Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Hungarian Soldiers Leave/Don't Leave Iraq

My home country Hungary, as member of the Coalition Of The Bribed & Blackmailed (& Foolish), sent 300 military truck drivers to Iraq last year. You shouldn't think their participation is insignificant, after all they remained to drive convoys when most civilian trucking contractors pulled out. As for the nature of their work, even until early summer this year, 95% of their transports were for fellow CotW/CotBB(&F) troops - humanitarian, helping democracy, gimme a break...

Now, for the political background, troop deployment needs 2/3 support in Parliament, to be renewed each year. That means it needs votes from both the nominally leftist government parties (the - to outsiders unlikely - coalition of ex-reformed-communists and ex-liberal-oppositionaries, who seem closer to a Western European centre-right party) and the nominally right-wing parties (a populist party that - again to outsiders unlikely - is led by ex-liberal yuppies but integrated the far right, and a small party of old conservatives with pre-WWII flair).

In June 2003, all parties voted yes. (A little background: the present opposition, which was in power until 2002, viewed Bush's election tactics and power style as one of their role models - Berlusconi was another, Tudjman yet another, you can guess it -, but the love affair ended in a funny way. To pre-empt the accusation of corruption in a fighter plane tender - a scandal exposing an all too cozy relationship of party members with Lockheed already broke -, they decided for the better Swedish-British offer rather than the F-16. But Bush responded with diplomatic Ice Age, shutting the door on our PM when he went to Washington for his pre-election photo-ops, and giving US diplomats free hand to thematise unchecked anti-semitism in Hungary. So in 2003, right-wingers being right-wingers, they probably didn't want trouble from Big Brother again...)

In November 2003, three parties voted yes on the extension into 2004, but the paleoconservatives witheld votes.

This year, our new PM (Gyurcsány replaced Medgyessy after a coup in the Socialist party) sensed that the public's opposition can't be resisted much further, and the opposition could finally take up that position - so he devised a trick: he proposed an extension of only three months, and tried to sell it as an 'early' pullout (and that's how it came across in most of the Western press). Gyurcsány also hoped that the opposition will fear a similar self-defeat as a few weeks before, when they first voted down the long-awaited law on ending conscription, but upon realising that they lost overnight masses of young voters, voted for it when presented to Parliament again just a week later. Yet the public wasn't fooled, and this only emboldened the opposition (sometimes even those I despise do something good) - and the three-month extension went down with a sub-2/3 majority of 191:159 yesterday evening.

However, that's not the end of the story. While in the panic of the defeat, our ever more silly-sounding defense minister called the decision "unpatriotic and bad" (unpatriotic???) [for Hungarian speakers and those with a translation software, good op-ed in Hungarian], an apparent brainstorming session by the tormented guards of our vassaldom under the Second Warshaw Pact produced first results:

  • (A) So OK, the mandate ends on 31 December 2004, but pullout isn't covered! Deployment took two months, pullout will take three...
  • (B) Troop deployment at NATO request doesn't need Parliament approval - so if, as it looks likely, NATO will be shoved into approving a deployment of a police/army training base to Iraq, Hungary will join that!...

...and so the merry Coalition Of The Bribed, Blackmailed & Foolish will soldier on a few more months with token units for nowhere to be seen benefits, either for us or the Iraqis.


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