President George W. Bush’s extraordinary public confession that the U.S. and its wartime allies betrayed hundreds of millions of people when they allowed Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to enslave half of Europe in 1945 deserves applauding.
That Bush’s VE-Day condemnation is true—and many politicians have privately mumbled about this betrayal over the decades—doesn’t make his stance less profound.
Unlike so many other world leaders, Bush has now shouldered his country’s—and that of other western nations—responsibility for perhaps the greatest sellout in world history.
We let a ruthless dictator, who already had the blood of 11 million Ukrainians on his hands, and that of millions more of his own people, encircle Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and East Germany.
He had already grabbed Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The countries were looted of whatever wealth they had, dissenters shot, and the entire region turned into one vast labour camp.
The western allies never lifted a finger. Hypocritically, Britain ostensibly went to war against Nazi Germany to save Poland, but after the war let a dictator just as brutal have it.
Worse, the West had the atomic bomb—and Stalin didn’t. We had every moral right to threaten to use it if Stalin didn’t retreat, but never said a word.
It wasn’t until Sir Winston Churchill made his infamous speech at Fulton, Mo., in 1946, that anyone really raised the alarm about Soviet aggression.
Said Churchill: “Beware … time may be short … from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
The reaction wasn’t one of applause—many people charged Churchill with being a war-monger.
Newly installed Democratic President Harry Truman was so furious he swore he’d never shake Churchill’s hand again, and, offered to send a battleship to the Soviet Union to transport Stalin to the U.S. to refute Churchill’s accusations.
Today, Truman is painted as a foe of communism, but his conversion didn’t come until the midterm elections after the Churchill speech when the Republicans made huge gains in seats. With that, Truman seemed to suddenly see reality and put into motion the establishment of NATO and the CIA and blocked a communist takeover of Greece.
The deal to hand over Eastern Europe to Stalin was made at Yalta, in the Crimea, in 1945 by the ailing President Franklin Roosevelt, with a distrustful Churchill himself at his side. Churchill’s role at a further meeting was weakened since in the British elections he had lost his job as PM.
Stalin had pleaded that after the savage attack by Germany, he needed a ‘security corridor’ around his nation.
Roosevelt, advised among others by one of his top aides, Alger Hiss, a man Moscow has now admitted was a Soviet spy and an agent of influence, fell for Stalin’s bluff.
With that, Eastern Europe went down the drain for 50 years until President Ronald Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II used their political, military and moral power respectively to overthrow communism.
Not that its victims hadn’t tried to shake off their yokes earlier. There were riots in East Berlin in 1953. In 1956, came a revolution in Hungary—at the urging of Radio Free Europe, and with an implied promise the U.S. would come to their assistance—that was bloodily put down by Nikita Khrushchev. Then in 1968 came the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia which was also suppressed by the Soviets.
The 1980s saw the Poles pushing the limits under Lech Walesa—the catalyst for the eventual fall of communism.
Finally, though, in Bush we have a man who now admits a great “mistake” was made in 1945 when the Allies decided not to take on the Soviet Union and free the captive nations.
Added Bush, “we will not repeat the mistakes of other generations by appeasing or excusing tyranny and sacrificing history in the vain pursuit of stability.”
There was an implied message in Bush’s words that apply to the terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and the dictators in other Middle East countries: Their regimes are coming to an end.
Democracy is on the march. This time, the U.S. will not be found wanting.
Bush may not yet be of the stature of Reagan—but, despite his hysterical detractors, he is turning out to be a president of some substance.
Copyright ? 2005 Paul Conrad Jackson.
Click here to read Paul Jackson’s full and fascinating biography. Paul Conrad Jackson is one of Canada’s most distinguished and thought-provoking journalists. He is currently senior political commentator for the Calgary Sun and other related newspapers, after being both Editor and Associate Editor for a number of years. Mr. Jackson has interviewed such world famous political figures as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Diefenbaker, Brian Mulroney, Pierre Trudeau, Yitshak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu.