What the Jan Karski Gaffe Really Means
By Bruce Walker
June 4, 2012
In the 1976 presidential debates President Ford stated “Poland is no longer under Communist domination.” Americans liked Gerald Ford but he had seemed a bumbling president. His comment about Poland , however, fixed Ford forever into the image of a clueless ignoramus. Ford’s “Polish Moment” probably cost him a close presidential election.
Barack Obama had a “Polish Moment,” when during a ceremony to honor the late Jan Karski, he spoke of “Polish death camps.” Karski was an extraordinary man. His book, The Story of a Secret State, is harrowing, inspiring, horrifying and noble. Written in the middle of the Second World War, Karski tells how an entire underground government was created in Nazi-occupied Poland and how under the grimmest situation possible the Polish people not only resisted the Nazis but created an elaborate organization which made the French Resistance look pathetically lame.
Karski, a Polish Catholic, also sought out Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto before the 1943 uprising and recorded their desperate cry to the civilized world. Karski was captured and tortured by the Gestapo, and except for the help of religiously devout Poles, he would have been tortured to death by the Nazis. His life was a testament to the resilience of the Polish people – Catholic and Jewish – to totalitarianism.
Caught between two of the vilest systems in human history, Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia , the Polish people suffered in Nazi death camps where six million Poles – Jewish and Catholic alike – died. The extermination of Polish Catholics, as well as Polish Jews, was described in Sophie’s Choice, a book and then a film.
Before the Nazis began exterminating Poles, the Soviets herded over 1.5 million Polish men, women and children in cattle cars to Gulag camps where most died, or suffered from deliberate policies of starvation; the Soviets also murdered in cold blood 20,000 Polish officers by the Red Army in the Katyn Forests. After the war ended, the Polish people suffered forty-four years of Soviet enslavement (a fact which eluded President Ford in 1976.)
Pope John Paul II, the “Polish Pope” who was a hero to Jews and Catholics alike, took his name from a Polish priest who volunteered to die for a terrified Polish man in a Nazi death camps. He, like many other Poles, resisted both Nazis and Soviets during the dark night of Poland which began in 1939 and ended in June 1989, when free elections effectively ended the power of the Communist puppet government and doomed the Soviet empire.
It is hard to imagine a more outrageously wrong statement than to speak of “Polish death camps” and the conventional conclusion has been that Barack Obama is every bit as ignorant as conservatives have feared. About four years ago at a speech in West Lafayette, Indiana, he spoke of “…the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor,” with the clear implication that somehow this child of Hawaii had no clue at all about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
This fits in with what J.R. Dunn wrote last August how Obama stared passively for long minutes at the teleprompter until it feds him the words to speak. “We’re waiting,” our president explains, as the electronic brain which guides his mouth began to work. Think what that means: when Gerald Ford made his boneheaded statement about Poland being free in 1976, it was in the middle of a nationally televised presidential debate and it was came from Ford’s own mind, but when Obama talked of “Polish death camps” in his tribute to the Polish Catholic hero, Jan Karski, this was not his mistake.
Barack Obama read those lines, which his brain trust had written for the teleprompter. His experts researched, drafted, vetted and composed his egregious error slandering an entire nation as well as the life of Jan Karski, the person presumably honored at the ceremony. These men behind Obama, apparently, are as profoundly ignorant as the president.
This also means that when Tommy Vietor of National Security Council explained on Wednesday “The president misspoke” about the Polish death camps, Vietor lied: Obama did not misspeak (nor did he misread.) What he read reflected the historical knowledge of his team of expert advisers knew, but these men know nothing beyond the rhetoric of rabid and radical leftism. A bright high school student could have reviewed the president’s teleprompted address and seen the glaring gaffe, but our nation is not in the hands of people as informed or wise as high school students. That is what the Jan Karski gaffe really means.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.