American G-Is liberated Paris 62 years ago last week. But pay no attention to the French troops strutting at the fore of the liberation parades on newsreels. Sure, some fought, mainly foreign Legionnaires. But Ike allowed their strutting because Ike was "politically correct" before political correctness was cool.
The free world rejoiced at the time and the celebrations in Paris surpassed New Orleans’ Mardi Gras–or so we hear. It so happens that my father-in-law, a lifelong New Orleanian, helped blast the Nazis out of France and spent some leave in Paris. He was in a superb position to judge and says it was no contest.
Sure, grateful and gorgeous French gals mobbed him. Sure, corks popped and champagne gushed. Sure, bands played and many legs were kicked up in the raucous jubilation. Still, "it was no Mardi-Gras, Hom-Boy-Da (New Orleanian for Humberto, very similar to old Brooklynese)," he assured me. "Nobody parties like us New Orleanians."
The Christmas Eve before his passing 10 years ago I complained about my wife’s oyster dressing; "a bit dry," I huffed.
"I think it’s delicious, honey!" he quickly turned to his daughter. "Sure beats my Christmas eve feast in 1944."
That night, made expansive in these usually mum matters by the wine, we learned his 1944 feast had consisted of frozen C-rations and the setting was a quaint little Belgian town named Bastogne. This was the first time his own daughter heard of his role in the very epicenter of a little dust-up later known as the Battle of the Bulge. Here’s a trademark, I’ve noticed, of relatives of genuine combat veterans. Sure, we thrill at the newsreels on the History Channel. Those on the spot would rather forget that "thrill."
Weeks later my eyes popped as my mother-in-law pulled out an old satchel and displayed a Screaming Eagle shoulder patch and some medals I identified as a Bronze star, a Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters and many others. The Purple Hearts I had expected from his forehead scars and limp.
In December of 1944, eager to wish the G-Is a Merry Christmas, Hitler shifted twenty ferocious Panzer and SS Divisions from the Russian front to the Western front. He figured those green American kids, most of whom had been dancing the jitterbug a few months before, would cower and quickly cave-in before the Reich’s toughest soldiers. Then these would blast their way to Antwerp and bust the Western Front wide open.
Der Fuhrer’s reaction to the reply from those besieged Bastogne defenders is not on record. But the reaction from the German commander who demanded their surrender is. "Vhat does deez "Nuts" mean?" asked the rattled German officer. "Eez deez reply negative or affirmative?" "In plain English," laughed the 101st’s Col. Harper who had handed him the message from General Mc Auliffe, "it’s the same as: ‘Go to Hell! So on your way Bud!’"
A few months after that hellish Christmas in Bastogne, those same Panzer divisions who once surrounded and pounded them, surrendered to our G-Is, who often shared their smokes, blankets and C-rations with them as the U.S. government started detoxifying their nation from Hitler’s infection–not with firing squads and mass graves, but by feeding and housing them while rebuilding their cities. Nothing could be more thoroughly American.
But not everyone was keen on forgiving and forgetting, especially the French. According to the Harper Collins Atlas of the Second World War Nazi repression caused 172,260 French civilian deaths during the occupation. Liberation also meant payback time. The heavy hand of retribution fell mostly on native collaborators and the term "collaboration" proved very sweeping. Usually the phrase "guilt by association" is a pejorative to condemn an obvious injustice. In liberated France it became the dominant legal axiom. Historian and National Review editor David Pryce-Jones estimates 105,000 summary executions of French collaborators in the months after the liberation.
Merely writing favorably of the occupiers was sufficient for a death sentence. The French writer Robert Brasillach was an example and De Gaulle himself minced few words rationalizing the verdict. "In literature as in everything, talent confers responsibility." And that was that. On Feb. 6, 1945, Brasillach crumpled in front of a firing squad.
Imagine this legal principle of "intellectual crimes" applied after Cuba’s liberation to Castro’s literary and journalistic collaborators, and with transnational enforcement. The mind reels.
Half the staffs of every publication from the New York Times to Le Monde would be dangling from nooses. Every publisher save Regnery and Encounter would be sending flowers in loving memory of half their authors. The door of every faculty office of every liberal arts professor from Harvard to Georgetown and from Berkley to Oxford would sport an RIP note. Every TV network save Fox would find half its anchors marched to the gallows.
See that? … You readers are aghast, right? This fantasy is more proof I’m a "vengeance-seeking Cuban-exile crackpot!"
For the record, I advocate nothing of the sort for liberated Cuba and neither has any Cuban-American. … Here’s a better analogy for the current news cycle: if Hitler had died in 1944 should the Free French have embraced a Nazi regime headed by Goering, Ribbentrop and Himmler? Would enlightened opinion universally denounce the French who balked at such an accommodation as "hard-liners" and "crackpots?"
According to the Cuba Archive Project headed by scholars Maria Werlau and Dr Armando Lago the Castro regime–with firing squads, forced-labor camps and drownings at sea–has caused an estimated 102,000 Cuban deaths. Cuba was a nation of 6.5 million people in 1960. France was nation of 42 million in 1940–and as mentioned, 172,260 of these died from Nazi policies.
My calculator reveals that Castroites caused an enormously higher percentage of deaths among the people they "liberated" and lavished with free and exquisite healthcare than the Nazi’s caused among the French they enslaved and tortured with the SS and Gestapo.
The Free French, having lost a much smaller percentage of their compatriots to the Nazi’s than Cubans lost to the Castroites, demanded the heads of every Nazi, every Nazi collaborator and every person who ever uttered anything nice about a Nazi. At Nuremberg the French helped sentence Goering and Ribbentrop to death. In 1987 they found Lyon Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie in Bolivia, had him extradited, and sentenced him to life in prison. All of this was hailed as justice.
Cuban-Americans merely decline to legitimize the rule of Cuba’s Goerings, Ribbentrops, Himmlers and Barbies–which is to say, a regime that killed (proportionately) five times as many of their Cuban compatriots as the Nazis killed French. Yet everywhere from the New York Times, to the Boston Globe to the Orlando Sentinel to the Wall Street Journal, Cuban-Americans are being portrayed as insufferable, reactionary blockheads, and the Republicans they elect as craven and unprincipled hacks. All this for refusing to cuddle up to a Cuba run by Raul Castro, Che Guevara’s primary rival as the Cuban regime’s chief executioner.
Rumanian General Ion Pacepa was the Soviet blocs’ highest ranking intelligence defector. He knew Raul Castro well and shared his insights in a recent National Review article: "RaÃ?Âºl … has been the brutal head of one of communism’s most criminal institutions: the Cuban political police. I met him in that capacity. He was cruel and ruthless. Fidel may have conceived the terror that has kept Cuba in the Communist fold, but RaÃ?Âºl has been the butcher. He has been instrumental in the killing and terrorizing of thousands of Cubans."
Note that Pacepa regards Castro’s political police as "one of communism’s most criminal institutions." Coming from a man who learned the ropes of his profession from Stalin’s henchmen and who served as Nikolai Ceaucescu’s chief spy, this is saying something.
Had Raul Castro only worn a swastika, Miami Cubans and the Republicans they elect would now be hailed as selfless proponents of decency and justice instead of vindictive quacks.