It appears that Vice President Joe Biden is not the only one in the Obama administration who suffers from foot-in-mouth disease. Based on a sidebar report in The Advocate on May 30, the president himself also suffers from the ailment, and with international consequences.
While presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 29 to Jan Karski, a World War II Polish hero who was honored for bringing first-hand news of the existence of Holocaust death camps to President Franklin Roosevelt and other world leaders in the early 1940s, President Barack Obama referred to “Polish death camps.” This characterization was immediately condemned by the Polish minister of foreign affairs as “ignorant and incompetent,” and it did not stop there, creating a national uproar in Poland, with almost-constant reporting of the fact by Polish television for several days. Prime Minister Donald Tusk commented that “Saying ‘Polish concentration camps’ is as if there were no German responsibility, no Hitler.” Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski wrote a formal letter to President Obama, asking for a personal apology, while opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski characterized the statement as “an insult to the Polish nation.” German, French, Israeli and other world press outlets also became involved, as did the European Union.
Why all the fuss? To begin, Poland was the first among European nations to fight Hitler’s Germany, although its horse cavalry-based army was smashed by the German blitzkrieg and Panzer tanks in a few weeks, and the western half of the country was then occupied by Stalin’s colluding Soviet armies. When Hitler and his henchmen decided to exterminate the Jews in Europe, he established his German, Nazi-run death camps among the totally subjugated Polish population in that brutally occupied country. The true facts were downplayed by the U.S. press until Poland was relieved of de facto Soviet occupation following glasnost in the late 1980s, whereupon documentation of what every Pole knew, but was virtually powerless to do anything about, became available to the West.
In the meantime, the facts about Polish suffering, helplessness, and obvious noninvolvement with Hitler’s intentions became lost, and Poland’s reputation was thoroughly besmirched in U.S. media as being a virtual partner in that madman’s unspeakable crimes.
Given that Poland’s people have always been great friends of the U.S., even during the five years of German occupation, followed by 40 years of imposed communism, it would be a horrible shame to alienate them by this latest misrepresentation. Clearly, a personal apology, equally as public as Obama’s error, is in order to set the record straight — as suggested by the head of the Polish parliament, who said, “It would be better, were the apology to come from the president’s own lips, rather than in a letter.”
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