“The formula ‘Day X’ in our documents meant the beginning of a large-scale war against the West. Our Department 12…had to participate in this through so-called ‘direct actions,’ which were clandestine acts of biological sabotage and terrorism against ‘potential strike targets’ on the enemy’s territory.”
My friend objects that “Islamofascists” will never change their ways. Sure, there are deadly and dangerous people out there (and also here), but they may not always be so. Members of Italy’s Red Brigades, who were targeting Americans when I last worked in Rome, decided to turn to sales or accounting after their movement failed to attract public support and the government began to grab them. One former terrorist, Menachem Begin, later got the Nobel Peace Prize; another, Michael Collins, is revered as a creator of independent Ireland. Do I speak lightly about such things? I have lost four friends and former colleagues to terrorism. How many have you lost?
I knew what was coming but it was always a thrill. Suddenly to our left the world opened out and there was the grandest of piazzas, Piazza Navona. The name Navona and the piazza’s long oval form go back to its origin as the Circus Agonale. This was a stadium, inaugurated by the Emperor Domitian in 86 A.D., that was designed to host a Roman alternative to the Olympic games (and to the gladiators in the Colosseum, that had been built by Domitian’s father and brother, Vespasian and Titus). I never liked Domitian. He was big on public works but a terrible administrator. He may or may not have killed a lot of Christians but he was certainly a murderer of many opponents–until they murdered him in the year 96.
How grotesque it must have sounded to a child, and how frightening. Outdoors, the sun of Southern California sparkles on the watered green lawn; within, the house is tranquil. And here in this pleasant kitchen sit two grownups, his grandparents, filling the day’s bright first hour with descriptions of disasters around the globe, massacres marching on to catastrophes and death by the thousands. And then these same grownups fold their papers, rise smiling and replete from the table to drive off to work as usual.
The title of Fisk’s new work is a mocking one, taken from a campaign medal his father won as a British officer in the First World War–which few people, and certainly not Fisk, see now as having been a war for civilization.