November 9th marks an important anniversary. This was the day when the Berlin Wall fell without a shot being fired. The guards in the towers, towers that had machine guns, merely slipped away as the sound of pick-axes signaled the demise of that hated wall. And so by demolishing this wall, the evil dictatorship called East Germany also fell.
How evil was the country called East Germany? Almost one-third of its population spied on the other two-thirds. The Berlin Wall along with the other walls erected by East Germany made the whole country a vast prison. The guards up in those watch towers had orders to shoot anyone who tried to flee to West Germany, they murdered quite a few who tried to flee following those orders. The East German government nor its master the Soviet Union ever fully repaired the ravages of World War II, so forty years later one still found bombed out buildings from that conflict. The East German government would sell imprisoned dissidents to West Germany for desperately needed hard cash. A country willing to sell its citizens likes slaves does not deserve to exist. And all this ended peacefully on a clear November night twenty years ago.
Berlin has been a flashpoint in East-West relations since Soviet and American troops linked up at the end of World War II. The city was divided into four sectors controlled by the US, the UK, France, and the USSR. The first crisis came in 1948 when the USSR tried to force the other three countries out of Berlin since the city was deep inside the Soviet sector of Germany. President Truman, the British, the French, and their combined militaries saved the city of West Berlin from starvation via a massive airlift. Many allied aviators died during Operation Vittles to keep this one city alive and free. Then during the brief presidency of John F. Kennedy, Premier Khrushchev again tested Western resolve in Berlin. The Berlin Wall went up to prevent all of Eastern Europe from defecting to the West. This was the time when Kennedy gave his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech to tell the USSR that the US was not leaving West Berlin. This reinforced his inaugural speech when he said “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” This was to be capped twenty years later when President Ronald Reagan stood before the Brandenburg Gate and demanded of Gorbachev, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” This wall became a symbol of all the various tyrannies humankind struggles against that communism practices.
And it all ended without another shot being fired twenty years ago on November 9th. Angela Merkel of a unified Germany has extended an invitation to President Obama to mark this momentous anniversary. President Obama has declined this offer. Why does the man who last year spoke in a unified Berlin on why he should be President of the United States now decline to visit this historic city again? Perhaps in the President’s mind he can. His supporters won’t care, in fact they may get incensed if he did go as once again the President will be distracted from what they see as his primary mission – socialized health care. By going, President Obama will have to acknowledge the courage and statecraft of Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan in winning the Cold War. For a man who was cloaked in the Kennedy mystique by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, to draw attention to John Kennedy’s determination to defend allies and promote liberty might cause people to ask why President Obama does not do the same for the likes of Iran or Honduras or Afghanistan. And the most likely reason for him to skip is more central to the personality of our sitting president; the limelight would not be on him but on these previous presidents, on those brave people who were gunned down striving for freedom, and on the defeat of Soviet communism.
Actions like not attending this momentous anniversary speak far more loudly than all the soaring rhetoric you espoused just last year in that city Mr. President. And by these actions, people around the world are getting to know the true Barrack Hussein Obama. And the knowledge is very unsettling.