Thursday, June 22, 2006

George tears down the statues in Budapest

George W Bush turns up to commemorate 50 years since the uprising in 1956, and says Hungary is an example for Iraq to follow.

Reuters reports:

‘Just weeks before Bush visits Russia amid U.S. concern that Moscow is backsliding on democracy, he praised Hungary as a "beacon of liberty" in a speech delivered at the heart of a region that was under Moscow's control for decades.

He compared Iraq's struggle to develop into a democracy to Hungary's effort to bring down communist rule 50 years ago and said Iraqis would need the same kind of patience as Hungarians as they try to establish a thriving democracy.

"Hungary represents the triumph of liberty over tyranny," Bush said in a speech on a hill from where Soviet troops fired on the capital Budapest in 1956 to put down the uprising.’

How moving.

Of course, the major difference between Hungary back then and Iraq today is that Hungarians led the uprising, which was later crushed by a Superpower. In Iraq today, a Superpower has ‘liberated’ Iraq and is now experiencing an insurgency by some Iraqis (and a few cross- border terrorist weirdos).

This distinction is an important one and can be demonstrated by one of the most important symbolic elements in overthrowing dictatorships – the tearing down of statues.

They did it in Moscow in 1917. They did it in 1956 when they tore down the statue of Stalin.

They did it in Warsaw in 1989. It was in plac Dzierzynskiego (now plac Bankowy), named after the founder of Cheka, the anti-insurgency organization which ruthlessly crushed any ‘counter-revolutionary elements’ in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution and morphed into the KGB.

Feliks Dzierżyński was Polish. And he was a much hated figure here. Unfortunate, then, that the Commie authorities decided to put up a statue to him, right in the middle of Warsaw.

So his statue was one of the first pieces of street furniture to feel the anger of a genuine people’s revolution. Poles joked that Feliks was a good Pole, as he probably killed the most communists!

Fast forward to Baghdad, 2003. Right opposite where much of the international media was staying and operating from, a crowd gathered by one of the many statues of the ever-vain Saddam Hussein, as American humbies cruised to streets. They started to beat Saddam with their sandals and tried to tear it down. But Saddam refused to budge from his perch. In the end, the US army turned up and pulls the thing down with rope attached to large military vehicles.

When the camera panned back, the crowd of Iraqis was made up of only about 200 men. This was not mass outpouring of relief and liberty that many were expecting. Iraqis felt more complicated about it than that.

Iraqis didn’t even get the chance to tear down their own statues.

15 comments:

Redwine said...

"Iraqis didn’t even get the chance to tear down their own statues." - Perfect.

roman said...

I would not put too much stock in the fact that there were only 200 Iraqis participating in the pulling down of the Saddam statue.
If I was a typical Iraqi, who had half a brain, I would not be loitering in the City plaza where there was sporatic gunfire and skirmishes on the periphery still going on. These 200 or so were obviously not playing with a full deck (jack down). Just an observation.

sonia said...

Beatroot,

Ask a random Pole what he would have preferred: to be liberated by the American Army in, say, 1950, or to be oppressed under Communism for more than 4 decades just to have the pleasure of overthrowing Communism by him/herself...

Michael Farris said...

IIRC the crowd was somewhat less than 200 and I saw one photo comparison that indicated a significant chunk of them were members of Chalabi's entourage. That was when he was the US strongman-elect, before he became an embarrassment (Chala-who??). I don't know what his current status is.

The current question (to me) is:

"Just what exactly do W and his supporters think they're accomplishing at present in Iraq?"

Given the lack of policy changes and/or policy explanations (beyond empty rhetoric that doesn't stand up to a micro-second of analysis) I'm forced to assume that things are going as W wishes. What then is the goal?

There is the (terrifying, but real) possibility that W doesn't really know what's happening. There's lots of evidence that he's not interested in very much and he doesn't welcome bad news and tends to blame the messenger. I'm really hoping that's not what's going on.

I, for one, always devoutly wished it _was_ all about oil because that would at least make some sense in traditional realpolitik terms. Certainly none of his public statements or the evidence-free deep analyses of his motives (see Den Beste, Steven) hold any water whatsoever.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

Roman: the bit about the statues was metaphorical, of course…

The outcome of the war in Iraq – and the ‘war on terror’ in general – has been doomed from the start by the fact that the dynamic for the overthrow of the baathist regime did not come from internal forces but was imposed from outside.

And then Georgies’ boys did all the most stupid things they could to make the thing a disaster…treating three ethic groups individually and not as a nation; dismantled all the security forces etc etc etc

So SONIA, whether random Iraqis were pleased or not with someone coming in and getting rid of Saddam is not really the point. The point is that changes in society must come from within – as in Poland, Hungary – you cannot liberate people by invading them. Doesn’t work. Never has done.

Mike – does Bush know what he doing? No, never did. The whole thing has been a mixture of criminal incompetence and naivety. Now he is a hostage to events outside of his control…as is T Blair, my dear leader. .

Romerican said...

Paul rightfully mentioned a bit about the apparent awkwardness of the Americans, who betrayed freedom in '56, helping the current government, whom is currently comprised by those who actually crushed the revolution, "celebrate" what should have been a proud event. It's little wonder that the memory was perverted onto the completely and entirely unrelated subject of Iraq, whom most Hungarians probably oppose, for an attempt at short term posturing for soundbytes that would appear on the American news.

Once again, the ex-communist communists get to crush the revolution, in spirit this time. And once again, the Americans abandon the Hungarians, in spirit this time.

I had, despite misgivings, really hoped for something better.

Michael Farris said...

"helping the current government, whom is currently comprised by those who actually crushed the revolution"

You're saying the same people in office in 1956 are in office in 2006? How old _are_ they?

"Once again, the ex-communist communists get to crush the revolution, in spirit this time. And once again, the Americans abandon the Hungarians, in spirit this time."

You're saying the current government of Hungary was not democratically elected?

beatroot said...

the memory was perverted onto the completely and entirely unrelated subject of Iraq,

I strongly disagree with that.

I think that there are big lessons we can learn today about how central and eastern Europeans have and are changing their societies...and in the age of so-called Humanitarian Interventionism in a unipolar world these lessons, I think, are not being learnt. Bush would disagree of course.

Redwine said...

"whom most Hungarians probably oppose," - romerican, hardly: this government is hardly socialist. If anything, is closer to the neoliberals, have a look. (The privatization of hospitals for example, the socialists wanted that).

Also, there is no continuity between the present government and the one before 89. (One could call the far left minuscule parties the sucessor of the CP) The Socialists are closer to the SZDSZ, and the SZDSZ was in opposition before 90.

beatroot said...

The socialists there sound like the social democrats everywhere. In Poland the social democrats are the ex-communists...it's the same all over central Europe.

And those parties, like the Labour party in Britain, are losing their 'social bases' and the trade unions have turned into 'service providers'...

So no socialist movement, Redwine. Let's get over it.

Dezso said...

Upraised people tearing down dictators' statues is not a big news anymore. That's why they could not make a big show in Iraq, probably.
A Big Boy tearing down the traffic of a metropole should have a bigger media coverage.
I was fortunate enough to skip the traffic jams that was the balance for GWB stampeding empty boulevards and the Champs-Elysée of Budapest (aka Andrássy)...
Cheers,

beatroot said...

Hi Dezso! But smashing icons of the past is important to a people that want to go forward. But they must be encouraged to smash theie own statues. The US is not a rent-a-statue-smasher...that's just cultural imperialism.

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sbaros said...

Dzierzynski's statues will rise again everywhere. Smrt kapitalizmu!