Sibel Edmonds’ new book The Lone Gladio is a triumph of serious fiction, both a tremendous artistic accomplishment and a powerful and timely political exposé. The author has, quite literally, reinvented the spy novel as a weapon against NATO, and done so in exceptionally stylish and amusing fashion. As always, a healthy chunk of context is required to truly appreciate how important this book is.
Operation Gladio was perhaps the most important covert project of the Cold War period. It grew out of the stay-behind armies and resistance movements used against Nazi Germany in WW2. When the war ended a lot of the fascists were spirited out of Europe via Project Paperclip, and most of the allied troops went back to their home countries. In both cases some men stayed behind and between them they formed the early incarnations of the Gladio secret armies – highly trained and well equipped parallel military units who would respond to any Soviet invasion with an instant violent resistance.
In the absence of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, sometime in the 1950s the mission for these secret armies changed. No longer were they a reactive contingency force, the new mission was much more pro-active. Their new job was to counter the rise in democratic support for Communist and Socialist policies and parties through a threefold method:
1) Infiltrate radical leftist groups and steer/provoke them into violent acts, turning public opinion against them.
2) Carry out false flag attacks to be blamed on Communists, often with patsies ready-to-go provided by the first method.
3) Assassinate or destabilise any political leader – such as Aldo Moro, Harold Wilson and Olaf Palme (and possibly JFK) – who doesn’t ‘get with the program’.
There were several reasons for this shift in strategy. The death of Stalin in 1953 heralded a less aggressive Soviet strategy based more on subversion than overt military engagement. The success of the pseudo-gang tactic used by US secret forces in the Philippines and their British equivalents in Kenya provided a basis for trying the same tactics here in the West, in what the international Gladio network called ‘Host Countries’. Also, by the 60s most of the WW2 operatives had got old and been replaced by a new generation who were thirsty for action. Thus the new, more aggressive Gladio strategy was born.
One of the results of the new approach was an upsurge in urban terrorism across Western Europe, the like of which had not been seen since the decade of regicide, when anarchists killed more heads of state of major countries than at any other time in history. Italy’s ‘years of lead’ began in the 1960s and spanned three decades; the Irish war on terror began in earnest at the same time; many other European countries saw much more terroristic violence in the 60s, 70s and 80s than ever before – this is not a coincidence.
Number of terrorist attacks in Western Europe, 1950-2004 (source)
Suspicions raged throughout this period that this wasn’t an organic phenomenon, and that the violence was the result of secret state policy. Initial evidence surfaced in the form of FM 30-31B, a Gladio training document published by several publications, including CovertAction Quarterly – the magazine founded by CIA whistleblower Philip Agee. He had seen the extended version of Gladio operating in Latin America during his time with the agency. While the exact origins of this document are uncertain (it may well be a Soviet forgery), it subsequently turned up in the house of Licio Gelli – a high ranking Gladio operative in Italy and the head of the P2 masonic lodge. When asked where he got it from, he replied ‘a friend in the CIA gave it to me’. Further versions have been discovered in other countries during investigations into Gladio, showing that whatever its origin, it was being used by Gladio operatives as part of their methodology.
Gladio A Exposed
In the 1980s the dam started to break – Italian investigators were responsible for many of the early breakthroughs. The trial in 1984 of Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a neo-fascist terrorist and lower-level Gladio operative in Italy, began a process that would lead to parliamentary investigations in several European countries. Meanwhile the British military-intelligence manipulation of the war in Northern Ireland was gradually coming to light. In 1992 Brian Nelson went on trial for over 20 charges, including several of conspiracy to murder. Nelson was the surveillance and intelligence chief for the Loyalist paramilitary group the UDA and simultaneously an agent for British military intelligence. He eventually pleaded guilty and became a supergrass, receiving a 10 year prison sentence but then disappearing, presumably into some kind of witness protection. He died in 2003, taking the full story of his role in the local British chapter of Gladio to the grave with him. However, like Vinciguerra, he helped spark off a series of official investigations, all of which concluded that there had been large-scale collusion between British security agencies and Irish terrorists.
Even the BBC, for all their many faults, aired a three-part documentary series in 1992 explaining in some detail what had happened, featuring numerous interviews with Gladio operatives. Over a period of more than 10 years the tale of Gladio’s secret very dirty wars hit the mainstream media and gained a serious degree of public attention. But like everything in our 60-second microwave popcorn media cycle, it got forgotten. When academics like Daniele Ganser and Nafeez Ahmed tried to draw attention to Gladio as a possible framework for understanding 9/11 and the new war on terror in the early years of the 9/11 truth movement, the mainstream media pretended not to remember what it had previously published. Fortunately, people seeking information via the internet and through meet-up groups were listening.
Gladio in state-sponsored fiction
Though Gladio has rarely been mentioned by name in fiction before, the subject matter turns up in some interesting places. Ian Fleming, who in WW2 ran behind-the-lines commando units while assistant to the head of Naval Intelligence, refers to stay-behinds and false flag operations in his James Bond novels. His brother helped set up stay-behind forces during the war, so he knew what he was talking about. Indeed, James Bond is an early kind of Gladio operative – a former soldier turned into a globetrotting intelligence agent with a mandate to kill almost anyone in the name of fighting the Russians.
More recently, and curiously coinciding with the publication of Ganser’s book, the MI5-assisted TV show Spooks (aka MI-5) featured a dialogue between senior agents about ‘Operation Omega’, where they describe ‘staging terrorist provocations to justify a government crackdown’ during the Cold War. The episode in question also predicted the 7/7 attacks, a probable modern day Gladio-style false flag attack. So the usual spy fiction, written by ‘ex’ insiders, follows the usual pattern of trying to normalise and trivialise this very real and significant history.
