Friday, February 17, 2006

Il Duce returns.

How crazy would you have to be as a leader in a Western European Democracy to support George Bush's foray into Iraq?

Pretty daft, apparently. Remember that when Bush went into Iraq, one of his biggest supporters among European allies was prime minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. Berlusconi not only supported the war, but pledged Italian troops to the effort, against the tide of public opinion, and kept them there despite enormous public opposition following the deaths of seventeen who were killed when their base was attacked, and later after the Sgrena shooting incident. Even Berlusconi, however, finally had to pull out of the coalition after it became known that despite Italy's friendly relations with the United States, C.I.A. agents had, without informing Italian police, kidnapped a terror suspect off of a Milan street and flown him to Egypt where he was tortured.

But a couple of stories out in the past few days make it clear what kind of an Italian leader would support George Bush's military adventure in Iraq in the first place.

First, he said that among historical leaders, 'only Napoleon' did more than he, Berlusconi did for his country (apparently he thinks that leading his country into years of continual, and ultimately ruinous warfare is doing something laudible-- that is your first clue). Later Berlusconi said it was a joke, referring to his own short stature (Napoleon was also a small man with an ego to make up for it.)

Apparently though, it was less a joke than an insight. Deciding that Napoleon wasn't great enough, Berlusconi took a leap up the greatness ladder, declaring that "I am the Jesus Christ of politics" during a dinner with supporters. There is absolutely nothing I could add that would more clearly reflect how insane this man is than his own words.

The man is a glory-crazed megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur who should be absolutely anywhere else, other than leading a nation. And his own power to effect change within Italy actually being limited by a Constitution written after WWII providing for a strong parliament especially in terms of domestic policy (let this be a lesson to those who want the executive branch to become too powerful), it is hard to escape the conclusion that his motivation in signing up for the Iraq adventure was to placate his own glorious fantasies through military adventures, and perhaps cover himself with accolades even if bought at the cost of the lives of Italian soldiers.

As a matter of fact, Silvio Berlusconi does remind me of another leader. In fact, another Italian leader. Probably not one he would want to be compared to, but the last Italian leader with an ego problem who thought that militarism was the way to satisfy his almost infinite lust for greatness was, well, you know who that was.

And this is who George Bush and Tony Blair brought on board so they could bolster their claim, especially in western Europe, of having some measure of 'international support.'

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