THOUGHTS ON THE EVE OF BATTLE WITH IRAQ
by Oriana Fallaci
(Dr. Hymers' note: I wish everyone who looks at this website would take 15 minutes to read this thoughtful essay by a 72-year-old journalist who went through World War II. The last three sentences of the article will make it worth your time - but don't you dare read them until you first read what she wrote.)
To avoid the dilemma of whether this war should take place or not, to overcome the reservations and 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) forever - a war during which the allies had pitilessly bombed us and we had died like mosquitoes. The Allies, too. At Salerno, at Anzio, at 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 English, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders, the South Africans, the Indians, the Brazilians. And also the French who had chosen DeGaulle, also the Italians who had chosen the Fifth or the Eighth Army. (Can anybody guess how many cemeteries of Allied soldiers there are in Italy? More than sixty. 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 tender 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 commandos with the task of activating a short-wave network named Radio Cora. Ten smiling Americans who spoke very good 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. It remains for the reasons I will try to state. And the first one 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 that I'd blow up with the next shuttle, I'm told), I know war very well. I know what it means to live in terror, to run under air strikes and cannonades, to see people killed and houses destroyed, to starve and dream of a piece of bread, to miss even a glass of drinking water. And (which is worse) to be or to feel responsible for someone else's death. 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 TV or the movies where blood is tomato ketchup don't even imagine. As a consequence, I hate it as the pacifists in bad or good faith never will. I loathe it. Every book I have written overflows with that loathing, and I cannot bear the sight of guns. At the same time, however, I don't 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) which happen to regain dignity, freedom. I do not believe in vile acquittals, phony appeasements, easy forgiveness. Even less, in the exploitation or the blackmail of the word Peace. When peace stands for surrender, fear, loss of dignity and freedom, it is no longer peace. It's 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 civilized world felt American. Had it happened then, the pacifists who never yell against Saddam or bin Laden would not today fill the squares to anathematize the United States. Hollywood stars would not play the role of Messiahs, and ambiguous Turkey would not cynically deny passage to the Marines who have to 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 U.S. and that the U.S. 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, in Kenya, in Yemen. 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 which had been burning for decades, the indisputable diagnosis of a doctor who waves an X-ray and brutally snaps: "My dear Sir, you 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 the first George Bush had removed Saddam with the Gulf War. 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 toward me with arms raised, and whispered: "Bush, Bush." Meaning: "Please take me prisoner. I am so thirsty, so hungry." So I took them prisoner. I delivered them to the Marine in charge, and instead of congratulating me he grumbled: "Some more?!?" Yet the Americans did not get to Baghdad, did not remove Saddam. And, to thank them, Saddam tried to kill their president - the same president who had left him in power. In fact, at times I wonder if this war isn't also a long-awaited retaliation, a filial revenge, a promise made by the son to the father - like in a Shakespearean tragedy. Better, a Greek one.
The third reason is the wrong way in which the promise has materialized. Let's 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 women 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 U.N. should send back the inspectors, and let's be serious: if seventy years ago the ineffective League of Nations had sent its inspectors to Germany, do you think that Hitler would have shown them Peenemunde where Von Braun was manufacturing V2s? Do you think that Hitler would have disclosed the camps of Auschwitz, of 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 greeted almost with indifference. A comedy marked by the double games of the inspectors and the conflicting strategies of Mr. 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, a quarter of a million troops. With the British and Australians, 310,000.
And all this without realizing that his enemies (but I should say the enemies of the West) are not only in Baghdad. They are also in Europe. They are in Paris where the mellifluous [smooth talking] Jacques Chirac does not [care at all] for peace but plans to satisfy his vanity with the Nobel Peace Prize. Where there is no wish 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 Petain) 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 Schroder won the elections by comparing Mr. Bush to Hitler, where American flags are soiled with the swastika, and where, in the dream of playing the masters again, Germans go 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. And where, pestering the world with his ecumenism, his pietism, his Thirdworldism, 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.) In the other European countries, it is more or less the same. In Europe your enemies are everywhere, Mr. Bush. 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. Haven't your ambassadors informed you? 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 16 million Muslim immigrants and teems with mullahs, imams, mosques, burqas, chadors. It lodges thousands of Islamic terrorists whom governments don't know how to identify and control. People are afraid, and in waving the flag of pacifism - 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. Rather than gratitude, their cemeteries give rise to resentment. As a consequence, in Europe nobody will back this war. Not even nations which are officially allied with the U.S., not even the prime ministers who call you "My friend George." (Like Silvio Berlusconi.) In Europe you only have one friend, one ally, sir: Tony Blair. But Mr. Blair too leads a country which is invaded by the Moors. A country that hides that resentment. Even his party opposes him,and by the way: I owe you an apology, Mr. Blair. In my book "The Rage and the Pride," I was unfair to you. Because I wrote that you would not persevere with your guts, that you would drop them as soon as it would no longer serve your political interests. With impeccable coherence, instead, you are sacrificing those interests to your convictions. Indeed, I apologize. I also withdraw the phrase I used to comment on your excess of courtesy toward Islamic culture: "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: "My Tuscany is your Tuscany, sir. My home is your home."
The final reason for my dilemma is the definition that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair and their advisors 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, 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 avaccine, a surgery that hits Saddam because, (Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair believe), among the various focuses of cancer Saddam is the most obvious and dangerous one. Moreover, the obstacle that once removed will permit them to redesign the map of the Middle East as the British and the French did after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. To redesign it and to spread a Pax Romana, pardon, a Pax Americana, in which everybody will prosper through freedom and democracy. Again, no. Freedom cannot be a gift. And democracy cannot be imposed with bombs, with occupation armies. As my father said when he asked the anti-fascists to join the Resistance, and as today I say to those who honestly rely on the Pax Americana, people must conquer freedom by themselves. Democracy must come from their will, and in both cases a country must know what they consist of. In Europe the Second World War was a liberation war not because it brought novelties called freedom and democracy but because it re-established them. Because Europeans knew what they consisted of. The Japanese did not: it is true. In Japan, those two treasures were somehow a gift, a refund for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Japan had already started its process of modernization, and did not belong to the Islamic world. As I write in my book when I call bin Laden the tip of the iceberg and I define the iceberg as a mountain that has not moved for 1,400 years, that for 1,400 years has not changed, that has not emerged from its blindness, freedom and democracy are totally unrelated to the ideological texture of Islam. To the tyranny of [Islamic] states. So their people refuse them, and even more they want to erase ours.
Upheld by their stubborn optimism, the same optimism for which at the 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 and Florence and Paris. "They'll cheer us, throw us flowers." Maybe. In Baghdad anything can happen. But after that? Nearly two-thirds of the Iraqis are Shiites who have always dreamed of establishing an Islamic Republic of Iraq, and the Soviets too were once cheered in Kabul. They too imposed their peace. They even succeeded in convincing women to take off their burqas, remember? After a while, though, they had to leave. And the Taliban came. Thus, I ask: what if instead of learning freedom Iraq becomes a second Talibani Afghanistan? What if instead of becoming democratized by the Pax Americana the whole Middle East blows up and the cancer multiplies? As a proud defender of the West's civilization, without reservations I should join Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair in the new Alamo. Without reluctance I should fight and die with them. And this is the only thing about which I have no doubts at all.