President Obama just officially managed to insult a whole entire country the other day when he posthumously awarded Jan Karski the Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. government – at a ceremony in the capitol.
During his time, Karski courageously spread the news of exactly what was happening under Hitler to the outside world. So Obama naturally brought that up in his accompanying speech.
Unfortunately, he used apparently inflammatory language while he did, calling one particular Poland-based Nazi detainment facility a “Polish death camp,” thereby potentially pointing blame at Poland instead of Nazi Germany for the disgusting and inhumane acts that took place there.
Poland, which has apparently been quite vigilant about trying to eliminate such language, immediately demanded an apology. So Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman, issued a statement expressing the administration’s regret over the “misstatement.”
But it would seem that Poland wants something a bit more blatant… And it has absolutely no problem saying so.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk says he is “convinced that our American friends can today allow themselves a stronger reaction than a simple expression of regret from the White House spokesman – a reaction more inclined to eliminate once and for all these kinds of errors… Today, this is a problem for the reputation of the United States.”
He added that his country “can’t accept such words… even if they are spoken by a leader of an allied country. Saying Polish concentration camps is as if there was no German responsibility, no Hitler.”
And Polish Foreign Minister Radolaw Sikorski commented on his Twitter account: “The White House will apologize for this outrageous mistake. It’s a shame that such a momentous ceremony has been overshadowed by ignorance and incompetence.”
Really, it seems to me to be an honest mistake, and Poland does seem to be overreacting a bit. I’m quite sure that President Obama and his speechwriters were only referring to Poland as a geographical location in this case, not as a slur of any kind.
With that said, considering Obama’s party and personal smear tactics, it does seem rather fitting that his words would be twisted and thrown back in his face so dramatically.