(CNSNews.com) - A new memorial honoring those victimized by communism is an "image of hope" for all those who have suffered under communist regimes, President Bush said Tuesday.
"The 20th century will be remembered as the deadliest century in human history," Bush said at a dedication ceremony in Washington, D.C. "And the record of this brutal era is commemorated in memorials across this city.
"Yet, until now, our nation's capital had no monument to the victims of imperial communism, an ideology that took the lives of an estimated 100 million innocent men, women and children," he said.
The new Victims of Communism Memorial is a 10-foot bronze replica of the 'Goddess of Democracy' statue erected by pro-democracy students and destroyed by Chinese troops in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. The image is based on the Statue of Liberty.
"The sheer numbers of those killed in communism's name are staggering, so large that a precise count is impossible," the president said.
"According to the best scholarly estimate, communism took the lives of tens of millions of people in China and the Soviet Union, and millions more in North Korea, Cambodia, Africa, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Eastern Europe, and other parts of the globe," he said.
Pedro Fuentes, a political prisoner in Cuba for 18 years, said the actual number of victims worldwide is probably between 200 and 300 million, because estimates don't include family members and friends of those killed.
"We're talking about the biggest tragedy that's ever happened in our world," Fuentes said Tuesday afternoon at an event hosted by the Heritage Foundation. "The worst thing is that [communism] still exists."
He noted that communism is "alive in China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and many other countries."
"Every free person should fight against communism," Fuentes said. "We will continue fighting until the last breath."
Alan Kors, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Heritage event that "no cause ever in the history of all mankind has produced more slaughtered innocents and more orphans than communism - it surpassed exponentially all other systems of production in turning out the dead."
"A totalitarian government is no different if you call it Nazi, fascist, or communist," said Tunne Kelam, a member of the European Parliament and a leading Estonian dissident during the Soviet era. Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940 until 1991.
While he applauded the efforts of honoring the victims of communism, Kelam said more needs to be done to educate people about the history of communism.
"The victims of communism still lack the guarantee that the victims of Nazism have defined as 'Never again,'" he said. "As long as there is no authoritative, international political assessment of the communist authoritarian system, you can't have such guarantees. So, in practical terms, the victims of communism are seen as second class victims."
In his remarks, Bush also pointed to the threat posed by violent Islamist groups. "The evil and hatred that inspired the death of tens of millions of people in the 20th century is still at work in the world," he said.
"Like the communists, the terrorists and radicals who attacked our nation are followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom, crushes all dissent, has expansionist ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims," the president added.
"Like the communists, our new enemies believe the innocent can be murdered to serve a radical vision," Bush said. "Like the communists, our new enemies are dismissive of free peoples, claiming that those of us who live in liberty are weak and lack the resolve to defend our free way of life.
"And like the communists, the followers of violent Islamic radicalism are doomed to fail," he said.
The Communist Party of the United States, the Revolutionary Communist Party and International ANSWER - which has historic links to the pro-North Korean Workers World Party - did not return requests for comment for this article.
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