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What happened in Cermis, Italy on 3 February 1998 with pilots of the United States Marine Corps?

Cermis, 20 years later: the forgotten massacreThe pilot of the Marines at the last flight in Italy, flight too low and too fast that caused 20 deaths. The navigator who shot the video memory between the Alps and smiled: today he teaches the cadets of the Us Navy how to overcome the psychic sufferingby GIANLUCA DI FEOLower, faster. Feeling the turn that crushes you, as a spur of rock turns into a snow channel that swallows the airplane launched lower and lower, faster and faster. At a thousand kilometers per hour the maneuvers shape your body, with the anti-gravity suit tightening and then widening, transmitting a sense of euphoria. Drivers are trained to handle it, to keep a cool mind and reflexes ready during that motionless dance for the jolts of acceleration that multiplies the pressure and pulses inside your head, while the trees are an indistinct green carpet that unrolls under the fuselage. But that flight is another story. A unique opportunity: the last mission between the Alps, without the worry of having to challenge the Serbian anti-aircraft in the skies of Bosnia, without any thought; a ride of pure pleasure whizzing through the woods and the peaks, before packing up and returning to the United States.THE MULTIMEDIA SPECIAL: THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CABLE CAR MASSACRELockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II - Date of entry into employment 2017Main user US Air Force US Navy US Marine Corps.There are four people on board the jet, veterans and experts. They joke, laugh, film the most beautiful mountains in the world to take home a souvenir to show their families and friends: every now and then they shout "Ricolaaaa", like in the Swiss candy TV commercial. And they go further and further down and faster and faster. Suddenly a yellow dot materializes: it's the cabin of a cable car. "Fuck!" Just like that, there's a bang and all the instruments start screaming the obsessive sound of an emergency. And in that moment, the fate of 20 people is decided.Military flights are not walks. The machines cost over eighty million euros, but above all the pilots know that speed is unforgiving: if you get distracted for even a moment you can die and kill. Every take-off, even the most banal, is planned with maniacal scruples for hours. There is a cold and meticulous bureaucracy, punctuated by forms, maps, positions, weather forecasts and limits to be respected. This applies to everyone, even to the crews preparing for war in February 1998. It is also true for the American aviators at risk in Aviano, a few kilometers from Pordenone and the border of the former Yugoslavia, to force the Serbs to respect the agreements of the fragile Bosnian peace. They are carrying out difficult reconnaissance over Sarajevo, because any routine action can become a nightmare. It had happened two years earlier to Captain Scott 'O Grady, who was shot down and chased for six days by the militiamen before being rescued. And the Marines' VAMQ-2 Air Force wing has the most dangerous task of all: to be the bait to flush out radar and ground-to-air batteries, blinding them with electronic equipment and deflecting missiles. Their aircraft is the Grumman EA-6B Prowler or Predator: an old beast, which has been in service for over thirty years, with outdated mechanics but the most modern tools for electronic duels and a reputation as a boxer that always takes you back, even with riddled wings.In addition to the pilot, there were always three other people on board who were dedicated to making these hi-tech devices work. But the aircraft showed the sign of the times, requiring constant maintenance and exceptional concentration at the controls: the number of losses due to malfunctions or errors continued to increase. Also for this reason Colonel Muegge imposed to his flock to respect all the dispositions: "You fly "by the book", following the manual; zero tolerance for those who transgress " . Muegge said he could not tolerate the bravado of Top Gun. A month earlier, Captain Richard Ashby had burned his colleagues on the runway during a formation takeoff, overtaking them at full throttle and the colonel called him a cunt, putting the reprimand on record. Ashby, however, was considered one of the best officers and in a few weeks he would have been promoted to interceptor fighters.Next to 30-year-old Ashby would be navigator Joseph Schweitzer, his peer. Sitting in the back, locked in front of the radar screens with only two windows on the side, Lieutenant William Raney, 26, and a guest, Chandler Seagraves, 28-year-old captain of the department that in a few days would replace them in the surveillance of Bosnia.the cockpit wreckage.The protests of the Italian authoritiesNo one tells the crew that the Italian authorities had asked them to avoid ground level missions. There had been an Air Force circular issued on 21 April 1997 and registered as Sma/ 175. The air was crowded with fighter planes from every country, mobilized for the Balkan conflict: hundreds of jets whizzing by day and night scaring the population with