Reagan hits W. Europe's peace groups
Amid a year-end, worldwide debate over nuclear arms control, President Reagan dismisses antiwar demonstrations in Europe, as communist inspired. His comments, during a broadcast interview, come at a time of tension over the crisis in Poland and when an American team has started arms-control negotiations with representatives of the Soviet Union in Geneva.
''Oh, those demonstrations,'' commented Mr. Reagan in answer to a question by commentator Ben Wattenberg over the Public Broadcasting System. Comparing them with anti-Vietnam war demonstrations in the United States, the President continued, ''You could have used newsreels from the '60s in America. Yes. They are all sponsored by a thing called the World Peace Council, which is bought and paid for by the Soviet Union.''
A tape of the Wattenberg interview was circulated in Washington before it was aired, and it caused sharp debate.
Typical of big peace rallies in Europe is one that attracted an estimated 300 ,000 to 400,000 people in Amsterdam Nov. 21. Helping to precipitate these rallies is the debate in NATO over whether to station nuclear-armed cruise and Pershing II missiles in Europe to counter Russian missiles. Holland is deferring its decision.
These protests are ''all sponsored by a thing called the World Peace Council, which is bought and paid for by the Soviet Union,'' Reagan charged.
Peace groups here agree that the World Peace Council is associated with Moscow. But they argue that the apprehension over the nuclear arms buildup is deep. Simultaneous marches directed against American and Soviet programs occurred Dec. 5 in West Germany, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, and Romania.
According to the advance text of ''Ben Wattenberg at Large,'' Reagan interprets these marches as predominantly anti-American:
''Why aren't there such demonstrations going on in the Soviet Union?'' he asks. There has been a falling off in such parades, he argues, since he ''announced our plan for total disarmament of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.''
In the same interview, Reagan asserts that many New Dealers in Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration wanted fascism.
Reagan also declares that Harold Ickes, Roosevelt's secretary of the interior , later wrote ''that what we were striving for was a kind of modified form of communism.''
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, historian of the Roosevelt era calls the Reagan comment a ''gross distortion of history.''