April 2002   česky

My God, they're everywhere. Agent Dostoyevsky was apparently not the only member of the former secret police to find work in the Castle Guard. A comrade from the old days had also been exposed and dismissed last year. The person responsible for the Castle detail, another loyal servant of the former regime, insists the reason he didn't do a more thorough check of his personnel was because the law didn't demand it. In the meantime, he plans to stay right where he is. Just as disturbing as the security breakdown has been the overall silence from President Havel. Not so much for what he hasn't said about it today, but why he failed to say anything about it when the case first unfolded nearly a year ago. Nor has the former dissident had much to say about the revelation that two dissident-baiting prosecutors from the Communist era are still at their desks today. Both men have declared they have clean consciences, with one employing a bit of Stalinist rhetoric by saying, "I was just a cog in the machine." Of course, his statement was no more absurd than the one coming from the justice minister, who oversaw their appointments. "I didn't have a crystal ball to look into their pasts," was his excuse. Fortunately a crystal ball isn't required in the case of Alois Grebenicek, who took part in the infamous electric shock torture of political prisoners during the 1950s. What is required is a judge a little less keen on being a cog in the machine. His day in court has dragged on for five years, supposedly due to his poor health, and the judge has just given him another stay. No conclusions should be drawn just because the judge is a former Communist and Grebenicek happens to be the father of the current leader of the Communist Party. It's all one big family here. Nothing illustrates this better than the continuing controversy surrounding President Benes and his decrees. In spite of overwhelming public support for the decrees, the government is worried that the German point of view is getting too much sympathetic coverage in this country. That was meant as a swipe at two of the largest Czech dailies, both of which are owned by German media concerns. To counteract this so-called germanization of national opinion, the government plans to issue a textbook with the real story behind the decrees. When the leading historians were asked about their participation in the project, their reply was more or less, "What textbook?" The Premier, who started the whole mess with a couple of uncouth remarks, has taken to strong-arming every leader he meets and have him come out on the Czech side. It was only inevitable that the president, still revered more abroad than at home, would have to say something about it sooner or later. In an op-ed piece for several European newspapers, he tried to paint a portrait of Edvard Benes as a grand European statesman undermined by his allies at Munich in 1938. It shouldn't be held against him for capitulating first to the Capitalists, then to the Nazis, finally to the Communists, and somewhere in between this mess expelling the largest minority from the country. The two largest political parties also see nothing wrong with such a legacy and had even hoped to heap further honors on him. The Castle declined, saying Benes already had every honor he deserved. They had to settle instead for a resolution by Parliament declaring the decrees to be "untouchable". The resolution was passed unanimously, with some of the MPs, from the left and the right, showing up for the vote decked out in nationalist slogans that were short on taste and long on childishness. Another resolution, whether to work an extra Saturday in order to finish the legislative session, was received with much less enthusiasm. All this talk about the war and its aftermath has precipitated a state of siege in Prague, and so when the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article about Easter in the Czech Republic, that was the last straw. The article asked whether the Czechs were barbarians on account of the fact that they beat their women as an Easter tradition. Instead of simply taking pride in the country's pagan past, one newspaper counterattacked by declaring that Americans were themselves barbarians for letting their children dress up and scare one another on Halloween. In other words, "Screw you!" The new nationalism could all be a pretense for the campaign season, and lest Europe forget, the Czechs put their own Le Pen out to pasture during the last election. But the resurgence of the real Le Pen might make the European Union less willing to put up with the nationalist comeuppance of party bosses like Klaus. When the invitation to join the Union finally comes and Klaus replies with one of his insufferable monologues, Brussels might choose to look over his shoulder and say, "Next?"