the screams of reactors. There had already been 73 protests, with 13 formal complaints: "We phoned Verona airport. They asked us: "What colour were the planes? What were their codes?" They seemed to be making fun of us. " At that time, the snow promised avalanches and the roar of the engines could have caused hell at the peak of the ski season, so much so that the Monte Rocca Air Force Headquarters forbade the aircraft to descend below 600 metres. In order to prevent those overflights, even a new and ephemeral law of the Province of Trento had been promulgated, strongly desired by the Councillor for Tourism Francesco Moser: yes, he was the former cycling champion who had broken all records and knew well the charm and risks of speed.The Sma/175 circular had also been transmitted to the NATO headquarters and also to the Italian colonel who controls the traffic from Aviano. The base is American, but the sky is Italian: it's up to us to authorize the use of the airspace and establish the rules. In reality, the American flocks have continued to follow their procedures, without ever being stopped. On the other hand, the Easy-01 flight program was approved at 9:57 p.m. and 57 p.m. on February 2 by the Italian command of Martina Franca, the underground bunker at the gates of Taranto that coordinates all operations on the Peninsula: it is written that the altitude would have been half that indicated in the circular, but no one objects.On the morning of February 3, 1998, the same plane went over Bosnia with another crew. When it lands at 1.20 p.m. a fault in the gravity meter is reported: the technicians replace it and verify that every instrument of the aircraft is fully functional. Captain Ashby and his comrades are gathered for the briefing: they review the phases of the flight, note down the parameters on the charts, discuss fuel consumption and verify the possible variations. Around 2:12 p.m.the tower authorizes the ignition of the engines. the tower authorises the engines to be started. At 2.30 p.m. on the dot there is the go-ahead for takeoff. But the jet remains stationary. A car arrives in a hurry, an airman gets off and throws a bag to another soldier who passes it on to the pilot: inside there are "a couple of videocassettes". Only at that point, the canopy is closed and we start, six minutes late: a few seconds to 2.36 p.m.They immediately disappear from the radar, because the mountains obscure the sensors of the bases, even the radio communications are silent: the plane is a ghost. It is invisible on Ampezzo, then it diverts to Brunico in South Tyrol. Below are the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, the wonder of the Dolomites. New turn, towards Lombardy up to Ponte di Legno, along the Brenner valley caressing the Adamello. They touch the thousand kilometres per hour several times, exceeding the limits of 100 - 150 kilometres; above all they break the minimum altitude and descend only one hundred metres from the houses. Then Lake Garda. From Riva they head towards the Marmolada: half an hour has passed when they enter the Fiemme Valley, only 260 metres above ground. "It passed so close to the little terrace that I couldn't even see the whole wing," witnessed Barbara Demattio, a babysitter from Castel di Fiemme: "The windows shook, the baby immediately woke up and started screaming.Val di Fiemme is a paradise of centuries-old woods, proudly guarded by its community, nestled in the Trentino Dolomites. In that February, generous with snow and sunshine, the hotels were full: the traditional Italian and European tourists were joined by the new skiers from the East, who enjoyed over twenty kilometres of slopes on Alpe Cermis. They can be reached by a cable car divided into two sections. The first part is at the gates of the Trentino village of Cavalese, overtaking the valley of the Avisio torrent and arriving at Doss de Laresi: one thousand five hundred metres suspended in the void, even at a height of 180 metres. Two large yellow cabins with forty seats alternate along the way. The system had been renovated after the drama of 1976, when a breakdown and a wrong manoeuvre had unhooked one of the "gondolas" - as foreigners call them - killing 42 people: only the locals had memory of it by then.Nineteen in line at the cable carIn the early afternoon of 3 February the Alpe was emptying and nineteen people lined up to return to Cavalese by cable car. There is Ewa Strzelczyk, 37 years old, who accompanies her thirteen year old son Filip: her husband Peter had pulled a muscle and as a doctor he preferred to stay in his room avoiding other efforts. They come from Gliwice, a Polish village that first seized the economic opportunities of the end of Communism: Ewa is a musician and directs the local theatre. Sonja Weinhofer, 22 years old, also loves music and is enrolled at the conservatory: she is with Anton Voglsang, 35, both from Vienna. On the sidelines is the 20-year-old Dutchwoman Danielle Groenleer. Added to this is the "green-white" German ski club in Mohsdorf, a district of Burgstadt, a piece of Saxony that has quickly forgotten the dark times of the DDR. They are professors and municipal employees, with relatives in tow: for the fourth time they are