Skip to comments.Oriana Fallaci: Rage and doubt of a threatened civilisation
Posted on 03/15/2003 3:33:34 PM PST by MadIvan
Oriana Fallaci, the controversial writer who has caused a furore with her views on Islam, says we have realised too late that our values are in danger
To avoid the dilemma of whether this war should take place or not, to overcome the reservations, the reluctance and the doubts that still lacerate me, I often say to myself: How good if the Iraqis would get free of Saddam Hussein by themselves. How good if they would execute him and hang up his body by the feet as in 1945 we Italians did with Mussolini.
But it does not help. Or it helps in one way only. The Italians, in fact, could get free of Mussolini because in 1945 the allies had conquered almost four-fifths of Italy. In other words, because the second world war had taken place. A war without which we would have kept Mussolini (and Hitler) for ever. A war during which the allies had pitilessly bombed us and we had died like mosquitoes. The allies, too. At Salerno, Anzio, Cassino. Along the road from Rome to Florence, then on the terrible Gothic Line.
In less than two years, 45,806 dead among the Americans and 17,500 among the British, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the South Africans, the Indians, the Brazilians. And also the French, who had chosen de Gaulle, also the Italians, who had chosen the 5th or the 8th Armies. (Can anybody guess how many cemeteries of allied soldiers there are in Italy? More than 130. And the largest, the most crowded, are the American ones. At Nettuno, 10,950 graves. At Falciani, near Florence, 5,811. Each time I pass in front of it and see that lake of crosses, I shiver with grief and gratitude.)
There was also a National Liberation Front in Italy. A resistance that the allies supplied with weapons and ammunition. As in spite of my age (14), I was involved in the matter. I remember well the American plane that, braving anti-aircraft fire, parachuted those supplies to Tuscany. To be exact, onto Mount Giovi, where one night they air- dropped also a commando unit with the task of activating a short-wave network named Radio Cora.
Ten smiling Americans who spoke perfect Italian and who three months later were captured by the SS, tortured and executed with a Florentine partisan girl: Anna Maria Enriquez-Agnoletti. Thus the dilemma remains, tormenting, obsessive.
It remains for the reasons I will try to state. And the first reason is that, contrary to the pacifists who never yell against Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden and only yell against George W Bush and Tony Blair (but in their Rome march they also yelled against me and raised posters wishing Id blow up with the next shuttle), I know war very well. I know what it means to live in terror, to run under airstrikes, to see people killed and houses destroyed, to starve and dream for a piece of bread, to miss even a glass of drinking water. And, which is worse, to feel responsible for the death of another human being (even if that human being is an enemy for instance a fascist or a German soldier).
I know it because I belong to the second world war generation and because as a member of the resistance, I was myself a soldier. I also know it because for a good deal of my life I have been a war correspondent.
Beginning with Vietnam, I have experienced horrors that those who see war only through television or the movies where blood is tomato juice dont even imagine. As a consequence I hate it as the pacifists in bad or good faith never will. I loathe it. I hate it so much that every book I have written overflows with that loathing, and I cannot bear the sight of guns.
At the same time, however, I dont accept the principle or should I say the slogan that All wars are unjust, illegitimate. The war against Hitler and Mussolini and Hirohito was just, was legitimate. The Risorgimento wars that my ancestors fought against the invaders of Italy were just, were legitimate. And so was the war of independence that Americans fought against Britain.
So are the wars (or revolutions) that take place to regain dignity, freedom. I do not believe in vile acquittals, phoney appeasements, easy forgiveness. Even less in the exploitation or the blackmail of the word peace. When in the name of peace we surrender to violence, tyranny, when in the name of peace we resign to fear, we give up dignity and freedom, it is no longer peace. Its suicide.
The second reason is that this war should not happen now. If just as I wish, legitimate as I hope, it should have happened one year ago. That is, when the ruins of the towers were still smoking and the whole civilised world felt American. Had it happened then, the pacifists who never yell against Saddam Hussein or Bin Laden would not today fill the squares to anathematise the United States. Hollywood stars would not play the role of messiahs, and ambiguous Turkey which is again imposing the chador on women would not deny passage to the marines who must reach the northern front.
