The conviction and sentencing of former Italian PM, Sylvio Berlusconi, is a win against corruption. Before becoming PM, he’d been rich on the scale of Mitt Romney—a few hundred million. While his country went from financial hardship to the brink of ruin, his wealth increased almost 20 times to some four billion euros Thinking ahead, he pushed through a shorter statue of limitations, now likely to kick in before his presumed other crimes can be prosecuted. Convicted of money-laundering, his 4-year sentence was quickly reduced to 1 year, and he’ll likely not serve that. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, reasoning that a top leader in jail is bad for a country’s image. Some might consider it worse to let a convicted felon walk.
I landed in Foggia, Italy, in 1944 when the Wehrmacht still held the Po Valley. After VE Day, I was assigned another year, falling in love with the country and its people. After a couple of months flying troops from Naples to Rabat, Morocco, I went back to Foggia, worked on an unofficial US Army newspaper, the Foggia Occupator. Despite the lamentable name, I was never treated like an occupier, feeling perfectly safe on dark back streets at any hour.
I met the family Pedone, who had hidden downed American airmen from the Nazis on their farm. They could have been executed on the spot.
“Why did you do it?” I asked.
“They were such nice boys. We couldn’t let the Germans get them.” They showed me a box of signed letters with name, rank, serial number, and how long each had stayed.
“These are worth money!” I exclaimed. They seemed embarrassed. “I will tell our town major, who will see that you are paid for sheltering our fliers.”
I studied Italian with a dignified professore, who taught us the proper way to swear: “Accidente! means, ‘Dammit all!’” I still say it. I jeeped to Bari to get our paper printed, to Manfredonia for a swim in the Adriatic, across the mountains to Napoli for a story, and up the Gargano Promontory to San Giovanni Rotondo where Padre Pio—today Saint Pio—famed for bearing the stigmata, had his little church. Our Italian staff included Savino Bufalo, who’d been in the Italian army, captured, sent to America and while a POW, met a girl, gotten engaged, and planned to return and marry her. Another, from Sicily, tried to explain why it was necessary that a man not be a virgin when he married, but that a woman must be. We warned Maria diBari, our bi-lingual secretary, not to marry an American, but on a return visit to Foggia in 1954, I learned she had, and lived in Schenectady. Italy will always be in my blood.
Whatever happens, or doesn't, I congratulate the Italians for exposing a corrupt leader, hoping it will inspire us to think hard about Mitt Romney’s refusal to reveal his taxes, his politically sensitive investments. his offshore bank accounts, and most important of all, just what he has in mind if he somehow manages to insert himself into the seat of power.
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