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.”
The White House statement also used the term “Polish death camps,”
For years, Jan Karski’s students at Georgetown University knew he was a great professor; what they didn’t realize was he was also a hero. Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.
This is something that someone probably should have noticed beforehand and realized that it was not only historically inaccurate but that it would cause our Polish friends to be upset about something that, even 67 years later is still an open wound for them.
For good reason: According to this paper, in addition to three million Polish Jews,
Documentation remains fragmentary, but today scholars of independent Poland believe that 1.8 to 1.9 million Polish civilians (non-Jews) were victims of German occupation policies and the war. This approximate total includes Poles killed in executions or who died in prisons, forced labor, and concentration camps. It also includes an estimated 225,000 civilian victims of the 1944 Warsaw uprising, more than 50,000 civilians who died during the 1939 invasion and siege of Warsaw, and a relatively small but unknown number of civilians killed during the Allies’ military campaign of 1944-45 to liberate Poland.
The prime minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, demanded an apology.
Nile Gardiner points out that
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.
Or, as Smitty calls it, “a clown nose-off.”
AND, the media’s too busy paying attention to The (other) Donald,
Oh wait, sorry, the MSM is of course completely ignoring this because Trump talking to Blitzer about Birther crap is obviously of much greater importance to our country than our relationship with our strongest ally on the European continent.
Maybe Obama will send Donald Tusk an iPod; that would make the news.
Joel Pollak explains WHY ‘POLISH DEATH CAMP’ GAFFE MATTERS: ALL OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY IS DOMESTIC
Obama is more than a leftist; he is also a Chicago politician. And big-city politicians of both parties discover that a cheap and easy way to rally voters from particular communities and interest groups–or at least to prevent a stronger vote for the opposite side–is to express public sympathy with whatever cause those constituencies hold dearest, even if those sympathies tend to contradict each other. Those politicians who care about being caught in the middle will be candid in expressing their own views, while remaining open to the views of others; those who believe they can get away with being all things to all people, or who see the whole exercise as just another way of feeding the voting machines, will fall into the trap that Obama has just sprung on himself.
For Obama, all foreign policy is domestic policy. That is true, to some extent, of all presidents, but especially of this one, whose fundamental ambition is the transformation of American society, and who is running a desperate divide-and-conquer strategy he hopes will enable him to carry that transformative agenda into a second term.
It Wasn’t a “Gaffe”, it was a slap in the face.