Days ago, acting on an Italian arrest warrant issued by Interpol, Robert Seldon Lady, a former CIA Bureau Chief, was detained by Panama in connection with the kidnapping, aka/extraordinary rendition, of Muslim cleric Abu Omar from a Milan street in 2005. Hours later, Lady was released without explanation. For Italy’s La Repubblica, columnist Frederico Rampini vents Italy’s collective spleen over Washington’s ‘slap in the face’ to the country, and examines the roots of the disrespect meted out to Italy and its notoriously slow and less than reliable institutions.
“He’s on his way back to the United States” was all U.S. State Department Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf had to say. For American diplomacy and for the White House, the case is closed. Closed, with a smack in the face to Italy. Happily undisturbed and returning home undeterred by Italy’s demand for his extradition is Robert Seldon Lady, the former CIA station chief in Milan, condemned to nine years in prison for the “extraordinary rendition” of Abu Omar. Stopped in Panama and detained based on an international arrest warrant issued by Italy, Lady got away.
The humiliations the U.S. inflicts on allies are not uncommon. Italy is used to it. Among previous episodes, perhaps the most tragic was the Cavalese cable car disaster of 1998. Twenty killed, due to the reckless antics of a would-be Top Gun or aerial Rambo. American pilot Richard Ashby had taken off from the Aviano Air Base, and while performing some insane acrobatics, sliced a cable supporting an aerial tramway gondola. Unyielding, Democratic President Bill Clinton didn’t hesitate to apply the international convention on the status of NATO forces – which guarantees that U.S. servicemen are tried only by “their own” – against a friendly government (then under Romano Prodi).
Of course, we aren’t the only ones to swallow humiliation. The president of Bolivia was diverted and nearly detained, just because Washington had a suspicion that he might have been transporting Edward Snowden on his aircraft.
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