Enter Sibel Edmonds
The story of Gladio took its next major turn when Sibel Edmonds, the FBI whistleblower, revealed that the FBI have a file called ‘Gladio B’ that relates to the new phase of covert operations. Just as circumstances led to the original Gladio stay-behind armies being activated despite the lack of a Soviet invasion, the end of the Cold War and the exposure of Gladio Plan A led the covert puppeteers to come up with a Plan B. As the Soviet Union collapsed the NATO bloc took control of the Central Asian republics, with all their energy resources. To ensure that the region maintained a ‘suitable’ direction, and because it was a useful base for attacking and harassing Russia, Operation Gladio reformed, abandoning the neo-Nazis of the previous generation and employing new secret warriors – Islamists.
Veterans of the Soviet-Afghan war and the first war in Bosnia became the foot soldiers for the new destabilisation and false flag operations, and the focus shifted from Western Europe to Central Asia and the Caucasus. The oil pipeline and narcotics smuggling routes through Turkey and Asia Minor, the lifelines for the white and black economies of the West, became the new battlegrounds. Alongside the overt wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria there are covert wars in all these countries and all those that neighbour them.
As Edmonds explained in the first of a fascinating series of interviews conducted by James Corbett, this change from Plan A to Plan B formally took place in the wake of the Susurluk scandal, a car crash in Turkey in late 1996 that claimed the lives of the deputy chief of the Istanbul police, a beauty queen and Abdullah Çatlı, a gangster and contract killer who worked for the Turkish Gladio under Plan A. A high ranking MP survived with serious injuries. The incident exposed the Turkish deep state and according to Sibel this helped usher in the new era of Gladio in Turkey and beyond. 1996 was also an interesting year here in the UK, because it marked the restart of the ‘peace process’ in Northern Ireland and the arrival of Al Muhajiroun – the country’s premier Islamist gang and most likely an MI5 project. When it comes to wars on terror it was out with the old and in with the new.
Since that series of interviews a number of new documents on Gladio have become available including around 90 pages from the CIA. They are mostly records from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, the CIA’s open source foreign media monitoring department. Dozens of pages of articles from throughout the 1990s show that the CIA were obviously very interested in the developing story on public knowledge of Gladio, including the Susurluk situation. The files also include a memo on Press Guidance, should any journalist break rank and actually ask about Gladio:
The Lone Gladio
Standing in total contrast to this is Sibel Edmonds’ debut novel, simultaneously a rip-roaring spy thriller and an exploration of the anatomy, motives and methods of the Deep State. On the face of it The Lone Gladio contains much of the style of any other ex-agent fiction – there is great attention to detail, the pace is fast, the cuisine and locations are either exotic or institutional, everyone drinks too much coffee, and the women all have wonderful hair. However, the book is much more like a 70s conspiracy thriller, where our protagonists are genuine investigators and we discover the truth as they discover the truth. We follow two FBI agents, one named Elsie Simon who has particularly good hair and so must be based on Sibel herself, who investigate what they eventually come to know as the Gladio B network. From drug-running to child prostitution, assassination to false flag terrorism, the network is a vile CIA-MI6-Pentagon-NATO machine of megalomaniacal destruction. When their investigation gets too close to the truth they are forced out of the Bureau and turn elsewhere to continue their search.
Every spy thriller needs its James Bond, and in The Lone Gladio we are offered an interesting take on the standard issue government sociopath. OG 68 aka Greg McPhearson is a mid-level Gladio operative who is out in the cold. His wife is murdered as part of the cover up of a child sex scandal involving both the CIA and the FBI and he sets out for revenge. What follows is a hugely satisfying series of murders and other vengeance operations, with OG 68 at times assisted by Elsie, who seems able to survive anything except caffeine withdrawal. OG 68 is not a sympathetic character – Elsie frequently objects to his plans, criticises his morals and tries to place conditions on their ongoing work, and yet the climax of the book is a string of entirely justified attacks on members of the Gladio network. The scene where one particular child-raping bastard is shot in the testicles by OG 68 particularly amused me. This is 2 parts Ian Fleming mixed with 3 parts revenge fantasy, and I love it.
Many of the other characters in the book, in particular the Imams in charge of recruiting and radicalising proxy suicide bombers and the terror commando Yousef Mahmoud, are clearly inspired by real figures like Abu Qatada, Fethullah Gülen and Ali Mohamed. Many other figures will be familiar to those who have followed this topic in any detail, or Sibel’s work for any length of time. This is undoubtedly a commentary on real life and on some of the worst crimes being committed in the world today. It is Elsie’s voice, the uncompromising moral centre of the book that says that these crimes are unacceptable, that wins out in the end.
So while this is fiction, and we cannot reasonably expect a rogue black ops assassin to start murdering and exposing members of the present-day Gladio network, we can at least come to a much better understanding of what it is, where it came from and the influence it has, by reading this book. We should also heed OG 68’s warning at the end of the book, that even if we take down the Gladio B network we can expect a C network to rise in its place. The struggle against Gladio may well, like Gladio itself, become a generational mission, each time adapting to push back against the evolving strategy of the deep state. In the meantime, get yourself a copy of the book because it is the best spy novel I’ve experienced in years, possibly the best ever. The Lone Gladio is the bravest thriller I have read and is all the more thrilling as a result.