Despite the Europeans who added their voice to the voice of the Palestinians howling Americans-got-it. Good one year ago, nobody questioned that another Pearl Harbor had been inflicted on the US and that the US had all the right to respond.
As a matter of fact, it should have happened before. I mean when Bill Clinton was president and small Pearl Harbors were bursting abroad. In Somalia, Kenya, Yemen and so on. As I shall never tire of repeating, we did not need September 11 to see that the cancer was there.
September 11 was the excruciating confirmation of a reality that had been burning for decades, the indisputable diagnosis of a doctor who waves an x-ray and brutally snaps: My dear sir, my dear madam, you really have cancer.
Had Mr Clinton spent less time with voluptuous girls, had he made smarter use of the Oval Office, maybe September 11 would not have occurred. And, needless to say, even less would it have occurred if George Bush Sr had removed Saddam Hussein with the Gulf war.
For Christs sake, in 1991 the Iraqi army deflated like a pricked balloon. It disintegrated so quickly, so easily, that even I captured four of its soldiers. I was behind a dune in the Saudi desert, all alone. Four skeletal creatures in ragged uniforms came towards me with arms raised and whispered: Bush, Bush. Meaning: I am so thirsty, so hungry. Please take me prisoner. So I took them prisoner. I delivered them to the marine in charge and instead of congratulating me he grumbled: Dammit! Weve already got 50,000. Youve got me more? Yet the Americans did not get to Baghdad: George Bush Sr did not remove Saddam. (The UN mandate was to liberate Kuwait and thats all.) And in order to thank them, Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate him. In fact, at times I wonder if this war isnt also a long-awaited retaliation, a filial revenge, a promise made by the son to the father. Like in a Shakespearian tragedy. Better, a Greek one.
The third reason is the wrong way in which the hypothetical promise has materialised. Lets admit it: from September 11 until last summer, all the stress was put on Bin Laden, on Al-Qaeda, on Afghanistan. Saddam and Iraq were practically ignored.
Only when it became clear that Bin Laden was in good health, that the solemn commitment to take him dead or alive had failed, were we reminded that Saddam existed too. That he was not a gentle soul, that he cut the tongues and ears of his adversaries, that he killed children in front of their parents, that he decapitated prostitutes then displayed their heads in the streets, that he kept his prisoners in cells as small as coffins, that he made his biological or chemical experiments on them too. That he had connections with Al-Qaeda and supported terrorism, that he rewarded the families of Palestinian kamikazes at the rate of $25,000 each. That he had never disarmed, never given up his arsenal of deadly weapons.
Thus the UN should send back the inspectors and lets be serious: if 70 years ago the ineffective League of Nations had sent its inspectors to Germany, do you think that Hitler would have shown them Peenemünde where von Braun was manufacturing V2s to pulverise London? Do you think that Hitler would have disclosed the camps of Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Dachau? Yet the inspection comedy resumed. With such intensity that the role of prima donna passed from Bin Laden to Saddam, and the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the engineer of September 11, was received almost with indifference.
A comedy marked by the double games, rather the complicity, of the inspectors and by the conflicting strategies of Bush, who on the one hand asked the security council for permission to use force and on the other sent his troops to the front. In less than two months, 250,000 troops. With the British and Australians, 310,000.
And all this without realising that his enemies (but I should say the enemies of the West) are not only in Baghdad.
They are also in Europe, Mr Bush. They are in Paris where the mellifluous Jacques Chirac does not give a damn for peace but plans to satisfy his vanity with the Nobel peace prize. Where nobody wishes to remove Saddam Hussein because Saddam Hussein means the oil that the French companies pump from Iraqi wells. And where (forgetting a little flaw named Pétain) France chases its Napoleonic desire to dominate the European Union, to establish its hegemony over it.
They are in Berlin, where the party of the mediocre Gerhard Schröder won the elections by comparing Bush to Hitler. And where American flags are soiled with the swastika of Nazi Germany. And where, playing the part of the masters again, Germans are arm in arm with the French.
