by Judith Beck || Author's Links
In 1938, the leaders of Britain, France, and Italy met with Hitler in an attempt to avoid war. Believing that it would be his first attack on foreign soil and his last territorial demand, they delivered Czechoslovakia with such eagerness that Hitler later complained to his private guard. So anxious was Neville Chamberlain to appease, he ruined the Führer's opportunity to practice Blitzkreig and enter Prague as a triumphant conqueror.
Copying the Nazis, who waged a propaganda campaign listing real or imagined wrongs committed against Czech Germans as an excuse to divert attention and justify attacks on innocents, the Arab countries focus a propaganda campaign on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They claim that's the cause of their hostility to the West--not the fundamentalists' openly voiced hatred for "infidels." Attempts to placate them by abandoning Israel are already being compared to the naïvely hopeful sell-out of Czechoslovakia.
But what's often forgotten: before Hitler had his Czechoslovakia, he had his Spain.
Like the present tension between the secular West and the fundamentalist Muslim world, the conflict in Spain was ideological: Spanish Republicanism versus Franco's Dictatorship. Except for the fact that established European governments wouldn't support a Socialist revolution, Hitler didn't much care about ideology; he merely wanted an excuse to test his weapons of war. Spain was where he developed Blitzkrieg; Guernica was the town he leveled, assessing the efficacy of his dive-bombers on a largely civilian population. Spain presaged the worldwide horrors of the coming war; as with all new technology, advances in killing require test runs.
Osama bin Ladin and the other terrorists have a longer timetable than Hitler, but like him, they've been keeping watch on world reaction. They've had their Spain. In 1988, the arch terrorist-supporter Saddam Hussein tested the use of poison gas on an ethnic minority in his own country. The Times of London reported, "On March 16, 1988 the people of Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja were decimated by Saddam Hussein's arsenal of chemical weapons. The Kurds of Halabja and neighboring towns comprise the largest civilian population ever exposed to chemical weapons. . . Halabja was bombarded with a cocktail of chemical weapons including mustard gas, and the nerve gases sarin, tabun and VX. Between 5,000 and 12,000 people were killed immediately and a further 40,000 to 70,000 were injured, many severely."
Though this was obviously against the spirit and letter of the Geneva Convention, the world paid scant attention. The UN didn't send troops to seize Saddam Hussein as a criminal; the other Muslim nations didn't rise up in defense of their Kurdish co-religionists. The Western countries, afraid of the opinion of the oil-producing Arabs, were mostly silent. Women who had died clutching their babies to their chests were photographed lying eerily unmarked in dusty village streets, some with their eyes wide open. Those photos raised only the ghost of a response; the rest of the world merely blinked. Since no one tracked the long-term, continuing effects or the gas or the condition of the surviving Kurds, Saddam Hussein was allowed to continue his genocidal war in peace.
Emboldened, Saddam continued stockpiling chemical and biological weapons and training terrorists in their use. Not even the Gulf War and the burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields proved reason for him to be deposed and tried, his factories and storehouses destroyed.
Had the Allies decisively defended the Spanish Republicans in 1936, driving Franco and the Axis forces into defeat, had they insisted the Treaty of Versailles be honored, World War II could have been prevented. If we had stopped Saddam in 1988, we wouldn't be worrying about anthrax in the crop-dusters or sarin in the subways. Had we shown we meant business then and continued to closely monitor the situation amongst the radical Muslims, we might not be worried about terrorists now.
When Europe handed over Czechoslovakia in a vain attempt to appease Hitler and avoid conflict, Hitler was given the go-ahead he needed to plunge the world into war. He'd already noticed timid world leaders ignored his stockpiling of conventional weapons and the enlargement of the German army, though this meant flouting of the Treaty of Versailles, which restricted Germany to an army of only 100,000 soldiers and a severely limited number of ships, planes and armaments.
The terrorists have had their proving grounds in Iraq, test runs against America in Dar es Salaam and now on our own soil. Let's be sure they don't have their Czechoslovakia--not while we can still avert world war.
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