Obama sends letter expressing "regret" to Poland

It took Barack Obama a few days to finally admit he’d insulted Poles during a prepared speech that intended to honor the man who alerted the Allies to Nazi death camps during World War II, and to make amends.  A few days after angering Poland over a reference to a “Polish death camp,” Obama sent a letter to the Polish government expressing “regret” for his “inadvertent error”:

President Barack Obama has written a letter to the Polish president expressing “regret” for an inadvertent verbal gaffe that caused a storm of controversy in Poland this week. …

“In referring to ‘a Polish death camp’ rather than ‘a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland,’ I inadvertently used a phrase that has caused many Poles anguish over the years and that Poland has rightly campaigned to eliminate from public discourse around the world,” Obama wrote. “I regret the error and agree that this moment is an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth.” …

“In pursuit of their goals of destroying the Polish nation and Polish culture and exterminating European Jewry, the Nazis killed some six million Polish citizens, including three million Polish Jews during the Holocaust,” Obama wrote. “The bravery of Poles in the underground resistance is one of history’s great stories of heroism and courage.”

The president of Poland took the letter graciously and pronounced his government satisfied:

“The events of the past few days and the U.S. president’s reply may, in my opinion, mark a very important moment in the struggle for historical truth,” President Bronislaw Komorowski told reporters.

It’s not quite the same as an explicit apology.  Prime Minister Donald Tusk demanded an explicit apology earlier in the week, but Komorowski had left the door open for a less-humiliating response. Diplomatically, statements of “regret” acknowledge damage to a relationship while avoiding direct responsibility for it.  In the letter itself, though, Obama does take personal responsibility for having used the insulting phrase, which should prove satisfactory and put this insult in the past.

Regrets … Obama’s had a few, but then again …