WASHINGTON -- The real surprise about the New Year's Eve riots targeting German women, now definitely attributed to Middle Eastern and North African immigrants, is why there should have been any surprise at all.
Yet for days, everyone on the scene was amazed. And worse, they were silent, even though the police -- finally! -- released a report about a chaotic and shameful evening in which women were forced to "run a 'gauntlet' through masses of heavily intoxicated men that words cannot describe."
The police in Cologne did not even mention the assaults for days -- until the press did and so many women came forward. Later reports added that the police had not called for backup. Still later reports had the innocents-at-home asking in Germany, had men who came to Europe supposedly for refuge attacked hundreds of women in front of the exquisite Cathedral of Cologne, the greatest insult possible?
Then, little by little, it began to dawn on people at the dawn of the New Year -- and perhaps also the dawn of a new European age -- that their assumption that Middle Eastern men would act just like European men was what was fatally flawed. Even as the mayor of Cologne was advising women to keep "an arm's length" from men, other voices were more appropriately worried.
The right-wing Alternative for Germany party blamed Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal "multicultural" policies for the assaults, declaring on its website that the "violence of New Year's Eve was the first result of a dangerous mix of uncontrolled immigration, inexcusable failure of government and political interference."
And Mina Ahadi, head of a campaign group, the Central Council of Ex-Muslims, spoke of the "problem" radicalized Arab and other Muslim men often have with women. "For them, women are dirty," she was quoted in the Financial Times. "They are sex objects to be enjoyed in the home and allowed outside only in the burka and in the company of a man."
I have covered the Middle East in long visits since 1969. I find it fascinating, and often, emotionally engaging. But one of the first things a correspondent learns is, "Don't get in the middle of an Arab crowd." The advice was sound.
Recall, please, the case of Lara Logan, a beautiful and respected CBS foreign correspondent, who was sent to Cairo in February 2011 to cover the first blossoming of the Arab Spring, where 100,000 or so people jammed Tahrir Square.
Although Lara had taken every precaution, she soon lost her guards and fellow journalists as the celebrators of "liberation" turned to murder. First her clothes were torn off her, her panties ripped into ribbons; then they were "raping me with their hands" and smashing her muscles, as she later testified in a "60 Minutes" interview.
In the end, "they were trying to tear off chunks of my scalp; they had my head in different directions ... holding big wads of it, literally trying to tear my scalp off my skull. ... I thought, not only am I gonna die here, but it's gonna be just a torturous death that's going to go on forever and ever and ever."
After about half an hour, Lara was helped to escape the horrors of "Liberation Square," but only through the intercession of black-robed Egyptian women. She was in the hospital at home for days and still suffers from the grotesque attacks.
And Egyptians, in everyday life, are the sweetest and kindest of the Arabs. While the Syrians have always had a reputation similar to the Iraqis, whose demographic history they share, as a clever, but cruel population always ruled by a dictator.
In allowing into their country this mixed bag of Syrians, Iraqis, Nigerians, Eritreans and Arabs of all stripes -- the great majority of them young men -- the Germans obviously did not understand that this sort of attack happens regularly across the Arab world. Even more interesting, it now turns out that they have already occurred in Denmark, Sweden and other European countries with Middle Eastern immigrants, not to speak of Stuttgart, Hamburg and Berlin for that selfsame New Year's Eve "celebration."
In every case, the story was also the same: The authorities and the police did not want to feed any prejudice against immigrants or refugees. So, let the women of Germany absorb the follies of the high-minded!
Giving form to the fantasies of multiculturalism is the idea that all men (and supposedly, all women) are alike. Culture? Oh, that will fall off! Historical memories? What are those compared to our noble intentions? Experience? Heck, maybe those men in Cologne had headaches when they went out this New Year's, or they were going to the cathedral to understand Christianity better!
Europe this New Year's thus began what is surely going to be a long journey into remaining Germans, French and English, or becoming, and in the not-too-distant future, a mishmash of peoples whose values and virtues are simply to be stomped upon by foreigners with their own agendas.
Last spring, the hour was early; now the hour is already late.