Saturday, August 9, 2003

The UNESCO Human Rights Educational Chair in Santiago, Chile.

A UNESCO sponsored chair in education of Human Rights, was inaugurated the 29th of July at the Universidad de Academia de Humanismo Christiano, in Santiago ,Chile. The chair was named after the late Swedish ambassador in Chile 1972 –73, Harald Edelstam. The inauguration took place in the Biblioteca Nacional in the presence of the dean of the university, the Swedish ambassador, the UNESCO director, the founders of the chair, Abraham Magendzo and Patricio Donoso, and a numerous audience.
The youngest son of Harald Edelstam, Erik, held a speech why his father should be granted this honour. Read the complete speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Compañeros...

It is a wonderful moment for me to be here, in front of you all, and a great honour for our family and for my late father Harald.
It feels like the ”Black Pimpernel” is back in town. He already made a discreet little visit three years ago, when the Foreign Ministry dedicated a room at the Diplomatic Academy in his name. But now he is back in the name of humanity and in the name of the principles of how humans should behave towards each other in a decent manner.

This Cathedra of Human Rights is dedicated to my father, the late ambassador Harald Edelstam. I will try to give an explanation why he should be awarded this honour. I hope that you are comfortably seated. - Sorry Abraham...

All of his life he followed and fought for the principles of Human Rights, from the schoolyard of his childhood, where he helped weaker comrades, who were beaten by stronger boys, to fund raising tours for Chilean fugitives just before he died in 1989.

The principles of human rights are very simple and yet seem to be so hard to grasp for so many people. The basic idea is the right to be treated with respect, whatever race, social status, religion and opinions.
During my childhood he constantly told my brothers and me the importance to help the weaker and to stand up to injustice.

In one sense Harald Edelstam was quite unique, since he always put his own security at stake when he acted for values he thought were right. Long before the concept of Human Rights was formulated.
When he was a young diplomatic attaché in Berlin 1942 he rushed out in his pyjama in the middle of the night when the Gestapo raided his Jewish neighbourhood and managed to harbour people during the night, so they could get a chance to flee next morning.

Later during the war he was posted in the occupied Norway as a vice consul, where he immediately took a stance against the German oppressors. He joined the resistance in a very active manner and used all his talents and wits to help the Norwegian people during their ordeal. He organized the very important illegal newspapers, in order to counterbalance the German propaganda and to get out the truth about the events in the country and the world. He took part in the vital organization of smuggling persecuted people, including hundreds of Jews out of the country, over the border to Sweden. He personally drove many of them to the border in his car and he hid people in the cellar of his house, many times when he entertained SS-officers at the floor above at the same time just to fool them a little more. At those occasions he must have felt a strange satisfaction.
He personally knew the German commandant, General von Falkenhorst, the bosses of the Sicherheits Dienst and the Gestapo henchmen and did what he could to pull strings and extract advantages from the Germans in order to help Norwegians and get them out of the concentration camps. He succeeded in many cases. In 1944 he had to flee the country after the Gestapo had managed to plant a spy in his house in the form of a nanny. The problem was that he did not have a diplomatic immunity; only the Swedish diplomats in Berlin could rely on that protection. The Gestapo tried to assassinate him on several occasions, but failed, mostly thanks to his vigilance and his cold nerves. I have met many Norwegians who owe their lives to him.

During his long diplomatic career, among places like communist Poland in the fifties, Turkey, Indonesia and Guatemala, he helped people in distress on numerous occasions, often by twisting the rules and bypassing legislation.

In Chile he was confronted with a tough challenge that put his wits, cold nerves and courage at their ultimate test.
In 1971 the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, whom he knew since his youth, asked him to become the Swedish Ambassador in Chile. The socialist Salvador Allende was elected president the year before and the Swedish social democratic government and the labour unions had great expectations and hopes to participate in the remaking of the unequal Chilean society. Salvador Allende had started the daunting task of social change and was met by stiff resistance and social strife. The Swedes allotted huge sums of money and experts to the aid of Chile, which, of course, put an immense burden on the embassy. Due to strikes and unrest, the conditions of life in Chile was difficult, but my father got things running and had his receptions and dinners for the endless streams of visitors, fixing food and drinks from nothing, like if nothing was wrong. All the time he had a very close relationship to the president and they became good friends.

So the coup d’état arrived the 11th of September, (my mothers’ birthday). He heard shots in the morning and got the reports of the events. Later in the day he heard intense shooting further down the street of his chancellery, at the Estanques, where the Cuban embassy was located.
He went there at once in order to stop the shooting at his colleges. Chilean troops were firing into the Cuban compound, where they responded the fire with machine guns. The situation was impossible.
He managed to get permission from the commander of the attacking force to enter the Cuban compound, in order to get them to surrender. He went in and refused to come out until the attacking force was withdrawn. Meanwhile he helped the Cuban ambassador to arrange the evacuation of the staff.
The critical moment came when the last busload of Cubans left and the attackers prepared themselves to take over the now empty compound. My father had arranged to get a Swedish flag and hoisted the blue and yellow colours, like a pirate captain, before the soldiers had any chance to get in. The Cuban ambassador had asked him to protect the embassy.

