Having recently published a book on fascism, I think I understand why so many people refused to see the evil in communism. It was well-intentioned. The Soviets were our allies in World War II. Communists spoke of socialism and liberation, and their agents, friends and apologists in the U.S. were comrades in arms with Americans battling racism. But it's worth remembering how evil Communist governments really were. Stalin murdered more people than Hitler. The hammer-and-sickle's stack of bones towers high above the swastika's. "The Black Book of Communism," a scholarly accounting of communism's crimes, counts about 94 million murdered by the supposed champions of the common man (20 million for the Soviets alone), and some say that number is too low.
If, after the moral cataclysm that was the Holocaust, you wish to say that the Nazis were more evil than the Soviets, fine. But don't roll your eyes at serious people who consider anti-communism no less honorable and righteous than anti-Nazism. Look to the Holomodor in Ukraine, where 4 million to 6 million people were murdered and a culture largely erased. Terror, purges, massacres, assassinations and the forced starvation of millions - these are all horrors that we rightly associate with Nazism but somehow fail to correlate with communism.
In 1974, when the New Yorker reviewed Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago," George Steiner wrote: "To infer that the Soviet Terror is as hideous as Hitlerism is not only a brutal oversimplification but a moral indecency." When Ronald Reagan denounced the "evil empire" - because it was evil and it was an empire - he too was accused of absurd oversimplification.
The real brutal oversimplification is the treacle we hear from Obama, that victory in the Cold War was some Hallmark-movie lesson in global hand-holding. The reality is that it was a long slog, and throughout, the champions of "unity" wanted to capitulate to this evil, and the champions of freedom were rewarded with ridicule.
"This is the moment," Obama proclaimed, "when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday." Rodman and Solzhenitsyn understood that such talk was dangerously naive. People free from the "shadows of yesterday" forget things they swore never to forget.
Solzhenitsyn and Rodman are gone now, and a generation that learned such hard lessons is leaving us too quickly. The amnesia bites a little deeper.