Saturday, June 26, 2004


CASABLANCA, APRIL 16, 1946 (AP) - The Allies today opened the final campaign of the war in Europe, with a vast thre-pronged invasion into the last bastion of fascism in Europe.

Some 20,000 American troops embarked from French Morocco and hit the beaches of southwestern Spain near Cadiz and Seville, blasting their way 5 miles inland by dusk, in the face of stiff resistance. Meanwhile British bombers based off Gibraltar pounded Spanish military instalations far inland.

To the north, a separate Anglo-American invasion fleet, based in Marseilles and backed by battleship firepower, landed north of Barcelona. The city was partially in flames tonight, its cathedral spires toppled. Meanwhile, paratroops dropped inland. And Basque partisans, on signal from the Allies, siezed border posts in the Pyrennes and threw open their gates to Allied convoys from southern France.

History that might have been. Jose, my online friend from Spain, has reminded me that the Allied victory over fascism was incomplete in 1945. We left one dictator -- Franco -- in power. Though not an active combatant, he was as bad as Mussolini, if not Hitler, and the notorious caudillo was allowed to linger in power as a distant friend of America till he died of old age in 1975. Spain is still recovering from his scars, and the people of Spain, I have learned from Jose, are still bitter over this. It is part of the reason, I am told, they do not trust us, or support us, in Iraq.

We should have finished the job. What third way was there between that and dealing with Franco as an unpleasant reality? Isolate him and starve him out? The experience of Iraq teaches the impossibility of doing that to a tyrant. As the ultimate power in a country, he is able to gather in the resources and stay safe amid his inner circle, while the people who would oppose him suffer the most, and soon find themselves too weakened to mount resistance. Spain likely would have been no easier than Iraq to isolate, with its long and convoluted coastline and with willing smugglers in Portugal, North Africa, and Andorra.

But would Spain have welcomed a second D-Day? Air bombing in France during the war claimed an estimated 60,000 civilian casualties. Another 20,000 French civilians died in "other military operations" ("other" than the fall of France in 1940), largely associated with the liberation of their country from the Nazis (a liberation many French did not particularly desire).

Some 11,912 tons of bombs were dropped in Normandy on D-Day alone, to try to blast German resistance on the coast and inland. The Allied bombings of railway yards alone in 1944 are said to have killed at least 3,411 civilians. The city of St. Lo was leveled by bombing to allow Patton to break out a few days after D-day, and the simultaneous Allied bombing of Caen is said to have killed 5,000 civilians in a day.

Robert Lilly, criminology professor at Northern Kentucky University, author of "The GIs' Hidden Face," estimates 3,620 rapes by U.S. soldiers in France from June 1944 to June 1945, based on military records he analyzed. Some accuse him of being an anti-American. I don't know if he is or not, but publishing this by itself does not prove it. In fact, it rather supports modern America's blundering but sincere bid to free Iraq, by pointing out that even the most lauded such efforts of history are attended by the inevitable tragedies and crimes of war.

So what do you say, Spain?