Victims of Communism: A Letter to Pat Buchanan

Last week, we published a piece by Pat Buchanan titled “Rewriting Cold War History” about a recent Reagan-Truman Medal award ceremony presented by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Here is a response we received from Dr. Lee Edwards, Chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.


December 8, 2003 Dear Pat: It really hurts when an old friend blasts away at something near and dear to you — like your column about the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. If you had checked with me or Jay Katzen, we would have informed you that the Foundation has presented the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to Jesse Helms. And to Rep. Philip M. Crane. And we would have told you that Jack Singlaub played a prominent part in our 2000 program when he presented the Medal of Freedom to the only surviving four-star Korean general of the Korean War. We would have explained to you that we were recognizing Michael Novak this year because of Michael’s unheralded efforts in Slovakia and Poland to teach graduate students about freedom and his seminal essay about the key role of faith in bringing down communism. And we would have added that we honored the National Endowment of Democracy at our awards ceremony for its continuing campaign against North Korea’s human rights abuses and for the Endowment’s significant support of the Perm museum in Russia. We would have pointed out that we have also honored the Hon. Orson Swindle, who spent six years as a POW in a Vietnam prison; retired Col. Lewis L. Millet, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who led the last bayonet charge in U.S. military history in Korea; and retired Cap. John McKone, who was shot down in 1961 and spent 208 days in solitary confinement at the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow. Furthermore, we have recognized heroes of the Cold War such as Elena Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov; Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, who did as much as any single person to bring about the end of communism in Eastern Europe; Vytautas Landsbergis, former president of Lithuania; Vladimir Bukovsky, one of the most courageous of the Russian dissidents; Irina Kirkland, born in Prague under the Communists and widow of the late Lane Kirkland, who continued the anti-communist tradition of the AFL-CIO started by George Meany; Viktor Orban, former prime minister of Hungary; and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose wife Hadassah, also born under the Communists, accepted the award for her husband. As you can tell from the above, we have striven to be scrupulously non-partisan in our activities and in our primary objective–to build a Memorial to the 100 million victims of Communism. We are also proud of the bipartisan support we have consistently received. The primary co-sponsors of our enabling legislation, P.L. 103-199, were Sen. Jesse Helms and Sen. Claiborne Pell, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Rep. Robert Torricelli in the House. Our dinner co-chairmen have included Sen. John McCain, Sen. Bob Kerrey, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. It is around our awards ceremonies that we meet and share our memories about the terrible costs of communism in the 20the century and express our deep concern about the victims of communism today in countries such as China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam. We are planning to launch a virtual museum in the next six months which will link via the Internet anti-communist museums around the world in Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest, Seoul, Vilnius, Moscow, and other cities and enable victims of communism to record their personal histories. We welcome your input and support as we proceed. But if the Memorial is to be built–and it will be in the year 2004–and if the Virtual Museum is to be a success–and it will be–you can understand, surely, that our efforts must remain broad-based and non-partisan. With best wishes, I remain Sincerely yours, Lee Edwards, Ph.D. Chairman Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation