The U.S. Military versus Cultural Wealth

By David Swanson

If you build a big enough empire with enough enormous military bases in enough countries, sooner or later you’re going to displease just about everyone. The list of those unhappy with recently proposed expansions of imperial outposts includes artists and architects.

In the tradition of the trashing of the artistic treasures of Iraq, the U.S. military has set its sites on the Italian Renaissance. Many Americans are familiar with the work of Andrea Palladio.

After all, Thomas Jefferson based the design of his home on Palladio’s villas, and there’s a picture of it on every American nickel. Even the White House is a rip-off of a Palladian villa.

Most of Palladio’s best work is still standing in and around the Italian town of Vicenza. The building in the middle of town with the green roof is known as the Basilica Palladiana.

Palladio’s most famous house, the Villa Rotonda, sits just outside of town. The town and many of the surrounding villas are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Looks idyllic, right? Then you probably don’t work for the U.S. military.

When the Pentagon looks at Vicenza, it thinks: “This would be a perfect place for a bigger military base.”

Against the passionate protest of the majority of the citizens of Vicenza, whose outrage recently (temporarily) drove the Prime Minister of Italy out of office, our very own U.S. Department of “Defense” plans a massive expansion of its existing facilities, with a huge new base a mile and a half from the Basilica.

The people of Vicenza aren’t happy.

Here is an excellent article about the proposed expansion, and here’s an excerpt:

“The proposed solution to the battle of the bulge is to shoe-horn a new military facility into the existing small civilian airport called Tommaso Dal Molin, which sits on a precious piece of green space just a mile and a half northwest of the town’s historic center. The project would also possibly involve enlarging some of the existing roads that run between Caserma Ederle on the southeast and Dal Molin to the northwest. The proposed plans mean, therefore, that the already dense population of this city would increase by almost 1.7%. They would also inherit a new US air base that is a mere 25-minute leisurely walk from the Basilica Palladiana, which sits in the heart of the city. In the photo below, which was taken from Monte Berico on the south side of town just above the train station on a very rare day when you can clearly see the Alps, the Basilica Palladiana is the building in the bottom right-hand corner with the large green roof, while Dal Molin is the runway in the one large patch of green in the middle. Expanding the airport here, then, would be far worse than building a major military airbase one and half miles from the most historic piece of real estate in the US. As such it represents a serious callousness on the part of the US to local conditions and thus to justice itself.”

Will those who care about beauty and culture in our world stand for this?

Will we stand for the expansion of the U.S. empire in other towns and cities around the world that each have their own beauty?

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