 million total. In 1993, the Navy awarded the first of
four contracts for the support site to Cristoforo Coppola’s Mirabella. What followed is the subject of some dispute, but some say Coppola paid an Italian restaurateur in Washington, DC, with good ties to the military, to secure the deal (the restauranteur was acquitted). A letter from a US undersecretary of defense to the chairman of Mirabella, Cristoforo’s son Francesco, suggests that Mirabella’s “friends,” powerful Congress members Ron Dellums and Tom Foglietta, may have helped win the contract.39 What’s clear is that politicians in Gricignano d’Aversa helped Mirabella gain access to 80 hectares of farmland. According to a former town councilor, the land was expropriated from farmers with Cristoforo paying compensation on the basis of the land’s agricultural use—even though other uses were planned.40 In 1996, shortly after construction started, a Bronze Age archeological site was discovered. Some described it as “priceless”41 and potentially a “new Pompeii.”42 Although Cristoforo’s Mirabella hired a team of archeological consultants, “The Americans . . . were in a hurry,” as one journalist explained, “and Cristoforo proceeded with construction like a tank to spend as little as possible and avoid paying millions in fines.”43
While archeological discoveries couldn’t slow Coppola’s construction, in 1999, Naples prosecutors did. Investigating multiple allegations of crime and corruption, some brought to light by Vincenzo Coppola,
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Warning outside US Naval Support Activity Naples, Capodichino site, 2010.
whose company had lost the construction contract to his brother, prosecutors alleged that Mirabella gained permission to build in Gricignano by pressuring municipal officials to change or ignore zoning laws. Vincenzo claimed his brother had won the contract illegally and that the Navy had changed its rules during the bidding. The Navy denied the charge, but prosecutors discovered Gricignano’s municipal government had set aside land by changing zoning laws for Mirabella, which they said could only have happened through criminal dealings. The Navy official overseeing construction admitted “Mirabella developed a strategy (it wouldn’t have) if not for the Navy’s timetable” to begin construction as quickly as possible.44 According to the Stars and Stripes newspaper, which covers the US military worldwide, a former Camorra boss
“hinted that organized crime did, in fact, influence Gricignano town policy.”45 Meanwhile, six confessed camorristi—including two confessed murderers—said that when they failed to win the contract awarded to Mirabella, they began extorting money from Mirabella’s subcontractors, although none directly implicated Mirabella or Cristoforo.46 (At the time, Cristoforo and Francesco were finishing a three-month sentence under house arrest for tax fraud unrelated to the Gricignano construction.)47 Another camorrista said he began controlling the construction works shortly after escaping from prison. He said his clan was asked to ensure that construction would run smoothly, although he didn’t say who made the request. According to another witness, the Camorra demanded 3 percent payoffs from subcontractors, or about $10,000 per
Married to the Mob?
Photo by author
month. Stars and Stripes reported that the witness “confessed to murders and implied some were related to the construction,” while another Camorra witness testified to killing someone who collected the payoffs.48 For its part, the Navy would not vouch for the legality of the parties involved but said Mirabella cleared the Italian government’s “mafia check.” The Navy officer overseeing construction told Stars and Stripes, “We’re not here on behalf of the Italian government to make sure none of these parties are shady.”49 A Naples appeals court lifted the construction stop within a month, and prosecutors appealed to the Italian Supreme Court. There, new prosecutors eventually dropped the charges, saying they lacked evidence. But the allegations did not end there. Italian journalist Riccardo Scarpa reported that US officials told him the 1996 suicide of the Navy’s then highest-ranking officer, Admiral Boorda, may have been related to his discovery of corruption at Gricignano.50 In the days before his death, Boorda learned that Navy investigators were ready to arrest 21 sailors in Naples, where he had been when Mirabella won the contract, on heroin and cocaine smuggling charges. The Navy and other government officials attributed Boorda’s suicide—by two shots to the chest— to an investigation of his improperly wearing two Vietnam-era medals for valor. Some rumored that Boorda’s death was a Camorra assassination.51 The Navy never released an autopsy or two reported suicide notes, citing Boorda’s wife’s privacy and leaving unanswered questions to this day.52
