Skip to comments.Europe must face ugly truths of communist past
Posted on 11/29/2005 9:30:22 AM PST by knighthawk
Last Friday in Warsaw the world saw for the first time exactly how the Soviet Union intended to fight a nuclear war in Europe. A top secret map for a 1979 Warsaw Pact war game entitled Seven Days to the River Rhine was published at a press conference that marked the opening up of the Poland's hitherto secret military intelligence files from the communist era.
It was a chilling experience. The map showed large red mushroom clouds along a line going from the Danish border down through Germany and Belgium to the French border. They blotted out such cities as Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Antwerp and Brussels.
The map shows smaller blue mushroom clouds representing the Soviet guess of where NATO would aim its nuclear missiles. Warsaw and Prague are among the cities that would have perished. According to Radek Sikoski, the defense minister in the new conservative Polish government who opened up the archives, the dead would have included 2 million Polish civilians.
If Poles had died in a real version of Seven Days to the River Rhine, however, almost all but a handful of Polish communists would have died as unwilling allies of a Soviet Union brutally occupying their country. That sensitive point is one reason why the Warsaw Pact plan was presented at the time as a counter-attack responding to a NATO invasion. The armed forces of communist Poland had to be given at least the fig leaf of an argument they were defending their country against a militaristic West. But the military-cum-political realities of the day were that a pessimistic West was retreating.
Massive SS-20 missiles were being planted in Eastern Europe aimed at western cities. Peace rallies throughout Western Europe, partly funded by the KGB, were frightening governments into rejecting the installation of America's deterrent missiles. The Kremlin, about to invade Afghanistan, was boasting that the international correlation of forces was tipping in its favor. And President Carter was bemoaning our inordinate fear of communism.
In these circumstances a NATO invasion of Eastern Europe was not really thinkable. The Warsaw Pact's counter-attack looks very much like a plan for a first-strike invasion of Western Europe.
Sikorski's revelations have naturally annoyed the Russians. They have also been interpreted by some media cynics as a response to Russia's recent playing of anti-Polish power politics over energy and gas pipelines. That might well have been a subsidiary motive and reasonably so. Russia needs to know that if it tries to bully its neighbors such as Poland or Ukraine, they have at least the power to embarrass their old masters and to warn the West of what the Kremlin planned and did until the day before yesterday.
But the main motive behind these revelations, in Sikorski's own words, is to bring to an end the era of post-communism. He is therefore opening the archives not only on Warsaw Pact war games but also on a large range of military intelligence matters, including the martial law suppression of Polish Solidarity and Poland's role in the Kremlin's crushing of the 1968 Prague Spring.
Until now knowledge of these and other crimes of the communist era has been quietly suppressed throughout Eastern Europe. Post-communism has been a transition to democracy in which the truth about communism has been sacrificed in the interests of social peace. As a result, communist-era public figures have survived and even flourished; post-communist networks have exercised a shadowy political influence, and, in response, cynicism about democracy has spread.
Latin America and South Africa had their own post-authoritarianism in the aftermath of military dictatorship and apartheid. But that first stage was followed by a period of truth and reconciliation in which an honest, if sometimes partial, public reckoning of past crimes was attempted. There is a deep hunger beneath the familiar cynicism throughout central and eastern Europe for such a reckoning. This is not a desire for vengeance or even just punishment though some victims of murder and torture and their families would certainly support the latter but for an admission of past crimes, a cleansing of public life and a fresh democratic start.
What is needed to accomplish this is a Europe-wide Truth and Reconciliation Commission, composed of scholars and elder statesmen of undoubted democratic loyalty, who would hold hearings and report not just on the crimes of communism remember, they included mass murder and widespread torture in eastern and central Europe but also on those in the Soviet Union itself and even on the culpable failures of Western statesmen to halt or restrain those committing them.
Who might serve on and lead such a commission? There is no lack of brave dissidents, eloquent historians and distinguished elder statesmen who could perform these tasks Robert Conquest (who a week ago received the Medal of Freedom), former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, historian Paul Hollander, former Italian president Francesco Cossiga, French philosophers Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, and Anne Applebaum, Washington Post columnist and author of the the recent Pulitzer prize-winning history of the Gulag, who in private life happens to be Mrs. Radek Sikorski. But the first step should be an approach from the U.S. Congress to the European Parliament to jointly foster a commission.
For if we refuse to examine the communist past, it will continue to poison the democratic present and not only in Poland.
Euroweenia had better also face the islam of their future.
If only we had a nuclear freeze, none of that would have been possible.
(Is a sarcasm tag necessary?)
C'mon, it's Europe. They can't take a crap without convening a committee of some sort.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.