staying at the Hotel Rio Bianco in Panchia, where they stand out because they show up for dinner wearing good clothes, as elegant as at a gala. Usually they use the slopes until closing but that day they stop earlier: they decided to rest and start again after sunset on the only illuminated facility at night. They separate: six go down on skis, seven prefer the cable car.Egon Uwe Renkewitz is with his 24-year-old daughter Marina Mandy and her boyfriend Michael Potschke, a love that blossomed during the lessons in Mannheim and the wedding scheduled for next Christmas. They are followed by Annelie and Harald Urban. The teacher Dieter Frank Blumenfeld goes with them, greeting his wife. Jürgen Wunderlich has forgotten his bottle of tea and his wife Rita chases him to give it to him. Before leaving, the woman exchanges comments about her husband's carelessness with two South Tyrolean ladies from Bressanone, who are queuing to return to the valley: "Ours too always forget everything...". Edeltraud Zanon Werth, 56, - who everyone called Traudi - and Maria Steiner Stampfl, 61, are on holiday alone for the first time: for a lifetime they had run their own shops, one of clothing and the other of videos, just sold. Now their children are grown up and could enjoy their retirement: "At last we can take a breath. They had left their husbands at home and booked a room with a view of the Dolomites at the resort in Veronza.The most cheerful group is the Belgian one, five young people from a suburb of Bruges, friends from the time of the boy scouts, always ready to sing. They come back from an excursion at 2500 metres above sea level: they are just under thirty years old and life smiles at them. Sebastiaan Van den Heede has organized a holiday for everyone with his girlfriend Rose-Marie Eyskens, who has recently left Antwerp to live with him: Sebastiaan is an engineer hired by Volvo while Rose-Marie graduated in law and is practicing as a notary public. Stefaan Vermander, also an engineer, works for Andersen Consulting while Hadewich Antonissen is a psychologist. But the histrionics is twenty-eight-year-old Stefan Bekaert known as Bekie: he has a humanistic passion for knowledge, with a degree in anthropology and a second one coming in archaeology. He speaks Latin correctly and wants to merge the two disciplines. Very blond, he spent two years in the heart of the Congo to study the thaumaturgical rites of the Sakata tribe: three months earlier he presented his doctoral thesis, so brilliant that he obtained funding from the European Union to continue his research. He plays every instrument: piano, clarinet, guitar and is learning the saxophone, a gift from his girlfriend for his doctorate. With his band he mixes jazz, blues and African melodies. He draws cartoons all the time, turning every situation into a caricature, even in the moments of that skiing holiday. "He seemed interested in everything. Seeing him on guitar was a spectacle, bent over the chair, his feet on the table, his hands running on the strings. He played as he studied, as he drew, as he played soccer: naturally and with enormous enthusiasm". At 3.11 p.m. Marcello Vanzo, the plant engineer, took them up to "his" cabin and closed the doors. He was born there 56 years earlier and, except for his military service in the Alps, he has always lived in Cavalese. That wasn't his turn: after lunch at the Baita restaurant with his colleagues, he offered to replace one of them. And here he is still at work, in his place as manoeuvreman to guide them along the kilometre and a half that separates them from the station.They start, slowly, suspended from the rope. But something happens outside. The air fills with a dark, nasty rumble; the sound amplified by the rock walls swells and roars penetrating everywhere. It's the American jet. Everyone in Cavalese looks up to the sky, but in the cabin the noise of the engine dampens that roar and makes it distant. The Marauder did not follow the flight plan: he had to stay above the valley instead he entered it. It had to stay higher than three hundred meters, instead it goes down below 150 meters. And it runs too fast, it's a thousand miles an hour. At that speed, the cable car is invisible. The cabin is a yellow dot, which suddenly materializes in Captain Ashby's eyes, "Fuck!" The sound of the reactors deforms in a distressing wail: the plane has hit the cable; the steel tries to resist, digs a groove in the wing, but it has unstoppable power. And then the cable collapses, opening three hundred meters from the station.In the cabin they feel that apocalyptic force that shakes everything. They understand. The fall into nothingness for 111 meters lasts an infinite number of seconds. They scream in terror, they hug each other. The yellow gondola crashes into the ridge, then flips over and falls down to the valley. A monstrous collision that crushes those twenty bodies, canceling them out between the plates. "I recognized my wife from a chain I gave her for Christmas," says Josef Stampfl, Maria's husband who came from Bressanone for his first holiday with a friend.Victims' relatives lay flowers at the scene of the tragedyThe route to AvianoThe plane is only wounded. In the cockpit the alarm siren