The problem was that he had no authorisation whatsoever from the Swedish Government to do so. He didn’t even have the time to consult the Swedish Foreign Office. In the name of humanity he put his career at stake in a very tense situation and the government had to comply afterwards. Later the Swedish foreign minister lied in the parliament and said that my father had a go for all of his actions. It must, however, be added, that he called to the home of Olof Palme and conferred of what to do. Palma’s wife, Lisbeth, told me how Olof took the phone in his kitchen and had long discussions with my father about the situation in Chile.
Then came the fugitives. The first one was Max Marambio, a member of the bodyguard of the President. He was followed by hundreds of others. Many prominent members of the Unidad Popular.
Another problem arose. According to international law, only Latin American countries had the right to receive fugitives. My father first received the fugitives, who climbed over his fence, without question, still without authorisation from the Swedish foreign office. Afterwards he had to consult the law book and check if he could twist the rules, which he apparently did.

Harald Edelstam became the Raoul Wallenberg of Chile. Not only did he take care of hundreds of fugitives in the Swedish embassy and in the Cuban compound, but also he distributed hundreds of others to diverse embassies and virtually forced some reluctant and scary colleges to receive persecuted people in distress. He was the motor among the foreign diplomats and took initiative in the massive effort to save people who were hunted like animals, because of their beliefs.
Many times he gave fugitives Swedish passports, fake names and dressed them up in order to smuggle them out of the country, among them the Peruvian union leader Hugo Blanco and the four-year-old daughter of the communist leader Volodia Teitelboim. Still without authorisation.

He was very active and went out with his car in the nights in order to pick up people who were on the run. - How many times haven’t I met Chileans who told me that they were transported in the trunk of his car?
Once in Paris, a woman, who was a cashier at a petrol station, cried and kissed me, when she saw my name on the credit card. She had also travelled in his trunk. My wife sitting in the car outside saw the scene and was furious, honking the horn intensely.

The new government assembled their prisoners at the National Football Stadium, which became a place of horror and torture. My father’s first task was to get out the Swedes among the prisoners. It was hard, but he managed in the end. He went there every day to see if there was an opportunity to get people out, like he did at the German concentration camps in Norway during the war.
The prisoners, who even didn’t see him, soon knew his visits. The distinguished filmer Patricio Guzmann, told me that he was locked up, somewhere in the cellars, but when he heard of the visits by the Swedish ambassador, he got hope and encouragement, that he and his comrades were not completely forgotten by the outside world.
The most dramatic event took place one morning, when my father came on his regular visits and heard that 84 Uruguayan Tupamaros and Brazilians were going to be executed. That day the commander, the terrible colonel Espinoza, was absent and his deputy Lavanderos was in charge. My father pleaded to the man and asked for mercy. After lengthy discussions together with other ambassadors, including the Uruguayan ambassador, Lavanderos gave away and gave the permission to release the prisoners. A number of buses were organized in a hurry and they got away.
Next day a furious Espinoza, who explained that Lavanderos was executed the same morning, met my father! – The reasons are very complex, but the decision to let the prisoners go, may be part of it.

The situation got more and more tense for my father. A woman fugitive had an appendix inflammation and had to be whisked to the hospital. The military wanted to arrest her at the spot. At her bedside he started a fistfight and called desperately for his colleges to come and help. The French ambassador later recalled how he was chocked to see his noble and distinguished Swedish college, lying on the floor, holding on the hospital bed, while the soldiers beat him with the butts of the rifles. But he had to give in and let the military take the woman. But she was released afterwards and sent to Sweden.

All these events were widely described in the Swedish press and I remember how astonished I was to see my fathers face in the newspaper every day during that period. I was an innocent student at the moment.

The incident at the hospital was the final nail in the coffin of my father. Accompanied by a dirty campaign of the Chilean press, he was declared ”persona non grata” by the Pinochet junta. He was, shamelessly, kicked out of the country. - But now, as we have seen, the ”Black Pimpernel” is back again in full force.
He got this nickname by the Norwegian resistance. The movie ”The Scarlet Pimpernel” with Leslie Howard was released just before the war.

In the years that followed he worked ceaselessly for the Chilean fugitives and the restoration of democracy. Unfortunately he died 1989, just before the liberation of Chile. He never had the chance to get back to the new, free society that we see here today.

I think that the best way to honour his services to the Chilean people is not to build a monstrous monument somewhere, but to build a monument of ideas and thoughts, that reflects his devotion to decency and respect for mankind.
The horrors of the dictatorship must never be repeated. Every man must be treated as an equal and everyone has the right of fair justice. The stronger and richer must not take advantage of the weaker and poorer. A wane hope, but not hopeless...
The Cathedra of Human Rights in this University is the first cornerstone of this monument. Let’s hope that this will be just the start of many such Institutes all over the world and lets all together make that happen.
Thank you Abraham and Patricio for your passion and your devotion.

Thank you.

