June 01, 2004,
You will, I hope, recall the heroic death of Fabrizio Quattrocchi on April 14 at the hands of jihadists in Iraq. At the time, the Italian foreign minister revealed that Quattrocchi, clawing at the hood they had placed over his head, cried out, "I will show you how an Italian dies!" Now, thanks to a truly great Italian reporter (and assistant editor of the Corriere della Sera) named Magdi Allam, we know a bit more about the event.
As Quattrocchi tried to remove the hood, he asked, "May I?" At that point, one of his captors replied in colloquial and unaccented Italian "in your dreams" ("neanche per sogno"). Italian analysts believe that Italian was the terrorist's mother tongue.
This is not the only example of native Italian speakers among terrorists. The three remaining Italian hostages were shown on a video broadcast on April 26, and one of them Salvatore Stefio spoke warmly of his captors: "So far we haven't had any trouble with them. We eat regularly and we haven't been physically maltreated in any way. All our requests to improve our stay here with them have been agreed to." This sort of statement was likely dictated by the terrorists, and at least one of them must have been relatively fluent in Italian in order to permit the statement to be taped and broadcast.
I think we can take it for granted that the terror network now contains representatives of every country in the Islamic network's gunsights, along with the cannon fodder they recruit from their own homelands. Surely they managed to recruit some Spaniards to advise them on the best way to influence the outcome of the national elections on March 11. And notice that in the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, the terrorists told potential victims that they would be spared so long as they were Muslim, even if they were Americans. You can be sure there are plenty of Americans in the terrorists' ranks who know how to ask the life-and-death questions of us.
So, as Allam says, we are dealing with a truly international terror organization, and he reinforces the conclusion by comparing the very similar language used to attack Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi by Islamic terrorists in several different countries. In addition to the common denunciations of Berlusconi, these statements all demonstrate considerable knowledge of Italian politics far more than is found in the Arab or Iranian press.
"The globalization of terrorism is an undoubted success for bin Laden. It is sufficiently serious and frightening to induce (Saudi) Prince Abdullah according to credible secret sources to negotiate with bin Laden a secret agreement to prevent the fall of the monarchy, based on their common hated of America and Israel." According to Allam, that agreement explains Abdullah's statement, following the May 1 terror attack, blaming "Zionism" for terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Other sources tell Allam the same thing I have heard, namely that the Saudi royal family has prepared a detailed plan to run abroad if the situation gets much worse, and that knowledge of the royal family's intentions is a major component in the recent rise in the price of oil. Meanwhile, the Saudis are buying insurance by supporting the terrorists in Iraq.
All of this should make us redouble our efforts in the war against terrorism, and remind us that we are not fighting a single war in a single country. The entire Middle East is a boiling cauldron right now, and with it the rest of the world. It is rare indeed to witness, first hand, the planet's destiny swinging on a single hinge, which is this generation's privilege and dread. Yet our leaders and their political opponents are obsessed with a single prison in Baghdad and a single Iraqi leader not to their liking.
It must be possible for someone in our political class to remind the nation that we are in a broad war, and we can only win it by using the full panoply of military and political weapons in our arsenal. Take the political battle to Iran and Syria, where the people have demonstrated a willingness to challenge the murderous regimes, and where al Qaeda and its allies in Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the others have found safe haven and operational support.
And I hope someone in the Pentagon has a contingency plan to secure the oil fields in the event that the CIA can't manage the Saudi situation, and the brave Abdullah and his children, brothers, sisters, cousins, and nephews race to the French Riviera.
Faster, please. This is a time for war, not speechifying.
Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen is Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute.