The Monstrous Stalin

I have a very hard time understanding how someone as high up in the Obama administration as Anita Dunn could ever have any kind words for Mao. I don't think that makes her a closet commie, and I'm not joining Glenn Beck's new McCarthyism, but it does make her a clueless, morally bankrupt lefty - the kind who wears a Guevara t-shirt or a CCCP ball-cap and expects to be taken seriously. Of course, the cluelessness is on both sides, as Scott Horton reminds us in this dispatch from Chon Tash in the Kyrgyz Republic:

The crimes of the old regime were on exhibition to those swearing an oath to uphold the new order. In the museum at the site the possessions of many of the victims were displayed with some biographical details. Documents from the archives of the NKVD/KGB showed the trappings of legal formalism that accompanied the brutal deeds, every murder judicially authorized with a sentence stamped and sealed. The execution of the sentence was scrupulously documented. And on one wall was a simple display that spoke powerfully: a portrait of Stalin, and below it a skull, resting on stones taken from the pit.

In America today, the name and image of Stalin are invoked heavily by fringe critics of Barack Obama.

The critics disagree with his policies on health care and see in it the basis for increasing power of the state. The role the state will play in the healthcare system is a legitimate political issue on which well-informed citizens can have different views. But the comparison to Stalin makes clear that these critics really have no inkling of who Joseph Stalin was, what he did, and why his name lives in special infamy at hallowed spots like the pit at Chon Tash. This frivolous use of his name and image cheapens our nation’s political dialogue, and it is also a mark of disrespect to his victims. And it points to the fundamental crisis of which Aitmatov wrote so powerfully: the failure to know the past, to be informed by it, and to distill guidance from it. The age of the mankurt, alas, has not passed.

Godwin's law has become a form of Internet code. It's worth recalling that resisting silly analogies to the evil that Hitler, Stalin and Mao perpetrated is also a moral duty - to the victims of all those monsters.