Read more about the inauguration in Spanish at the:

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Iraq and Barbararossa - lessons from a war long ago

Report from the 26th of March 2003
During this war in Iraq, I can not help being an armchair general and think about lessons that the Americans and the British should draw from the German invasion of the Soviet Union, “Operation Barbarossa”, and what followed, of which the Russian, “Operation Uranius”, is very interesting. It is easy to compare the three campaigns, since they both were made rapidly, with big forces over long distances, over great plains, in a hostile environment. There are also many things that differ, which might be decisive for the Anglo-American forces. The development of the Iraqi war will prove if I am right, or not.
History is wonderful because it gives you a brighter and wider perspective of current events, Read more about it

Father Winter and Mother Summer
The Anglo-American Coalition stormed into Iraq the 18th of March, after many delays, due to discussions in the UN. The Coalition was anxious to get started before the Great Heat starts. Even in March, it’s a bit late, since it starts to get hot already in the middle of April. Adding to this, March is right in the middle of the so-called, “Khamsin”-season, when sandstorms sweep over a large part of the Middle East.
The Germans were also too late in 1941, with horrible consequences later on. They started the 24 of June and thought they would have a quick campaign (like the Coalition) that would be finished before “Father Winter” came, - the great cold.
The Coalition now faces the entrance of “Mother Summer”, which could have serious difficulties, especially for the troops that have to wear chemical suits. But the tanks will not be as hot as they were in the Libyan Desert, since they are air-conditioned.

The Strength
Concerns have been raised that the Coalition forces are too few. According the figures released by the press, the Coalition has 250 000 American and 45 000 British troops to conquer and occupy Iraq.
In “Operation Barbarossa” the Germans attacked with 3 million men, and just to take the Baltic states and Leningrad they used 500 000 men, 1 070 airplanes and 1 500 tanks. When the Russians made the final assault at Germany itself in the “Operation Uranius”, the 23rd of January 1945, they had massed 2,2 million men, who started to break into East Prussia.
I believe that modern warfare needs less man, since everything right now is mechanized and airlifted. You have fewer, bigger trucks that need fewer drivers. The logistics are far more easily and better organized today. The Germans relied much on horse drawn artillery and charts, which swallowed lots of men, and slowed down the pace of advance.

The Germans had the same problems as the Coalition has today. They attacked swiftly and had not time to secure their rear, the lines of support got very thin and vulnerable and troops and material got worn out. The result of the rapid offensive was an active partisan activity, which the Germans had to pay dear in losses of men and material that was needed at the front.
An other, more accurate comparison, is the offensive by the German Afrika Korps, led by the “Desert Fox”, Erwin Rommel, in the deserts of Libya and Egypt in 1943.
From the beginning the German involvement of the Italian war in North Africa was just thought of as a prop up for the staggering Italian Army. But despite the few resources Rommel had available, he managed, thanks to excellent tactics and bold execution, to penetrate deep into Egypt. Hitler gave him orders to go on, when he discovered how popular Rommel and the Afrika Korps became in Germany. Rommel, on his hand, knew from the beginning that it was a mission impossible, but had to go on. His biggest problem was maintenance and the long lines of support, which in the end brought him down

The Coalition has also made a very quick advance and has difficulties of securing their rear. The line of support seems to be vulnerable, which demands a lot of men to secure, men who better could be used in active battle. They do no not have the means to spread out a lot of troops to secure every village and town in the occupied areas. A fact that could be very expensive for them. I would not be surprised if the commander, general Franks, demands more reinforcements.
The Russians took no chances and had probably learned their lessons from the German mistakes, so they attacked with an overwhelming force, spearheaded with good equipped and well-trained assault troops, followed by second grade occupation forces to secure the rear. Russians invaded every little corner of the coquetted areas and plundered them thoroughly. The spearhead engaged the Wehrmacht and defeated them in battles.

Before attacking a major target, a wise commander lets his forces to consolidate, rest and see to that all elements that are needed are in place.
The Coalition are not yet in an attacking position for Baghdad, it will be interesting to see how they prepare for the assault of Baghdad. Will they give themselves time for consolidation before the assault? The generals are certainly pressed by an increasingly impatient home opinion and would probably not have the time to wait, which could have dire consequences.

The Germans, in front of Moscow 1941, did not consolidate, either. Hitler pressed the commanders to go on too quick. He wanted, of propaganda reasons, to give the German opinion something to chew on. – The foremost positions could see the towers of the Kremlin in their field glasses. The High Command realized quickly that the spearhead in front of Moscow, was in a dangerous position. They demanded that it should be withdrawn, so the forces present could consolidate, be reequipped and rest. They also had the big problem of “Father Winter”, who just had arrived with temperatures of minus 30-40 degrees and the soldiers just had their summer uniforms. But Hitler refused. So the Russians made a counter-attack with winter equipped, well-rested Siberian troops. The German soldiers were mowed down, fled in panic and froze to death in thousands.

In “Operation Uranius” 1945, they Red army reached the banks of Oder in just a few weeks, but the lines were stretched out, the troops were tired and the rear was not yet secured, so Stalin and the commander Zhukov decided to consolidate, before they could take the last leap to Berlin. The Red army stayed in place in over a month. They also had big problems of discipline, which hampered the operations.
When the mostly poor and revengeful Russian soldiers and officers, who had endured four years of war and the meagreness of communist rule, entered the rich Germany with, wealthy villages and towns, villas, prosperous farms and magnificent chateaus, they all went crazy. A horrible wave of plundering and rape started. The moment the soldiers got hold of alcohol, things got worse and they committed acts of atrocity, no one had seen in hundreds of years. Finally Stalin pulled in the reins and restored some kind of discipline, in order to finish the war.

