|JFK motorcade passing the Colosseum|
That evening, Kennedy was the special guest at a banquet held in the Quirinale Palace and arranged by the Italian president, Antonio Segni. One of the dignitaries Kennedy was due to confer with was Pietro Nenni, head of Italy’s Socialist Party (PSI). Nenni’s greatest hope was that JFK would lend his support to the “opening to the left” (l’apertura a sinistra): a plan frowned upon by the Eisenhower administration, which would create a left-of-center coalition between the Socialists and Italy’s ruling party, the Christian Democrats. Nenni was not disappointed. Deeply moved by their intense conversation, he left the meeting with tears of joy in his eyes. Shortly afterward, Kennedy would give his official approval to l’apertura and ask labor leader Victor Reuther and his brother Walter, president of the United Auto Workers, to help generate financial aid to the Socialists.
Upon his return from Europe, the president remarked to his special assistant Arthur Schlesinger (the man who had initially convinced Kennedy to support l’apertura): “So far as I could see, everyone in Italy is for an opening to the left.” For any scholar familiar with the history of Operation Gladio, such a remark could mean only one of two things. Either Kennedy was playing his cards very close to his vest with a man who had already earned his trust and confidence, or he was completely uninformed on the subject of Italy’s postwar clandestine “stay-behind” guerrilla army: a virulently anticommunist, antisocialist, and one might even say antidemocratic organization, code-named Gladio. (more...)