Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Admitting You're Wrong

On Monday, I heard about Bush's Yalta comments in Latvia. Long story short, Bush said that Yalta was a great big mistake on the part of Roosevelt and Churchill and that it's wrong to choose stability over freedom and blah blah blahbetty blah.

I'm certainly not saying it's wrong to apologize for mistakes our country has made (although calling Yalta one of the greatest wrongs of history seems a little extreme.... I mean, 300 years of slavery in the US? 100 years of Jim Crow? Atom bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Darfur? Rwanda? The Versailles Treaty following World War I? Seriously, I can keep going.) and I'm certainly not saying that Yalta was fair or right. I understand Eastern Europeans who felt and still feel rage towards us for that - for Pete's sake, Latvia lost 48% of its population, thanks to Stalin.

But there's something to be said for the "other" side. Professor of history at Cornell, Walter LeFebre, was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, and as he pointed out, victory in Europe was hardly assured at the time of Yalta, the Soviet Union had over 7 million(!) troops occupying Eastern Europe and the battle in the Pacific was taking a heavy toll on the US. So, it's really easy to say now that we traded "stability" for freedom, but I wouldn't say that was the case at the time.

And I find it interesting that in many respects, Yalta could be paralleled to the US's decision to drop the bomb on Japan, but plenty of people get up in arms if you suggest that we apologize for that. "We had no choice!" they yell. Well, maybe we had no choice at Yalta too, then.

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post offers her typically tepid opinion on the matter, but I will give her a nod for pointing out that Tom DeLay threw a shit fit when President Clinton apologized in Uganda in 1998 for the slave trade.

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