Monday, September 06, 2004

Action Heroes

Anyone who stops by here regularly (for the free beer, not the conversation) knows that Mark D. Lew (MDL), a regular in the "comments" section has a voluminous knowledge of Islamic history and a deep concern for the future of that culture. At his own weblog, Benzene, he's recently posted his analysis of the decline of classical Islam. When you peel back the clash of civilizations and find what's behind it all, this looms large. I highly recommend his commentary.

He also wonders, "Did Arnold Schwarzenegger really try to represent Austria as if it was a country behind the Iron Curtain?"

Not entirely, but he did mention Soviet tanks in the country, and, despite the "ah-has" of the AP, CNN and a lot of liberal commentators, he seems to me to have been right, as far as that goes:

When I was a boy, the Soviets occupied part of Austria. I saw their tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes. I remember the fear we had when we had to cross into the Soviet sector. Growing up, we were told, "Don't look the soldiers in the eye. Look straight ahead." It was a common belief that Soviet soldiers could take a man out of his own car and ship him off to the Soviet Union as slave labor.

My family didn't have a car -- but one day we were in my uncle's car. It was near dark as we came to a Soviet checkpoint. I was a little boy, I wasn't an action hero back then, and I remember how scared I was that the soldiers would pull my father or my uncle out of the car and I'd never see him again. My family and so many others lived in fear of the Soviet boot. Today, the world no longer fears the Soviet Union and it is because of the United States of America!

Austria, like Germany, was divided into sectors at the end of the war. The division lasted until 1955. Schwarzenegger was born July 30, 1947, in Styria, in the southeastern part of the country (I've never been there, but I was in nearby Carinthia, which is beautiful). The Soviets had overrun this region at the end of the war, but according to a pre-agreement among the allies, they pulled back and yielded Styria and Carinthia to the British.

But everywhere east and north of Styria was in the Soviet zone. Anyone who wanted to go from Styria to Vienna, the capital, had to pass through the Soviet zone to get there, checkpoints and all. Here's a map.

"It's a fact -- as a child he could not have seen a Soviet tank in Styria," said historian Stefan Karner. Of course it's a fact. But he never said he saw them there.