The dignity for a medal?

(To Antonino Lombardi)

In these hours, the decision of General (ris) Antonino Li Gobbi, former commander of the army engineers, to want to return to the French State the decoration "Medaille de Bronze de la Dèfense Nationale" conferred on him in 1996 by the ministry of Defense in one of its missions in the Balkans.

A soldier with a long and prestigious career, he was decorated, among others, with two silver crosses and one bronze cross of merit of the army, with the honor of commendatore and officer of merit of the Italian Republic. He has participated he has participated in UN missions in Syria and Israel and NATO in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He was the chief operations officer of the operational command of interforce forces (ex COI) and J3 Chief of Operations Center of SHAPE and Director of Operations at the NATO International Staff in Brussels. He graduated in International and Diplomatic Sciences in Trieste and obtained a Masters in Strategic Sciences at the University of Turin1.

In his interview with Adnkronos, he judges "out of place and disproportionate" France's attacks on Italy on the migrant issue adding that "the history of French colonialism, the roots of a problem that lies in northern Africa and for which France cannot be said to be blameless: many of those who arrive in Italy, but who do not aim for our country, come from former French colonies , there should be a sense of co-responsibility on the part of Paris which has instead been lacking".

"Given that I believe there has not been the necessary foresight in managing the recent activity relating to the landings and NGOs by Italy, a showdown without assessing all the consequences in the absence of planning which could also have included legislative instruments, the French reaction was disproportionate to say the least". The general emphasizes the attitude "as first in the class or as a schoolteacher who scolds the incompetent child for whom I felt discomfort, so much so that I was forced to return the decoration that had been granted to me by France".

General Li Gobbi is the soldier who in 2019, in another interview, declared: “A certain propaganda aimed at presenting the military as boy scouts, who distribute aid and build field hospitals, does not help. Of course, this is also done. But you don't go to Afghanistan just for that. If you present the military as NGOs, I ask myself: if they have to do the same job, why are the former armed and the latter not?”.

It is not the first time that a soldier decides to return an honor and more precisely to the French state. We all remember when in 2011 General Leonardo Tricarico returned the "Legion d'Honneur", the chivalric order established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and the most prestigious transalpine decoration. Even for the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the decoration was granted in the Balkans and more precisely during the conflict in Kosovo.

It was a gesture with which the senior officer wanted to protest against the irreverent behavior of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy during a now famous curtain call with his German colleague Angela Merkel. The decoration was returned to the French ambassador in Italy and in the accompanying letter, Tricarico wrote: "I am forced to deprive myself with regret and displeasure - of the honor - in the face of Sarkozy's disrespectful behavior towards Italy".

The general had expressed that “with the granting of that honor, France had wanted to reward the spirit of collaboration which in 1999 had characterized the 78 days of joint militancy in the Kosovo campaign. At the moment, however, I cannot find any justification for the ridicule, the disrespectful wink and the ridiculing gestures used in Brussels the day before yesterday towards the Italian Prime Minister, and therefore all Italians, but above all towards a ally in difficulty for internal political reasons".

In the final post scriptum the general narrated: "On 25 November 1916, our aviator, Capt. Francesco Baracca, shot down the Austro-Hungarian reconnaissance aircraft of ten. Kalman Sarkozy, who was taken prisoner. Although the relationship between that Hungarian aviator and the current president is uncertain, the 'episode shows that the Italians know how to win their battles. Even when we have Sarkozy in front of us".

Each of us can think differently about whether or not to return an honor. It can be read, for some, as a lack of respect towards the concessionaire but, surely, it cannot be denied that doing it out of pride for one's homeland requires at least courage.

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