Things we believed during the Cold War that ended up being wrong
The guano-iest of all was doubtless Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu. A man who was to sanity what nitro is to glycerine, Ceausescu ran the cruelest, craziest government in Eastern Europe, starving his people to death so he could build a giant super palace. Yet Western leaders accommodated and worked with him because his Romania stayed independent from Moscow. The British even invited him on a royal visit (above) that culminated in the Queen giving him a knighthood. The honor was only rescinded the day before his execution (via The Guardian). Before any American readers start shaking their heads about those crazy Brits, it should be noted that Washington was at least as willing to work with Communist regimes as London. The U.S. pumped crazy money into Tito's Yugoslavia, while also helping shore up some mad dictators. According to PBS, Jimmy Carter — of all people — helped Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge keep Cambodia's seat at the U.N. after their overthrow, and helped fund their fight against the Vietnamese. Awkward.