sounds, the indicator shows that they are losing fuel, the pilot clings to the stick but struggles to keep control. "Let's launch," they shout from behind, ready to trigger the ejector seats. "Not yet," answers the commander. They're gaining altitude. The higher you go, the more chance you have of getting away. They stabilize the aircraft and check for damage. "We can make it, we're on course for Aviano." They tell the base to prepare for an emergency landing. They don't say anything about the gondola. Six more minutes, afraid the fuel will ignite and the tanks will explode. Then they descend onto the runway, with a trail of liquid dripping from the wing, and they stop. "Everybody out!" Captain Raney catapults down, so fast he breaks his ankle. Seagraves follows him out of the air, too. But in the front seats, nothing moves. The two of them get away, the fire trucks are on their way but Ashby and Schweitzer stay inside. They're still waiting minutes before they get off. When their feet hit the ground, the Easy-01 mission is over.The disaster is immediately known. Responsibility also: The plane has sown fragments in the valley. Now it's up to Justice. Yeah, but which one? The Italian one? The American one? Both of them? The arm wrestling starts in less than an hour. The Trento Public Prosecutor's Office wants to seize the plane but the Predator is a military secret: those instruments for electronic warfare are the most sophisticated weapon in the American arsenal, unthinkable to leave them in the hands of foreigners and civilians. The Pentagon shows no doubts. The 1951 Treaty of London, which regulates the relations of the NATO countries, is largely secret but has a well-known and consolidated cornerstone: the competence in this case is American. "You Italians too, when the Frecce Tricolori crashed into the crowd at the Ramstein show, an American base on German territory, you pretended to conduct the investigations and trials. Well, this incident is our committee's responsibility."Responsibility for the massacreTwenty deaths, however, is a drama that can upset every rule. Because there is a whole angry nation, which does not want to accept the madness of that massacre, of those lives massacred for a wargame. From the Quirinal Oscar Luigi Scalfaro punctuates words of fire: "You don't play with life". Premier Romano Prodi speaks of "full American responsibility". And in conversation with President Bill Clinton he shows determination: without justice, it will change our attitude towards the US bases. Colonel Thomas Blickensderfer, head of air operations of the Marines, then explained it under oath: "We were told that Clinton called the Italian Prime Minister. Clinton hoped to hear "these things happen", instead Prodi made him understand that there was a risk that the Americans would no longer be able to operate on Italian territory".The Raider stunt could have wiped out the White House's strategy. With the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Middle East pacified, Clinton had made the Balkans the fulcrum of his policy of power: after having imposed peace in Bosnia, he was preparing for the final confrontation with Belgrade, which would start with the Kosovo conflict a year later. The countdown had begun that very week, with a warning from Secretary of State Madaleine Albright. Without the airports of the Peninsula, however, any action in the former Yugoslavia would have become impossible. Then there is another factor, at the moment still opaque, which perhaps pushed the president to avoid further trouble on the Italian front: exactly one week before the massacre, he had to respond to the accusations about relations with Monica Lewinsky, pronouncing the phrase "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", which then brought him a step away from impeachment.The Americans change line, bowing their heads and taking "total responsibility". Data is provided to the prosecutor's office in Trento and promised cooperation, the Pentagon announces bursts of indictments. In the light of the results, however, more than a turning point seems a tactical move. Because the knot of the question remains intact, even if postponed: the USA and only the USA will judge the guilty parties. The diplomatic openings and the leaders sprinkled with ashes partly placate Italian public opinion and encourage the disinterest of our political class. There is an "Atlantic party" led by Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini that invites "respect for alliances" and tones down the debate. Once again, the international crisis is slowly causing a divided country to emerge, with government, parliament, generals, magistrates incapable of coordinating efforts. Initiatives and declarations overlap and disturb, with no or even counterproductive effects. Like the formal request to renounce US jurisdiction, which in fact reaffirms American jurisdiction."The problem, to put it plain and simple, is that of Italian sovereignty over the territory", writes Eugenio Scalfari. The last attempt to obtain at least a shared preliminary investigation, considering as Born and not only as American the mission of the Predator, wanes when the military commander of the Atlantic Alliance, Wesley