In a show of force to counter Russian expansionism in the Ukraine, American troops are deploying in the NATO-member nations of Eastern Europe. Six hundred are now in Poland, and more will arrive in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on Monday. The units will participate in war games and will be part of a regular rotation. [Read more…]
To illustrate the point of the “gaffe” post, what did you learn from media coverage of Mitt Romney’s trip to England, Poland, and Israel? That he made people mad at him by questioning England’s Olympic preparedness and Palestinian culture? Anything else? Did you know he made a rather substantive speech in Poland outlining some of his key principles? Whether you are for him or against him, I would think that would be worth at least some coverage. Here is an example of more substantial reporting and analysis from columnist Kathleen Parker:
“Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility and international trade,” said Romney.
“When economists speak of Poland today, it is not to lament chronic problems but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe.”
Romney pointedly spoke of the “false promise of a government-dominated economy,” the importance of stimulating innovation, attracting investment, expanding trade and living within means. . . .
Romney also liberally sprinkled terms that correspond to two of the most important Catholic social justice principles: subsidiarity and solidarity.
Subsidiarity, in addition to being one of the features of federalism, also refers to the theological belief that nothing should be done by a larger, more complex organization that can be accomplished as well by a smaller, simpler organization. As developed by German theologian Oswald von Nell-Breuning, the principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual and emphasizes the importance of small institutions from the family to the church to labor unions.
Inasmuch as the welfare state is an instrument of centralized government, it is in conflict not only with personal freedom but also with Catholic teaching, as John Paul II noted in his 1991 encyclical “Centesimus Annus.” He wrote that the intervention of the state deprived society of its responsibility, which “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”
All of this history and understanding were bound up in Romney’s few, carefully selected words — and Catholic voters surely heard them. They also would have heard “solidarity,” which resonates among America’s working-class Catholics who were inspired by Poland’s labor-led uprising in the 1980s. In what can only be viewed as a crowning achievement, Romney was endorsed by Poland’s former president and iconic labor leader, Lech Walesa. . . .
Romney’s message to voters by way of comments to our allies was that big government is the enemy of individual freedom, both economic and, clearly, religious. While the nation’s gaffe-seekers were enjoying a few moments of snark, Romney was articulating foundational principles with none other than the most prominent community organizer of them all.
In the context of a rather snarky column on congressional junkets, we learn that the ex-Communist countries of eastern Europe are putting on big celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan, something we didn’t really do in the United States:
Yes, we’re told that the codel [congressional delegation], led by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), after a stop to mingle with the troops in Germany, was on hand Monday in Krakow, Poland, to kick off a week of celebrations across Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ronald Reagan. (The birthday was Feb. 6, but . . . it’s a big event.)
Krakow was home to Pope John Paul II for four decades. The events there celebrated the special relationship between Reagan and the pope in the fight against the Soviets.
The traveling party’s next stop was Budapest, where it arrived Tuesday to join the Hungarian parliament’s commemorative session for Reagan. Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was on hand to speak.
A Reagan statue is to be unveiled Wednesday in Freedom Square, where the Soviets left a monument to remind the Hungarians that the Russians saved them from the Nazis. Reagan is staring down that monument, we’re told, looking through it to the U.S. Embassy. The Hungarians are putting on a gala dinner.
April 7 was the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Forest massacre. Here is the story, in brief, a chilling example of Stalin’s tactics, knowing that he was about to take over Poland:
In March 1940, Joseph Stalin signed an order for the mass execution of more than 22,000 Polish officers being held as prisoners of war. The April 1940 executions were systematic: Each office’s hands were tied behind his back, and each was shot with a single bullet through the base of the skull.
According to Poland's conscription system, the Polish officer corps included anyone with a university degree — Poland’s intelligentsia.
“By murdering these people, the Russians created a leadership vacuum,” said Alex Storozynski, the president of the Kosciuszko Foundation.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this, that aircraft went down in Russia, killing 130 passengers, including that country’s president and a big part of its government and military leaders. It crashed in the KATYN FOREST! With tragic irony, the group had just come from the commemoration of the massacre. And there are other connections:
The Polish President and numerous top officials died aboard a TU-154 while trying to land at Smolensk airbase.He was on his way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre which took place in the woods near that city. Lech Kaczyński “was an activist in the pro-democratic anti-Communist movement in Poland … During the martial law introduced by the communists in December, 1981, he was interned as an anti-socialist element. After his release from internment, he returned to trade union activities, becoming a member of the underground Solidarity.” A BBC blog soliciting reader reactions said “Mr Kaczynski has been a controversial figure in Polish politics, advocating a right-wing Catholic agenda.” . . .
Dozens of important Polish officials died with him. Among those in the crash were Poland’s first lady, the head of the National Security Bureau, the Chief of the Polish Army General Staff, the President of the National Bank of Poland and the Bishop of the Military Ordinariate of the Polish Army. In terms of loss it is a miniature of the decapitation event he gone to commemorate: the Katyn Massacre.
After Poland went down before the onslaught of Nazi and Soviet forces in 1939-40, Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria decided to decapitate the country’s society. Since the Polish army required all university graduates to become reserve officers, the NKVD decided to kill two birds with one stone and eliminate the both the trained military manpower of Poland and its “intelligensia”. In 1940 the Communists shot more than 22,000 Polish officers in woods near Smolensk. These included an admiral, two generals, 24 colonels, 79 lieutenant colonels, 258 majors, 654 captains, 17 naval captains, seven chaplains, three landowners, a prince, 20 university professors, hundeds of physicians lawyers, engineers and teachers, more than 100 writers and journalists among others.
In true Bolshevik style, there was a cover story: the Soviets claimed the Nazis did it. But although the Nazis were guilty of many other crimes, Katyn was not one of them. “In April 1943, when the Polish government-in-exile insisted on bringing the matter to the negotiation table with the Soviets and on an investigation by the International Red Cross, Stalin accused the Polish government in exile of collaborating with Nazi Germany, broke diplomatic relations with it, and started a campaign to get the Western Allies to recognize the alternative Polish pro-Soviet government in Moscow led by Wanda Wasilewska.” That government in exile continued until the end of Communist rule in Poland in 1990. In one of the crash’s cruel ironies of the accident, the last Polish President in Exile, Ryszard Kaczorowski, was onboard the doomed aircraft.
Also, see this: The Curse of Katyn.