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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


May 22, 2006

ROME - If you ever wonder why journalists become cynical, look at this week's events in Italy and Libya.

Romano Prodi's new center-left coalition, which won power April 9th in a razor-thin vote, appointed Giorgio Napolitano, leader of Italy's `reformed' Communist Party, to be president of Italy. This position is mostly ceremonial but commands great prestige.

It is appalling the leader of a party whose roots spring from the mass murder of Josef Stalin's totalitarian Soviet Union could be appointed president of a leading western democracy, and feted by EU heads of state.

Imagine a `reformed National Socialist' becoming Germany's president. The heavens would ring with outrage. Yet Stalin alone murdered four times the number Hitler and opened death camps a decade earlier. And add Chairman Mao's 30 million victims to the Red butcher's bill.

CIA spent hundreds of millions in Italy the 1950's and 60-'s to thwart a Communist takeover, and now, ironically, in comes a Communist President. No protests came from Washington. Communists today are US allies; Muslims have become the Principal Adversary.

President Neapolitano's presence will be a daily reminder that Stalin's monstrous crimes still go largely unrecognized and unpunished while we pursue 90-year old SS veterans. Families of the 6-8 million victims of Ukraine's Holocaust should lead protests against Italy being led by an offspring of Stalin's empire of murder.

Another outrageous, if more amusing, act of hypocrisy came this week as the Bush Administration waved its magic moral wand and declared former arch Libyan terrorist Muammar Khadaffi a `reformed' non-terrorist. Washington and Tripoli are reopening diplomatic relations, meaning US oil firms can return to pump and export Libya's much sought high grade oil.

Here's how Khadaffi got out of the dog house. Back in 1969, Britain ran oil-rich Libya through a puppet ruler, King Idriss. The US coveted Libya's oil. So CIA mounting a coup against Idris and helped into power an unknown officer, Muammar Khadaffi.

But instead of being a puppet, the eccentric Khadaffi emerged as an ardent Arab nationalist. He promptly raised the price of Libya's oil, infuriating the west. Khadaffi's defiance encouraged other Arab oil producers to follow, making him Washington's enemy number one.

Khadaffi's support of numerous anti-western, anti-Israeli militants, caustic verbal attacks on US Mideast allies, and the still murky bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by US troops, put him into US gunsights.

In 1986, the Reagan Administration tried to assassinate Khadaffi by a nighttime bombing of his Tripoli home. Khadaffi was brooding in a tent, and thus escaped, but 87 other Libyans became `collateral damage.' Khadaffi led me by the hand through the wreckage of his bedroom, showing me where a US 2,000 lb bomb killed his infant daughter.

Afterwards, the British, French and Americans mounted at least eight plots to assassinate Khadaffi who was viewed as a serious threat to western economic and political interests in northern Africa. In revenge, Khadaffi's agents blew up a French and American airliner. Libya was punished with tight sanctions.

Khadaffi knew he had used up most of his nine lives. So the wily Libyan conceived a clever plan. First, Libya handed over two hapless mid-level security agents for prosecution in the Pan Am bombing. The real perpetrator, with whom I dined in Tripoli, was never charged.

Next, Khadaffi secretly bought tons of black market nuclear machinery it couldn't use from Pakistan. Then, Khadaffi made a deal with Washington to hand over the nuclear junk to the US with great fanfare.

Washington proclaimed it had defeated a major `terrorist nuclear threat' and had rehabilitated the formerly wicked Khadaffi. The US could resume pumping Libyan oil and elbow growing European and Asian competitors from Libya. Khadaffi, now in Washington's good books, had his continuing rule blessed by Uncle Sam

As for the victims of the French and Pan American airliners downed by Libyan agents, oh well, as Kissinger used to say, `that's Realpolitik.'

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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