Rape of war: splinters of brutal madness

(To Gino Lanzara)

The wind of war is a restless wind, which carries with it a dust that blinds reason. The argument is one that leads us to look elsewhere: genocide, ethnic cleansing, war rape, violence against victims guilty only of being in the wrong place and time.

Anyone who thinks war is just Clausewitz's science can stop here: war is a package that you buy in full. The research cannot be limited to shedding light on single episodes, but must be articulated in the historical framework of violence, dealing with the concreteness of the actions, the interpretative models concerning victims and perpetrators, doing justice inside and outside the perimeter marked by the right of the people. The Western analogy concerns a liaison based on myths handed down that lead to the perception of men and women according to stereotypes that make them assume the roles of just warrior and beautiful soul1, lyricisms that have not preserved the weakest, destining them to become a symbol of conquest; not surprisingly, as emerged from various researches, rape is a crime perpetrated indifferently against women and men, committed by both enemies and forces friends, given what happened at the hands of UN peacekeeping forces, a unavoidable collateral damage.

In art, war scenarios are one of the oldest forms of expression, especially when they celebrate triumphs; the acceptance of the representation of suffering took much longer and Goya's brushstrokes2, Picasso, Giulio Aristide Sartorio, or the merciless photographs of the American Secession, put an end to the glorification of war, showing men and women intent on waiting, fighting.

The 2nd World War internationalized sexual crimes: Germans against Russians, Poles, French; Russians against Germans; Japanese versus Chinese and Koreans; liberators against Italians, those women outlined by Moravia in "La ciociara ", a novel anodynamically accused of dubious morality in a period that saw the Supreme Court introduce disconcerting standards of judgment, for which group violence against a partisan did not constitute particularly brutal torture, and therefore did not lead to any conviction, leaving the rapists free to benefit from the Togliatti amnesty.

The rape of war is the contemptuous act of the victor, deprives the defeated of his private territory, it destroys any bond. It has been since the Middle Ages that rape is a incentive, a instrument of war useful for the ethnic variation of the conquered lands, a purpose that survived the world wars.

Until the end of the last century, rape found a difficult place in international law and more particularly in humanitarian law, and was functional in reminding us that the belief that absolute truth can be reached through the criminal process represents an illusion that , reappearing in socially unstable periods, sanctions the Enlightenment impossibility of joining the two truths, the objective one and the procedural one: the functionality of the system depends both on the independence of the judiciary, and on the collection of information on the crime, necessary to allow the initiation and conclusion of any procedure. Former Yugoslavia first, and then Rwanda, led to the recognition of rape as a crime that affects physical integrity and human dignity; therefore a crime not simply against morality, not an acceptable conduct because it falls within the scenario of one just war, not the refuge in obedience to higher orders, a problem that resurfaced in Nuremberg: war crimes and crimes against humanity, which also include sexual crimes, including Postgraduate Course in the genocidal ones by the 2002 Rome Statute, they always lead back to personal responsibilities, and have repercussions on ethnic groups destined to often suffer the tragedy of children born of violence, a reality that was censored for a long time and also experienced in Italy at the end of the First World War in the north-eastern regions, the scene of the fighting of a conflict described as the last chivalrous; a reality still characterized today by impunity, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or in the territories once controlled by Isis, where the Yazidis were the object of a genocidal plan based on a religiously recognized right.

Versailles, in 1919 decrees the end of World War I, and provides for a supranational trial for the Kaiser and for the war criminals, including those responsible for the Armenian massacre3; history and politics, however, prevent this, and allow for the setting aside of the principle of crimes against humanity by the USA and Japan. We will have to wait until 2006 to rekindle the spotlight on the Armenian genocide, both thanks to the sanctions provided by the French National Assembly regarding denial on the subject, and for the awarding of the Nobel Prize for literature to Orhan Pamuk, who was then tried at home for his statements judged to be detrimental to Turkish nationality.

During the Second World War, many, without distinction of uniform, are guilty of unacceptable violence, and in Asia the assessments of the Tokyo Tribunal also concern the massacre perpetrated by Japanese troops in the Chinese Nanjing4, an act punishable under customary law5, where the treatment reserved for comfort women (photo), coming from the occupied areas, for which South Korea still has strong relations with the Tokyo government.

At a first reading, and without detracting from the contribution for the affirmation of the sanctioning principles of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the criminal action exercised by the Courts of Nuremberg and Tokyo, characterized by an unprecedented interpretation of the concept of non-retroactivity , and based on what has been called the justice of the victors over the vanquished as summarized by Indian judge Pal, presents a system in conflict with the common sense of justice that could not exempt the winners from precise historical and legal responsibilities, and which evoke the bombings of Dresden, the atomic bombings on Japan, the rapes perpetrated by French colonial troops in Italy and Germany. which, ironically, reminds us that the only attention shown in Nuremberg for rape was precisely that of the transalpine prosecutor.

