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“Thus Ever to Tyrants”

From November 9, 1921, until July 25, 1943, Benito Mussolini and his Fascist Party ruled Italy with a rod of iron. Early on, the Italians might have complained a little about some of the inconveniences and their loss of some freedoms, but they mollified themselves by pointing out, “Yes, but he made the trains run on time.”

But fascism, like all big-government schemes, never delivered on its utopian promises. Rather, things got only worse as the government grew more intrusive and dictatorial. And then Mussolini, in an attempt to revive the glories of the ancient Roman Empire, embarked on a series of military exploits in East Africa, Greece, Albania, and North Africa that resulted in disaster.

Mussolini was arrested and imprisoned in July 1943, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Sicily. The Fascist government in Italy collapsed shortly thereafter, but the German army still controlled northern Italy, and installed a puppet government there. The Allies invaded Italy on September 9, 1943.The Germans also were keeping track of where Mussolini was being imprisoned, and they conducted a daring raid, Operation Eiche, on September 12 to rescue him. But his freedom was short-lived. Italian partisans captured him on April 28, 1945, and executed him and his mistress, Clara Petacci, the next day. They strung up their bodies by their heels as a public display. Fascism in Italy came to an ignominious end.

The motto of the state of Virginia is a fitting reminder of what happens to dictators and tyrants: Sic semper tyrannis, “thus ever to tyrants.” As far back as one can go in history, tyranny never succeeds in the long run. The lives of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito and Tojo, Nicolai Ceausescu, Saddam Hussein, and all other dictators and tyrants. The world’s current roster of tyrants, large and small, will face the same outcome in time. Such is one lesson from history. When will would-be tyrants learn? How many people must suffer while they fail to learn it?

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