ARLINGTON, Va. -- Should anyone remain at the real end of history to chronicle a list of humanity's worst systems for the benefit of any left to read it, the legacy of communism is sure to be at, or near, the top.
That's why it is especially appropriate that in Washington, D.C., yesterday, a Victims of Communism Memorial was dedicated.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the quick collapse of the Soviet Union, many embraced the idea that the world had become free, or was headed in freedom's direction. That one-quarter of the world population remained under communist dictatorship in China seemed of less concern than the dissolution of Soviet Russia. The Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989 reminded the West that communism was as deadly to those who opposed it in China as it had been in the Soviet Union. But the West's attention span is short, and soon American companies were happy to do business with China because our commitment to the bottom line is stronger than it is to the moral line.
Lee Edwards, the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, has attracted bipartisan support for the memorial. Its dedication came on the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's Berlin speech, during which he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
The brutality of communism was quickly swept under history's rug, in large part because so many on the left had embraced it as the solution to humankind's problems. The memorial stands as a rebuke to such twisted thinking.
The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression lists by country the number of people murdered under communist regimes: 65 million (and counting) in China, 20 million in the Soviet Union, 2 million (and counting) in North Korea, 2 million in Cambodia, 1.7 million in Africa, 1.5 million in Afghanistan, 1 million in Vietnam, 1 million in communist Eastern Europe and 150,000 in Latin America.
In short, communism, an evil ideology unlike any the world has seen, is responsible for the slaughter of more than 94 million human beings. It tops all plagues, natural disasters, crime and other political ideologies, probably combined.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation provided some quotes that remind us of the individual human cost of communism. Anhthu Lu is a Vietnamese-American who escaped his communist nation as one of the "boat people." He says, "There is no hope for a better tomorrow under communism. One can only hope to survive the daily rounds of communist shelling, or explosion into the villages, the schools, the markets. That is how I remember my childhood, one filled with fears, with destruction and deaths. That is what communism is all about: terror, destruction, retribution."
When he visited Stalin's "paradise," the French leftist writer Andre Gide said: "I doubt that in any country of the world, even Hitler's Germany, is thought less free, more bowed down, more terrorized."
Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang spoke of the "little terrors" of China: making 12-year-old children subject to capital punishment, sending women to work in underground coal mines, harassing workers during their lunchtime with threats of prison - or worse - if they were late returning to work.
While many Westerners recall Nazi-run death camps such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald, few remember Soviet death camps named Kolyma and Magadan. True, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn mentioned them in The Gulag Archipelago, as did Varlam Shalamov in Tales from Kolyma, but as the Swedish journalist Andres Kung wrote, "There are people who have still not heard of these communist extermination camps - even though the communists preceded the Nazis in creating such camps and killed an even larger number of people in their camps."
While the memorial is a welcome reminder of man's capacity to do evil, one wishes that a similar structure were erected to remind the world of leftist academics, clergy and journalists who enabled communism to survive by writing and speaking lies about its true nature. They were more than enablers. They were co-conspirators and accessories to murder. They, too, deserve to share in communism's ignominy.
Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.