In November 2008, the Naples anti-mafia squad and the national Finance Police surprised Navy officials when they appeared at the Navy’s Housing Office, which coordinates on and off-base housing for military personnel. The Italian agents produced a court order for records about six homes leased by US personnel and discovered to be owned by Camorra families. It turns out the Navy—and US taxpayers—were paying the camorristi €1500–3000 per month for the homes (they were paying these rents to other landlords too, at two to three times local averages). The agents asked for access to the Navy’s entire housing database, but the Navy refused. The head of the anti-mafia force faulted the Navy “for knowingly leasing houses [from] suspected mob bosses.”53 Following these revelations, the Navy has for “environmental” reasons declared four areas around Gricignano off limits for new leases. While Navy studies have shown there to be high levels of pollution in these areas, it seems clear the ban is also an attempt to avoid some of these uncomfortable entanglements. The tangled relationship between the US military and the Camorra is neither a coincidence nor an aberration. The construction project at Gricignano probably couldn’t have been better designed to ensure Camorra involvement. The Navy’s leaseconstruction technique allowed it to pay next to nothing initially for the construction. Instead it solicited bids from developers to build a base on land the developer controlled in exchange for guaranteed Navy
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rent payments. From a developer’s perspective, making a profit depended on keeping construction costs as low as possible to ensure that subsequent lease payments would cover the costs and debts of construction and, of course, leave substantial profits left over. Keeping costs as low as possible, especially around Naples, means acquiring land as cheaply as possible (by means legal or otherwise) and keeping building and labor costs as low as possible (by means legal or otherwise). In other words, in a place known for the Camorra’s infiltration of the construction industry, the structure of the contract encouraged cutting corners at best and illegalities at worst. Something similar happened at the Navy’s former home in the Villaggio Coppola. There, the Coppolas acquired much of their land illegally—it’s cheaper that way— and without permits—which would cost money in fees, bribes, and construction delays. Then, they built such poorly constructed buildings that some lasted just four decades. A similar story unfolded at the Agnano base, where the Navy employed much the same lease-construction technique and got poorly constructed facilities with “serious maintenance problems.”54
Given the cost savings and “efficiencies” that the Camorra and Camorra-linked companies are able to achieve though extortion, bribes, theft, intimidation, violence, and other means, their involvement in this or any kind of contract should have been expected. Indeed, it would have been surprising if it had been any other way.
“Philosophical about the Situation”
Similar situations have unfolded around US bases in Sicily, which have remained closely linked to the Mafia. In the 1980s, at the now-closed Comiso base, “Mafia-controlled firms from outside the region soon won most contracts for the construction of the base, and [locals] understood that base construction was not effectively under the jurisdiction of Italian law.”55 Many of the subcontracts went “to Sicilian firms, some of which had ties to criminal networks in Palermo.” Many of the temporary construction workers came from Mafia-controlled firms in western Sicily.56 More recently, three major janitorial, groundskeeping, and maintenance contractors at the Sigonella naval base were found to have Mafia ties. According to 1997 and 1998 court rulings, the controlling partner, Carmelo La Mastra, was part of attempts to intimidate a competitor into withdrawing a contract bid. “Probably in connection with that bid the owner of another firm . . . was killed.” La Mastra’s three companies were placed under legal receivership and La Mastra was indicted for his role in a “Mafia-type association” and bid-rigging.57
More recently, three major janitorial, groundskeeping, and maintenance contractors at the Sigonella naval base were found to have Mafia ties.
Married to the Mob?
And yet, in 1999, the US contracting officer at Sigonella awarded a contract, determining that the three companies had “a satisfactory record of performance, integrity, and business ethics.” Such ties between the military and the Mafia may not have been simply the result of the power of the Cosa Nostra or questionable oversight. “It has even been suggested that the decision to install nuclear cruise missiles at Comiso was because the Mafia could be relied on to protect the site in return for the inevitable rake off it could extract on the hundreds of millions of dollars in construction contracts for roads, housing and so on,” Flora Lewis of the New York Times wrote at the time. “Max Raab, the US ambassador in 1983 when the site was being built, was said by aides to be philosophical about the situation, holding that the corruption was a problem for the Italian, not the US, government and that in any case the dollars would help stimulate the bedraggled Sicilian economy.”58 Given the history in Sicily, the repeated connections between the Navy and the Camorra should be seen even more as an expected—rather than unexpected—consequence of the US military’s presence around Naples. The Navy and the Pentagon have long sought base locations with a friendly and stable political59 and economic environment, as well as a militarily strategic location. Most often this has meant locating bases in poor and marginalized areas, like Naples. In her study of the former Navy base in Vieques, Puerto Rico, Katherine McCaffrey writes, “Bases are frequently established on the political margins of national territory, on lands occupied by ethnic or
cultural minorities or otherwise disadvantaged populations.”60 In poorer areas like Naples, US officials assume that the promise of jobs and money will help secure a long-term presence. This has largely been the case as the Navy has, over more than half a century, embedded itself securely in the regional political economy. A political economy in which the Camorra is even more deeply embedded. In the Italian government, US officials have had a consistent partner willing to agree to most military requests. US officials have also had a partner on whom they can blame anything that might go wrong, like any ties with organized crime. When the Navy was discovered to be renting homes from camorristi, for example, a Navy spokesperson said that it was the Italian government’s role, not the Navy’s, “to make sure none of these parties are shady.” Indeed, like Ambassador Raab, it seems many US officials have been “philosophical” about maintaining ties with the Camorra, the Cosa Nostra, and other mafias since World War II. Given their success in cutting costs, in avoiding bureaucratic, legal, and political hurdles, in providing stability and protection, and in quickly getting concrete on the ground, many have been more than happy to ignore evidence of mafia involvement. This willingness to take advantage of criminal organizations should come as no surprise either. Despite frequently invoking rhetoric about spreading democracy and maintaining security, the US government has often been equally “philosophical” about its entire network of more than 1,000 overseas military bases. “Gaining and main-
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taining access to US bases,” base expert Catherine Lutz explains, “has often involved close collaboration with despotic,” corrupt, and murderous governments, including those in (at various times) Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, South Korea, Turkey, the Philippines, Spain, Portugal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, to name a few.61 Kent Calder, a Johns Hopkins political scientist and former State Department official, confirms the “dictator hypothesis” that “the United States tends to support dictators in nations where it enjoys basing facilities.” Many bases owe their very existence to the US military or compliant local governments unlawfully displacing local peoples from their lands in places from Vieques and Okinawa to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.62 Once established, base commanders have often encouraged the establishment of brothels, shady “camptowns,” and entire sex work industries outside bases’ front gates.63 Even the legal and diplomatic foundation of most bases rests on status of forces agreements, generally providing extraterritorial legal immunity to US military personnel, or on secret agreements, like 1954’s Italian-American Bilateral Infrastructure Agreement, signed with no democratic oversight whatsoever.
As Gabriella and I drove through the Campania countryside around Gricignano past peach orchards and water buffalo grazing near the highways, I couldn’t help but think about what was in those peaches, what the buffalo were grazing on, what was in their
milk and thus in their mozzarella, what was buried and hidden just below the surface of the Campania plains. Gricignano and surrounding areas where Navy personnel have come to live are at the center of an area where the Camorra has engaged in the illegal dumping of garbage and toxic waste since the 1980s. During a major period of road building north of Naples, the clans saw, as anti-Mafia magistrate Gianni Melillo pointed out, that “garbage equals gold.”64 Since then, the Camorra has solved many of the waste disposal problems for businesses in northern Italy and elsewhere. Every year, the Camorra has rid companies of millions of tons of industrial waste from textile, leather, metal, chemical, paper, and pharmaceutical manufacturing by burying waste in illegal dumps around Naples.65 Since the 1980s, studies have shown elevated cancer rates compared to Italian national averages, with an area near Gricignano coined the “triangle of death” by medical researchers.66 Elevated levels of radiation, nitrates, fecal coliform bacteria, arsenic, and chemicals used in cleaning solvents have all been found in well water, soil, and the air. Dangerous levels of carcinogens have been found in the area’s famed buffalo mozzarella.67 The Navy has been so concerned that it has spent millions on years of studies investigating asthma; birth defects; cancer; and water, air, and soil quality. Like the northern businesses for whom the Camorra inexpensively and expediently solves the waste disposal problem, so too the Camorra and Camorra-linked companies have inexpensively and expediently solved US base problems, building and
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Map indicating areas in the Camorra heartland, around Gricignano d’Aversa and the “triangle of death,” where US military personnel are barred from leasing homes for “environmental” reasons.
maintaining facilities for the Navy with as little hassle and expense as possible. That US troops in Campania are now facing the same garbage-related health risks that locals face around the “triangle of death” is just one reminder of the shortsightedness of the US military’s relationship with the Camorra—that in some cases, quite literally, you reap what you sow.
