June 12, 2007 | Commentary on Political Thought
At a busy intersection on Capitol Hill in Washington, a great wrong is being righted. In the world's most powerful city, a memorial to the victims of an evil ideology is being unveiled. It's high time.
Consider this: Ask almost anyone how many Jews died in the Holocaust, and they will reply, "Six million." That number has been embedded in our minds through books, films, articles, Web sites and lectures. And that's as it should be. We should always remember the "absolute evil" (as Russian studies professor Martin Malia called it) the Nazis carried out during World War II.
But ask almost anyone how many people died under communism in the 90 years since the Bolshevik Revolution. Few can provide anything close to an accurate answer. They don't know that Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and the other rulers of the Soviet Union murdered 20 million people through purges, famines, forced relocations and the infamous Gulag.
They don't know that Mao Zedong and the other Chinese Communist leaders slaughtered 50 million to 60 million people during the "Great Leap Forward," the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square massacre and in the Chinese version of the Gulag--the Laogai.
They don't know that Fidel Castro and the other Cuban Communist leaders have executed thousands of political dissidents since 1959 and continue to imprison those who dare to propose political reform.
They don't know that the communist plague has exacted a death toll of more than 100 million men, women and children, a number documented in "The Black Book of Communism," published by the Harvard University Press. That number surpasses the death tolls of all the wars of the 20th century combined.
The widespread ignorance about the staggering cost of communism must be corrected, and the Victims of Communism Memorial is a major step. It features a 10-foot-high bronze replica of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue erected by Chinese students in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989 (a monument Chinese Communist tanks destroyed within a few days).
We selected the democracy statue (based on our own Statue of Liberty) as a symbol of communism's always-brutal reaction to those who challenge its authority. The statue has become a global symbol of man's innate desire for freedom.
The front pedestal of our statue says, "To the more than one hundred million victims of communism and to those who love liberty." On the back it says, "To the freedom and independence of all captive nations and peoples." These words remind us that one-fifth of the world's population is still forced to live under communism.
No federal funds were used for our memorial, but we did receive the generous help of several foreign governments, led by the Republic of China on Taiwan. And from the beginning of our national, multi-year campaign, we've been supported by many ethnic communities, especially Vietnamese-Americans, who outdistanced everyone else in their financial support.
We look forward to the next steps in our educational program: the creation of a "virtual museum" on the Internet and the construction of a bricks-and-mortar museum and library near Washington.
In recent years, the nation's capital has been favored with a memorial museum about the Jewish Holocaust, as well as a memorial to the veterans of World War II. And we already had fitting memorials to those killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Our memorial to the victims of communism fills in a key part of this historical picture and helps explain that we fought in Korea and Vietnam to help win the Cold War.
Visitors to our memorial will remember the Hungarian patriots killed by Soviet troops and tanks in 1956. They'll remember those who tried for more than a quarter of a century to scale the bare concrete and barbed wire of the Berlin Wall--and the brave "boat people" of Vietnam who risked everything to gain freedom.
We must remember and memorialize the more than 100 million victims of communism so that never again will nations and peoples allow so evil a tyranny to terrorize the world.
Lee Edwards is distinguished fellow in conservative thought at The Heritage Foundation and chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
First appeared in Examiner.com