The sorry state of Hungarian foreign policy

This morning I listened to lectures delivered at a conference,”Az elszigetelt Magyarország és a globális világ” (Isolated Hungary and the Global World), that took place on Friday. The conference was organized by Attila Ara-Kovács, who is currently heading the foreign policy “cabinet” of the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) and who earlier worked in the foreign ministry under László Kovács. Ara-Kovács was joined by Charles Gati, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University, for a conversation centering on U.S.-Hungarian relations. Mátyás Eörsi, who was undersecretary of foreign affairs between 1997 and 1999, assessed the Orbán government’s foreign policy and came to the conclusion that as such it doesn’t really exist. Ferenc Gyurcsány delivered a short speech in which he insisted that the whole political system built by Viktor Orbán must be dismantled. There is no possibility of changing the current foreign policy strategy because that would mean a denial of “the essence of the system.” Zoltán Sz. Biró, an expert on Russia, delivered a fascinating lecture on the state of the Russian economy. Finally, Zoltán Balázs, a political scientist whose sympathies lie with the right of center, offered a few critical remarks, saying among other things that the speakers had ignored the resilience of Orbán’s followers. Orbán may go but his devoted admirers remain, and for them Hungary’s martyr complex is very much a reality. I can strongly recommend these lectures to anyone who understands the language.

Zoltán Sz. Biró, while outlining the grave Russian economic situation, expressed his surprise at the ignorance of Hungarian policymakers about the real state of affairs in Russia. Don’t they ever look at the economic and financial data available online? Obviously not, because otherwise Viktor Orbán and Péter Szijjártó should have been more cautious in their approach toward Moscow. But behind their Russia policy is Viktor Orbán’s mistaken notion of “the decline of the West” and thus he put all his eggs in one basket. By now it looks as if even the enlargement of Paks will come to naught.

As for the diplomatic corps, according to Mátyás Eörsi fear is widespread because of the hundreds of “pink slips” handed out to old-timers with diplomatic experience at the foreign ministry in the wake of János Martonyi’s departure. One “bad” sentence and the person’s job is in jeopardy. Thus, nobody offers any opinion that might differ from that of the “diplomatic expert,” Viktor Orbán.

Ferenc Gyurcsány and M. André Goodfriend at the Conference on Hungary in Isolation and the Global World

Ferenc Gyurcsány and M. André Goodfriend at the Conference on Hungary in Isolation and the Global World

The housecleaning was so thorough that Szijjártó proudly announced that “we will lay the foundations of the new Hungarian foreign policy irreversibly, once and for all.” They will not retreat but forge ahead according to what they consider to be Hungary’s economic interest. Two weeks later it was announced that out of the staff of 900 at the ministry more than 200 will be fired, including some who were brought in by Tibor Navracsics a few months earlier. As a result there is total chaos in the ministry, whose new spokesman is a former sports reporter.

Not only is the ministry’s staff decimated but certain background institutions like the Magyar Külügyi Intézet (Hungarian Institute of Foreign Affairs) no longer exist since its entire research staff resigned en bloc. The administration is in the throes of “reorganization” of the institute. It’s no wonder that no one was prepared for the crisis in U.S.-Hungarian relations that came to the fore in mid-October.

By October and November there was such chaos in the ministry that some of the diplomats were certain that Szijjártó couldn’t possibly remain in his new position. Rumors circulated at the time that the ministry of foreign affairs and foreign trade would split into two ministries and that Szijjártó would be in charge of foreign trade only. This was probably a reflection of the long-suffering diplomats’ wishful thinking.

Others were convinced that Orbán will change his foreign policy orientation and will give up his anti-West rhetoric and policies. However, Attila Ara-Kovács in an article that appeared in Magyar Narancs outlined the impossibility of such a scenario. In the same article Ara-Kovács shed light on the atmosphere at the ministry of foreign affairs nowadays. An ambassador with close ties to Fidesz happened to be back in Hungary and wanted to talk to his superiors in the ministry. He was not allowed to enter the building because, as he was told by the security officer at the door, “you are on the list of those who are forbidden to wander around the corridors alone.”