They are in Rome where the communists left by the door and re-entered through the window like the birds of the Hitchcock movie; where, pestering the world with his ecumenism, his pietism, his Third Worldism, Pope Wojtyla receives Tariq Aziz as a dove or a martyr who is about to be eaten by lions. Then he sends him to Assisi where the friars escort him to the tomb of St Francis, poor St Francis. In the other European countries it is more or less the same.
In Europe the enemies of the United States are everywhere, Mr Bush. There is hate, similar to the one that the Soviet Union displayed until the fall of the Berlin Wall. What you quietly call differences of opinion are in reality pure hate. Because in Europe, pacifism is synonymous with anti-Americanism, sir, and accompanied by the most sinister revival of anti-semitism, the anti-Americanism triumphs as much as in the Islamic world.
Do you know why? Europe is no longer Europe. It is a province of Islam, as Spain and Portugal were at the time of the Moors. It hosts almost 16m Muslim immigrants: that is triple those who stay in America. (And America is three times larger than Europe.) It teems with mullahs, imams, mosques, burqas, chadors and dont you dare protest.
It lodges thousands of Islamic terrorists whom governments dont know how to identify and control. As a consequence people are afraid, and in waving the flag of pacifism synonymous with anti-Americanism they feel protected.
Besides, Europe does not care for the 221,484 Americans who died for her in the second world war, sir. Rather than gratitude, their cemeteries in Normandy, the Ardennes, in Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Denmark and in Italy give rise to resentment.
In other words, in Europe nobody will back this war. Not even nations that are really allied with the US, such as Spain; not even the nations where prime ministers who (like Silvio Berlusconi) call you My friend George.
In Europe you have only one friend, one ally: Tony Blair. But Mr Blair, too, leads a country that is invaded by the Moors and hides that resentment. Even his party opposes him and, by the way, I owe you an apology, Mr Blair.
I owe it to you because in my book The Rage and the Pride, I have been unfair to you.
Destructed by your excess of courtesy towards the Islamic culture, I wrote that you are a cicada among cicadas, that your courage would not last too long, that as soon as it no longer served your political career you would set it aside.
On the contrary, with impeccable coherence you are sacrificing that political career to your convictions. Indeed, I apologise, sir. I also withdraw the ugly phrase which aggravated my injustice:
If our culture has the same value as the one that imposes the burqa, why do you spend your summers in my Tuscany and not in Saudi Arabia? Now I say: Come when you want, sir. My Tuscany is your Tuscany. My home is your home.
The final reason for my dilemma is the definition that Bush and Blair and their advisers give of this war: A liberation war. A humanitarian war to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. Oh, no. Humanitarianism has nothing to do with wars. All wars, even just ones, even the legitimate ones, are death and destruction and atrocities and tears.
And this is not a liberation war, a war like the second world war. (By the way: neither is it an oil war, as the pacifists who never yell against Saddam or Bin Laden maintain in their rallies. Americans do not need Iraqi oil.) It is a political war. A war made in cold blood to respond to the holy war that the enemies of the West declared upon the West on September 11.
It is also a prophylactic war. A vaccine, a surgery that hits Saddam because, among the various focuses of cancer, Saddam is the most obvious and dangerous one.
He is also the obstacle (Bush and Blair and their advisers believe) that once removed will permit them to redesign the map of the Middle East as the British and the French did after the crash of the Ottoman empire.
To redesign it and to spread a Pax Romana, pardon, a Pax Americana, where freedom and democracy reign; where nobody bothers us any longer with attacks and massacres. Where everybody can prosper and live happily as in the fairy tales nonsense. Freedom is not a gift, like a piece of chocolate, and democracy cannot be imposed with armies.
As my father said when he asked the anti-fascists to join the resistance and as I say when I talk to those who honestly believe in a Pax Americana, people must conquer freedom by themselves. Democracy comes from civilisation. And in both cases one must know what they consist in.
In Europe the second world war was a liberation war, not because it gave people those two pieces of chocolate two novelties called liberty or freedom but because it re-established them. And it did re-establish them because Europeans had lost them because of Hitler and Mussolini. Because they knew them and wanted them back.
The Japanese did not: true. In Japan, those two pieces of chocolate were somehow a gift, a refund for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Japan had already started its march towards progress and did not belong to the world that in my book I call the mountain. A mountain that for 1,400 years has not moved or changed, has not emerged from the abyss of its blindness. In other words, Islam.
The modern concepts of freedom and democracy are totally unrelated to the ideological texture of Islam, and totally opposed to the despotism and tyranny of theocratic states. In that ideological texture, it is God who commands, it is God who decides the destiny of man, and men are not the children of God: they are his subjects, his slaves. Inshallah as God wants inshallah.
Thus in the Koran there is no room for individual judgment, individual choice and freedom. There is no room for a regime that, at least in law, is based on equality and universal suffrage. In fact Muslims do not understand these modern concepts. They refuse them and hope to erase them from our lives by invading and conquering us.
Upheld by their stubborn optimism, the same optimism for which at Fort Alamo they fought so well and all died slaughtered by Santa Anna, Americans think that in Baghdad they will be welcomed as they were in Rome, Florence and Paris. Theyll cheer us, throw us flowers, a Washington egghead joyfully said to me.
Maybe. In Baghdad anything can happen. But after that? More than two-thirds of the Iraqis are Shiites who have always dreamt of establishing an Islamic republic of Iraq, and the Soviets too were once cheered in Kabul. They too imposed their pax. They even succeeded in convincing women to take off their burqas, remember? After a while, though, they had to leave. And the Taliban came.
Question: what if instead of learning freedom Iraq becomes a second Talibani Afghanistan? What if instead of becoming democratised by the Pax Americana the whole Middle East blows up and the cancer multiplies from country to country in a chain reaction? As a proud defender of the Wests civilisation, and decided to defend it to the last breath, without reservations I should join Mr Bush and Mr Blair barricaded in a new Fort Alamo.
Without reluctance I should fight and die with them. And this is the only thing about which I have no doubts at all.
Sorry, I disagree emphatically. One may coerce better behavior from a culture promptly but the culture as a whole could take nearly as long to completely change as it did to evolve in the first place. There are examples of this everywhere around us.
Whoooa, whoooa whoooa she's a lady. Talkin' about the little lady?
As an atheist, I'm uncomfortable with your doubt in Oriana's sincere love of freedom. Maybe Oriana's inconsistent sometimes, but you could be suggesting that atheists can't love freedom for the right reasons. Maybe you might argue that here at home, atheists can't be true patriots, either? I would disagree -- requiring Christianity for sincere love of liberty and country would be unamerican. Besides, it's more important what people do than why they say what they say, isn't it?
Oriana sends everyone in the west a wakeup call, not just Christians. And given the pleas for appeasement coming from the pulpit over the last few weeks in the face of Bush's force-backed diplomacy, I think many Christians need a wakeup call as much as the secular humanists: a clash of civilizations is upon us, regardless of what we believe.
By the way, I too was quite moved by our president's statement that liberty was God's gift to every human being. I took it to mean that liberty is the essence of what it means to be human, that love for freedom is universal among all of us who retain our humanity. It was powerful, and in no way made me feel less American for not being religious. What a great president he's turning out to be!
Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. --President Bush, January 28, 2003
But you raise yet another interesting issue: she's changed her mind. Maybe there are a lot of people around the world now who are changing their minds about America and what we've done for the world. We practically invented anti-americanism here with all of our self-examination, self-doubts and such. All good and healthy things for a growing republic. But now it's time to step back and realize that we've been one of the most important steps forward for democracy in the history of the human race.
I think Oriana has understood, finally. On FOX News Sunday, Brit Hume made the powerful observation that Europe is littered with the graves of American soldiers who were there to free the continent, not imperialize it. He pointed out that once the war was won, their comrades went home as soon as possible. I think the world, including Japan, is just starting to realize how incredible that was. Those men fought for freedom, not plunder.
I'll concede on the rest of your points :)
Hmmm, I wonder. I know what you mean, LOL!!!