President Bush has dedicated a new memorial in Washington to the victims of communism. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.
The statue was dedicated on this sun-drenched June morning - 20 years to the day after former President Ronald Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall and issued a challenge to the leader of the Soviet Union.
"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate," he said. "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
In his remarks Tuesday, President Bush made clear he shared Mr. Reagan's emphasis on the importance of freedom.
"It is appropriate that on the anniversary of that speech that we dedicate a monument that reflects our confidence in freedom's power," he said.
The monument is a statue placed just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol - a replica in bronze of the figure erected by Chinese students during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
"The men and women who designed this memorial could have chosen an image of repression for this space, a replica of the wall that once divided Berlin, or the frozen barracks of the Gulag, or a killing field littered with skulls," he said. "Instead, they chose an image of hope - a woman holding a lamp of liberty. She reminds us of the victims of communism, and also of the power that overcame communism."
The president said some of the victims of communism were well-known, but most died in anonymity in places like the Soviet gulags [secret prisons] and the killing fields of Cambodia.
"Communist regimes did more than take their victims' lives; they sought to steal their humanity and erase their memory," he said. "With this memorial, we restore their humanity and we reclaim their memory. With this memorial, we say of communism's innocent and anonymous victims, these men and women lived and they shall not be forgotten."
President Bush said nobody knows for sure how many people died at the hands of communist governments, but he said some estimates put the number as high as 100 million. And he warned that while communism may be on the wane, evil and hatred still remain. He said the events of September 11, 2001 prove that.
"Like the communists, our new enemies believe the innocent can be murdered to serve a radical vision," he said. "Like the communists, our new enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that those of us who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our free way of life. And like the communists, the followers of violent Islamic radicalism are doomed to fail. "
The Victims of Communism Memorial was erected by a private foundation that began its work 17 years ago, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Foundation says it is the only memorial of its kind in the world.