January 26, 1996 | Commentary on Russia
In America we have memorials commemorating those who died in the Civil War, both World Wars, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the holocaust, and the civil rights movement. But we have no memorial to the 100 million casualties of the most brutal genocide ever visited upon the human race: communism.
Fortunately, this glaring oversight is about to be rectified. In 1993 -- more than 75 years after the Bolsheviks first embarked on their glorious revolution -- Congress approved and President Clinton signed legislation authorizing a memorial to the victims of communism.
It's long overdue. In all of world history, no political ideology has sent more people to the slaughterhouse than Karl Marx's utopian pipe-dream. Even Hitler, certainly one of history's most demented butchers, killed only one-tenth the number of people that Marx's disciples killed. Yet, most Americans have no idea just how bloody communism's legacy is.
How many Americans, for example, know that between 1917 and 1987 the communist dictators in the former Soviet Union murdered 62 million people? How many know that China, has killed more than 38 million people? These two communist regimes alone have stamped out 100 million human lives -- 25 million more than died in the Black Plague, formerly the world's deadliest disaster.
And this doesn't even include the body count from the smaller communist regimes: Cambodia, 2 million dead at the hands of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge; Vietnam, 850,000 sacrificed to the greater glory of Ho Chi Minh; Ethiopia, tens of thousands slaughtered during Mengistu Haile Mariam's "Red Terror"; and Cuba, whose death toll, while certainly in the tens of thousands, only Fidel Castro knows for sure.
As much as some would like to downplay the horrors of communism (frequently because they viewed the United States as a threat to mankind equal to the regimes committing these horrors), communism's signature has never changed: death.
Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, the philosopher George Santayana said. That's why a memorial to the victims of communism in the nation's capital is necessary and proper.
Future generations must know that when you impose a ruthless ideology by force -- no matter how "well-intentioned" -- the result is human carnage. So it is with a deep sense of honor that I've accepted an invitation to serve on the memorial's advisory board.
Fittingly, the memorial also will celebrate those heroes who made possible the West's victory over tyranny. As observed by my colleague and long-time Cold Warrior Hugh Newton -- to whom credit goes for the idea of an anti-communist Hall of Heroes -- without the likes of Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Lech Walesa and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among others, we'd still be worried about trading missiles with Russia, rather than trading goods.
As befits a memorial to the victims of government-sponsored violence, the project will be funded entirely with private money. The goal is to raise $100 million -- one dollar for each of the 100 million victims of Marx and Mao.
In addition to a roll call of every victim of communism that can be identified and the Hall of Heroes, the memorial also will feature a Hall of Infamy -- artifacts of communism's inhumanity to man, including a section of the Berlin Wall, a re-creation of a barracks from the Soviet Gulag, a "room" at the Hanoi Hilton and a cell at Castro's infamous Isle of Pines.
If you would like to join many of us and contribute to the creation of this memorial, I encourage you to do so. Just write to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 1997, Washington, DC 20013-1997. Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao will never be forgotten, and neither should their victims.