7.8.04

If I had a hammer

Is Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross a fascist? Of course not.

On 5 August, The Final Word mused:

As interior minister, Stanislav Gross was often accused of using his traffic and other crackdowns to similar political advantage. As premier, he'll be tempted to take this a step further. Don't be surprised if the number of terrorist threats and siren blasts in Prague increases.


The Final Word doesn't back up it's argument, so allow me. Gross was interior minister -- 'the baby-faced minister of fear' -- when protests against the IMF and World Bank turned violent in September 2000. Gross had praised police for their actions that day (like you do). But reports of violent abuse of protesters by police at detention centers became widespread. In the end, an Interior Ministry investigation found that while abuses had occurred, the perpetrators could not be identified. (I've been looking for a copy of that report; if you see it, holler.) So in the end, no one was held accountable.

Gross was among those initially supporting the Prague connection to the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. On 18 December 2001, in an article titled 'Iraq link to Sept 11 attack and anthrax is ruled out', the Telegraph noted:

The story of Atta's possible link to Iraq first surfaced in Czech and US newspapers and later appeared to be confirmed by the interior minister, Stanislav Gross. In a briefing to journalists two months ago, Mr Gross said the Czech counter-intelligence service, the BIS, had evidence of a meeting in April this year between Atta and an Iraqi spy, Ahmed al-Ani, who was working as consul at the Prague embassy.

But yesterday Jiri Kolar, the police chief, said there were no documents showing that Atta visited Prague at any time this year, although he had visited twice in 2000.

Atta could have entered the country using false papers, but Mr Gross questioned why Atta would do so when he was not a wanted man. "I don't see any reason for him to visit under a false name," he said. "He was 'legal' when he was in Germany."


(It's interesting to note that Gross' replacement as interior minister, Frantíšek Bublan, said the supposed meeting between Atta and al-Ani was implausible.)

Fast forward to the Madrid train bombings in 11 March 2004, which provoked discussion on an anti-terrorism law in the Czech Republic. Gross was behaving consistently, putting firm emphasis on protecting his country against violence. In principle, that's a very good thing to see in an interior minister.

In his first week in the prime minister's office, Gross had two opportunities to show what he was made of: 1) a grenade attack on a downtown casino, and 2) an open-air dance party. In both cases, Gross reacted with big swinging arm movements. In response to the grenade attack, he wants to shut down the Casino Royal and clamp down on casinos in general. In response to the techno festival, he sends in the riot troops. (Arellanes has been following the CzechTek story closely.)

Abraham Maslow is credited with saying 'When all you own is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail.' Gross has demonstrated that he knows how to swing his hammer. Question is, will he learn to use any other tools? Let's hope so, inasmuch as Gross will be handling ethnic minorities and human rights in the new government.



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