Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Double Standards: Europe's Historical Amnesia

While every Frenchman, it seems, and every European — scratch that, make that every Western European — can recite every single "crime" committed by Uncle Sam over the past half century (all the while ignoring certain unpleasant facts), not to speak of the fate of the Indians and the blacks in America, the EU parliament's Polish delegation has no choice but to protest Europe's historical amnesia regarding much worse deeds perpetrated by the Kremlin (such as Stalin's massacre of 14,000 Polish officers at Katyn).

While the EU prepares to commemorate Madrid's March 11 bombing (which happily "escaped America's security abuses"), along with a conference (all the while refusing to forget José Couso), Paris admits that a massacre of Algerians in 1945 is "inexcusable".

This, six decades later, is Europe's usual way of doing things. It admits wrongdoings 10, 20, 40, 60, 100 years after the fact (when the individual perpetrators are dead or out of power), and all the while, it keeps up the barrage of criticism against America and its capitalist system for (what is considered) their present failures. (And why shouldn't they; the present is a much more important thing to consider than the past, is it not!)

The amount of time may vary, but if the Sétif story were a guide, we (and the French) may get the full story of story on the Ivory Coast shootings in 2064; the My Lai massacre (had it been committed by French troops — or any Europeans — rather than Americans) would come out around 2028 (rather than 1970); and the "peace camp's" (very real) dealings with Saddam Hussein in the 2050s.

But, of course, the main headlines of those years would not be devoted to those stories, but… to the latest "present" scandal involving …Washington and/or the capitalist system.

It is the same vein that we learned, some 50 years after the fact, that courageously neutral and ferociously independent countries such as Sweden and Switzerland in fact conducted quite a lot of business with the Nazi warlords. (But Europeans are much more interested in waxing ironically about the fact that Bush's grandfather may have conducted business with Berlin — in the 1930s, before the war broke out and before the Holocaust began in earnest — than they are in the fact that Europeans at the time were not as lucid, peace-loving, and standing-haughtily-above-the-irrational-fray as they claimed to be; and in the fact that Europeans of today did conduct business with Baghdad during which time Saddam Hussein had embarked upon the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens.)

And now you understand some of the reasons why we don't take European criticism — or even straightforward news reports — sitting down, along with the attendant "principles" and "values" they make such a huff about, and why you shouldn't, either.

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