- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2000

The collective knee jerk in Western capitals over Austria's democratic processes is the latest manifestation of the no-enemies-on-the-left syndrome that prolonged the Cold War by a decade or two. The only enemies are on the right.

Those who were all too willing to give the Soviet Union the benefit of the doubt when there was no doubt are now unwilling to give Austria the benefit of the doubt even thought its new right-wing coalition government has denounced xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism, pledged to honor democracy and human rights, and acknowledged responsibility for Nazi-era crimes.

The 1968 generation of socialists nurtured on Europe's barricades now is in power in all of EU's governments (except Spain). Austria is now the latest to jump the socialist ship.

Joerg Haider, Austria's right-wing populist leader, drew thousands of youngsters away from the socialist ranks in last October's elections. Europe's socialists bankrupted their countries and now are condemned to carry out conservative economic policies.

President Clinton showed them the way, but that does not mean they like what they are doing. Austria's Mr. Haider suddenly presented Europe's guilty consciences with a golden salve.

When Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez made a state visit to China last year, he embarrassed his Chinese hosts by heaping praise on Mao Tse-tung. This was the same Mao who was responsible for the death of 40 million Chinese (5 percent of the then 800 million population) during the Cultural Revolution he unleashed in 1966 and kept going for 10 years. The U.S. did not recall its ambassador to Caracas. Nor was there a murmur of complaint from any Western government.

Mr. Chavez then went on to Cuba and hailed Fidel Castro as Latin America's man of the century for having led the struggle against American imperialism. Not a peep out of any U.S. official at that time either. Our European allies didn't even notice.

Unlike Austria's Joerg Haider (deliberately mispronounced as Hater on one of the morning TV newscasts) who retracted his repugnant statements about Adolf Hitler's "efficient labor policies" and the "elite" Waffen SS, Mr. Chavez did not apologize for any of his equally repugnant pro-Mao or pro-Castro statements.

In Russia, a former KGB operative during the Cold War, who now is acting president, raised his glass to Josef Stalin upon his 120th birthday, praised the late KGB chief Yuri Andropov (who consigned dissenters to psychiatric wards and then was briefly the Soviet Union's No. 1), and saluted Feliks Dzerzhinsky, who was V.I. Lenin's first secret police chief. No thought was given to withdrawing Western ambassadors to protest Mr. Putin's nostalgic reminiscences about the Soviet era or to express displeasure at the scorched-earth military campaign that killed hundreds of innocent civilians and raised Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, to the ground.

Nor was anything said when 10 of Mr. Putin's first 24 appointees came from the ranks of the secret police.

The Washington Post editorialized that the Russian government has behaved "with a level of deceit and contempt for civilized norms that might have embarrassed even the Soviets." The Post was referring to Mr. Putin's decision to arrest a Russian journalist working for Radio Liberty because he didn't like his fearless reporting from Chechnya and then sell him to the people he calls bandits and terrorists. Still the Western allies did not recall their ambassadors to Moscow.

Instead, the allies picked on someone their own size Austria. Because Mr. Haider's Freedom Party, which garnered 27 percent of the Austrian popular vote, now is a mortal menace to Western democracy. The Belgian foreign minister even told his countrymen it would be "immoral" to ski in the Austrian mountains.

Mr. Haider did not raise his glass to Hitler. But Mr. Putin, handpicked by Boris Yeltsin to succeed him, toasted Stalin. If Mr. Haider had praised Hitler, and then shared power in a coalition government, one can only imagine the reaction. EU's Eurocrats would have recommended another Operation Allied Force, a la Kosovo. So far all the hypocritical posturing against Austria has simply driven up the numbers of Mr. Haider's party from 27 percent in the last general election to 33 percent in the latest polls.

Both Stalin and Hitler were mass exterminators of human beings. Stalin once said that one death is a tragedy; 1 million deaths, a statistic. Some 50 million were credited to his brutal dictatorship. Both Nazism and communism were dedicated to the proposition that the individual did not matter. At the end of World War II, de-Nazification purged Germany of the men responsible for the horrors perpetrated all over Europe. At the end of the Cold War, the totalitarians responsible for trying to eradicate Western civilization simply switched political labels and gained instant respectability.

Italy's Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema was once a Stalinist and then a communist hard-liner whose raison d'etre was the demise of Italian democracy. Since the Cold War, the Italian CP became Democratici Di Sinistra (PDS) and Mr. D'Alema is now a respectable democrat.

Mr. Haider is a populist who says in public what many people think in private about immigrants who take their jobs away at lower wages. He speaks out against surrendering sovereignty to an ever-larger EU run by faceless supranationalists in Brussels. But a Nazi he is not. He is to Austria what Pat Buchanan is to America.



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