Twenty years ago today: The Berlin Wall falls

Twenty years ago today, the most reviled symbol of Communist oppression got torn down by both the people it oppressed and the people it was intended to intimidate as the era of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe came to an abrupt and obvious end. Cheering throngs filled the streets as the Berlin Wall fell, with East Germany’s soldiers reduced to the role of spectators as their state, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist entirely. It was easily the climax of decades of Cold War — and a moment of undeniable victory for the US and Western Europe:

One of the most impassioned speeches by an American President helped accelerate the collapse two years earlier:

“Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Ronald Reagan understood the symbolic power — and the symbolic shame — of the Berlin Wall. He also understood well the reason why Gorbachev didn’t dare tear down the Berlin Wall. It was the only thing keeping Western Europe from overwhelming the Soviet Union’s European dominance. But the speech by Reagan exposed Gorbachev’s hypocrisy on glasnost and perestroika and offering a new openness to the West. The Soviets could not offer openness to the West while maintaining its prison-camp status for the millions of people stuck behind that wall and the Iron Curtain in general.

One might think that the anniversary of such a victory, won in large part by the US, would be a celebration in which an American head of state would like to participate. Unfortunately, Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered to fly to Germany a day before he travels to Asia:

Der Spiegel reported three weeks ago that “Barack is too busy”, as I noted at the time:

Germany is going to have to wait longer than expected for US President Barack Obama’s first official visit. Citing government sources in Berlin, Reuters reported on Friday that Obama will not attend the anniversary festivities marking two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event will take place on Nov. 9 — just two days before Obama embarks on a long-planned trip to Asia on Nov. 11.

According to the German television channel n-tv, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will stand in for the president. It is considered unlikely that her husband, the former President Bill Clinton, will accompany her.

Well, where’s the Vice President? Should he not stand in for Obama on this auspicious occasion to help celebrate the victory over tyranny in a war waged over several decades? Apparently not. Joe Biden will attend a fundraiser in Detroit rather than celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Update: Reason TV remembers the victims of communism:

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