Thursday, May 31, 2012

If you want to learn how to alienate an ally

look no further than Obama's treatment of Poland. ABC's Jake Tapper gives the details of Obama's latest insult to our most loyal Eastern European ally:

Poles and Polish-Americans expressed outrage today at President Obama’s reference earlier to “a Polish death camp” — as opposed to a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland.
“The White House will apologize for this outrageous error,” Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted.  Sikorski said that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk “will make a statement in the morning. It’s a pity that this important ceremony was upstaged by ignorance and incompetence.”
"Ignorance and incompetence" sounds like the general theme of the Obama administration.
The president had been trying to honor a famous Pole, awarding a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who sneaked behind enemy lines to bear witness to the atrocities being committed against Jews. President Obama referred to him being smuggled “into the Warsaw ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.”
Sikorski also tonight tweeted a link to an Economist story noting that “few things annoy Poles more than being blamed for the crimes committed by the Nazi occupiers of their homeland. For many years, Polish media, diplomats and politicians have tried to persuade outsiders to stop using the phrase ‘Polish death camps’ as a shorthand description of Auschwitz and other exemplars of Nazi brutality and mass murder. Unfortunately this seems to have escaped Barack Obama’s staff seem not to have noticed this.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement, “The President was referring to Nazi death camps operated in Poland. The President has demonstrated in word and deed his rock-solid commitment to our close alliance with Poland.”
Oh, really? Nile Gardiner of the Telegraph gives part of the long list of Obama insults to Poland:

President Obama has a long track record of insulting the Poles. In 2010 he chose to play golf on the day of the funeral of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, the Polish First Lady, and 94 senior officials who perished in the Smolensk air disaster. Eight months earlier he humiliated Warsaw by pulling out of the agreement over Third Site missile defence installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. And last night Barack Obama caused huge offence in Poland by referring to a Nazi death camp in Poland as “a Polish death camp” while awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a Polish resistance fighter.
Here's a li'l hint to our POTUS Who Thinks He's Smarter Than Everyone Else Combined: Hadrian's Wall is located in Britain, but no one calls it a "British ruin." They call it a "Roman ruin." Because the Romans built Hadrian's Wall. Get it?

But Obama doesn't care. Allahpundit:

I said last night that, at the least, [Polish Prime Minister Donald] Tusk and foreign minister Radek Sikorski could expect groveling phone calls from Obama. But I was wrong: To my amazement, Jay Carney told the White House press corps this afternoon that he’s not aware of any plans by Obama to phone either. Can that possibly be true? Calling them “Polish death camps” is profoundly stupid but can be explained away as an accidental lapse in thought. Refusing to call and apologize for the error is much more of a deliberate slight. What’s the hold up, champ?
Obama doesn't care. It's only Poland. Poland actually likes the US, so, in Obama's view, there must be something wrong with them. Jerk.

How bad is this? Well, let's start by letting Stephen Green give the lowlights of Polish history since World War II:
Here’s an incomplete list of Poland’s suffering since 1939, cobbled together from memory and the interwebs.
• Invaded by Nazi Germany, in the first blitzkrieg.
• Warsaw was the first major city to endure terror bombing.
• Eastern Poland invaded by Soviet Union, and annexed.
• Katyn Forest Massacre, in which 20,000 officers — “the pride of Polish manhood” — were killed by Stalin’s order. The idea was to ensure Poland could never rise up again.
• 90% of Polish Jewry — more than three million — wiped out in Hitler’s Holocaust.
• Millions deported to Stalin’s GULAG.
• Millions of Poles removed from their lands in the West to make room for German immigrants.
• Germany’s “General Government” in rump Poland was perhaps the most brutal of all occupation governments in Europe.
• Forced labor in Nazi war plants.
• Warsaw Uprising brutally smashed by the Nazis, as the Red Army sat and watched.
• Suppression of Polish culture, including destruction of monuments and libraries.
• Warsaw suffered more damage than any other European city during six years of war.
• Poland served as the home to most of Germany’s most fearsome death camps, including Auschwitz.
• Six million Poles, Catholic and Jewish, killed in the war.
• Poland did not regain its prewar population level until the 1970s.
• After the war, Stalin imposed a brutal Communist regime on the nation, which lasted for 45 years.
Remember, the Polish people were just as much a target of Hitler as the Jews were. That's one major reason the death camps were largely placed in Poland. Hitler wanted all the Poles of any education -- doctors, lawyers, academics, military officers, etc. -- dead. The rest were to be enslaved. Polish society was largely decapitated by Hitler and Stalin.