Clark, the same general who will then lead the Kosovo war, sanctions that that flight was only American. It is March 13, 1998. Since then, the Italian investigations have slowly died out, our ordinary and military judiciaries gradually laid down their legal weapons and resigned themselves to the trial in the States. All convinced that it would not have been possible to leave such a serious crime unpunished anyway. But the task of doing justice remains in the hands of the Marines, with their detectives and their court-martial.Major Michael Stahlman and William Weber, Captain Richard Ashby and Captain Jon Shelbourne before trial.The error in flight altitudeThe sins of the pilot and the navigator seem proven: they were not supposed to fly at that altitude. If their plane was invisible to ground radar, it had not escaped the screens of the large Awacs four-jet aircraft guarding H-24 on the Balkan border: their instruments recorded the low altitude jets within a 400 kilometre radius, with twenty-three specialists of different NATO nationalities witnessing the height, course and speed violations conducted in the mission of 3 February. These are the objective elements that confirm the statements made by the inhabitants of the valley and those extrapolated from the instruments of the killer plane: the picture is complete.In the folders of the US investigators, other suspects are also beginning to materialize. In the aftermath of the massacre, at the giant headquarters of the Marines' aviation headquarters in Cherry Point, North Carolina, Colonel Stephen Watters orders the pilots of his flock to make all the videos shot a year earlier during their stay in Aviano disappear. It turns out that he had personally recorded one of them himself, filming himself racing his fighter through the Alps well below the minimum altitude.The story raises a gruesome hypothesis. Was the crew of the massacre shooting a video, too? Investigators line up anomalies. There is a delay in taking off from Aviano to be delivered "a couple of videocassettes": on board the Predator, however, a camera with only one blank tape is seized. And then there is the mystery of the minutes the pilot and navigator remain in the fuselage after landing, while the other two were running away fearing the fuel explosion. Why is that? Yeah, during the mission in the Alps that killed 20 people, they were shooting a video. But they keep quiet, even with their commanders. Three of the Easy-01 men are old comrades; Captain Seagraves is not. He's from another division. He's never flown with them before. He's the weak link. Navigator Schweitzer approaches him: "Forget the tape." But Seagraves, out of remorse or fear, agrees to answer the investigators' questions in exchange for immunity: "The two in front made a video. I can't say whether they did it even at the moment of impact, from behind you couldn't see it. They replaced the tape before leaving the plane". Where did the tape go? "I advised Ashby to get rid of it."It is not known when the investigators were certain of the video-souvenir, probably within a month of the massacre: its existence was formalized only four months later with the interrogations of June 18, 1998, in which the substitution of the tape was put on paper. No mention is made of the content of the missing images. It is difficult that the Pentagon does not realize the danger of that revelation: it can be devastating, confirming the worst thoughts on the behavior of the American armed forces. "They would have made us pass as cowboy killers, who killed twenty people to film breathtaking stunts in the Dolomites," said Schweitzer, a year later. Not only that. The Treaty of London provides only one exception to US jurisdiction: when the criminal act does not fall within the military's service activity. If it had been possible to link the inattention of the crew to the use of the camera, the whole process would perhaps have remained in Italy. It is a discovery that can reverse the situation, thwarting the truce reached with Rome. But it remains hidden in the investigators' files, substantially hidden among the procedural technicalities.The Marines' investigationThe Marines' main investigation is terminated on 30 June 1998, with a request for a Court Martial for the pilot Ashby and the navigator Schweitzer, the other two being acquitted. The charges could be worth two centuries in prison: breach of duty in the conduct of the flight, manslaughter and manslaughter, damage. The reconstruction is severe, with no ifs and buts. Those twenty deaths are their fault, because they manoeuvred "aggressively", exceeding the limits of altitude and speed several times: the collision with the cable was therefore not the result of a single mistake, but of all the wicked management of the mission. On 10 July there is the indictment. Only on 30 August, however, is the indictment formulated for the misdirection, that is the obstacle to the investigations, for the removal of the tape, to be judged in a separate trial. The events are divided and thus neutralized, because the content of the video disappears from the scene of the disaster.The first trial has been held since December 7, 1998 in the large installation at Camp Lejeune, also in North Carolina, invaded for the occasion by reporters and televisions. The prosecutor is very harsh: "Captain Ashby violated the rule "written in blood" not to go below 300 meters. He ran into unjustifiable danger when he manoeuvred that aircraft at a thousand miles an hour into the Cavalese valley. 