First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
An Open Letter to the People of Europe
We've seen demonstrators on the streets of your cities, calling for "death to the Jews" and wearing costumes that celebrate the suicide bombers who murder innocent civilians in Israel.
We've heard a German cabinet minister compare our president to Hitler, and watched a party retain power in Germany by loudly refusing to join in any war against Iraq.
It seems Americans aren't the only people who don't learn their own history.
Think back to the 1930s, when Germany found itself ruled by the direct political ancestors of Iraq's Ba'ath Party.
Hitler had already told the world he intended to conquer the slavic lands to the east in order to win lebensraum for the Aryan master race.
Once in power, he immediately launched a program of persecution against the Jews of Germany, including firings, imprisonment, vandalism, beatings, and murder.
And he violated the restrictions on armaments that Germany had agreed to in the Versailles Treaty. He denied that he was re-arming until he was ready to reveal his new strength. He happily renegotiated treaties he was already violating.
The governments that saw the danger clearly were too weak to stand alone against Hitler.
The governments strong enough to put a stop to the danger refused to act.
When Hitler sent his still-weak army into the Rhineland in 1936, all the French had to do was take bold action and Hitler would have been forced to withdraw. In all likelihood he would have been toppled from power.
But the French refused to act unilaterally. They insisted on waiting for the British to decide to act.
And Britain was governed by men who were determined to believe that Hitler wouldn't do anything so irrational as to unleash the dogs of war so soon after the bloodbath of World War I.
So France and Britain did nothing, when Hitler was weak and easy to defeat.
He was stronger when he threatened war over the refusal of Austria's government to capitulate to being annexed by Germany. But Britain and France could still have blocked him. Instead, they gave him a free hand. Thousands of anti-Nazis were murdered as soon as Austria was taken over.
Hitler was even stronger when he threatened war with Czechoslovakia -- but the Czechs were also strong, and would have stood boldly against him. They had a strong defensive position, and if France had been willing to stand with them, Hitler would have been defeated easily -- if his own military didn't oust him first.
But again the French refused to act without Britain, and Britain insisted on sacrificing other people's lives and other nation's sovereignty in order to "keep the peace."
When war finally came, Hitler was ready. He poured out blood and horror upon almost all of Europe.
If only France had been willing to act unilaterally, and if only Britain had been willing to take firm action instead of constantly seeking negotiation with liars, how different things would have been.
Eastern Europe would never have been under Soviet occupation, would never have had their economies and environments ruined by the overlords the Russians installed there.
Russia itself would not have lost millions who were slaughtered in the war.
Germany today would not have the guilt for the slaughter of millions as part of their national burden. German society would have had the continuing contribution of millions of German Jews, who had been a vital part of the flowering of German culture prior to World War II.
France would not have suffered Nazi occupation, and there would be no shame for those who collaborated with the Nazis in the slaughter of French Jews.
In 1936, France and Britain faced an enemy who had revealed himself by his past words and actions, and who was in clear violation of the treaty that ended the previous war. They had every right to act, individually or jointly, to prevent the next war.
Instead, France would not act alone, and Britain would not act at all.
Is today analogous?
You think it is not. But it is.
True, Iraq has no power to send armies into the nations of Europe.
But Saddam has, or is trying to get, weapons which can be taken into the cities of Europe and America and any other place on earth, to cause unbearable destruction.
Saddam has shown that he has the will to use these weapons himself. And if he does not, he has a history of close relationships with terrorist organizations that have no qualms about slaughtering innocents.
He already sends money to reward the families of those who murder Jews. He has already invaded two of his neighbors. He has already shown that he will use criminal weapons like poison gas against domestic enemies. He has broken every treaty that created a truce between Iraq and the rest of the world in 1991.
And some or all of his weapons are very likely to end up in the hands of terrorists like Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others who have shown they regard no place and no people on earth as beyond the reach of their murders.
When Hitler occupied Vienna and Prague, and his armies poured over the borders of Poland, and then of France, and then of Russia, the world finally agreed that the danger he posed was real.
When will you recognize your own danger, as well as the danger other nations face? When a nuclear weapon explodes in Berlin? When biological weapons are released in Paris?
Or are you confident that if you do your best to block America from attacking Iraq, Saddam and the Islamicist terrorists will be grateful to you and spare you from the carnage? Are you counting on the terrorists to blow up or poison or spread plague in only American and Israeli cities?
Are you really the kind of people who are willing to let criminals have horrible weapons, as long as you think they'll use them on somebody else and not on you?
People of France, when you groaned under Nazi occupation, who sent great armies to free you? After all, Germany had never actually attacked America. Yet we came -- and when we came with our irresistible armies, we did not stay and rule, we left you free.
People of Germany, when you finally reaped the consequences of the terrible war you started and the great crimes you committed, and foreign armies occupied all of your territory, what happened to those who were conquered by American armies?
Can you honestly say that the worst thing that could happen to Iraq is having their fascist government toppled by an American army? Have you forgotten the generous treatment Americans showed to the people of Germany even when overthrowing murderous and aggressive dictatorships?
Here is the main difference between 2002 and 1936: Today, there is a nation that has both the power and the will to take action -- alone, if need be -- the way Britain and France would not in 1936.
And if you Europeans think that the Islamicist terrorists, who regard Iraq as their arsenal, will be grateful to you and leave you alone as long as you take no action against them ...
Have you forgotten the plot to destroy the Eiffel Tower? The assault on the Munich Olympics? Do you think because they hate us most, they love you?
America did not start this war with terrorism. Nor did we start the war with Iraq. Because Saddam violated all the promises he made in 1991, that war is not over -- it has been continuing ever since.
So we will fight to end the danger Saddam poses, whether you join us or not.
But we will not forget the things you have said about us, and your unwillingness to lift a finger to help free the world of the scourge of terrorism.
And should the day come when you find yourselves under attack, and needing help from us ...
Then you will have it. Because we will do the right thing then, as we are doing it now, regardless of how we have been insulted and abandoned by those from whom we deserved only friendship and support.
Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.
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