Throughout the past 100 years, there have always been Americans who offered excuses and/or support for murderous dictators (Mailbox, Sept. 22). Tens of thousands of Americans were enamored with Joseph Stalin's "communist utopia" before they discovered that his actions led to the deaths of millions of his fellow Russians via murder, death camps and starvation. To be fair, it was not easy — and perhaps not possible — for Americans to know about events in Russia in those years. Only when Stalin signed his non-aggression pact with Hitler in 1939 did the utopian bubble burst.
American fans of Adolf Hitler could not claim a similar ignorance. By the time 20,000 delirious Americans rallied in Madison Square Garden in support of Hitler and Nazism on Feb. 20, 1939, Hitler's oppression of German, Austrian and Czech Jews had been reported in detail in the United States, as the recent PBS doc "The U.S. and the Holocaust" explains. Front page on U.S. newspapers. Everyone knew. The American Nazis cheered.
Chairman Mao's leadership resulted in the death of 45 million human beings — or perhaps 65 million. Yet as late as 1972, when Richard Nixon traveled to China to meet with Mao, some Americans still argued that Mao Zedong was a great man and a visionary leader.
Given this record, it is not at all surprising to see Americans defending Vladimir Putin and insisting that Putin invaded Ukraine because "we made him do it."
This is nonsense. The nations of Eastern Europe that chose to join NATO did so specifically to protect themselves from the possibility of future Russian aggression. Since Russia had subjugated these peoples with both the threat and the use of military force for 45 years, it is not at all surprising they would seek protection from future Russian invasions. This is why they sought membership in NATO. Putin's despicable war in Ukraine reminds us that the nations of Eastern Europe were wise indeed to seek protection from Russia.
David Marshak, Arcata