20-23 seconds after he entered the valley, he began manoeuvring his plane. At that point, he put himself in a situation from which he cannot get out, because he is proceeding at maximum speed, minimum altitude, and he is manoeuvring. At that point, there's nothing he can do. He's on a missile that's sliding in that direction, and instead of getting up, he's going even lower. The inquisitor then uses the removed videotape to describe the cynicism of the two defendants: "They know they hit a cable car. They know they cut cables. They contacted Aviano, saying that they had suffered structural damage, that they were coming back with problems. Where is the radio call saying that they had just seen a cable car, that they had hit cables, that someone had to call the emergency services in that valley? They swapped tapes because they don't want you to know what happened on that plane."For the defense instead we are faced with "a terrible accident that happened during training and nothing more". The attorney, a former Marine colonel with multiple decorations, is spreading doubt. He talks about the altimeter malfunction - feared by the pilot but denied by the investigation - showing new elements. He describes the deficiencies in the US maps where the cable car is not reported, the unclear exposure of the constraints on the heights in the briefings and finally focuses on the complex orography of the valley, all elements already rejected during the investigation. The death of twenty people is reduced: it is a fatality, the result of unforeseeable circumstances during the last eight seconds of the flight.The tear on the wing of the American planeAbsolutionIn the late evening of 3 March 1999, after seven and a half hours in the council chamber, the verdict of acquittal arrived. Clamorous and unquestionable. There are no reasons: the massacre becomes an accident, the death of twenty people turns into a pure coincidence in the aviation routine. For the family it is a shock; the Italian, German and Belgian newspapers headline "Shame". Inside the court-martial courtroom practically everyone was military: judges, jurors, experts, lawyers, prosecutors, witnesses. And outside, history had changed since the cursed day of Cermis. For four months the tension with Serbia had skyrocketed and the American army was lining up for the final blow in the Balkans. In front of the trial headquarters, handfuls of Vietnam veterans were demonstrating: "Those pilots are innocent, hands off our marines". On TV some Republican senators were protesting the White House: "Those guys did their duty. The same guys who sent them to fight now want to make them a scapegoat." An impetuous wind of war, which may have entered the courtroom, pushing the jurors in uniform not to rage on pilots who had made a mistake but claimed to have done so to prepare for that task: the condemnation could be a bad signal for the thousands of men who were preparing to risk their lives, flying low and fast on Belgrade batteries."Let's be indignant but not surprised by the absolution - comments Giorgio Bocca on the front page of Repubblica - This is the price of the empire, of economic and military dependence on a world power". At the time of the verdict, a year after the massacre, Italy was no longer perceived as a problem by the Pentagon. On the contrary, the threats to close the bases attributed to Prodi had been introduced into the debate by the defence to demonstrate "the climate of political pressure" on the investigators. For four months Prodi had been out of the game, replaced at Palazzo Chigi by Massimo D'Alema, who had shown full support for the war initiatives in NATO. His government was based on the votes of the party explicitly created by Francesco Cossiga to support the Atlantic commitment in the Balkans, a party to which the Minister of Defence Carlo Scognamiglio belonged. Faced with the controversy for absolution, Vice Premier Sergio Mattarella tried to explain to the Chambers that Italy was not a succubus of the Alliance, but an active party pushing for Europe to have more weight: "To identify in NATO an expression of American hegemony is decidedly anachronistic".The post-communist in the White HouseFor D'Alema the verdict is a doubly bitter mockery, because he swoops in while in the USA to meet Clinton, the first post-communist received at the White House. The talks of 5 March 1999 were supposed to focus on the forthcoming campaign in Kosovo, but the acquittal subverts the agenda. On his return to Italy, the Prime Minister reported to Parliament. "I appreciated the sincerity with which the President acknowledged the responsibility of his country. For my part, I set out the reasons for deep dissatisfaction. It is clear, in fact, that the absolution of the pilot can only shift the level of responsibility. I simply repeat that that sentence was a disconcerting fact for many and also for me. And not because many were