Since then the situation has only gotten worse.  According to insiders, “in the last two months the chief preoccupation in the ministry is saving one’s job.” By October 34 ambassadors were sacked in addition to the hundreds who were fired earlier. János Martonyi, the previous foreign minister, because of his pro-trans-atlantic sentiments is considered to be a traitor and an American agent by those people who were brought in by Navracsics and Szijjártó from the ministry of justice and the prime minister’s office. Indicative of this new anti-American orientation, a recent order from the prime minister’s office required employees to report in writing all contacts with American diplomats over the last few years.

Szijjártó seems to have a free hand when it comes to personnel decisions. He created a job for a friend of his from the futsal team Szijjártó played on until recently. Despite no degree or experience, the futsal player will coordinate the work of the “minister’s cabinet.” For Szijjártó, as for the prime minister, it is “loyalty” that matters. Among the five undersecretaries there is only one with any diplomatic experience and he is, of all things, responsible for cultural and scientific matters. The newcomers don’t understand the world of diplomacy, so they’re creating their own rules. They are introducing a “new language” for diplomatic correspondence. They tell the old-timers that they mustn’t be “too polite” in official letters. Also, apparently they don’t consider it important to put conversations or decisions into writing. They think that a telephone conversation or perhaps an e-mail is enough. Therefore it is impossible to know what transpired between Hungarian and foreign diplomats. All that writing is cumbersome and slow. It seems that they want to follow the well-known practice of the Orbán government. A decision is made without any discussion and the next day the two-thirds majority passes the new law. But diplomacy doesn’t work that way. It is a delicate business.

Currently, I’m reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin in which his efforts at securing an alliance with France are described in some detail. It took him a year and a half to achieve that feat, which was vital for the young United States at war with Great Britain. And he was a seasoned diplomat. The new staff at the foreign ministry is decidedly unseasoned. Some of them haven’t even been schooled in foreign affairs, history, or political science. Believe it or not, two of the five undersecretaries have medical degrees. A rather odd background, I would say, for conducting foreign policy.

Diplomacy is the antithesis of everything that characterizes the Orbán government. For Viktor Orbán the “peacock dance,” which is basically nothing more than deceiving your negotiating partners, passes for diplomacy. And the new, “irreversible” foreign policy has already led Hungary to the brink of diplomatic disaster.

By the way, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires M. André Goodfriend, as you can see from the photo accompanying this post, attended the conference.

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50 comments

  1. “By the way, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires M. André Goodfriend…attended the conference.” — Not that his presence might be understood as an endorsement; no, he was there only by the way. Stopped in on the way home from Weihnachtsmarkt, from returning the empty bottles for the deposit, from having his hair cut. As, time hanging heavy on one’s diplomatic hands, one does.

  2. Mirror on the Magyars

    Delighted by the photo of Mr. Gyurcsany and Mr. Goodfriend. You can be sure that the Fidik FUD machine will be spinning that for all it’s worth among the brain-washed, credulous and crooked faithful. They may be putting it on signboards and phone polls, as they did during the elections (if they can afford to pay for them — what with all the dosh they’ve had to invest in ministers’ luxury property, soccer stadiums, Gucci Bags).

    I know it will take a long time for Hungary to recover economically, politically and morally from the catastrophic Fidik/Orbanistan years. But at least in the meantime they will continue feeding unending material to keep the rest of the world in stitches. This shameful, pathetic stuff is going to replace the older benign stereotype of Hungary for some time to come…

  3. (Unless, of course, “wondercat” was being ironic — as Marcel Dé was the other day with the brilliant spoof on ‘CIA” — in which case likewise Meow, but in the good sense…)

  4. These participants must focus on one thing. Human Dignity!

    Empty speeches, lectures will be of no use.

    Gyurcsany must cultivate the subject in a credible manner, otherwise he is as useless as his many partners.

