This is the text of David Horowitz's speech given at a dinner organized by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, when he bestowed the Center's prestigious Annie Taylor Award on Oriana Fallaci for her lifelong struggle against totalitarian ideologies. – The Editors.
We are gathered here tonight to honor a warrior in the cause of human freedom.
This was once a description of the American identity itself. We are a nation born in liberty and bound to defend it. And so we did in World War I and World War II and then in the Cold War, rescuing Europe -- and much of the rest of the world -- from tyranny three times, while making democracies of nations that had never been politically so civilized before.
The war in Iraq, which is the central battlefield in the fight against Islamo-fascism, is the first war for freedom in the history of this nation in which half the country has been taken out of the war in the midst of the war. It is the first American war for freedom in which the leadership of the major opposition party has been either AWOL or working against a victory for our side. And by that I mean arguing that this war for freedom is a mistake; is “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time;” or that the desire for freedom is the root cause of our problems in the war on terror.
During the dark years of the Cold War none of us ever thought that we would soon be facing an enemy more ruthless, and potentially more numerous, in another global conflict. None of us dreamed that we would have to fight another war for freedom while confronting an even larger fifth column of detractors and oppositionists at home. But here we are.
In all these battles for freedom one of the principal lessons we have learned is that individuals count. Our nation has always prevailed, in the final analysis, because it is built on the idea of freeing individuals; it is built on the idea that individuals count. And in these wars to defend our freedoms, have they ever.
It is hard to imagine what would have happened, how many lives would have been unnecessarily lost, if Franklin Roosevelt had not replaced Henry Wallace as his running mate in 1944 with a senator from Missouri named Harry Truman. Wallace was an appeaser and a capitulator; Truman was a fighter and a resister.
What was true at the beginning of the Cold War was just as true of the decade that ended it. It is difficult to conceive another Republican president who could have faced down the Russians in the 1980s as Ronald Reagan did, declaring Communism an evil empire (to the consternation of the appeasers in the party of the opposition), placing cruise missiles in Europe when the disarmers said no, and disarming the Soviets diplomatically at the summit while hawks bit their nails. Separately, each of these achievements could have been managed by another individual. But as a combination, there was only one who could do it. It was this combination embodied in one man that precipitated the fall of the most oppressive empire the world has ever known.
So, too, at the onset of the war against Islamo-fascism. After eight years of unanswered terrorist attacks on the United States, this war began on September 11, 2001. It is impossible imagine a leader from a party that had appeased the terrorists for eight long years declaring war on the Axis of Evil and taking the battle to the enemy camp. But George Bush did.
Truman, Reagan and Bush not only made history, they changed it.
And so, in her own way, has our the woman we are honoring tonight.
As you may know we had planned to present Oriana Fallaci with this award at our Restoration Weekend which was scheduled for late last month but was blown away on the winds of Hurricane Wilma. We have rescheduled the Restoration Weekend for February at the Arizona Biltmore. But when we suggested to Oriana that we might present her with the award at this dinner in New York instead, she readily agreed. “I probably won’t be alive in February,” she said and “I must give the speech I prepared.”
God will keep you alive Oriana, and not only to give your speech, important as it will be in the battle we are facing.
This little anecdote in itself tells us what a remarkable woman Oriana Fallaci is, and how she has affected the history of her time. Why indeed is she here tonight, when in her mind it is time for her to be thinking of last things? Because it is important for her to be here. It is important for her give her speech and for you to hear it. And why have you taken this time out of your own busy lives to come here to honor her and listen to what she has to say? Because every individual here in his or her own way is also a warrior for freedom. And in these times and in this war every individual who can be counted on the side of freedom is an individual we will need to count.
And it has been this way always.
Because, of course, it is not just one individual who creates the difference and changes history, but many; and not in one generation only, but across the generations. The Elizabethans had a view of the world as a Great Chain of Being. What I am talking about is the Great Chain of Freedom. Every link leads to another, and every link is vital.
And these links are not only individuals acting in discrete moments of time. To prevail requires not just one evening or one week or one year of effort. Or a single generation.
Oriana’s great-great-grandfather was a hero of the Italian Risorgiomento, the struggle for Italy’s freedom. Her father was a leader of the Italian resistance to free Italy from the Mussolini dictatorship, and was tortured by the fascists for his efforts. Three times they put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger to make him cooperate, but he refused. Her father’s resistance was Oriana’s training in the battle between tyranny and freedom, a war she has been waging for most of her 75 years. In her ferocious determination that right shall prevail, she has become an inspiration to all of us, a link for each of us. And that is why we are here.
We are here to pay a debt to an immigrant among us, who is living here in exile, who is afflicted with cancer and who has stepped out of her sick bed, and put aside her own tasks, in order to lead us.
A fatwa has been issued by the Islamist enemy calling for Oriana’s death; she is hunted in her native land and has been indicted by one of its courts for criticizing the Islamic aggressor. For blasphemy. For preferring freedom to servitude and silence.
