Right On!: Laughing at Lenin and Osama

What I discovered on my visit to Moscow's Red Square.

By
September 5, 2006 22:03
4 minute read.
Right On!: Laughing at Lenin and Osama

kremlin 88. (photo credit: )

If you are wondering what the future may hold for the fanatical leadership of Iran and the global jihadist movement, just take a stroll through Moscow's Red Square and you will get a good glimpse at the answer. There, beneath the shadow of the Kremlin, sits the tomb of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, founding father of the Soviet Union. Lenin's final abode has never seemed so out of place, since everything he stood for has now been effectively repudiated by the people he so ruthlessly sought to subjugate. Flanking the entrance to the plaza where Russia's number one Communist comrade is buried sits an enormous billboard more than 50 feet long, unabashedly appealing to the locals to purchase diamond-studded Rolex watches. Newsstands now hawk Russian-language versions of capitalist publications such as Forbes magazine and the Harvard Business Review, and Moscow is home to an array of Western franchises, such as McDonald's, as well as a growing number of upscale kosher restaurants. Revenge truly can be sweet. If all that weren't enough, a large store directly across the square from Lenin's mausoleum proudly boasts the latest in Western fashion, from Christian Dior to Louis Vuitton. No more drab, gray socialist attire here, please. And so, the founder of Soviet Communism, who murdered millions in his quest to quash private enterprise, now finds himself lying in state surrounded by a virtual shopping mall. Who said God doesn't have a sense of humor? Of course, there was a time when Red Square evoked images of Cold War confrontation rather than credit card enthusiasm. For years, the ideological clash between Communist East and Democratic West threatened to erupt into open nuclear warfare. An entire generation of Americans grew up practicing air raid drills in elementary school, ducking under their desks in case of a surprise Soviet assault. But the Communist menace was thoroughly and soundly defeated, thanks to Western patience, perseverance and faith. And it is precisely those same qualities that will enable us to prevail in our current conflict with Islamist terror, if only we know how to marshal them. NO ONE ever said the war on terror would be swift, easy or clean. It took decades to bring down the Soviet empire, and it may take just as long to subdue the jihadists, too. Like the Cold War, we have no choice but to fight, because there is simply no other way to deal with the Lenins and Bin-Ladens of the world. For, as different as they are, the movements sparked by these two men do share a great deal in common. Like the Communists, Islamic fundamentalists seek global domination, and they have no qualms about murdering the innocent to further their goals. Their aims are totalitarian, and their means are depraved. As US President George W. Bush pointed out in a speech last October, these two ideologies both speak of justice and devotion, but offer only oppression and misery in their stead. Ultimately, however, the fundamentalists will fail, just as the Communists did, because both seek to vanquish the basic human desire for freedom. Though the media has largely ignored it, this week marked the 15th anniversary of the events that led to the downfall of the once powerful and ominous Soviet ogre. ON AUGUST 19, 1991, anxiety swept through Washington and various European capitals after then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was placed under house arrest by a coterie of coup plotters. For three tense days, the world waited to see if the nuclear-armed Soviet Union was going headlong into reverse in an effort to turn back the clock on reform and revive its dark, Stalinist past. Russian leader Boris Yeltsin, backed by thousands of Muscovites, famously climbed on top of a tank and resisted the coup, which collapsed as quickly as it did ignominiously in the face of widespread public opposition. Two weeks later, on September 6, the Soviet Union formally recognized the independence of the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and by the end of the year, with breathtaking speed, the entire Soviet apparatus had simply ceased to exist. The threat of Soviet communism, so long a central part of Western life, trepidation and fear, was suddenly and completely gone. Getting there, of course, was a long and hard road, one filled with many obstacles and pitfalls, and historians are still arguing about what brought it all about. But 10 years prior to the Soviet Union's unexpected demise, a freshly-elected US president named Ronald Reagan made a famous, and highly prescient, prediction. Speaking at Notre Dame University, he vowed, "The West will not contain communism, it will transcend communism. We will not bother to denounce it, we'll dismiss it as a sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written." It was a message that Reagan went on to repeat throughout his two terms of office, as he highlighted the inherent weakness of the Soviet system, which so brazenly trampled on the basic and fundamental rights of its own citizens. On my walk through Red Square last week, those words took on new meaning, when a tourist gave his camera to a friend, and approached Lenin's tomb while making a certain gesture commonly known as "the Bronx cheer" or "flipping the bird." A stern looking Russian policeman stood by and watched, as the young tourist posed for the photo, the middle finger of his right-hand pointed squarely and unmistakably at the mausoleum. He then bounded off together with his companion, and they shared a good, hearty chuckle. Years ago, the two would have been arrested and sent to Siberia for laughing at Lenin. Now, it seemed, it was all just in a day's fun. A similar fate, I am sure, awaits Osama and his ilk. If Israel and the West stand firm and confront them with the confidence and faith that guided us to victory over the Soviets, then the jihadists too will be brought to their knees. And then, instead of inspiring fear, they too will become the objects of the laughter and derision that they so richly deserve.


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