Sunday, June 25, 2006


I was going to wait to see if any mainstream media would make something of this, but there doesn’t seem to be much brewing out there. I’ve trolled the net and found a small town editorial on the subject, and NPR had an excellent story and commentary about it, but I really can’t let this go without mention.

So, at the risk of sounding like an actual blogger, let’s talk about President Bush’s trip to Hungary last week.

The President traveled to the central European nation last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary (a few months early, but we’ll let that go) of the Hungarian anti-communist revolt in 1956. White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president would be delivering what was essentially, “a tone poem” honoring uprising.

That’s one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard about a presidential speech, but we’ll let that go.

So Bush stood on a hill overlooking the Danube, and delivered a speech drawing parallels between Hungary’s fight for freedom, and the current problems in Iraq. The hill where Bush stood was the scene of protests in 1956. About a hundred thousand people came out to protest the Soviet occupation. The uprising was eventually crushed by Soviet tanks. Thousands were killed. Hungary threw off the shackles of Soviet oppression about 35 years later.

In his speech, he hoped the Iraqis would “draw hope” from Hungary’s story. There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t know even where to start.

It is hard to know what lessons the Iraqis should take from Hungary’s experience. The Hungarians were fighting against occupation from one of the most powerful nations on earth. That sounds a lot like the current situation the Iraqi insurgency is in. So was Bush telling the insurgents to “draw hope” and take the long view? That seems highly unlikely.

More troubling is the story behind the story of the 1956 Hungarian revolt. Many of the revolt’s leaders were led to believe by US officials and Voice of America broadcasts that, if they challenged the Soviets, the US would back them up with military power.

I’d be lying if I said I knew just how firm those promises were, but the story is deeply engrained in the Hungarian psyche. I spent several days in Hungary a few years ago, and this incident was all the old-timers wanted to talk about. “Why did the US abandon us when we were fighting for freedom?” Decades later, I could still see the anger and hurt in the eyes of the people who were asking. All I could do is look at the ground and mutter, “I don’t know.”

The president failed to mention this detail during his Thursday speech. He didn’t offer a “sorry.” Didn’t mention that, maybe, Hungary could have achieved freedom 30 years earlier if we had helped out.

So what hope should the Iraqis, or any of us, draw from the president’s remarks? It’s hard to know. Are the Iraqis fighting against oppressors, and would we let them down (like we let the Hungarians down) if we withdraw? Do we have to be there until 2040? Are we now like the Soviets? After all, the Soviets freed the Hungarians from the Nazis, and I think we can all agree that the Nazis were very bad people. But then they imposed their own intolerable rule. Is that what we’ve done in Iraq?

I don’t know. All I can really say is that the president poorly chose his words and his venue in his attempts to sell an unpopular war to the folks back home.


At 3:46 pm, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

Perhaps Bush needs to ditch the metaphors and focus on the situation at hand. He's stretching to make everything about the war... to make it sound like we're liberators when, in fact, many folks in Iraq (and elsewhere in
the world) would align us with the Soviets in that charming little anecdote.

At 3:37 pm, Anonymous Carri said...

You both have a good grasp on the situation, but don't tell anyone. Or else??? Oh, God I said too much - I'M DOOMED


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