looking for a scapegoat. The bewilderment arose from the fact that after that judgement there was a growing concern that the truth about the facts of Cermis could become more distant, more obscure". And he concludes by fearing the revision of the pacts with the US: "I would add that it is quite clear that if the responsibility for the tragedy were not ascertained - and this I said with absolute frankness to President Clinton - the more the need for adaptation and updating of the agreements themselves would be accentuated because their inadequacy would be evident". Words then in some way diluted by the Undersecretary of Palazzo Chigi Marco Minniti: "The revision of the Treaty of London "can" - and I say this in inverted commas - give an answer to our thirst for justice, but it must be carefully evaluated in order not to create difficulties for the Italian military engaged in NATO operations".Two weeks after the verdict, on 24 March 1999, the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia began. It had been since 1945 that Europe had not become the terrain of a total war, fought for 78 days exclusively from the sky. The focus shifted to those events. On 28 March, when Captain Schweitzer admits his guilt for the video made disappear and then burned in a fireplace, no one follows the hearing. His explanation remains in the proceedings: "They would have misunderstood the content. Italian television would have broadcast it next to the images of the bleeding bodies near the cable car...". He also agreed to immunity in exchange for the charges against Ashby. He's getting away with being disbarred by the Marines.The second trial of the pilot Ashby is being held in May 1999, while the raids on Serbia continue relentlessly and the invasion from the ground is being prepared. The captain defended himself with candor: "Everyone was shooting videos during the missions in the Dolomites, they were shown in the common room, there was nothing wrong with it. This was confirmed by the depositions of other officers: "Those videos with peaks and woods were reminiscent of the advertising of Ricola candies...". But he denies that the footage conditioned the flight and that they were using the camera during the impact with the rope, which no one can ever prove.Ashby's convictionOn May 10, 1999, Ashby was sentenced to six months in prison and expelled from the Marines. He goes straight to jail but on October 13, a month before the deadline, he is released early for good behavior. For ten years he filed applications, asking in vain to review the sentence: the last one was rejected on August 31, 2009. There is no more news of him: it seems that he remained a pilot, switching to the controls of private jets for American tycoons. The two technicians in the back seat, Raney and Seagraves, have continued their careers. Brilliant that of the second, who joined the Blue Angeles aerobatic patrol in 2012 and until last summer commanded the most important base of the Marines.Paradoxical the fate of the navigator Schweitzer, guilty of the hidden video. In 2007 he was recognized with the Ptsd Syndrome, the traumatic stress that torments veterans, spread en masse among soldiers returning from Iraq. Since then he has been teaching the cadets of the Us Navy just how to overcome this psychic suffering. In his lectures he doesn't hide the story of the substituted tape, which in 2014 he also talked about in a National Geographic documentary: "I had filmed the Alps and Lake Garda, filming Commander Ashby. Then I turned the camera towards me and smiled. If those images had ended up on CNN, they would have matched that smile with blood on the snow, I would have entered an international show and I wouldn't have been able to stand such a nightmare. That's why I destroyed the tape." Then he lists his "demons": "I kept crying like a child, wondering why I am alive and they are not". Finally he guides the Navy students along a path of positivity, full of literary quotations, until the trauma is removed.The manoeuvrer's glove and other objects on a piece of cabin precipitated at Cavalese (Trento)Cermis becomes businessSincere repentance? More like a survivor by trade. He's also turned Cermis into a business, giving paid motivational courses with Mastery Technologies. He is presented as follows: "After serving ten years as an officer, he spent the last sixteen years on an odyssey, finding a second chance at life as a survivor of a plane crash. He offers corporate events and seminars for sports teams and clubs, preparing those leaders who want a better approach to results thanks to his experience as a warrior and survivor". Among Mastery Technologies' clients: the Miami Dolphins' American football team, Walt Disney, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, all in need of a boost in morale for their players and managers.The money for the real victims arrived in the spring of 2000, with a decree signed by D'Alema: for each person three billion 800 million lire, equal to about two million dollars. Pay Italy, then the U.S. will reimburse three quarters, as provided for in the NATO agreements. Many of the relatives have followed the trials in the USA. They were housed in a residence in the Marines base, accompanied