And yet:
Despite all of this, it was two Poles — Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II — who did more than any other European leaders to lead the moral crusade against Communist oppression in Europe.
Yup. A tough people, them Poles. I guess I should say, "We Poles," since I am half-Polish.

Green continues:
So to every Pole in Europe, to any Pole anywhere in the world, these things matter. You cannot use the phrase “Polish death camp” without offending tens of millions of Poles. There were no Polish death camps. The Poles were the ones, by and large, in the Nazi and Soviet death camps. And yet, that’s exactly what the author of “smart diplomacy” said last night, at a ceremony that was supposed to honor WWII Polish underground leader Jan Karski.
And yes, dammit, the remarks were prepared. Teh Won, The Smartest Man Ever to Be Elected President™, read “Polish death camp” directly off his teleprompter.
I am outraged. I am ashamed. And I am deeply sorry to Polish people, for my president, and for the tragic series of events that put this merciless SCoaMF in the Oval Office.
And with that, I’ve managed more of an apology than the White House could muster. Instead of a personal apology, Obama sent out a lowly NSC spokesman to say, “The president was referring to Nazi death camps operated in Poland. The president has demonstrated in word and deed his rock-solid commitment to our close alliance with Poland.”
Well isn’t that just dandy. The president himself said about the stupidest, most offensive thing imaginable to an entire people. And by way of apology, SCoaMF had someone nobody has ever heard of explain that of course Teh Won didn’t really make a mistake. He’s the smartest man in the room, don’t you know.
David Frum:
Many of the Nazi death camps were located inside the territory that is now Poland, yes. But it was not Poland in 1942. Poland then was a conquered and enslaved territory. If we are to identify the killers by nationality—rather than by their Nazi ideology as would be most appropriate—then the camps were German, German, German: ordered into being by Germans, designed by Germans, fulfilling a German plan of murder. When they found local thugs to guard the victims and run the killing machinery, even those low-level wretches were very rarely Polish by language or self-conception: they were more typically Ukrainian, because many Ukrainians—with their own sufferings at the hands of Josef Stalin's Soviet regime fresh in mind—were willing to act as German allies in a war that was advertised as a war against the Bolshevism that had starved their fathers, mothers, and children to death in the early 1930s. But Poles? As a Polish friend of mine once bitterly put it, "The Germans despised us so much, they did not even want us as collaborators." [...]

You may say the Poles are over-sensitive. One might as well say that Americans are under-sensitive. The U.S. has had such a comparatively happy history that it's hard to think of a domestic analogy that would capture what Poles feel when the worst crimes of their worst oppressors are attributed—not to the authors—but to them. "The Hawaiian sneak attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor" is a pathetically inadequate approximation, but at least it gets the grammar of the insult. "The Belgian massacre of U.S. prisoners at Malmedy"? No, still not it. Aside from being morally inadequate, such analogies also miss the moral intensity of World War II for Poles. Their war did not end until 1989: they continue to live more intimately with the war's legacy even now, more than almost any other European nation. The medal to Karski was to be part of the process of laying painful memories to rest. It was intended too to strengthen the US-Polish relations that the Obama administration has frayed in pursuit of its "reset" with Russia. Instead, this administration bungled everything: past, present, and future.
I'll give Nile Gardiner the last word:
Weasel words from the White House will do little however to calm Polish anger. After all, these were carefully scripted remarks by the president reading off a teleprompter. Six millions Poles died at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War Two, including three million Polish Jews during the Holocaust. The president’s use of the term “Polish death camp” is hugely insulting to the Polish people, and will reinforce the growing image across Eastern and Central Europe of an American presidency that cares little for key US allies, especially against the backdrop of its controversial and weak-kneed “reset” policy towards Russia. For a US administration that likes to boast of “smart power,” this was an act of staggering historical ignorance as well as crass insensitivity.

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