ROME -- If you ever wonder why journalists become cynical, look at this week's events in Italy and Libya.
Romano Prodi's new centre-left coalition, which won power April 9 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 that 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 European Union heads of state.
Imagine a "reformed National Socialist" becoming Germany's president. The heavens would ring with outrage. Yet Stalin murdered four times the number Hitler killed, and opened death camps a decade earlier. Then add Chairman Mao's 30 million victims to the Red butcher's bill.
The CIA spent hundreds of millions of dollars in Italy in 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 U.S. allies. Muslims have become the "Principal Adversary".
President Napolitano's presence will be a daily reminder that Stalin's monstrous crimes still go largely unrecognized and unpunished. Families of the six to eight million victims of Ukraine's holocaust should lead protests against Italy being led by an ideological offspring of Stalin's empire of murder.
Another outrageous, if somewhat amusing, act of hypocrisy occurred last week as the Bush administration waved its magic moral wand and declared former arch-Libyan terrorist Moammar Khadaffy a "reformed" non-terrorist. Washington and Tripoli are reopening diplomatic relations, meaning U.S. oil firms can return to pump/export Libya's high grade oil.
Here's how Khadaffy got out of the dog house. Back in 1969, Britain ran oil-rich Libya through a puppet ruler, King Idriss. The U.S. coveted Libya's oil. So the CIA mounted a coup against Idris and helped into power an unknown officer, Moammar Khadaffy. But instead of being a puppet, the eccentric Khadaffy emerged as an ardent Arab nationalist. He promptly raised the price of Libya's oil, infuriating the West.
Khadaffy's defiance encouraged other Arab oil producers to follow, making him Washington's enemy number one.
Khadaffy's support of anti-western, anti-Israeli militants, verbal attacks on U.S. Mideast allies, and the still murky bombing of a Berlin disco frequented by U.S. troops, put him into U.S. gunsights. In 1986, the Reagan administration tried to assassinate Khadaffy by a nighttime bombing of his Tripoli home. Khadaffy escaped, but 87 other Libyans became "collateral damage." Khadaffy led me by the hand through the wreckage of his bedroom, showing me where a massive U.S. bomb had killed his infant daughter.
Afterwards, the British, French and Americans mounted at least eight plots to assassinate Khadaffy, who was viewed as a threat to western economic and political interests in northern Africa. In revenge, Khadaffy's agents blew up a French and American airliner. Libya was punished with tight sanctions.
Khadaffy 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 was never charged.
Next, Khadaffy secretly bought tons of black market nuclear machinery he couldn't use from Pakistan. Then he made a deal with Washington to hand over the nuclear junk to the U.S. with great fanfare. Washington proclaimed it had defeated a major "terrorist nuclear threat" and had rehabilitated the formerly wicked Khadaffy. Khadaffy, now in Washington's good books, has his continuing rule blessed by Uncle Sam. As for the victims of the French and Pan American airliners downed by Libyan agents? Oh, well, that's "realpolitik".