Prisoners of War
From the press I read that the Coalition has a problem with all the POW’s they take. It is difficult to find decent accommodation and to divert troops to take care of them. The POW’s are slowing up the action. So far they have 4 000 people in their care. The Geneva Convention is strictly applied and the International Red Cross is keeping a hawk’s eye in order to ensure that everything is proper.
The Iraqi’s do not bother much. They do not have that number of POW’s from the Coalition. But they let five American POW’s, including a woman parade in front of the TV-cameras, which caused an outcry in the United States. The POWs seemed to be confused and scared, - no wonder. Saddam Hussein has a solid bad reputation of his treatment of POWs. One American pilot, freed after the Gulf War in 1991, testimonied how he had been beaten and tortured for six weeks in a row. His body looked as it was dipped in blue ink. – Not to talk about all the Iranian POWs from the 1980 – 1988 war.

The Germans considered the Russians as “Untermenschen” and treated their POWs according to that. It must be added that the Soviet Union never signed the Geneva Convention from 1929, but that does not excuse the Hitler from the atrocities he committed against the Russian POWs.
During “Operation Barbarossa”, the Wehrmacht would have been happy if they only have had 4 000 POWs; they captured millions during the offensive, complete armies. Totally they got 5 700 000 POWs, of which 1 030 157 were directly executed. Only one million made it in the forced labour camps and managed to get home, but coming home they were regarded as traitors and immediately sent to the GULAG.
The Gestapo-boss Müller reported proudly in December 1941, that of 22 000 POWs controlled, 16 000 were executed.
In contrast the Nazis treated the Allied POWs well, with exception of some executions of some POWs who broke out from a POW-camp and executions on the battlefield. But the Red Cross was allowed to make inspections and send food packages.

The Russians took millions of German POWs, who immediately were sent away to the Gulag, where most of them perished. Many, though, were dispatched to camps around destroyed Russian cities, which they had to rebuild. Of the 90 000 POWs who capitulated in Stalingrad, only 5 000 survived.
The Russians never had any problems with the logistics of the POWs, they had since 20 years a very efficient organisation to deport their own people to the GULAG. Alexander Soljenytsin wrote that the German POWs flooded the GULAG, but the Russians managed, thanks to old expeerience, squeeze them into the camps, even though most part of the POWs died.

Franc-tireurs and civilians
The word franc-tireur comes from the Franco – Prussian war of 18 71-72, and means literally “free shooter”. In our days he is called freedom fighter, terrorist or guerrilla. The franc-tireur is a civilian, who shoots at invading soldier. During World War I, the first franc-tireurs showed up in Belgium and caused the Germans considerable losses. The Germans retaliated harshly, executed the ones they got hold of and sometimes they killed whole villages. Their behaviour attended much attention in the press of the Entente and the Germans got the reputation as brutal oppressors.
According to war laws, anyone who participates in military action must wear a uniform or something that clearly distinguishes him as a soldier, apart from an ordinary citizen. Fighting armies has always, very strictly, looked upon this notion. No mercy has been shown to the franc-tireur, he was certainly executed or hanged at once, in some cases together with his family. It was regarded as a cowardly act, to fight, disguised as a harmless civilian.

During the “Barbarossa” the German Wehrmacht was fairly disciplined and tried to avoid unnecessary civilian losses. But when they were fired upon from a house, they did not hesitate to take it down, weather or not there were innocent civilians in the house. The SS-troops were particularly ruthless. During the course of battle they burned entire villages if they were suspected partisan bases (like the Americans in Viet-Nam) or if they were an obstacle for the artillery.
There were partisans in great number behind the German lines. TheWehrmacht and in many cases, the SS, staged many search-and- destroy operations in the vast forests of Russia, with frightful results for the ones they found. Many times the partisans were hanged publicly as a warning example.

The Russians in Germany showed no mercy whatsoever for the civilians. The soldiers were, in fact, encouraged to shoot civilians. When the Russian armour moved towards Oder, fleeing fugitives congested the roads. The tanks solved the problem by simply running them over or mowing them down. Sometimes the soldiers stopped, gathered fugitives and liquidated them at the side of the road. The soldiers got into nearly every house in the search for weapons and killed all civilians present, if they found one. The second grade occupation soldiers mostly did this.
The Nazis organized in the end of the war a kind of civilian militia, called the “Volkssturm”, that consisted of old men not drafted and children. This ragtag force was supposed to be the last ditch of the Reich. They had no uniforms, but wore an armband as distinction and had practically no military training. These poor people had no chance against the experienced Russian soldiers and were killed in thousands.

The Coalition has at the moment a growing problem with franc-tireurs. They consist of several groups, and sometimes also have independent, civilian fanatics among their ranks. The best known, and by far, the largest group is the so-called “Fedayeen Saddam”, a political militia, lightly armed and with little military training, though very fanatic. Their leader is the baby-faced, cruel son of Saddam Hussein, Uday. An other group is Al Quds, the military wing of the Ba’ath Party and of course the Special Security Service Organisation, who is in charge of Saddam’s own security. They operate in a ruthless manner, using women and children as human shields, pretending to capitulate and then shooting, using hospitals, schools and mosques as bases and transporting arms and personnel in ambulances. - Another problem is that Iraq is flooding of weapons; nearly all civilians have a Kalashnikov or some kind of weapon at home.
The coalition is caught in a quagmire, since they are supposed to be “liberators” of the Iraqi people and cannot use the same ruthless tactics against civilians as the Russians and Germans did. The Iraqis know this, of course, and use the civilian cover shamelessly and without regard to human lives and the laws of war. They know for sure that the Coalition forces never will execute them on the spot or hang them in the nearest lamppost.

