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by RALPH PETERS
Thursday, Mar. 13, 2003 at 4:57 PM
March 10, 2003 -- THE NEW YORK POST
I SPENT last month in Africa, pausing for a respectful visit to Robben Island, the former prison that confined Nelson Mandela for two decades. It was a physically beautiful setting spoiled by humankind's past intolerance and by the crocodile tears of European tourists.
Young and old, the German, French and Dutch visitors deplored what had been done to one of the great men of the last century - who remains a powerful, if aging and erratic, voice in the cause of freedom. I certainly shared their regret at the suffering imposed on Mr. Mandela and his comrades.
But I wanted to smack the lot of them and yell, "What about the Iraqis? Don't they matter, you smug, little hypocrites?"
As deplorable as conditions were on Robben Island during the imprisonment of South Africa's champions of freedom, they were civilized compared to the treatment of uncounted thousands of Iraqis at the hands of Saddam and his henchmen.
I do not underestimate the crimes of the apartheid regime. Yet, despicable though that government was, it didn't use nerve gas on thousands of men, women and children, torture children in front of their parents, rape wives in front of their husbands, exterminate entire families and clans on a whim, or slaughter minority populations.
Those Euro-trash tourists were right to mourn what had been done. But why on earth didn't they care about the present sufferings of their fellow human beings?
The sorry truth is that Europeans love to cry over corpses, but won't lift a finger to prevent the killing in the first place. They shake their heads over the Holocaust, though their parents were happy enough to pack the local Jews off to Auschwitz.
The French grudgingly accept that their intellectuals defended Stalin long after evidence of his crimes came to light, but they avoid the issue of how many of their thinkers and artists admired Hitler and profited from the Occupation (French cafes and cabarets boomed under the Nazis).
Was there ever an African dictator the French didn't adore? The Dutch criticize America's military as trigger-happy, but their own troops didn't fire a shot in defense of the Muslims of Srebrenica, who they had been tasked to protect and whose slaughter was the worst single massacre on European soil since the end of the Second World War.
When I served in Europe in the '70s, Chairman Mao prefigured Viagra in his effect upon the European Left. Of course, the Soviet Union remained noble and virtuous until the end, its failure to construct heaven on earth explained away by American scheming and malevolence. Today, Europeans dismiss their historical guilt toward Jews by insisting that Israel is as bad as Nazi Germany - a Big Lie worthy of Hitler and Goebbels - while cheering on Israel's genocidal enemies.
What can we do in the face of such a profound lack of honesty, morality or even decency? How can we work constructively with those for whom evidence only matters when it supports their prejudices?
What shall we make of those who would let millions die at the hands of tyrants while accusing America of aggression for opposing the killers?
The short answer is: Not much. In the longer term, though, we must accept the fact that states such as France and Germany have declined to the mentality of yesteryear's Mexico, blaming the United States for all their failures and defining themselves not in positive terms, but merely as the anti-America.
We must accept, from today onward, that America shall often need to act alone or with a handful of courageous allies. Increasingly, we will need to do that which we recognize as strategically and morally necessary, disregarding those states, in Europe and elsewhere, that weep so readily for the dead while caring so little for the living.
We must accept the world's jealousy as a given and must not become distracted by attempts to placate European racists who refuse to set high standards for governance in developing states. Indeed, nothing so abets tyranny and oppression today as French and German condescension toward black, brown or yellow populations - and their unspoken conviction that nonwhites remain inferior.
When Robert Mugabe, the Stalin of Zimbabwe, is welcome in Paris, while the French government takes pains to insult Colin Powell, you have a very clear illustration of the ethics of French diplomacy. The current wave of jokes about the French are ill-judged only in the sense that the French impulse toward racial totalitarianism is no laughing matter. Ask the populations of Ivory Coast or Rwanda. Or Algeria. Or of the brown and black suburbs of Paris.
Of course, sincere allies will always be welcome in this new century of struggle between post-modern freedoms and the bankrupt sur-realpolitik of Paris and Berlin. And we must distinguish, of course, between Europe's freedom-loving frontier states, either on the Atlantic periphery or in the east, and the twilight states of "Old Europe."
Our natural allies are those who either have pioneered democracy, such as Britain, or who have struggled long and hard for their freedom - Poland, Hungary, Spain and so many others who suffered under Communism or fascism.
Saddam looks very different to a Romanian or Latvian than he does to a German or a Frenchman. The Frenchman sees a tantalizing business proposition, while, as a friend of mine serving in the Gulf remarked, "The Germans can't help loving Saddam. He's a dictator with a mustache . . ."
Beyond Europe, America's efforts to face down tyrants are resisted by - surprise! - tyrants. The United Nations never had the strategic relevance its partisans insist Washington's liberation of Iraq will destroy. We should not seek to harm the U.N., but we cannot prevent it from slashing its own wrists.
We Americans can expect neither gratitude, understanding nor support from the baroque regimes of France, Germany and their fellow travelers. Chancellor Schroeder? Bill Clinton without the moral fiber. President Chirac? The mouth of de Gaulle, the soul of Petain, and the morals of a pimp. Humanitarian Belgium? Yeah, just ask the Congolese. The European anti-war movement? Necrophiliacs licking the corpse of Josef Stalin.
Europeans will always be willing to weep over the dead. The United States must take a stand for the living. In Iraq. And beyond.
Ralph Peters just returned from a monthlong trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe. He is the author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World."
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