- Nov 22, 2003
Of all I've read on terrorism, no one else comes close as to nailing what we are up against:
ORIANA by Michael Ledeen
[Michael Ledeen remembers his friend Oriana Fallaci.]
Yeah, we knew she was sick, wed known it for a long time, but we somehow figured shed overwhelm it, that the combination of cigarettes and her own abundant bile would drive out the alien, just as she overwhelmed Khomeini, Kissinger, Qadaffi and Carillo. So it was a shock to hear shed left.
Oriana was one of those bigger-than-life personalities who dwarf everyone around them, and there wasnt much grey in her world, things were always sharply defined. This made friendship a challenge, since at any given moment you were either dearly beloved or this weeks dolt. But it didnt really matter, since she prized friendship, and last weeks idiot was invariably destined to return as tomorrows beloved; you had to accept that it would happen, and it would pass, and we were fortunate to know her and be provoked, stimulated, embraced and insulted. She was a hell of a lady.
She was a hell of a writer, too, one of the greatest of our generation. Her tirades against Islamic Nazi-fascism appeared in thirty different languages and sold more than three million books. In hard cover. And her earlier books, especially the incredible interviews in which she managed to provoke powerful, brilliant, and evil people to totally expose themselves, are still must-reads. You just cant comprehend the history of the past thirty years without Orianas guidance.
And she was a hell of a woman. I only knew her when she was older, and marked with the deep lines of her long fight against the alien, but she was still a vivacious and flirtatious gal who delighted in the flow of her powerful pheremones and very much enjoyed being around men who appreciated her considerable charms. Just look at some of those photos from her younger days. Wow.
She was a freedom fighter to her core, having descended from a proud line of such people. She had an anarchist grandfather and an anti-fascist father (once scheduled for execution) and a mother tough as nails. Oriana ran secret missions for the anti-fascist resistance inTuscany, while still a teenager. I have no doubt that she spent her entire adult life carrying out a very well defined mission to prove herself worthy of her name. She certainly succeeded. She was one of the all-time great nonconformists, she fought tyranny wherever she saw it and she challenged evil, especially in the hands of hypocrites, as soon as she detected its rotten odor. She had a rare mixture of that amazing feminine sixth sense for phonies, and a ruthless objectivity that forced her to recognize positive qualities in even the most evil people, as when she spotted a kind of elegance and brilliance in the Ayatollah Khomeini.
Those who know Italy will recognize Oriana as the quintessential Tuscan, right out of the texts: tough, intellectually brutal, brilliantly and eloquently disparaging of anyone who doesnt meet impossibly high standards, utterly loyal to the cause. Tuscans were the worst fascists and the worst communists, uncompromising, cruel and dogmatic. Happily for us, Orianas cause was the pursuit of truth, whatever the political and social consequences. Once considered a fashionable leftists, she positively reveled in her ostracism in later years by her old admirers. She immersed herself in the words of her critics much more than in those of her allies, because she wanted to be able to demolish the criticism. I once spent half a day in her Manhattan town house, deconstructing the attacks against her in the Italian and French press. When wed been through it all, she laughed happily, and raced to the kitchen to cook lunch.
She was a hell of a cook, by the way, and she was very pleased to find someone who was actually interested in how to do it. She hit it off right away with Barbara Ledeen, another great cook. Oriana came for dinner one night and, until we sat down at the table, ignored the other guests in order to work in the kitchen.
She insisted on excellence in every thing she did, she could not bear the thought of being average, routine, unexceptional.
Lots of people were surprised to learn that she lived as a virtual recluse in New York City, rather than Florence, but America was a big part of her soul. A real freedom fighter has to love America, and she did, just as she hated America when it failed to meet her high standards. Her writings on America were extraordinary; the words she wrote right after 9/11 deserve to be remembered for a very long time:
The fact is that America is a special country, my dear friend. A country to envy, of which to be jealous and it is that way because it is born of a spiritual necessity and of the most sublime human idea: the idea of liberty, or better, of liberty married to the idea of equality
She HAD to live here, you see. Just as she had to die in Florence, where she will be buried in the Evangelical cemetery alongside her parents.
But we shouldnt be in a hurry to bury her. For the moment, shes still very much with us. All you have to do is look at the news of the day, replete with the grotesque distortions of Pope Benedicts thoughtful speech in Germany. Those distortions are driven by one her pet peeves: the politically correct fear of offending Muslims, any Muslims, even those who want us dead and decapitated. She and Benedict evidently hit it off quite well, truly the odd couple, she the lifelong atheist (albeit, in her delightfully paradoxical formulation, a Christian atheist)and he the lifelong theologian.
And why not? After all, she was the only atheist to defend Christmas against the depredations of American secularists.
Michael Ledeen is a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institue and a contributing editor of the National Review.