It will be very interesting to see how the Iraqi war will unfold in the nearest future. The Coalition will certainly have to call in more people and enforce stricter rules, regarding the franc-tireurs and the possession of weapons. – Interesting is that America also has a flood of weapons …
Written by Erik Edelstam

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Democracy or dictatorship?

The issue of democracy verses dictatorship has lately more or less divided people, families and former allied countries. Most of us are in favour of human rights and democracy. But are we willing to fight for it? And moreover is it worth the price in human costs? What is your role as a passive bystander? Read more about it...

These are fundamental issues that we have to think carefully about. How many of us have lived under a dictatorship? How many of us know the reality behind the iron curtain of a maniac, be it in a small cult or in a country?

For those amongst us, who work with mind control and with people who have been submitted to such psychological pressures, know that it is nearly impossible to have the strength and the force to fight a cult leader or a dictator on our own. Help from the outside is needed to be able to leave and recover from the experience of a dangerous cult.
A dictatorship can be compared to a cult on a wider scale:
· There is one incontestable leader
· There is information control, i.e. censorship
· The people are pressured to silence through fear
· The individual differences are suppressed in favour of the ideology dictated
· Neighbours, friends, family members are encouraged to spy on each other
· Delation is the order of the day
· The leader is often paranoiac
· Any criticism is stopped through excommunication (exile) or murder
· The welfare of the followers is not a priority
· Lying is favoured when it serves the ideology and its leader
The list can be made longer but I’ll stop here.

Another question is now to be asked. Who deserves human rights? Everybody or just the Western countries? Only men or also women? These are fundamental issues for each one of us to reflect over, because it’s easy to take a stand and light candles or go down to the streets to demonstrate and exercise our democratic rights in our democratic countries for peace. I do think that most of us want peace in the world. A minority must surely be against peace and democracy. However, to be a silent bystander, like we’ve seen countless times in history, is also being an oppressor. Tolerance in the name of tolerance is sometimes exactly the contrary. It means that we tolerate what should never be tolerated. A genuine globalisation demands that universal values have priority in all cases.
At last I want to quote a German poet, Wolf Biermann, describing how he and his mother were running from the fires that devastated Hamburg after the British air raids in 1943, his mother told him “ these terrible, terrible bombers are going to free us from evil, evil people who took Papa away.”
I am happy to live in a country where I am free to write about these issues and where I can dress as I want, leave if I want, take a beer in a pub if I feel like it, go to court if I need to…
Written by Anne Edelstam

Frogs and cowboys - something impossible?

What's Wrong With France?

Read our article about France and the US, by our friend, the distinguished writer and digging journalist, Ken Timmerman. It was published in the right-wing, Insight Magazine. Normally we don’t like to take sides in politics, art stands beyond that, but Ken’s article rings a bell somewhere, especially for us who love France.

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. You just leave a lot of useless, noisy baggage behind."
-- Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense, (1989-1992); Jan. 30, 2003, on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews.

When Charles Lord Cornwallis realized he had been beaten at Yorktown, Va., on Oct. 19, 1781, he ordered his second-in-command to deliver his sword to the Comte de Rochambeau, the French general who had supported Gen. George Washington in the crushing defeat of the British thanks to a powerful naval blockade by a French fleet. Responding with an elegant gesture, Rochambeau directed him to Washington, who in turn directed him to his own second-in-command, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln. It was the final battle of the American Revolution, and the French had been with us when it counted.

In their schoolbooks, American children learn how France came to the assistance of the United States when everything was at risk, just as French children learn how the United States returned the favor twice in the last century. As he stepped onto French soil at the head of the American Expeditionary Force in 1917, Gen. John Pershing famously declared, "Lafayette, we are here!" Again, in World War II, the United States repaid the debt of liberty and friendship with the blood of yet another generation.

And yet, since the end of World War II, the United States and France have suffered a disaffection -- a love-hate relationship -- like former sweethearts wondering years later why it didn't all work out. In 1966, when Gen. Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO's unified military command and ordered the United States from bases in the Paris suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, President Lyndon Johnson reportedly asked him if he also wanted the United States to disinter and take along the American dead who had fallen at Omaha Beach.

De Gaulle didn't want that, of course; nor do the French of today. Indeed, every year on Aug. 15 the French village of Le Plan de la Tour celebrates the landing of American troops at Ste. Maxime and St. Tropez with a parade of World War II jeeps and veterans dressed in U.S. uniforms of that era. Similar celebrations are held across France where important battles of the Liberation were fought.

But to read the invective broadcast on both sides of the Atlantic as the political rift between the United States and France has grown in recent weeks, one might never know that the two countries are bound by a shared heritage bought with blood.

