Bush in Budapest

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President Bush, on a visit to a Europe seething with anti-Americanism, today will visit Budapest to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1956 anti-Communist uprising in Hungary – a sobering reminder of the consequences of flinching in a face-off with totalitarianism. It is an amazing story, we thought as we read of it yesterday on the English-language Web site of the Institute for the History of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. A student uprising in Budapest on October 23, 1956, blossomed across the country. Free elections were planned. Soviet statues were dismantled. Then, on November 4, Soviet tanks rolled in, massacring the forces of freedom. And Hungary was under the Soviet Communist boot for another 34 years.

Iraqis and Iranians and Lebanese and even Syrians and Egyptians are in the midst of a Budapest moment just now. Iraqis are braving violence to vote and form a free constitutional government. Iranian students are rallying against their government. Lebanese are rallying against Syrian domination. Even in Egypt the winds of democracy and the rule of law are stirring. The Baathist ideology that held sway in Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad and in the Syria of the Assads was influenced by the worst of European Nazism and Communism. What a shame it would be if Europe consigned the people of the Middle East to the same fate as the Hungarians of 1956, of tasting freedom, of coming tantalizingly close to it, only to have it crushed for decades until a new leadership arose – a Reagan, a Thatcher – with the vision to see and the courage to act.

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