Tuesday, July 25, 2006

War Elephant

John Batchelor, The New York Sun:
Europe will chastise Jerusalem and beseech Beirut and excoriate Washington and aggrandize Kofi Annan, but it will not fight in Lebanon to support Israel and America in suppressing Hezbollah.

Why? Europe is not ignorant or cowardly; rather, Europe is collectively suffering what savants call the double wall of denial, or what is drolly known as the Elephant-in-the-Room syndrome. READ MORE

The elephant is Iran. The double wall is that not only can Europe not talk about Iran as the command and control of Hezbollah in Lebanon, but also Europe won't let the United Nations Security Council talk about the facts that those are Iranian missiles with Iranian agents with Iranian war aims to destroy Israel and defeat America in Iraq, the Gulf, the ummah.

Europe is most guileful at hushing elephant-mention, even to the point of permitting whole continents to burn while maintaining silence. This month is the 70th anniversary of the start of the most catastrophic double wall of denial in the 20th century, which is remembered as the Spanish Civil War.

When the nationalist generals launched their coup in July 1936, with Franco flying to Morocco to raise an army, the coup was supposed to end quickly with a nationalist junta. Instead, the Communist Party in Madrid threw its support to the flimsy government, and the so-called Republican militias of workers and peasants formed up to blunt the first rush of the coupmasters. Civil war ignited. The major European governments conferred in private in order to impose a policy of nonintervention. Foreign Minister Eden of England counted on Prime Minister Blum of France, and they together counted on Berlin and Rome, to avoid choosing sides. Whatever promises they made in public were betrayed by their motives in secret. England's fear of the communists made it favor the coup-plotting generals. Hitler, thinking strategically to the future, chose the generals because he wanted a second front at France' s flank as well as a threat to British sea routes to Suez. Mussolini just obeyed Hitler.

Meanwhile, Stalin, who cared nothing for the Spanish, was intimidated by the exiled Trotsky's propaganda claiming Stalin was a stooge not to fight for worldwide revolution with the Madrid Communists; and so Stalin supported the Republicans in a minimal fashion — to stymie Trotsky but not to provoke London or Berlin.

The result of this treachery was three years of mass murder and famine that closed in May 1939 with an operatic victory parade of 120,000 soldiers in Madrid, along the Castellana, renamed the Avenida del Generalissimo, with combat aircraft above forming the initials of "Viva Franco." The German contingent, chiefly the war criminals of the Condor Legion, was led by Lt. Col. Wolfram von Richthofen, who wrote in his diary, "I am driving at the front. The spectators go wild."

It is ours to see now that the Elephant in Madrid that day was the Luftwaffe officer at the front, von Richthofen, a man who would later burn Rotterdam; and that the double wall of denial had made it possible for London, Paris, Brussels, and FDR, as well as the League of Nations, not to talk about Hitler's motives for his steadfast support of the generals. More, it made it possible for Europe not to talk about what Hitler was preparing in Madrid to launch on the whole continent as soon as Spain was secure — the sneak attack on Poland and Belgium four months later that began the incineration of Europe, especially the Jews. (See Antony Beevor's pounding "The Battle for Spain" just reprinted. Also see Eviatar Zerubavel's lucid "The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life.")

Today, Iran can go forward in its war on Israel while secure in the knowledge that Europe will not bring up the truth or even comment when the new Condor Legions salvo tactical rockets against the border region and when, soon enough, the new von Richthofen launches a strategic missile against Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or the nuclear power plant in the Negev.

Europe will not speak, for if it did, it would first be forced to confront the truth that when it silenced itself about Spain, it destroyed its own 20th century.

In the 21st century, America is the unsilent voice. We speak of the Republican militia those weeks in Madrid, in November 1936, facing the overwhelming coupmasters. We speak of Major Rivière, who, with 115 volunteers, fought off tanks until the Moroccan attackers set the house ablaze. Rivière lit his last cigarette from the flames and died with an ironic observation, "Nobody will ever know everything that we have done."

America does know now, Rivière, and speaks. There's a Persian war elephant in the room.

Mr. Batchelor is host of "The John Batchelor Show" on the ABC radio network. The show airs in New York on 770 AM from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.