Dominique Moisi, who heads the leading French think tank, the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI), tells Insight: "This is a rejection of war and a rejection of America. It's no longer a rational issue -- it's an emotional question. There's a feeling that war itself is the biggest evil." French President Jacques Chirac has been saying the same thing, while outraged Americans respond by accusing him of appeasement.

Moisi defends the United States' and Britain's determination to disarm Saddam Hussein by force, if necessary, but says he finds himself in a distinct minority among European opinion leaders. Moisi, showing the angst America's supporters in France are experiencing, says: "I share the conclusions of the Bush administration, but I am disappointed with the way the argument is made. The opposite is true of France. The argument is very well presented, but the conclusion is wrong."

Meanwhile, in the United States, the depth of anger with the French is breathtaking. Internet communities and politicians are awash with anti-French jokes that express a mixture of contempt, hurt, incomprehension and insult.

At a dinner party at the home of Indian consul Skand Ranjan Tayal in Houston recently, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) ripped into a French diplomat who was criticizing the U.S. position on Iraq. "It was obvious we were not going to agree," DeLay said, so he asked the Frenchman if he spoke German. "And he looked at me kind of funny and said, 'No, I don't speak German.' And I said, 'You're welcome,' turned around, and walked off."

In Beaufort, S.C., a restaurant owner took French fries off his menu and replaced them with "freedom fries." In West Palm Beach, Fla., bar owner Ken Wagner poured his entire cellar of vintage French wine into the street. Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he intended to block a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Vivendi Environmental from getting a $25 million government contract to build a sludge-treatment plant.

On Internet discussion boards, jokes go to the heart of French honor. "Why are French streets lined with trees?" goes one. Answer: "So the Germans can march in the shade." Question: "How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris?" Answer: "No one knows, it's never been done."

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey argues that such jokes "should not only be beneath us but are quite false." He points to the First Battle of the Marne in September 1914, when Gen. Joseph-Simon Gallieni mobilized Parisian taxi drivers to rush reinforcements to the front to save the city, a moment in French history "as famous in France as Washington's crossing of the Delaware is to Americans."

Similar jokes about Germany fail to acknowledge courageous opposition to Adolf Hitler during the Third Reich, when diplomats such as Ulrich von Hassell plotted against the dictator and paid for it with their lives. "We diminish ourselves and our arguments by denying the noble side of these nations' histories and slandering their national honor," Woolsey says. "Yes, the Germans had the Nazis and the French the Reign of Terror and Vichy. And we had slavery." He suggests calling the war to liberate Iraq, "Operation Lafayette.''

The most famous anecdote French schoolchildren are taught about the First Battle of the Marne is slightly more nuanced than Woolsey's account. When several hundred taxis had assembled at the Esplanade des Invalides in Paris, one of the drivers turned to the French army officer in command and asked, "What about the fare?" After a bit of haggling it was agreed to pay the drivers 27 percent of the meter reading for the harrowing 60-mile round-trip to Nanteuil-le-Haudouin. But thanks to their heroism, the German advance on Paris was stopped.

Woolsey is right when it comes to honor. As a journalist who has spent 18 years in France, this reporter deployed overseas with French marines and spent time as a hostage in a Beirut cellar with a French foreign legionnaire, where we ate dirt, sweated fear and prayed together. It is hard to forget having dined with the commanding officer of the French Foreign Legion, who voiced admiration for the United States and criticized the lack of resolve of his political masters.

French presidents repeatedly have humiliated the French army. In 1991, then-president François Mitterrand belatedly dispatched the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau to the Persian Gulf to join the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq, but not before his minister of defense, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, gave orders to disembark the entire complement of combat aircraft. When the Clemenceau steamed out of its home port of Toulon, it was photographed with its flight deck jam packed with trucks.

This is the type of thing that gives French officers "les boules," an expression that is accompanied by a hand to the throat to indicate that they are choking with rage.

[Related material: "A Brief Military History of France."]

French grandeur is indeed at stake in the current standoff with the United States and Britain over Iraq. "This obsessive finger-pointing across the Atlantic is the latest hint that a kind of new Cold War is brewing with an adversary that Americans never would have expected," writes Joshua Muravchik, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute. "The French act as if they feel they were the real losers when the old Cold War ended. America's emergence as the sole superpower, no longer counterbalanced by the Soviet Union, seems to have left them with an accentuated sense of inferiority. To assuage it, they are not only blaming and denigrating America but also challenging it on one diplomatic front after another."

Behind the scenes, say insiders, France has an economic stake in maintaining Saddam Hussein in power and cloaks this in meaningless babble about preventing Iraqi civilian casualties, as if Saddam had not murdered and starved a half-million Iraqi civilians during the last decade alone.

According to Richard Perle, who heads the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, the French national oil company TotalFinaElf recently negotiated with Baghdad a contract to expand Iraq's huge southern oil fields, worth an estimated $40 billion to $50 billion. This contract only can come to fruition if Saddam remains in power. "What's distinctive about the Total contract is that it's not favorable to Iraq, it's favorable to Total," Perle said during a recent address in New York City. "One can suspect that there's some arbitrage there, that in between the real value of that contract and the cash value of that contract there's a certain amount of political support. It's entirely possible that Saddam negotiated that deal thinking that along with the revenues he could get something else." That something else, of course, would be French support in opposing the war.

