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A number of readers gleefully savaged the American soldiers who urinated on the Taliban. “How many women and children have these brave soldiers killed?” asked one. A running theme was that American soldiers are, as one reader put it, “typical American white trash.” Indeed, the words “white trash” recurred frequently. Left-wing readers who undoubtedly pride themselves on their purported respect for people (especially the underprivileged) of all races and religions, and who fret about the human rights of even the most loathsome members of the species (such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden), were quick to deride American GIs as poor, dumb – and, indeed, barely human – hicks: “There’s no doubt that white trash from the US…have lukewarm attitudes toward morality. Without the local minister and sheriff they fumble around, unwashed and drunk, and rape, kill, and film their crimes. They’re garbage.”
Readers who would surely never breathe a critical word about Islam sneered about the nauseating religiosity of American Christians. Several proffered social analyses founded on familiar stereotypes: “This [urinating on the enemy] probably has something to do with American sexual morality. This reminds them of a sexual act, and that’s a no-no in America. But violence and murder are totally OK.” Two or three readers even took the opportunity to attack the Marshall Plan, the purpose of which, they had apparently been taught, was not to help but to exploit. The following reader comment was representative of many in its pure, unhinged enmity:
“USA! Degenerate land that steadily gets worse and worse! The world’s misery springs out of that country. Soon it will be Iran’s turn [because Americans are] horny for war. [Kill who you want, women, children, it doesn’t matter to America] as long as the money rolls in. Evil, perfectly set in system!”
Why bother with Mr. Svarstad’s silly article and with his readers’ even sillier comments? Partly because the whole thing is a sobering lesson in the power of disinformation. Back in the 1940s, when Americans soldiers were putting their lives on the line to free Europe, could even the most cynical of them have imagined that within a couple of generations, thanks to an army of determined European journalists and schoolteachers, their sacrifice would have been turned into exploitation, their heroism into villainy, in the minds of countless Europeans? Could they ever have conceived that one day the grandchildren of the people they freed from totalitarianism would be maligning them in the most condescending terms and denying that they had done anything worthwhile? It is instructive to be reminded just how quickly, and easily, white can become black and black can become white in the minds of millions.
But this story is not just about disinformation but about moral sickness. For some of the people who posted comments on Mr. Svarstad’s article are not, in fact, ignorant. They know better. They know history. Yet something perverse in their souls drives them to spit on people who have protected them and bow to those who would destroy them. It is an aspect of human nature that is nothing less than chilling.
One thing that certainly comes through clearly in the comments on Svarstad’s article is that in the minds of many Europeans, the Holocaust is barely a footnote. They know that the Nazi occupying forces in Norway rounded up Jews and sent them to their deaths, but, to put it bluntly, they don’t really care.
Until I read Svarstad’s article, I knew nothing about Colby’s operation. I went and looked it up. A CIA account of it concludes as follows:
Within just a few weeks, Major Colby and his men succeeded in sabotaging a key bridge and numerous railroad lines throughout Norway. They strategically delayed the southern movement of German troops and drastically hindered the German war effort.
While Operation RYPE had a significant military impact, the political impact of the operation was even more enduring. The Norwegians recognized the American loss of life on their soil on behalf of their freedom, and the alliance between the two countries was strengthened.
Major Colby was honored with the Silver Star and St. Olaf’s Medal to commemorate the valor he displayed in leading this strategic operation.
Toward the end of Colby’s own very absorbing chronicle of Operation RYPE, we read the following:
Then we skied to Snasa, where we were treated like heroes, the mayor proclaiming our virtues. All the way to Trondheim we proceeded to the cheers of the people who were reading glowing accounts in the press. Everywhere we appeared, bands gave out with the Star Spangled Banner. It was thrilling to hear the national anthem under those circumstances
But the rest of this story is routine. We supervised the surrender and policed 10,000 Germans at Namsos, and we acted as honor guard for Crown Prince Olaf on his return to Trondheim and accompanied him in the parade in his honor on 10 June.
We got to Oslo eight days later, and the men were given furloughs to visit their old homes. They were highly acclaimed.
One conclusion to be drawn from all this, perhaps, is that if you want to free people from some monstrous despot, go ahead. They may indeed cheer you in the streets when you’re done. But be prepared for their grandchildren to spit on your grave.
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