We’ve come a long way since Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down that wall.”

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is apologizing and making excuses for delivering an anti-communist speech during an informal European Union summit dinner with President Bush.

In fact, judging from the media characterizations of this incident, you would think Berlusconi had said something quite controversial.

An official requesting anonymity claimed Berlusconi had embarrassed his EU partners by patting himself on the back for having “divested” Italy of communism with the victory of his House of Freedom coalition in May.

Reportedly, Berlusconi was asked to cut short his remarks.

Question: In 2001, after the horrors of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and a hundred other communist tyrants, why is it that anti-communism is still a dirty word?

Back in the good old days of the Cold War, most freedom-loving people understood what they were up against. Communism killed. Americans had national security interests to protect. The threat of nuclear war and conventional superpower clashes kept us on our toes.

Not so anymore.

Today the threat to our freedom is more subtle – more insidious.

When Moscow’s hopeless command-and-control totalitarian system imploded, some capitalists and their useful idiots in government realized the whole world was suddenly up for grabs.

Today, international bankers and venture capitalists are calling the shots – maximizing profits and creating a brave new world of “stability” and “interdependence.”

That’s what the EU is all about. That’s what the New World Order is. That’s what all the great global institutions are. They are creations of an elite determined to trample individual rights, destroy national sovereignty and undermine accountability.

Because we know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, we should be alarmed at the soft-pedaling of communism’s history and the parallel move to grant the global elite more authority over our lives – perhaps under a new name.

“About 170 million men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hanged, bombed or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners” in this century, writes University of Hawaii professor R.J. Rummel in his book “Death By Government.”

Most of that death toll came in the 20th century – and most at the hands of communist governments.

“It is as though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague,” he says. But this plague is a “plague of power.”

Rummel’s estimates of the death toll, remember, are based on documentary evidence, in most cases, provided by governments themselves. Thus, the actual number is probably much higher – perhaps as high as 360 million, he says.

Without question, socialist regimes – communist governments – those that monopolize power in government, have been by far the deadliest culprits. Since 1949, for instance, one in every 20 Chinese citizens has been murdered, starved or killed by their own government. More than 50 million civilians wiped out in “peacetime.”

During the last century, four civilians died for every soldier killed fighting in wars.

The Soviet government was the second biggest butcher regime, not only in the last 100 years, but throughout history. Many of the civilian deaths, such as those who died of starvation in Josef Stalin’s Ukrainian terror famine, were murdered by government-dictated quotas. In sheer numbers, the Chinese and Soviet holocausts made Hitler’s look trifling by comparison.

More recently, from 1975 through 1979, more than 2 million Cambodians, or 31 percent of the population, were destroyed by government edict inspired by utopian pipedreams. That belief in power as a tool of changing societies, combined with government’s superior firepower, is the standard operating procedure this century, says Rummel.

To get a picture of just how many people have been exterminated by government, imagine this: If you lined up all these victims and marched them at 3 miles per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with three feet between them, Rummel figures it would take five years and nine months for the grisly parade to end.

Can you think of any reason Berlusconi – or anyone else – should apologize for denouncing communism?

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