Perle believes that the behavior of Chirac and his government raises doubts as to the future of the U.S.-French relationship. "France is no longer the ally it once was," Perle said, adding that Chirac "believes deep in his soul that Saddam Hussein is preferable to any likely successor."

Members of Chirac's governing Union Pour la Majorité Presidentielle (UMP) party have traveled to Baghdad repeatedly in recent months to promote Franco-Iraqi trade and a political partnership with Saddam, as have senior officials of the extreme right-wing National Front, including the wife of its leader, Jean-Marie LePen.

Among Chirac's allies is Thierry Mariani, a UMP member of parliament who spearheads the Franco-Iraqi Economic Cooperation Association, a pro-Iraqi lobbying group. After a high-profile (and highly criticized) trip to Baghdad last September, Mariani explained his motivation: "I prefer that we had relations with Iraq rather than with Saudi Arabia. Between two dictatorships, I prefer a secular dictatorship to a totalitarian Islamic regime." Mariani said he believed that France was engaged in an "economic war" with the United States which justified strengthening economic ties to Baghdad [see "Eurobiz Is Caught Arming Saddam," Feb. 18 - March 3].

IFRI's Moisi believes that the future of the U.S.-French relationship depends on how the war itself plays out. "If it's a quick war, won decisively by the Americans, we will keep quiet. If the war doesn't go well, that will be different. It's the aftermath of war that I fear," he says.

France indeed may try to keep quiet after a stunning U.S. victory that brings democracy to Iraq. But will the new Iraqi government forgive the French for their outrageous support of Saddam?

Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

The first time - with oysters!

Either you love oysters or either you detest them. No one can be indifferent to oysters. I must admit that they don’t look very appetizing when you look at them, like slimy little monsters. Once in the mouth they slide around and overwhelm you with the intense sensations in taste.
Read more about the first, orgasmic experience of the fine art of oysters.

One has to be daring to try an oyster the first time. I was quite old, around 20 years when I had my first one. It was a fantastic experience, nearly like when I got my first, really deep kiss. Like the oysters – an intense mouth experience.
I think I was thirteen or fourteen years old, hopelessly stuttering and shy, nearly disintegrating. A very cute girl, Cecilia Cassmer, much younger than me, obviously liked me, and gave me a fantastic kiss in the back yard of the apartment house, where she lived with her parents. I will never forget that first kiss. - Cecilia was, last time when I met her, a very attractive, much feared and tough criminal prosecutor.

Back to the oysters. - I was on summer vacations with my brothers in Istanbul, where my father was the Swedish Consul General. The summers were very hot, so my father always rented summerhouses near the coast on the Asian side. We had many friends, mostly came from rich, Turkish families. This time we were invited on a yacht by one of our friends. Cruising from the Prince Island of Buykada in the Marmara Sea, we came quite close to a rocky beach at the Asian side. We anchored up and the captain told us that we could dive down in the shallow water and find oysters and so we did. There were a lot of oysters on the seabed and they were easy to pick up. When I came up to the surface with my first oyster, I swam to the side of the yacht, where a crewmember was ready with a knife and opened it swiftly. He pressed a little juice from a lemon over it and handed the oyster back to me.
Still in the trepid water with one hand on the rail, the silhouette of the Prince Islands in the blue distance, our Turkish girlfriends in bikinis, dangling with their legs and carelessly chatting, the heat of the sun and the seawater dripping down my face, - the oyster was a sensation and tasting like a fresh, cool, kissing dream. Though I’ve been eating many different oysters all my life since then, no one has been that delicious, that the first one in the Marmara Sea. - Like my first kiss.

The other day I found a fantastic book on my way to France, at the bookstore, at the Arlanda Airport, in Stockholm. It is written by the American Chef Anthony Bourdain. He tells in a very witty, fast way, nearly like Tom Wolfe, how he became a cook and his life in restaurant kitchens. In one of the best passages he writes about the first time he ate an oyster. At the time he was much younger than me, thirteen years old, but he experienced the same sensation as I did.

Anthony Bourdains book (Kitchen Confidential, Bloomsbury Publishing. 2000) is very good and funny. I warmly recommend it. Read this little excerpt from the book:

“… Monsiuer Saint Jour (the oyster fisher), on hearing this – as if challenging his American passengers – inquired in his thick Girondais accent, if any of us would care to try an oyster.
My parents hesitated. I doubt they’d realized they might actually have to eat one of the raw, slimy things we were currently floating over. My little brother recoiled in horror.
But I, in the proudest moment of my young life, stood up smartly, grinning with defiance, and volunteered to be the first.
And in that unforgettably sweet moment of my personal history, that moment still more alive for me than so many of the other ‘firsts’ which followed – first pussy, first joint, first day in high school, first published book, or any other thing – I attained glory. Monsieur Saint-Jour beckoned me over to the gunwale, where he leaned over, reached down until his head nearly disappeared underwater, and emerged holding a single silt-encrusted oyster, huge and irregularly shaped, in his rough, claw like fist. With a snubby, rust covered oyster knife, he popped the thing open and handed it to me, everyone watching now, my little brother shrinking away from this glistening, vaguely sexual-looking object, still dripping and nearly alive.
I took it in my hand, tilted the shell back into my mouth as instructed by the by now beaming Monsieur Saint-Jour, and with one bite and a slurp, wolfed it down. It tasted seawater… of brine and flesh… and somehow… of the future.
I’d not only survived – I’d enjoyed.
This, I knew, was the magic I had until now only dimly and spitefully aware of. I was hooked. My parents’ shudders, my little brother’s expression of unrestrained revulsion and amazement only reinforced the sense that I had, somehow, become a man. I had had an adventure, tasted forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life – the food, the long and often stupid and self-destructive chase for the next thing, whether it was drugs or sex or some other new sensation – would all stem from this moment.
I’d learned something. Viscerally, instinctively, spiritually – even in some precursive way, sexually – and there was no turning back. The genie was out of the bottle. My life as a cook, and as a chef, had begun.
Food had power…”.

