Don't forget Gino Strada

It is also in the light of the tragic events in Afghanistan that not forgetting Gino Strada becomes a moral duty. The denounce of cruelty,  stupidity, and uselessness of war.

In the days when the Taliban were conquering Kabul, Gino Strada died in Normandy of a heart attack. It is natural to juxtapose the two events, because Gino Strada has worked for a long time in Afghanistan and has become a symbol of the humanitarian response against the war that has bloodied that country for so many years. Almost a tragic twist of fate, while we began to fear a new humanitarian catastrophe.

It is also in the light of the tragic events in Afghanistan that not forgetting Gino Strada becomes a moral duty. We have seen in Afghanistan how little the principles of democracy, freedom and justice trumpeted by the Americans and Western countries are worth. Principles quickly sacrificed on the altar of raison d'état and political expediency. This is what makes the defeat of the Americans and their Western allies even more burning. Gone there after September 11 to avenge the twin towers and, since there were, export democracy, the United States and its allies return home after twenty years, returning the country to those who were there before and leaving behind them a deep strip of blood, hunger, misery, loss of civil rights especially by women.

But even in these dark moments the principles of humanity that individuals and many non-governmental organizations continue to embody in the many war fronts do not fail. Principles that are still alive, as evidenced by the lesson of Gino Strada and many humanitarian organizations, including “Emergency” founded by him. Just to give an example, while her father died, Cecilia, Gino Strada's daughter, was in the Mediterranean with a rescue mission to save lives.

To talk about Gino Strada it is necessary to avoid any form of rhetoric and instead use its dry language, devoid of emphasis. For this reason it seems useful to read what Gino Strada wrote in many years from the various war fronts. Specifically, his 1999 book, “Pappagalli verdi. Cronache di un chirurgo di guerra” ("Green Parrots. Chronicles of a War Surgeon"), a book that seems to have been written today and that deserves to be next to the great books against war. Books that denounce cruelty, but even more madness, stupidity, the uselessness of war.

Green parrots is the nickname of toy mines, designed specifically to mutilate children, launched like leaflets from Soviet helicopters over the villages of Afghanistan during the Russian-Afghan war, which cause irreparable damage to the limbs and often blindness, if not death, in those who, intrigued and unaware, handle them. The victims of these mines are always the children, the main protagonists of Gino Strada's stories.

The whole book is littered with anti-personnel mines. Mines designed in detail by talented engineers and technicians, who live in rich countries and who are often fathers of families. Russian mines, Italian mines, manufactured before a 1997 law prohibited their production in Italy, which still sow death on the borders between Iran and Iraq. Mines scattered by armies around the world in the various theatres of war and that, in ninety percent of cases, hit civilians. Just as civilians are the victims of gas launched by Saddam Hussein's planes against the Kurds and civilians are the dead killed by snipers in Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia. And civilians – but who this time are fighting each other – are in the very Catholic Rwanda "the faithful who, coming out of the mass of nine, have torn to pieces with machetes those who were going to the mass of eleven."

Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Peru, ex-Yugoslavia: these are the places of war that Gino Strada talks about in his book as a direct witness. And as a direct operator, in the guise of a war surgeon. But why do you do it? This is the question that many people ask him, thinking that he is crazy. To which Gino answers by simply saying that it is a job that he likes, that he loves "to accept the challenge, to measure himself with difficulties." "To show that you can do it, that you can succeed in something useful even when it seems impossible, when the doors all seem closed. ... No liturgy or rhetoric, no transcendent and universal meanings. They are useless, they can even be harmful. This must remain a profession, indeed it must begin, finally, to become a profession. The war surgeon as the fireman, the policeman, the baker."

It is with this style, with this minimalist approach that in his book and throughout his life Gino Strada makes us seem normal what in reality are often acts of heroism. Acts that contrast with the cynicism of governments and the hypocrisy of international organizations, starting with the UN, against which Gino lashes out. As we pointed out at the beginning, the contrast with the "solemn principles" of which politicians swell their chests cannot be more striking. Moni Ovadia says well in the Preface of the book: "The times of absolute and all-encompassing palingenesis are over, but there are places of revolution in the most unexpected places: one of these places is certainly Gino Strada's lancet."

Attilio Pasetto

Economics analist

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