by a military interpreter to translate the trial into their language. They welcomed the acquittal in tears. Klaus Stampfl, Maria da Bressanone's son, calls it a shameful verdict: "It was not a serious trial, certainly not as serious as it could have been in Italy. Perhaps in the wake of the protests, three of them were admitted to testify in the trial on the tape. Emma Renkewitz told the court, "I have no one left, I am left alone." In that box, she lost her husband, daughter, future son-in-law. "why did they die? Why did they hide the evidence? I suffer because these questions haunt me, and I don't know how they will ever answer me." Giorgio Vaia, the son-in-law of the man in charge, declares: "No matter how deep the evil, no matter how much you suffer, you try to accept what has happened. But you do it little by little and you need to know what really happened". Rita Wunderlich, who chased her husband to deliver tea to him at the cabin door, cuts short: "I can never have peace.The silence of the relativesSince then, perhaps feeling betrayed by governments and authorities, everyone has chosen silence and avoided reopening such a devastating wound. They reject journalists, they do not want to lend themselves to political exploitation: they are of different nationalities, but a common dignity unites them. "I have never spoken. I will continue not to. Everybody knows the story, the pain is mine alone,' says the widow of the machinist Marcello Vanzo. Stefan Bekaert's father, the young scholar from Belgium, has donated the compensation to a fund to finance the research of the students of Leuven and Kinshasa. The parents of Rose-Marie Eyskens joined Cavalese from Antwerp for every commemoration, bringing with them a photo of their 24-year-old daughter with a fussy hat and a chalice in her hand, a portrait of joy that no one will be able to give back to him. Perhaps there will also be tomorrow, when at ten o'clock there will be a small ceremony in the church of Our Lady of Sorrows and the memorial stone that recalls "the misfortunes of Cermis", that of 1976 and that of 1998, because nobody, not even there, wants to call it a massacre.Twenty years later, those people remain without justice and almost without memory: of many of the victims there is not even a photo. Their end could be classified as collateral damage, a war mistake that adds to the long list of crimes of the Balkan wars. Without knowing it, those winds have become brothers of the fallen of Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Mostar. But if for the massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo there is still a Tribunal in The Hague that still judges and punishes, the yellow cabin of Cermis has been erased from history: removed perhaps because in the inability to identify responsibility a collective responsibility manifests itself. Or perhaps because it is too scary to think that our lives could be cut short when we return from a ski trip, without anyone being able to give a convincing explanation.The truth is still hanging in the balance, like the other yellow cabin, the one where the driver Marino Costa was on February 3, 1998, blocked in the void because of the rope cut by the Predator. Alone, terrified, for over an hour hovering on the abyss, until a helicopter pulled him out: "The sound of the cable breaking I dream about it every night. I didn't go to trial in America. It would have been for nothing. What happened, and because of whoever did it, everybody knows it."The investigationThe commission listened to all the Italian political authorities involved in the affair, those responsible for the criminal and military investigations launched in Italy, the top management of the Air Force and the officers in charge of operations at NATO bases and, with a mission to Washington, also heard representatives of the US armed forces. The Commission's work was not limited to defining the responsibilities of the crew, but it was also extended to the chain of command, the US top management of the bases in Italy and the Italian officers in charge of authorising the flights.The conclusionsA series of proposals were formulated on the rules of low altitude flights, on US military activity in Italy, on the revision of the NATO rules for the jurisdiction of trials on soldiers serving abroad.The reportThe final report was adopted on 7 February 2001. The conclusions remained substantially unimplemented. Since then, there have been no changes to the NATO treaties, nor to the regulations on US bases in Italy: a question that has been raised again in the investigation into the kidnapping of Abu Omar and the killing of Nicola Calipari. The only concrete results achieved after Cermis were those of the Italo-American Tricarico - Pruher Commission, which changed the procedures of military flights.In the massacre 20 passengers died: three Italians, seven Germans, five Belgians, two Poles, two Austrians and one Dutchman.Major Michael Stahlman and William Weber, Captain Richard Ashby and Captain Jon Shelbourne before trial.the fantastic 4TOP GUNS?person who excels for uncommon conditions or qualities.I mean, they're not particularly………….NO! NO! NO!

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