WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Having now witnessed the sympathetic treatment that so many world leaders accorded Saddam Hussein, especially at the United Nations, an unexpected thought occurs: Can Adolf Hitler's reputation, too, be rescued?
I would not have thought so until I witnessed the supportive treatment Saddam's regime has been getting. In France, fully a third of the populace is pulling for him in his war with the "Anglo-Americans."
Who are these Frenchmen? Possibly they are the descendants of those French who collaborated with the Nazis. Has anyone polled them on their present assessment of Hitler? How about polling them on Hitler if he were engaged in war with the Anglo-Americans? Such a poll might mark the beginning of Adolf's comeback in world opinion.
Actually, though Hitler's reputation is dreadful today, this has not always been the case. During the 1930s when French statesmen such as Edouard Daladier and the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain were engaged in negotiations with the Nazis, Herr Hitler inspired hope among Europe's peace-loving democrats. Back then it was the Czechs and that reckless man Churchill who alarmed the bien pensants.
Returning from signing the Munich accords with Hitler, Chamberlain spoke of him as though he were a gentleman of the finest breeding. Now, of course, Hitler's name is a term of abuse. Recently, the venerable Washington correspondent, Helen Thomas, lumped him into a category with President George W. Bush. Those who would resuscitate the German dictator's reputation are going to have their work cut out for them after Thomas' outburst.
Yet Hitlerites everywhere have reason to hope that better days are ahead. Hitler did play rough, but Saddam has played rough, too. And according to my readings of both men's biographies, Saddam has committed atrocities that even Hitler did not commit. Moreover, unlike Hitler, Saddam's personal habits include none of the progressive preferences that we now recognize as politically correct.
For instance, Hitler was a vegetarian and strict opponent of tobacco. Saddam is a raw meat guy and in the familiar film footage of him holding that antique rifle above his fedora, his nicotine-stained fingers really stand out. Hitler was a dog lover, so much so that in his Berlin bunker he personally administered poison to his Alsatian bitch, Blondi, lest she fall into Soviet hands.