Defence Minister Guido Crosetto said on Tuesday, Italy’s defence top brass had made a mistake in sacking an anti-gay general. The minister had ordered disciplinary proceedings against him, now he feels that have turned him into a martyr for free speech.
General Roberto Vannacci was removed from his post as head of the military geographical institute after self-publishing a book, The World Back To Front. In the tome, Vannacci slams gays, Jews, migrants, environmentalists and feminists among others.
His free-speech rights have been defended by many members of Premier Giorgia Maloni’s right-wing Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, of which Crosetto was a co-founder. Right-wing League leader Matteo Salvini, a key Meloni ally, has had a very cordial phone call with the general, defended his right to speak out, and said he would gladly read his book.
Crosetto told Corriere della Sera in an interview that some among the top brass wanted to take even tougher action against Vannacci. However, it had been a mistake to sack him, thus turning him into a martyr.
“I would not have even made the change of function, precisely to extinguish the case and avoid Vannacci becoming a martyr,” he told the Milan-based paper.
“But I can assure you that the people I spoke to and who then acted (to sack Vannacci) would actually rather have demanded much more toughness”.
Asked about the ‘friendly fire’ from the FdI members who have staunchly defended the general’s right to air his controversial views, Crosetto replied: “I do not consider any of those who spoke about me as friends, since they are mystifying reality.”
The minister said that, though Vannacci had now become a martyr and a hero to many and his book is topping sales lists, he would act as he did if he had to, again. He stressed the general had a role of responsibility and should not have aired personal views in an official book.
“I would do what I did again because the Minister of Defence had to act like that. I did not speak as a politician but as a representative of the institutions,” said Crosetto.
What now for Vannacci?
Meanwhile, Vannacci has again turned down an offer from the far right Forza Nuova (FN) party to stand for them in the Senate seat at Monza left vacant by the late Silvio Berlusconi.
As for his phone conversation with Salvini, Vannacci told Corriere: “I won’t say anything about the content of the communication with Salvini, but it certainly pleased me.”
The general’s supporters have highlighted his distinguished record as former head of the crack Folgore paratrooper regiment on missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. They also lauded his courage in denouncing the deadly after-effects of depleted uranium munitions.
However, the General did draw flak for saying in his book he is the heir of Julius Caesar. Many recall the Roman general was a notorious bisexual.