  5. Perhaps the circumstances of the 2006 Hungarian elections should be brought to the attention of Mr. Goodfriend.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Lévay Atilla
    To: Barroso Jose Manuel
    Cc: EU Info iroda ; Szent-Iványi István ; SZAJER Jozsef ; Surján László ; Schöpflin György ; Schmitt Pál ; Őry Csaba ; Olajos Péter ; Lévai Katalin ; Kósáné Kovács Magda ; Járóka Lívia ; Hegyi Gyula ; Dobolyi Alexandra ; Gyürk András ; Tabajdi Csaba ; Glattfelder Béla ; Gál Kinga
    Sent: Sunday, February 04, 2007 1:08 PM
    Subject: Fw: A megtévesztéssel kötött szerződés semmis! Magyarországnak jelenleg nincs törvényes kormánya.

    Dear Mr. Barroso,
    I hope you have been following the events which took place in Hungary, mostly in Budapest since last September and October.
    In connection with these events I am sending you the translation of the letter which I wrote to the President of Hungary Mr. László Sólyom yesterday.
    Yours sincerely,
    Atilla Levay
    Zsambek, 2072, Dozsa Gy. u. 6. Hungary Tel.-3623342198
    ***************************************************************************************

    Since April 2006 Hungary has had no Legitimate Government.

    Dear Mr. President,

    In every Civilised Country where we can talk about the “Rule of Law”, any contract made between two parties, where one party deliberately misleads the other, is “Null and Void”.
    In view of the fact that Ferenc Gyurcsány and the other leaders of the MSzP (Hungarian Socialist Party) admitted that they deliberately misled the Electorate, the result of the April 2006 Election is “Null and Void”.

    The exercise of Power based on a “Null and Void” Contract is illegitimate.
    If Parliament supports this illegitimate Government, Parliament itself is illegitimate. The Police, if it carries out the orders of an illegitimate, power usurping Criminal Organisation, is also illegitimate: they sink to the level of being accomplices to criminals and cease to be the Legitimate Police Force of Hungary.

    Since April 2006 Hungary has had no Legitimate Government.
    As you have a Law Degree, you should be aware of this fact, and act upon it.

    Lévay Atilla
    Zsámbék, 2072, Dózsa György u. 6. Tel.-23-342198

  6. Dear Attila Levay, Aren’t you tired yet of the BS? I want to see your letter about the Orban lies. Can you post that too. Gyurcsany did not lie but pointed to an existing problem that is seems to be embedded into Hungarian politics for deceased (if not Centuries).
    Viktor Orban told to FOREIGN dignitaries in order to be reelected “do not listen to what I say” but watch what I do. Why Gyurcsany used plural, Orban used singular. Interesting.
    For the last few days we are discussing, featuring, posting evidence and facts about the Orban mafia, the corruptions and lies committed by Fidesz, and then you come in like a pre-schooler who missed his nap time, and pull something out of the hat that has no relevance whatsoever. Gyurcsany is not the Prime Minister. Gyurcsany is not he problem. Orban is!

  7. Atilla,

    That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read in my life. You would get laughed out of law school with such inane “arguments.”

  8. I don’t think they are going to abandon the shambles of their disastrous fp. Look at the Minister of Interior’s, Pinter’s reaction to the request for a national security check of Arpad Habony, Orban’s (allegedly) unpaid advisor and (very wealthy) friend. Habony’s girlfriend, Kristina Usikova, is the daughter of a shady Russian businessman named Eduard Usikov. Pinter said that since Habony is not officially employed, there was no reason to carry out the security check. The press seems to have swallowed that obfuscation (Hun. press, what’s up???). In normal circumstances and in other countries, ANYONE who regularly spends large amounts of time with the head of state is examined for security risks.
    It’s very apparent from his favourite press and t.v. that Orban values the close connection with Moscow more than any connections with the West, and has instructed his people to lie and obfuscate to maintain those connections.

  9. @Webber

    Orban will never abandon Putin, Orban is a genuine believer in the Putin/Dugin ideology.

    Also, the material benefits to Orban and his energy trading cronies are so huge that leaving Putin is just isn’t an option.

    Putin is the only person who seems to like Orban (this is how Orban feels anyway), and Orban can’t go back to the people who only criticize him and treat him as the village idiot.

    No, Orban will not change allegiance, and his allegiance is to Putin and to Russia.

    Just like Hitler never gave up, Orban will not give up or give in or retreat, whatever the consequences to the nation. (At most, yet another round of peakock dance may follow, in order to buy time.)

