THE ITALIANS have not understood Qaddafi. Or they pretend to have not understood him. The French and the Spanish and the Germans and the Swedish and some English have not understood him, either. Or they pretend to have not understood him. The same must be said of anyone else who sheds tears for Qaddafi these days. That is, anyone who turns the tables and sees him as a victim of the evil Americans who are always attacking someone and who now attack this poor innocent and defenseless man.

It is the fault of the Americans if Qaddafi flings his missiles against the Italian island of Lampedusa. It is the fault of the Americans if he shoots Italian fishermen when they go to fish in waters that are everybody's waters, but he says: not everybody's, mine. It is the fault of the Americans if he kidnaps Italian citizens in Libya and if he orders the murder of Libyan exiles in Rome or in London or in Paris. It is the fault of the Americans if -- exploiting the sorrow of others and taking advantage of their misfortunes, especially those of the Palestinians -- he finances and trains and instructs those who hijack TWA planes and kill their passengers.

And it is the fault of the Americans if terrorists bring death in their luggage, so that death bursts in flight and mothers with their infant children are spit out the hole made by the explosion and smash themselves, God knows where, two miles below. It is the fault of the Americans if an army sergeant blows up at a Berlin discotheque where 200 others are mutilated or wounded. It is the fault of the Americans if 399 American and French soldiers are massacred in Beirut in 1983 by the kamikazes from the Bekaa Valley, the place where Qaddafi and Khomeini keep their Sons of God. (Qaddafi feeds them the money, Khomeini the faith that one needs to disintegrate himself with a truck.) It is the fault of the Americans if, in the last slaughters at the Rome and Vienna airports, 19 people get killed, including a twelve-year-old girl. It is the fault of the Americans if on the "Achille Lauro," an old man is assassinated in his wheel chair.

So my fellow Europeans, let us shout it loud and clear in our marches and demonstrations: What has Qaddafi to do with the Shiite or Palestinian escapades, or with the crimes of Abu Abbas, the killer whom the Italian government helped to escape, even protecting him as he boarded the Yugoslav plane? Poor Mr. Qaddafi only thinks of his oil. "Holy Oil who art in Heaven . . . pardon me, in the deserts of Libya . . . give us today our daily gasoline and protect the Colonel, if you please. Pay attention that he does not catch even a cold, that none of his officers or students not yet executed at Benghazi organize a revolt or a putsch against him. Mind that nobody hangs him by the feet as we did to Mussolini. Let him finance and train and instruct those who persecute us. Amen." And any man or woman who thinks in a different way is a fascist, a reactionary, a traitor, a servant of the Americans. Who cares if the Americans die? Let them die. (Except for calling them each time there is an earthquake or a Mussolini to chase away.)

All right. Americans are far from being saints, we know that. And America is an elephant -- often clumsy and arrogant, at times rather vindictive, at times forgetful of his ancestors, and in any event incapable of making people love him. Besides, he sleeps easily in spite of the hate and the jealousy of the other animals because his skin is so hard that it takes a blowtorch to get to his heart. But when he wakes up and gets angry, he sweeps away all the forest, he crashes everything he finds in his way: squirrels and tigers, poisonous trees and innocent orchids. (If it were not so, this elephant would not have won the Second World War and we would now speak German. Something that someone might like. I do not. Or we would speak Russian. Something that someone else might like as much. I do not.) However, if America is that elephant, Qaddafi is a hyena that feeds herself on the dead: the new Mussolini of the Mediterranean.

Here is what the Italians have not understood, or pretend to have not understood. And the French, the Spanish, the Germans, the Swedish, some English and anyone who sheds tears for Qaddafi these days. Or anyone who does business with him, anyone who sells him workers and weapons, anyone who keeps open his embassies -- which are stores of ammunitions and explosives, nests of terrorism in many languages, Kalashnikovs ready to shoot as they did in London where a bullet shot from a window of their embassy killed a young unarmed policewoman. When these Europeans criticize Qaddafi, at most they smile and say that yes, he is a clown, a little scamp, yet also a guy with whom you can talk. (They talk with Khomeini too, they sell workers and weapons to him, too.) Well, in 1938 the Europeans who were not Italian or German said the same about Mussolini and Hitler. They tolerated them in the same way, they believed that they could talk with them. (The Americans too.) They went on deluding themselves until Hitler invaded Poland, until Mussolini stabbed France in the back. History teaches us nothing. And, if it is true that history does not repeat itself, it is also true that it does not help us to understand the similarities or sad lessons.

Pricking and piercing and boring and digging, the blowtorch has burned a hole in the skin of the elephant. The flame has penetrated to his heart. And now the elephant has woken up. He has trumpeted for awhile, he has remained for awhile to mourn his dead children, then he has asked for help from the other animals of the forest. Deluding themselves that they can have immunity and a cheaper price for the Holy Oil, the other animals have answered No. Except in one case, the English case. (Nobody can deny that Margaret Thatcher has guts.) Then the elephant has remembered to be what he is, and he has thrown himself on the hyena that tormented him and killed or helped to kill his children. Doing that, he has crashed squirrels and tigers, poisonous trees and innocent orchids. (Faintly reminiscent, is it not, of the time when he bombed Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy, I mean, us.)

Wars disgust me. As a war correspondent, I have seen almost all the wars of our time. I was in Vietnam for years. When it comes to spitting on wars, I don't need lessons from anyone. I hate any object that bursts and kills, from the explosives of the Shiite or the Palestinian or the Iranian or the Libyan, to the bombs of the F-111. I have seen much death in my life, too much, but I never got accustomed to death in war. When I see a child killed by war, I cry. Always. Even if I see him or her on TV. So, of course I cried when I saw on TV those dead Libyan children. But just as I don't cry when I see the photos of Mussolini dead, I would not have cried if I had seen Qaddafi dead. I would simply have said: Pity that the Libyans could not do justice by themselves and hang him by his feet as we did to Mussolini. Justice has nothing to do with war. And there are times when in order to do justice, we have to hang the guilty by his feet. In this case such a right belongs to the Libyans. Unless the only innocent ones left there are the children.

I know that threats will come to me after publishing this. I know that Qaddafi's followers and servants will say that I must pay for this, that they will kill me, that they know how to find me and how to wait. I know that music. I have heard it sung to me by others, in the past. My answer to them is the recommendation I make to the Italians, to the French, to the Spanish, to the Germans, to the Swedish, to some English, to anyone who has not understood Qaddafi or pretends to have not understood him. Do not be afraid to understand him and to say it out loud. Beware the man or woman who is afraid of the Qaddafis. I am not.

Oriana Fallaci's latest book is "A Man." She translated this article from the original Italian version that appeared in Corriere della Sera, Italy's largest daily.