On the morning of September 11, 2001 Oriana was sitting in her apartment in New York. She was absorbed with the novel she had been writing and which she refers to as “my child.” She was stealing time between her visits to the cancer ward, struggling to deliver her literary child.
But on the morning of September 11th, the country that had given her refuge and liberty was attacked. And when she saw the television crowds of Palestinians jumping up and down for joy, and shouting “Victory,” and when she was told by her friends in Italy that many in Europe were imitating the Palestinians because “The Americans got it. Good.” -- Oriana knew she had to put aside her life work, her child, and do something for her adopted country. Because America was a vital link in the chain of human freedom and was once again under global attack.
For three weeks, this aging woman, ill with cancer, heavy with an unborn literary child, wrote around the clock, in a frenzy, without stopping without eating, feeding on coffee and cigarettes to keep her awake. What she wrote was a speech, a sermon to Americans, to Europeans and to the world, which she called The Rage and The Pride. It was about the war with radical Islam. It was about a war between good and evil. It was about the struggle for human freedom.
After the Twin Towers were destroyed, after they “swallowed themselves up” and “liqueified,” she wrote, “I did not know what to do. In what way to make myself useful, to be of some service.”
That sentiment is the incarnation of the spirit of every warrior on whom the future of freedom depends. That is why Oriana Fallaci is a General in this struggle and why we are honoring her tonight.
In Iraq today there are young Americans in harm’s way, who are risking their lives in the battle for Iraqi freedom. That is because Iraq is also a link in the chain. These Americans are a small but indispensable vanguard on the frontlines of freedom, and we are their supply lines; we are their support.
We, too, are a vanguard. And so is America in the world of nations. Just as the history of nations is changed by individuals within them, so the world is changed by individual nations; and in the battle for freedom, America is chief among them. Without America, the world today would be speaking German and Japanese, or Russian and Chinese, and no nation would be free.
That is why in these global wars the Fifth Column that despises individual freedom has always targeted America first. Today, this Fifth Column is an unholy alliance between the secular left and the Islamic fundamentalists both of whom see America as the Great Satan, the root cause of injustice and evil in the world. This global conflict, as my friend Norman Podhoretz has said is World War IV. And once again the forces of tyranny are ranged on one side, and the forces of freedom – led by America – are on the other. Once again America is on a lonely path and faces great odds in turning the tide.
Over the course of years, I have noticed two things about our conservative vanguard. The first is that conservatives are too nice, too genteel and too willing to allow their opponents to mask their totalitarian rudeness behind the term “liberal.” People ask “How can liberals oppose a war which has liberated millions of men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq, and created the most democratic constitution in the history of the Islamic world?” The answer is they can’t. Our opponents are not liberals. We are liberal. Our opponents are leftists, accompanied by their fellow travelers. And the name of their desire is the destruction of America and the freedoms that depend on America’s strength.
The second thing I have noticed about conservatives is that because they are realists they are prone to pessimism, and the loneliness they often feel affects their judgment and leads to a fatalism that is no longer realistic. They let their loneliness get to them so that they almost lose touch with the fundamental knowledge that in the end and when all is said and done, people really want to be free.
In 1986, which was three years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of those lonely warriors for freedom, my dear friend Midge Decter, who is with us tonight, invited me to a conference in Paris organized by the Committee for the Free World. I have never discussed the subject with Midge but I will bet that on many occasions she had thought to herself: this is a very small Committee that has such a big task in front it. We have all felt like this.
The conference was in Paris and Midge had put me on a panel whose topic – how could I ever forget this? – was “Is Communism Reversible?” There were some brilliant minds on the panel -- Jean Francois Revel and Alain Besancon – and none of us thought it was. The mirage of social justice was too seductive; the legions of time-servers and appeasers too large; the will of the Free World too divided and chaotic for the West to prevail. But three years later it did.
Ronald Reagan would have been out of step on that panel. Reagan had the heartland in him, the faith in people and their will to be free, which is America’s founding faith. It is naïve; it is wildly optimistic. But it works.
Why does it always seem such an up-hill battle? Why are there so many willing to sacrifice freedom for an illusory security? Because people live in denial, because appeasement always seems preferable to conflict, and because we get tired.
Congressman and Vietnam veteran Jack Murtha is a symbol of those who get tired. He fought for this country and is not a coward. But when it comes to the battles for freedom today his memory is short and he is tired. On the floor of the House a week or so ago, Jack Murtha said this: “The fight against Americans began with Abu Ghraib. It began with the invasion of Iraq. That’s when terrorism started.” No it didn’t Jack. It started when the idea of liberty was planted in Philadelphia and began to spread across this continent and then across the world. That’s when the fight against America began.
And it will continue. And that is why we need warriors who do not get tired, like Oriana Fallaci. Because it will continue. We need warriors like Oriana who will not give up. That is why we are gathered here tonight to honor a woman who is such a symbol to us of the will and the courage to resist. Someone who will not give up and who is an inspiration to others and whose spirit is replicated in places high and low, and in individuals great and small. To be in the presence of someone like this tells us that in this war free men and women will prevail.
Click Here to support Frontpagemag.com.