  10. Éva, ez megint nagyszerű összefoglaló. Persze, nem azért, mert érintve vagyok, attila

  11. I’m not convinced that Orbán has any particular ideology, he is simply intoxicated with his power and the wealth it brings him. His attachment to Russia owes probably more to the fact that if money is stolen from the deals he has brokered, the worst that can happen is that Putyin will want a cut. Whereas the Americans tend to see it differently (i.e. the Vida affair.) The whole Paks deal is about making outrageous amounts of money for himself and supporting clique, nothing else.

    The absurd Sunday opening laws had no real support. But Orbán decided to push it through anyway because he gets a kick out of proving his own omnipotence and gets an adrenaline rush from “victory”. It reminds me of the joke: “Where does a 450 pound gorilla sleep?” The answer being “Anywhere it wants.” Why does Orbán make ridiculous or reckless foreign policy decisions? Because he can…

  12. Another day in Hungary in the ‘centre-right conservative’ fidesznik world of ideology.

    Links to six conspiracy theories spread by die-hard fidesznik pundits – Monday edition.

    Examples:

    Istvan Lovas: It was the Americans who shot down MH370 over Ukraine.
    Andras Bencsik: The local supporters of globalization are preparing a coup d etat against Orban.
    Janos Lazar: It is the American embassy which is bringing the people to the streets.

    http://444.hu/2014/12/22/egy-csokor-jobboldali-osszeeskuves-egy-unalmas-hetfo-reggelre/

  13. @Webber

    Tölgyessy is a great story teller, but he is that foremost. I think his insights are somewhat overrated.

    Gabor Török, another fidesz-leaning (or as Prof. Balog said it aptly ‘somewhat partial to Fidesz’) observer, at least is in daily contact with fideszniks.

    Of course, Török is an active political operator, so whatever he says must be seen in that light, he may just want to spread things on purpose.

    Tölgyessy is much more of an intellectual, a kind of loner, who is less wired into the minds of the younger generation of Fidesz. His biggest value lies in being able to write up a narrative with a distinct style (I like “bajos”, meaning problematic, which almost nobody uses in daily conversation, but he will reliably use it in his annual article).

    Tölgyessy still detests the “post-communists” and still admires Orban. Tölgyessy has been a Fidesz MP for 8 years (though not a member of the party) and I think he is still mesmerized by the human manifestation of such a ‘political genius’. His critique is a bit personal, I feel. After all, he is heavily into middle-age now and he has to realize that Hungary didn’t develop compared to, indeed seriously fell behind its peers and the fall accelerated during the last 5 years of Fidesz’ reign. Fidesz’ values which Orban has been preaching for over ten years were put into practice, realized but these are the results and that’s a huge disappointment to Tölgyessy who, I suspect also believed in the Orbanian ideology. For these reasons, I always have reservations to what he has to say.

  14. Tölgyessy is a very peculiar individual. He became a Fidesz MP before 1998, but during the 1998-2002 cycle, he voted pretty much how he wanted, and would often vote against Orbán. And yet astonishingly, he was put on something like 11th place on the party list for the 2002 election. I remember asking people about about this at the time: the general feeling was that he knows enough about Fidesz to be able to essentially blackmail his way onto their party lists (rather like Pintér in a different context.)

    This doesn’t invalidate his article but I do think he is very much overrated at a thinker. But I do know that people like János Kis from the kerékasztal days of the SZDSZ were profoundly mistrustful of him. So he is a complex and probably rather devious character…

  15. @Csalaváry – All that is fine. I take everything all analysts write with a grain of salt. But I don’t understand why you would you trust Török (who also has admired Orbán in print and on t.v.), more than Tölgyessy who, as you imply, (also) has contacts within Fidesz due to his past. If you read that article, you won’t find a shred of Tölgyessy’s former admiration of Orbán. It’s clear that in Tölgyessy’s view, Orbán is the problem, not the solution, but also that insiders in Fidesz won’t be removing Orbán.

  16. @Webber:

    It’s not that I trust Török more, no, but I think what he says is more directly based on Fidesz’ current state, either because Török is working on behalf of Fidesz(niks) or simply because he talks to fideszniks on a daily basis, while Tölgyessy doesn’t (or Tölgyessy’s connections are to the older generation which is not influential any more). Török admires Orban, I agree. But Török’s business model is also based on having a more or less critical attitude, in other words he is opportunistic. That Török is deeply worried, is an important piece of information in itself.

  17. @Csalaváry, Webber

    I find Tölgyessy’s piece very interesting, for it lays out a framework for criticizing the regime from a right-wing point of view. While the ballet of conflicting personal ambitions – something that is bound to happen over time in every dominant group – is to be scrutinized, any dissent wishing to influence a policy shift will at some point need a common basis around which people can be rallied.

    @HiBoM

    I do view Fidesz’s policies as often murky, incoherent, improvised, and self-serving (whether to please the crowds or fill in their pockets). However, I also consider they are attempting to forge an ideology, part of which is rooted in Hungary’s past, part of which is inspired by certain winds blowing throughout Europe.

    It may often be closer to the ‘wisdom’ of self-help books or motivation seminars than to the highly structured systems of ideas that have been, for better or worse, successful in the past. Nonetheless, I think it qualifies as an ideology, be it only in its attempting to reshape such a wide range of subjects, from culture to education to economy to health to foreign policy…

  18. The courts of the future New Hungary will be interested in the diaries/blogs of the era 2006, 2010-2014.

    They will try the crimes of our times.

    Every Hungarian must learn to discard the information fed by the current government’s loyal press/radio/tv, and become an honest citizen.

    Every Hungarian must give up passive behaviour.

  19. Hungary to sell gas storage – recently purchased from EON – to Russia.

    Yet another way to bind Hungary to Russia.

    Orban isn’t giving up, he’s not resting until he can transform Hungary into a fully-fledged Russian vassal state. Hell, isn’t this what we already are?

    With the full support of the Hungarian national security apparatus, we suppose.

    http://www.portfolio.hu/vallalatok/energia/ujabb_milliardos_uzletet_kothetunk_oroszorszaggal.5.208243.html

  20. tovarisi–

    Yes, it’s official. Hungary is Russia’s Strohmann.

    We front for Russia if necessary, but we openly support Russia politically. Nobody can say Hungary wasn’t honest and open about this.

    Orban purchased the EON gas storage from the very beginning on behalf of Russia. Orban didn’t care about it, he was just delivering it to Putin anyway.

    EON didn’t want to sell it to Gazprom, but it did sell it to Hungary, which is now selling it to Moscow.

    Western politicians might have thought they could be smarter than Putin and Orban, well those Westerners aren’t.

    Putin and Orban are here to stay and together they will suck Hungary dry.

  21. Thank you, @Atilla Levay for the great argument against the current Orban government. If you had such strong arguments against the previous government, then you must agree that the Orban government is completely illegitimate.

  22. I just want to congratulate “nandi” and Attila Levai for their hard effort to turn back time to the 1970s and tie Hungary again to Russia. When I am reading comments such as theirs about the American conspiracy, and about how they rely on one Hungary’s crook, Janos Lazar) who just purchased to his ten year old son a 60,000,000 forint worth of property but forgot to disclose it) I feel great. I feel I am transported back to my childhood when we sang the Soviet anthem together wit the Hungarian, and listened to the speeches about the devil West, and how they exploit their own people. Oh, being an uninformed, stupidified, uneducated child again…. What is the secret nandi and Attila used to get back to that stage? I guess Fidesz holds the key to the time machine. THey already succeeded to transport us back to the early 20th Century with many of their policies and by rewriting history, but now the also hold the key to rejuvenation…

    As far as the USA would be the big organizer of the opposition. I wish! They certainly open their eyes, they certainly started to listen, they absolutely welcome any change that would lead Hungary out under the rock, and they wonderfully share the news when something encouraging happens. Having this kind of influence on Hungary is very refreshing to see versus the influence of the “East” that is based on corruption, secret pacts, shady deals, autocrat power, enrichment of the few at the expense of the masses. To sum it up it is nice to see that a country what changes that would create an equal opportunity Hungary for all versus the practice the blinded Fidesz friends try to keep that is based on the enrichment of a few, a system where all Hungarians pay the price.

  23. Ha!! Index has finally twigged that Habony should not be allowed into the USA because of his conviction for assault. Something i pointed out here, and wrote to the US Embassy about…

    That gives me a quiet sense of satisfaction!

  24. @ HiBoM Yes, Habony forgot to mention on his visa application those facts.

    So let see who is Fidesz and their friends (nandi, Attila Levai, Rev. Kovacs, Joe Simon, etc.) relies on to lead Hungary toward prosperity and glory:
    – A conviceted killer who is hired to protect the Fidesz headquarters, Ferenc Sz.
    – A fraudster who provenly cheated to obtain his doctorate, actually he did not even have his doctorate but signed papers as such. He served as Hungary’s President, and had to resign. Since then he received some medals, and a lifetime monthly pension about quarter million forints.
    – 6 individuals including Ildiko Vida (who doe not speak English) the head of the Hungarian tax authority, who are on the no travel list to the USA for alleged corruptions.
    – Viktor Orban, Prime Minister who early on proclaimed that in order to win the election he will say many things, but that is an other question what will he do. Orban is also a saint, I must say. Anyone he touches becomes rich in a matter of couple of years. His gas fitter friend from his village, his daughter’s then fiancé (now her husband), his wife, his father, most of his ministers. I think he is ready for his beatification, and not to far to reach sainthood.
    …and the list just goes on

  25. Addendum. I left out two other lectures from yesterday’s post: those of Paul Lendvai and Kinga Göncz. Paul Lendvai is a very well-known Hungarian-born Austrian journalist and Kinga Göncz was foreign minister in the first Gyurcsány government. Until recently she was MSZP MEP in Brussels. Both were excellent

    Lendvai’s can found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHNJ1DsS1xQ and Göncz’s here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5InoPlpj3MI

    Two very different lectures.. Lendvai’s is very funny while Göncz’s more analytical.

  26. Let us hope that corrupt MSZP criminals like Gabor Simon, the MSZP vice chairman will receive appropriate punishment. He stole hundreds of millions (several million USD) which he hid in foreign bank accounts. While leading the so-called ‘Hunger march’ . How hungry can you be with millions of USD in your dozen accounts?

    Or we could mention the MSZP criminal called Józsa who stole billions from Paks nuclear plant through his front company (which was quickly dissolved after it couldn’t steal any more)

    Ferenc Gyurcsany, how much do you think his amassed billions were legal? When he was just starting out he was for two months the leader of a young Communist organization for which he received a large property (so called “szolgalati lakas”). He did not give it back, he felt that after 2 months he “earned it”. That can be similar how he earned the rest of his fortune.

    Or the thief Laszlo Varju who received full severance package (millions of HUF) for leaving parliament and then 1 month later he sat back in Parlaiment.

    The paper HVG also wrote about Ferenc Gyurcsany’s tax evasion case in the 1990s, which was not investigated on purpose until the statute of limitations passed. HVG proved in a series of articles that Gyurcsany committed the crime, yet he is “innocent” because it was “too long ago” to be investigated. How cute.

    God save Hungary from the MSZP and DK criminals. If they ever get into power again they will steal everything and they will sell the rest to foreigners for pennies on the dollar.

    We could also mention Zushclag the MSZP criminal who robbed state coffers in the sports ministry. Who was the minister at that time? Ferenc Gyurcsany.

    The MSZP criminal Miklos Hagyo robbed Budapest and BKV blind all the while Demszky is unaware of everything.

    Another MSZP criminal is Gyorgy Hunvald who is a lawfully convicted MSZP criminal. He acted like a robber baron in one of the Budapest districts, at one point he even owned an airplane, he stole so much.

    Hopefully many of these MSZP criminals are already banned from entering the United States due to their criminal convictions or widely known wealth of evidence against them for corruption and other crimes.

    If you hope that Hungarians will vote for these criminals to return in 2018 you are very mistaken. You could get me to vote for LMP for example but never the MSZP criminals. Never in a million years.

    I suggest for Gyurcsany to look at the example of Bajnai. Bajnai realized his presence is damaging to the Hungarian politcal scene so he removed himself. Gyurcsany should do the same and quickly.

  27. Not too much OT:

    RTL news are showing right now how some of the poor people live in Hungary – tens of thousands children are going hungry over Xmas …

  28. For people struggling with their own conscience I recommend reading this article from the New York Times.

    “Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses

    Mr. Obama has said multiple times that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as though the two were incompatible. They are not. The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down.

    Americans have known about many of these acts for years, but the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality: In addition to new revelations of sadistic tactics like “rectal feeding,” scores of detainees were waterboarded, hung by their wrists, confined in coffins, sleep-deprived, threatened with death or brutally beaten. In November 2002, one detainee who was chained to a concrete floor died of “suspected hypothermia.”

    So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/22/opinion/prosecute-torturers-and-their-bosses.html

    Very simply put, we need them prosecuted for our own sakes. Americans can’t tell someone else: “don’t steal”, while torturing prisoners. And now with the Senate report it became undeniable. The issue here is international law.
    Torture is banned by the Convention Against Torture. This means that any acts of torture MUST be prosecuted by countries that are party to it. This is an International Treaty that the United States ratified. If the US breaks international treaties when inconvenient, it will undermine its image as a county that can be trusted. And that can’t be allowed to happen.

  29. And even more OT:

    Right now RTL news had a big report on how many stars came to Elton John’s wedding – his husband looked really happy …
    And now they’re showing the Hungarian glass artifacts that Elton bought for many millions …

    Obviously trying to provoke the “Christian family values” of Fidesz and its allied party – very funny!

  30. @Adam

    Don’t you think that there are readers here who condemn torture and criticize the US for it, but at the same time happy that the US is taking at least some minimal action against this deranged pro-Russia dictator?

    (And remember, it was Fidesz which leaked the travel ban, and let’s face it, the ban itself isn’t really a huge action.)

  31. Adam you stated Americans can’t tell people (Hungarians I assume) not to steal when they have tortured people. Why? The Russians at the maximum-security penitentiary facility at Chernokozovo tortured numerous Chechens and even a reporter named Andrei Babitsky, who was kidnapped by Russian federal forces in Chechnya, Yet Putin publicly tells Russians not to steal and claims the USA is trying to destroy Russia. Adam I am sorry to say you are full of szar.

  32. Hiven of course they “can” tell anything they want, they have that ability. But trying to hold the moral high ground and keeping international treaties (isn’t NATO exactly that? an international treaty ratified by the USA and others?) can still be important.

    And there is only so much abuse that people are able to take. Just think about the recent tragedy in the US where a black man executed two police officers as “revenge” for the multiple killings of unarmed blacks by US police. There were no charges in many of “police kills unarmed blacks” type of cases. And this crazy individual took it upon himself to “serve justice”. He was mad and what he did was crazy but the world is full of crazy people.

    Torturing Arabs for example might be the type of thing that pushes many crazies over the edge. If they did it at least they should have kept it a secret.

  33. Adam and Pipa: regarding the issue of torture in the context of discussing FIDESZ in modern Hungary. The rhetorical technique of your trolling is truly laughable. Get out a dictionary and look up what we mean in English when we say something is a “red herring.” (Hint: it has nothing to do with communism.)

  34. “The other boy did something bad too last week – so why am I being punished?”

    It’s more like a boy talks to the class about “Elton John’s wedding” and then screams and starts crying when others talk about something else.

    “Why, why do others get to talk also? Only I should be allowed to talk about anything I want”.
    – Sad the little boy, crying and screaming.

  35. @Steven Harnad: To follow the conference via a remote “feed” and to tweet favourable comments on the talks as the speakers step down from the podium: A signal of approval, but a muted one. To attend the conference… — Prof Balogh commented, tongue practically through her cheek, that Goodfriend’s attendance was “by the way”. My remark took its cue from her lead.

  36. @Wondercat – I have attended more conferences than I can count, and I can assure you that attendance does not mean approval of anything anyone says at the conference – it does not even indicate support of the conference. If you attend a conference, all it means is that you were there,and you heard (some of) the presentations.
    This seems blindingly obvious to me. Anyone who ever attended a conference would know this, so normally I wouldn’t bother writing it, but it seems obvious from comments made that some Hungarian government spokespeople have never attended conferences. I don’t know how it’s possible to get an important position in government, or to be in a think-tank (such as Szazadveg) without understanding this basic fact about conference attendance, but apparently it is possible in Hungary today.

  37. @Webber

    No fidesznik ever goes to any conference (whether as speaker of as a member of an audience) or actually any meeting, where the ‘enemy’ might be there. They just don’t.

    Fideszniks are not social people. In addition, they don’t communicate with the enemy, there can be no compromise with the enemy and even the image that a fidesznik ‘was there’ might convey the implication that he/she is not reliable politically (because he/she talked to the enemy).

    Fideszniks don’t talk to the enemy (unless it is about distributing some crumbles from the EU funds to MSZP, or as part of smaller deals like that between Antal Rogan and Zsolt Molnar or Csaba Horvath). Fidesz performs a political monologue, fideszniks decide and make laws and that’s that.

    As a result, fideszniks assume that Goodfriend, who attended the conference somehow supports the people at the conference, because it seems that he’s in regular talk/communication with these opposition people (aka the enemy).

    Until you understand this, you haven’t gotten their thinking.

    In fact, this was a huge mistake foreigners made. They all thought that Szajer, Martonyi, Navracsics, Varga just because they appeared at some conferences and greeted political opponents (including critical foreigners) were somehow ‘moderate’ politicians (and not die-hard Orban loyalists which they all revealed themselves to be) ‘with whom we can deal’. Right.

    For Fidesz there are only Fidesz and the enemy. That’s that. The only question is, how to divide the world into these two camps. Oh, does this division remind anyone of a political philosopher who fall from grace after 1945?

  38. @Wondercat re Goodfriend’s appearance at the conference. I think you misunderstood me. Goodfriend also visited Századvég or the peace marches. It seems to me that U.S. foreign policy is very proactive nowadays. We must keep in mind that Goodfriend represents America and it is not his decision whether he attends an event or not.

  39. Prof Balogh, thank you for your comment. I assure you — I did NOT mis-understand you. I took Goodfriend’s appearance at the peace marches and at this conference as very clearly sent signals to the present government, and as signals sent not by Goodfriend as a “free agent” but rather through him by the State Department; I think that indeed both appearances are ringing endorsements of opposition to Fidesz, and that Goodfriend was, and is, fully aware of how his willingness to be photographed side by side with Gyurcsány, exchanging affectionate smiles, will be interpreted — as an admonition toward one set of forces in Hungarian politics and as an encouragement toward another.

    With regard to Webber’s assurances, above, that to attend a conference means only that one attends a conference… perhaps Washington never told a lie; perhaps the policeman is my friend; perhaps Goodfriend dropped into the conference only because he had nothing better to do that day; all possible. But with age and experience, one grows, with druzsba (and I venture to hazard — with you as well), to think that this is not the way to bet.

  40. Unfortunately “druzsba” appears to be quite correct – and not only for the sake of name.
    “Druzsba” means “friendship” as much as my knowledge of Russian goes.

    Anyway, the Fidesz attitude toward just about anything is rather equals with the attitude of a soccer fan: either with us, or against us, there is no stages or distinctions of any kind.

    Yes, kind folks, Orbán turned the country into a bloody soccer field, with all the paraphernalia and manners to go with. It also means that there is no place for diplomacy – what is it, anyway, and who may cares, dude? – nor negotiations or common ground, NO BLOODY WAY!

    – We are Hungarians and most of all Fidesz supporters, damn it! Come out and I’ll show you, yank!!!! – or thereabout.

    Conclusively, if the Americans and Goodfriend in particular will not accept the Felcsutian rules of the game, they must go, no questions asked.

    – And finally Viktor can perform the “Hussars of Fehérvár” without disturbance, for all of our benefit.

    Amen!!

  41. @Ms. Balogh re: ” these wagging tongues”
    I hope and wish that you will never have to endure any dysfunction.
    Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to you all !

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