An Overdue Memorial
Do Wall Street journal
June 13, 2007; Page A18
Considering the enormity of what it commemorates, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, dedicated by President Bush yesterday, is striking for its modest proportions: a 10-foot female figure raising a torch at a busy intersection in Washington, D.C. That’s a fitting rebuke to an ideology that made a fetish of statuary, and murder, on a monumental scale.
The numbers are almost beyond reckoning. Mao Zedong was responsible for 70 million peacetime murders, according to his biographer Jung Chang. The middle estimate of Stalin’s victims is 40 million. Pol Pot slaughtered nearly three million fellow Cambodians in only four years. Ethiopia’s Mengistu killed some 1.5 million opponents in the late 1970s, and contributed to the death by starvation of a million others in the 1980s.
Throughout these and other horrors, Communists always managed to find high-profile apologists among the bourgeois intellectuals: Jean-Paul Sartre for Stalin, Noam Chomsky for Pol Pot, and so on. Some, like Sidney Hook, Arthur Koestler and Whittaker Chambers, repented, but most did not. They may not have been witting accomplices to the butchery, quite. But they are the reason why the West was almost fatally late in recognizing the depth of evil it faced in its communist enemy.
Not by coincidence, yesterday’s dedication took place on the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, calling on the Soviets to “tear down this wall.” Back then, the smart set (and some of his own advisers) said he was a fool for seeking to bring the communist nightmare to an end. Inasmuch as he led the free world in doing so, the memorial is also, inescapably, a tribute to him.