They say there are more Polish people in Chicago than in Krakow, and whether or not that's true, there was certainly and understandably an overflow of Polish patriotism in the city this past Saturday, after the news of the plane crash. There were Polish flags on every other car in the Polish neighborhoods, and even people of other Eastern European origins expressed genuine condolences, a significant change from the usual ultracompetitive scorns. Unbeknownst to them, the peace prospects of their shared region of descent had changed as drastically as the tragedy had hit.
By now, most of us who have even the least exposure to the media have heard of the devastating "decapitation," as one commentator perhaps too vividly put it, with the top elected, appointed, military, banking, media and other high-level officials all having died. That they were on the way to Russia to commemorate a massacre of their compatriots, to publicly mourn, made the mourning for them somehow even more public for Polish people and those who shared their grief worldwide. What most people were unable or unwilling to acknowledge in their shock is that this was surely either coincidence or conspiracy with nothing in between.
Our point here is that it doesn't matter which, coincidence or conspiracy, it was because the change in Eastern European peace prospects is dramatic in both cases. It was an old plane with bad landing gear (maybe) in bad weather (again, maybe), we heard, with few asking what they were all doing on one plane to begin with, undoubtedly the biggest security blunder in Polish history. Only today were the scary questions raised: Why were they? Who made the arrangements? Why did they, or did they, insist on landing? And so on, as if a total shift in regional security strategy would not be the result, which it most certainly will.
Poland, like the Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria, was slated to be part of the U.S. missile shield that President Bush planned, and then President Obama supposedly shelved but then went ahead with it anyways. Russia has, until now, only been grumbling, but the Polish plane crash may very well be a roar meant to scare its former satellites into alignment, as unlikely as the mass assassination would be desperate if true. Now, the pro-U.S. premier is gone. Regardless, the leaders of the opposition party to the fallen right-wing, U.S.-supported prime minister were quick to mark their funeral as a moment of "national unity."
We wish the best for the Polish people globally and government domestically, but instead mark the funeral as a moment of international worry for peace prospects in Eastern Europe as a whole, with the plane crash being a current event in which murder may masquerade as misfortune.