Military in Campania,” in Chiara Ingrosso and Luca Molinari, eds., “La Napoli degli Americani dalla Liberazione alle basi Nato,” Meridione: Sud e Nord nel Mondo, no. 4 (2011): 243–264. 1. R. Saviano, Gomorrah, A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’ Organized Crime System, translation by V. Jewiss (New York: Picador, 2007) 161. 2. D. Lane, Into the Heart of the Mafia (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002) 187. 3. Saviano, 46–47, 63–67, 120. 4. Saviano, 161. 5. T. Behan, See Naples and Die, the Camorra and Organized Crime (London: Taurus Parke Paperbacks) 53–54.
A longer version of this article appeared as “Yankee City in the Heart of the Camorra: The U.S.
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U.S. Naval Support Activity Naples/Department of Defense
6. Ibid., vii–viii. 7. R. Campbell, The Luciano Project, The Secret Wartime Collaboration of the Mafia and the U.S. Navy (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1977) 1–2. 8. Salvatore Lupo, History of the Mafia, trans. Anthony Shugaar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009) 187. 9. Ibid., p. vii; Behan, 50–51; T. Newark, Lucky Luciano, the Real and the Fake Gangster (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2010) 164; Salvatore Lupo, History of the Mafia, 187; Salvatore Lupo, “The Allies and the Mafia,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies 2, no. 1 (1997): 21–33. 10. Lupo, “The Allies,” 29. 11. Behan, 53. See also Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press (London: Verso, 1998) 127–129. 12. Lupo, “The Allies,” 26. 13. Cockburn and St. Clair, 128. 14. Ibid. 15. Behan, 54–56. 16. Ibid., 56–58, 79; Felia Allum, Camorristi, Politicians, and Businessmen: The Transformation of Organized Crime in Post-War Naples (Leeds: Northern Universities Press, 2006) 104–5. 17. Allum, 4. 18. Los Angeles Times, “Camorra and Mafia, the Banded Rulers of South Italy for Fifty Years,” 2 April 1891, 6; Allum, 4. 19. Allum, 20–1. 20. D. Lane, Into the Heart of the Mafia (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002) 189, 192; Behan, 46. 21. Cf., M. Gillem, America Town, Building the Outposts of Empire (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007) 92–93; Allum, 99– 100. 22. Saviano. 160–161. 23. The main exception being US troops supporting deployments in Austria and Trieste. 24. Alexander Cooley writes, “One former official of the Italian Ministry of Defense observed
that the enduring secrecy of the BIA may be a function of some of these provisions’ unconstitutionality.” Ibid., 199, n. 88. A subsequent treaty was signed in 1995 that adds to but does not invalidate the BIA. 25. See A. Zecca, Basi e intallazioni military in Campania, in Napoli chiama Vicenza, disarme I territory, constuire la pace, edited by A. Romano (Pisa: Quaderni Satyagraha, 2008) 46. 26. Naval Security Group Station, Naval Security Group Station History, 13 July 2008, (http: //www.navycthistory.com/NSGStationsHistory.txt). 27. US Department of Defense, Base Structure Report, Fiscal Year 2011 Baseline (a summary of DoD’s real property inventory) (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Defense, 2011). 28. Behan, 57–58. 29. J. P. Truhn, Organized Crime in Italy II, How Organized Crime Distorts Markets and Limits Italy’s Growth, Cable to Secretary of State, 08NAPLES37, 6 June 2006, Wikileaks. 30. Allum, 162, xvi, 172. 31. F. Erbano, La cittá degli abusi, 9 July 2002 (http://www.regione.emilia-romagna.it/paesaggi/ news/erbani090702.htm). 32. Saviano, 168. 33. Erbano. 34. P. Spiga, Famiglia Cristiana, grandi dynasty mattonare—i Coppola, La Voce della Voci, October 2010, 21. 35. Saviano writes, “Casal di Principe, San Cipriano d’Aversa, Casapesenna. Fewer than one hundred thousand inhabitants, but twelve hundred of them have been sentenced for having ties to the Mafia, and a whole lot more have been accused or convicted of aiding or abetting Mafia activities.” Saviano, 187–188. 36. Spiga, 21; Erbano. 37. Spiga, 21. 38. S. Palumbo, “Agnano Seamen to Stay in Barracks,” Stars and Stripes, 16 May 1997, 3. 39. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense John McGovern wrote “Congressman Ron Dellums will
