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Jewish World Review Nov. 25, 2003 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Michael Ledeen

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The Turks, Italians & us — never again | Most Americans did not know there was an Italian military unit operating in southern Iraq, both because the press rarely provides information having to do with allies supporting the Bush administration, and also because it doesn't fit the stereotype we have — and which Italians themselves share, by the way — of non-threatening, charming people who shy away from military conflict and armed violence. The Italians came to believe that they were welcome wherever they go, because they always charm the locals in ways that Americans, Germans, Russians, and the others just can't match. The evidence seemed to support the conclusion: zero casualties in the Gulf War, zero in Kosovo, and so forth.

The Nasiriyah suicide bombing put an end to that happy thought, and many of the country's political analysts foresaw a strong national reaction against the deployment in Iraq. But it did not develop; on the contrary, Italy's commitment to Iraqi reconstruction is manifestly stronger today than it was before the suicide attack, and, quite unexpectedly, there has been a resurgence of patriotism, especially among young people. One now sees the Italian flags draped from windows, and every so often accompanied by the Stars and Stripes.

Just a few months ago tens of thousands of Italians marched against the liberation of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the old guard is struggling to catch up with reality. Italy's ceremonial president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, was in Washington to meet with President Bush right after the massacre, and used the occasion to nudge Bush to make Iraqi reconstruction a more multilateral undertaking. This is of course the European party line, which conveniently ignores the fact that two of the most important (or at least self-important) countries — France and Germany — don't want to play that game, and therefore Ciampi's sermon is more appropriately directed at Chirac and Schroeder, not at an American president who has actually been excessively multilateral, having lost precious months to wasted efforts with allies and the United Nations.

The next day Ciampi flew up to New York to talk to Kofi Annan, and without apparent grasp of the irony of it all, urged him to bring back the U N, which had fled after the bombing of its Baghdad HQ.

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Ciampi and others have constantly repeated the mantra that Italian forces were on a peace mission, were only engaged in rebuilding the country after the war, and thus should not be combatants. "A mission of peace, not war," as Ciampi intoned to the press in Washington. But the Nasiriyah massacre has showed the emptiness of that pious conceit, for Italy is at war, perhaps not of its choosing, but because it is part of the West.

On Friday, coalition troops in Baghdad found rocket launchers aimed at the Italian Embassy. And an Islamist Imam by the name of Fall Mamour, recently expelled from Italy, gave an interview in Senegal, proclaiming that roughly one hundred killers had recently left Italy for Iraq for combat against us, and that the Italian Defense Minister, Antonio Martino, had been targeted for assassination.

So Nasiriyah was not a single stroke; it was part of an extended strategy that will continue, both in Iraq and in Italy itself.

Unlike the old political class, the Italian people understand both the situation and the stakes. Most of the professional politicians expected that public opinion would turn against the Iraq mission at the first Italian death on the ground, but the opposite happened. In large part that was due to the forthright behavior of the families of the murdered carabinieri, who said from the first minutes that their men knew what they were getting into, approved of the mission, and would be shamed if Italy withdrew.

The same public reaction swept Turkey, prompting the usual chatterers to wonder out loud how the terror masters had so badly misjudged the public-relations aspects of this terror campaign. Instead of winning support, the terrorists had galvanized public opinion against them. But this misses the essence of the terror masters' campaign against us. It is not our policies that inflame the hatred of the mullahs and the wahhabis, the Shiites and the Sunnis, the Osamas and the Mughniyahs. It's not what we do, but what we are — a free and successful society — that threatens them. The tyrannical terror masters know that our existence undermines their own authority and their own legitimacy in the eyes of their own people. So long as we exist and flourish, they are threatened by their own people. To have freedom and success arrive on their very doorstep is even worse. Therefore, all those in Iraq working to make it a free and successful country are treated as enemies.

