Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Poles Livid Over Obama Insult, Demand Apology

President Obama put his foot in his mouth again. Big time.

The occasion was the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a unique and heroic individual, Jan Karski.

After the joint Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, Karski, a Polish officer, collected evidence of exactly what the Germans were doing in Poland at places like Auschwitz and risked his life to bring it to British PM Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1943. His evidence included proof of the extermination of the Warsaw Ghetto, and he and others urged the allies to slow up the carnage by taking steps like bombing the railway leading to Aushchwitz-Birkenau. Roosevelt declined to do so, even though other targets in the area not related to the death camps were bombed by the allies.

In his speech, President Obama made reference to 'Polish death camps', something that deeply insulted the Poles, who lost 6 million people to the Nazis, half of them Jews.

The Polish government has been engaging in a campaign to correct errors like this in the media for over a decade.

“We can’t accept such words in Poland, even if they are spoken by a leader of an allied country,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk told journalists in Warsaw today. “Saying Polish concentration camps is as if there was no German responsibility, no Hitler.”

“The president misspoke -- he was referring to Nazi death camps in German occupied Poland,” Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement. “We regret this misstatement.”

So much for President Obama being, in his own words, "a student of history."

The text of Obama’s remarks on the White House website has yet to be corrected as of today.

“The White House will apologize for this outrageous mistake,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski wrote on his Twitter account. “It’s a shame that such a momentous ceremony has been overshadowed by ignorance and incompetence.”

Part of what's going on has been the Obama Administration's shameful treatment of one of our best allies in Europe.

The Poles have always appreciated that it was President Reagan's support for solidarity and his work with the Pope that played a major part in destroying the Evil Empire that enslaved them, and Poland's joining of NATO in 1999 only cemented the close ties.

The Poles, like many other ex-Soviet colonies, saw the US as the ultimate protector of Poland's independence from Russian imperialism, something that strikes a deep historic chord in Poland.

It was Poland who was one of a trio of US allies, along with Britain and Australia, who sent troops to take part in the invasion of Iraq.

The Poles and the Czech Republic took a major risk of antagonizing Russia during the Bush Administration by signing on to President Bush's missile defense system in 2008 and allowing bases in their countries.

Their reward was to be unceremoniously sold out by President Obama, who repudiated the agreement in exchange for a Russian 'reset' that was supposed to include additional Russian assistance with Iran but ultimately netted absolutely nothing..since the Russians already had what they wanted and could afford to sit back and chuckle at our naive and clueless president behind his back. And in an amazing display of ignorance and insensitivity, the announcement that the US was leaving the Poles and Czech twisting in the wind came on on September 17th, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's invasion of eastern Poland during World War II in collaboration with the Nazis.

When Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, the Polish First Lady, and 94 other senior officials died in a tragic and somewhat mysterious plane crash in Smolensk, Russia back in 2010, President Obama claimed he was unable to attend the funeral..and was later caught out on the golf course.

If the Poles seem like they're being far too critical, all one has to do is look at the record. These scripted remarks, read off the president's teleprompter are merely the latest in a series of insults to an ally that merits far better.

If nothing else, it merits a heartfelt apology from the president, not a formulaic statement of 'regrets' delivered by one of his spokesmouths.

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