Italy has not been immune to the tragedies generated by the most violent conflict in history; while the north east falls into the karst crevasses of the sinkholes, and Rome prepares for the massacre of the Fosse Ardeatine, to the south the French colonial troops landed under the command of General Juin, an officer with a very controversial past6 whose effigy, placed in Place d'Italie, was recently damaged by gilets jaune... par ironie du sort (next photo).

I goumiers Moroccans wear djellaba7, turban, sandals, and are equipped with a saber or dagger; they are part of the CEF8, and about 12.000 landed in Sicily. The rapes, to which the Sicilians react by killing several goumiers, they begin in July 43 in Licata and Capizzi.

After the breakthrough of the Gustav line, from Polleca, where de Gaulle and the Minister of War André Diethelm are located, the Francocolonials launch themselves on Pontecorvo and begin unspeakable violence that sweeps across the Frosinone area up to the gates of Rome, up to Tivoli, and to also attended by white French, as also testified by Norman Lewis, British officer already present in Montecassino. Decades of physical and psychological suffering begin, accompanied by hundreds of unwanted births.

Place the responsibility on the goumiers it is limiting since the Americans were aware of the facts9 and who, however, like the French officers, did not intervene. It seems, but there is no confirmation, that Juin has promised absolute impunity for 50 hours, a repeated promise that leads to protracted violence until 44, when, in the imminence of his departure for France, and after de Gaulle received a harsh letter from Pius XII, discipline returns, once again forgotten in southern Germany.

Until the 90s the French and Anglo-Saxon historiographies do not report anything, but in Esperia, still in 1985, at a demonstration of reconciliation between war veterans, the French are declared unwelcome.

The abuses are recognized by Juin, who, in a memorandum addressed to the Allied Command, charges everything to "feelings towards a nation that hatefully betrayed France", to an unknown anger even to President Macron who, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the landing in Provence, asks Guinea and the Ivory Coast to name streets and squares after the African soldiers, also mentioned in the film "Native”, Directed in 2006 by Rachid Bouchareb che dimentica to mention gang rapes.

In 52 the Hon. Maria Maddalena Rossi, of the PCI, in Parliament recalls both the violence inflicted and the requests for compensation presented to the authorities; however, not only the pension books received do not give for a long time, and in some cases never, any right of collection, but the rules in force do not allow the accumulation of compensation with the war pension. In fact, the indemnities, largely recognized by the French state, are collected by the Italian state.

And Juin? Stick from Marshal of France and subsequent and eminent assignment to NATO: for him there will be no investigation, but one glorious burial a the disabled.

It is Malaparte who, with Skin, tells the agony of a people; from Ciociaria he moves to Naples, takes into account the price of the human flesh that goes down, while that of basic necessities rises: it is the spread of plague, a disease of which liberators seem to be healthy carriers, an evil that forces one to sell one's soul while the good Colonel Hamilton labels the mass as bastard people.

But you know, the winners ... "they have a clear soul ... they are good Christians ... Because they believe that it is immoral to be wrong ... Because they believe that a defeated people is a people of guilty people, that defeat is a moral condemnation, it is an act of divine justice"10; what do they know about Elisabetta Rossi, or Margherita Molinari who in Vallecorsa are killed by goumiers to defend their daughters? Nothing. Certainly not even Juin, despite his marshal's cane of France.

1 J. Bethke Elshtain Women and war, Bologna, 1991

2 Presence amere, 3 May 1808 - Guernica

3 600.000 estimated victims

4 Reliable estimates refer to a number of killed equal to 300.000

5 1907 Hague Convention (respect for family honors); art. 6 of the Nuremberg Charter, which incriminates any "another inhuman act committed against any civilian population, before and during the war ", however, not making explicit reference to rape, and prodromal to the IV Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilians of 1949

6 In 1940 he was taken prisoner by the Germans in Dunkirk, and released thanks to Philippe Pétain. At the command of the colonial army of Vichy, in 1942 he surrendered to the US troops, to subsequently assume command of the French expeditionary force in Italy.

7 tunic of raw wool with gray stripes and various colors

8 Corp Expeditionnaire Français,

9 Eric Morris in "The Useless War" wrote that near Pico, men from a battalion of the 351st US Infantry tried to stop the rapes, but their company commander intervened and declared that "they were there to fight the Germans, not the goumiers ".

10 Curzio Malaparte, The skin

Images: The Bulgarian Martyrs by Konstantin Makovskij (1877) / frame "La ciociara" (1960) / Imperial War Museums / web