All of which brings us back to the vexing question of American policy. It is all well and good for the president to give brilliant speeches, as he did last week at Whitehall. But it isn't good enough. We need action, not words. How many reports of Osama operating on the Iran-Iraq border, how many stories of Saddam on one of the islands between Iraq and Iran, how many thousands of terrorists pouring in from Iran and Syria, how many hundreds of dead Americans, Turks, Italians, Brits, and Iraqis, before we take the war to the men who are driving it?

As things stand today, we are back in the "phony war," we are playing defense, which is a sucker's game, we are worrying about U.N. resolutions and IAEA findings, instead of bringing down the regimes that, for a quarter century, have waged the terror war against us. We are waiting for another 9/11, and unless we act, it will arrive.

Never again. Faster, please.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.


11/06/03: Regional Struggle: Fighting narrow vision in Iraq
11/04/03: Unpunished Failure: What are we waiting for?
10/21/03: Curses: Diamonds and Naples
10/15/03: Into the Quagmire: Important days ahead for Iran
09/18/03: The Ayatollahs’ bomb: An invulnerability strategy
09/12/03: You can't make peace until the war is won
09/11/03: Ron Paul, dishonorable congressman
09/03/03: The Latest Horrors: Still organized
08/29/03: The Peace Trap: Back to the war, please
08/27/03: Angrier and Angrier: Self-deception, big-time
08/25/03: Iraq's terrorists have friends in high places
07/10/03: The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
07/02/03: Looking Toward July 9: Independence Day in Iran?
06/24/03: Iran: Back the freedom fighters
06/17/03: The Iranian Revolution, 2003: Regime change in the air
06/05/03: Academic Standards: A Middle East scholar has his way with the truth.
05/28/03: The Moment of Truth? U.S. policy could determine Iran's destiny
05/15/03: Iran's Path: Stopping the mullahs in their tracks
05/13/03: The Nuclear Axis of Evil: The people solution
05/08/03: Inside the Dark: Applebaum's ‘Gulag’
05/06/03: Tough Guy: Powell's curious priority list
05/01/03: Desert Shame Redux: Want a free Iran and a free Syria? We have to fight for it
04/25/03: Timing Is Everything: We have a narrow window in Iraq to win Shiite support
04/15/03: Political war can remove terror masters in Syria and Iran
04/07/03: The Others: We have miles to go in eliminating the Axis
04/02/03: French Lies: Take the foreign minister at his word
03/31/03: Why muzzle Saddam's foes?
03/28/03: The post-war terror threat
03/26/03: All Fronts: Military war, political war, psychological war
03/24/03: More Bad News for Daschle: Taking out terror of all nationalities
03/21/03: The Killer Pneu: Virus terror from China
03/13/03: Iran: Nuclear suicide bombers?
03/11/03: A Theory: What if there's method to the Franco-German madness?
03/05/03: The Iranian-Election Revolt: The people speak. The West won't listen
02/19/03: The willful blindness of those who will not see
02/12/03: The Europeans Know More Than They Now Pretend? They choose to dawdle and obstruct
02/03/03: Monumental failure: Nelson Mandela had promise
01/30/03: Elevation: The president knows what it's all about
01/29/03: No Leader: France's Chirac is all about personal interest
01/28/03: The Axis of Evil Redux: Same place, a year later
01/27/03: The Return of the Ayatollah: Washington could afford a little more attention on Iran
01/13/03: How we could lose
01/09/03: Fish are Better than Women: Gauging U.S. priorities
01/07/03: The Shape of Things to Come: The terror masters are now waiting for us
12/20/02: A Prophecy for the New Year --- Faster, please!
12/16/02: Scud Surrender: The "W" factor
12/13/02: The Heart of Darkness: The mullahs make terror possible
12/12/02: The Real War
12/09/02: Tom Friedman's Reformation: His Iran
11/26/02: How Tyrannies Fall: Opportunity time in Iran
11/22/02: The Blind Leading the Blind: The New York Times and the Iranian crisis
11/13/02: The Temperature Rises: We should liberate Iran first --- now
11/05/02: End of the Road: Iran's Mohammed Khatami, on his way out
10/29/02: The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know
10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen