The National Archives declassified new documents last week showing President Roosevelt’s cover-up of the Katyn massacre. Thanks to Congressmen Marcy Kaptur and Daniel Lipinski, the National Archive revealed substantial evidence about the mass grave sites.

The Soviet massacre included 22,000 Polish officers along with members of the Polish intelligentsia like professors, priests, politicians, and artists. These innocent Poles were exterminated in 1940 by the Soviet government in the frigid forests of Smolensk. Stalin believed in extinguishing everyone who would be an obstacle to their future communist rule. Just like Machiavelli thought, authority is best established by liquidating past governments. But reading Machiavelli is entirely different than putting it into practice.

My great-grandfather, Captain Mieczyslaw Uzarowicz, died in those same forests. He was blindfolded and shot in the back of the head. That’s what it was like for the many Poles who were left to die by the allied forces during World War II. The U.S. government knew about the massacre and allowed it to happen, careful not to offend the diplomatic relationships with the Soviets who were elemental in beating the Nazi regime. As President Roosevelt wrote in his telegram to Winston Churchill:

“upon the obvious necessity of creating the most favorable conditions for bringing the full weight of the armed forces of all the United Nations to bear upon the common enemy….The winning of the war is the paramount objective for all of us. For this unity is necessary.”

Katyn is definitely next to all the skeletons in the closet of our foreign policy. It’s infuriating to know a country that stood for democratic values allowed all of this to happen.

I am a proud American, don’t get me wrong. I received my U.S. citizenship last year and I’m excited to vote in this presidential election. However, I’m speechless. As a Polish American, my jaw hit the floor once I found out that our government played dumb. How can the United States, the land of the free, permit such horrendous event?

The problem with Katyn though is not that the U.S. failed those 22,000 Poles. The issue is not that my great-grandfather died even though it’s a sad event in my family’s history. The problem is that we don’t learn from our foreign policy mistakes. We keep making them. No, we don’t allow our allies to kill thousands of people, but we involve ourselves in foreign affairs, then people down like we did with Katyn.

Pakistan is a perfect example. People on the right criticize Obama for being “soft” on foreign policy. Yet, Obama quintupled the number of drone strikes when comparing the record of his predecessor, George W. Bush. These drone strikes are not popular around the Muslim world where roughly 75% of them disapprove of the American strikes.The fact of the matter is that foreign policy has become even more hawkish under Obama. From Libya to Kuwait and increasing troops in Afghanistan, Obama hasn’t learned the tough lesson to mind his own business until action is necessary.

Americans are despised because of skeletons like Katyn. We mess things up. We are an exceptional country that does a lot of good, but our latest military operations are far from successful, deepening anti-American sentiment. Also, with a chilling debt level, more and more politicians like Senator Rand Paul are realizing that we can’t afford  to dominate the world by fear. We do own 46.5% of the global military power.The solution to our foreign policy crisis is not military adventurism.

World War II was a legitimate war. The U.S. should have gotten involved to stop the Nazi regime, but all of the U.S. actions during the war were not free of guilt. Katyn happened, and should be taught in our history books or else history is bound to repeat itself. Becoming involved in foreign affairs requires clarity and honesty. Even though we may be a force of good, we should learn from our flaws and improve our standing in the world.

Alex Uzarowicz | Knox College | @AUzarowicz