The most eloquent objection to the inclusion of Stalin’s bust came from Alan Kors, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania. In “Can There Be an ‘After Socialism’?” Kors passionately decried the perpetual and apathetic failure of Western intellectuals to bear witness to the unprecedented numbers of Communism’s “slain innocents” — “to step around the Everest of bodies of the victims of Communism without a tear, a scruple, a regret, an act of contrition, or a reevaluation of self, soul, and mind.”
In an equally passionate letter to the leaders of the memorial foundation, widely circulated by email, Kors wrote:
It is morally unthinkable that the butcher and sadist Stalin, who massacred even more Russians than the unspeakable Hitler, would be honored with a bust at the virtually sacred site of our National D-Day Memorial, which honors human liberation. In the name of decency, honor, and a belated mercy to his victims, I beg you reconsider your decision and to represent Russia by a bust of a brave Russian soldier. A bust of Stalin is an insult to humanity and a violation of the corpses he chose to leave in the scores of millions.
Most likely the foundation leaders acted inattentively and insensitively, and certainly without malice of forethought, in elevating Stalin to the pantheon of WWII heroes. But in doing so they conspicuously joined with the many other prominent Westerners who have failed to bear moral witness before the world to this monster’s heinous deeds. The honor they paid him stands as a particularly ominous and hurtful example of the moral blackout that shrouds modern times.
In After Virtue, Alisdair MacIntyre warned that this — the contemporary “radical incapacity” to be guided by moral reasoning, to envisage in moral terms our dealings with the living and the dead, or even to discern our own moral blindness — will be catastrophic for the human race and must be overcome.
In the end, the celebration of Stalin at our National D-Day Memorial was, to alter Kors’s phrase, all too morally thinkable.