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be the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Tom Foglietta has assumed a new role in the appropriations subcommittee on military construction, which provides funds for the projects. These two friends are in a powerful position to ensure the authorization and the appropriation of the project in Naples.” Spiga, 21. 40. F. Geremicca, “Invece di una nuova Pompei il villaggio della US navy,” Diario, 21/27 September 2001 (http://dust.it/articolo-diario/invece -di-una-nuova-pompei-il-villaggio-della-us -navy/); Spiga, 21. 41. A. Cinquegrani, “Farano un deserto e lo chiameranno NATO,” La Voce della Campania, 6–9 April 2001, p. 7. 42. Ibid.; Geremicca. 43. Geremicca. 44. Ibid., 4. 45. Ibid., 4. 46. W. Sanderson, “Mafia Linked to Navy Site, Developers Accused of Conspiracy,” Stars and Stripes, 18 July 1999, 1, 4. 47. Sanderson, 4. 48. Ibid., 4. 49. Ibid., 4 50. Ibid., s4. 51. E.g., one anonymous blog comment said, “I’ve worked in Naples, Italy for less than a year and the word about Admiral Boorda out here is he was the victim of a mafia hit by the commorah [sic]. He helped land a contract with a suspected member of the mafia in building a military base. . . . All the Italians here claim he was murdered.” http://news4a2.blogspot.com/2005/ 05/adm-jeremy-mike-boorda-may-16-1996-pt .html. 52. New York Times, “21 U.S. Sailors Seized in Italy in Drug Inquiry,” 29 May 1996, A17; C. Stewart, “Admiral’s Suicide Pre-empts Vietnam Medal Investigation,” The Weekend Australian, 18 May 1996; Deutsche Presse-Agentur, “Top U.S. Naval Officer Dies of Self-inflicted Gunshot Wound,” 16 May 1996.
53. S. Jontz, “Official Seeks Assurance for Naples’ U.S. Renters,” Stars and Stripes, 27 November 2008; L. Novak. “Italian Police Ask Navy for Records to 6 Naples Homes,” Stars and Stripes, 17 December 2008; Cronaca, “Le mani dei Casalesi sui fitti dele case ai marines,” Redazione, 26 November 2008. 54. Comptroller General of the United States, 2, 16–17. 55. L. Simich, op. cit., p. 79. 67. Ibid., p. 85, 91, 82. 57. 238 F.3d 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2000), Impresa Construzioni Geom. Domenico Garufi v. United States, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 3 January 2001. 58. Simich, 91. 59. Cooley, 212. 60. Katherine T. McCaffrey, Military Power and Popular Protest: The U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002) 9–10. 61. Catherine Lutz, “Introduction: Bases, Empire, and Global Response,” in The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts,” Catherine Lutz, ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2009) 28. 62. David Vine, Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009). 63. See e.g., Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Maria Höhn and Seungsook Moon, eds., Over There: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to the Present (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011). 64. Saviano, 188; Lane, 182. 65. Ibid., p. 184. 66. F. Bianchi, P. Comba, M. Martuzzi, R. Palombino, R. Pizzuti, “Italian ‘Triangle of Death,’” Lancet Oncology 12, December 2004, 710; K. Senior and A. Mazza, “Italian ‘Triangle of Death’ Linked to Waste Crisis,” Lancet Oncology
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9, September 2004 (http://www.uonna.it/lancet -journal-acerra.htm); P. Comba et al., “Cancer Mortality in an Area of Campania (Italy) Characterized by Multiple Toxic Dumping Sites, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences MLXXVI, September 2006, 449–461; M Martuzzi, et al., “Cancer Mortality and Congenital Anomalies in a Region of Italy with Intense Environmental Pressure due to Waste, Occupational Environmental Medicine LXVI, 2009, 725–732. 67. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, Final Phase I Environmental Testing Support Assessment Report Volume I, Naval Support Activity Naples, April 2009; Stars and Stripes,
“Naples Water Buffalo Herds Are Quarantined,” 22 March 2008 (http://www.stripes.com/news/ naples-water-buffalo-herds-are-quarantined-1 .76792).
David Vine is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He is currently completing a book about the global network of US overseas military bases.
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