I wonder which kind of oyster Anthony Bourdain ate. – Personally, when in France, I like the middle-sized Claires best. But the best oysters in world are the Swedish round ones. They grow wild at the west coast of Sweden and since the water is cold, they grow very slow and get an extraordinary fine taste. The legends in the business are the Karlsson brothers in Grebbestad, north of Gothenburg.
Go there and try them out. For the true oyster lover it’s worth the trip. Don’t forget to drink the classical oyster drink, a mixture of Porter Beer and Champagne. – Good Luck!
Written by Erik Edelstam

Saturday, January 25, 2003

1956 - krisernas år

I ljuset av ett eventuellt krig i Irak och amerikanarnas självsäkra försäkringar om en promenadseger, är det intressant att titta på en annan världskris i samma region, som också skulle bli en ”enkel operation” och som slutade i ett dundrande fiasko för en del av de inblandade, mest på grund övermod och personliga misstag. Inne i dramat fanns också ett modigt folks kamp för frihet, som helt överskuggades av stormakternas maktspel och som slutade i tragedi. Läs om falskhet, övermod, inkompetens, lögner, svek, intriger, hjältemod, beslutsamhet, uppoffringar och hänsynslöshet.
Under hösten 1956 försämrades världsläget. I slutet av september förekom skärmytslingar mellan Israel och Jordanien och i slutet av oktober anfaller Israel Egypten i Sinai. England och Frankrike ser chansen, några dagar senare, och anfaller Suez med flyg efter det att den egyptiske presidenten Nasser vägrat att ställa in striderna mot Israel. Till saken hör också att Nasser nationaliserat Suezkanalen. Anfallet kan därför ses som ett anfall av kolonialmakter som ville hävda sina intressen. Några dagar senare landsätts 7 000 engelska och franska fallskärmsjägare, som försöker upprätta ett brohuvud. Ett fullständigt vansinnigt företag.
Nästan samtidigt exploderade revolten i Ungern, en händelse som i Sverige upprörde många känslor och som överskuggade Suez-krisen.

När Röda Armén tågade in i Budapest 1944, under den sedvanliga terrorn med massvåldtäkter och omfattande plundring, gick Ungern, från en fascistisk diktatur, till en kommunistisk diktatur. De första åren efter kriget upprätthölls en vacklande demokrati, men kommunisterna tog makten enligt det sedvanliga mönstret med att besätta inrikes- och jordbruksministerposterna. På så vis fick man makten över polisen och det viktiga jordbruket. Därifrån kunde man senare ta makten över hela regeringen.
Matyas Rakosi ledde övertagandet. Han var en hårdför stalinist, som förvandlade Ungern till en Sovjetisk lydstat med alla karakteristiska tecken, som kollektivisering av jordbruket, planekonomi och ett järngrepp av polisen. Efter Stalins död och då trycket från Sovjet lättade, ansåg till och med Moskva att Rakosi drev sin polisstat alltför långt och ersatte honom 1953 med den f.d. socialdemokraten Imre Nagy.
Vid det laget hade denne blivit en helhjärtad kommunist och hade haft posten som inrikesminister under maktövertagandet. Nagy var en annan typ än Rakosi och ville ha en mjukare kommunistisk regim, ungefär som Titos Jugoslavien, med fria jordbruk och mer konsumtionsvaror. Under hans tid gick ungefär en tredjedel av kolchoserna tillbaka till de ursprungliga ägarna och han släppte ut mycket folk ur fängelserna.
Men Rakosi fortsatte att intrigera i kulisserna och lyckades till slut manövrera ut Nagy 1955. Rakosi förde tillbaka Ungern till korruption, förtryck och polisvälde, men denna gång ville inte befolkningen vara med.

Det började i december 1955 när de ungerska författarna protesterade mot censuren och förtrycket. Missnöjet spred sig till och med in i kommunistpartiet, där ungdomsklubben fungerade som en sorts opposition under våren och sommaren 1956. Uppenbarligen blev ungrarna inspirerade av de polska upproren, som hade givit vissa lättnader. Chrustjov skickade handelsministern Mikojan till Budapest. Denne avsatte prompt Rakosi för andra gången.
Men protesterna ville inte sluta för det. I Rakosis ställe kom marionetten Gerö, som inte var mycket bättre.
Den 22 oktober utlyste studenterna vid Budapestuniversitetet ett stort opinionsmöte där man bl.a. krävde nyval, att sovjettrupperna skulle lämna landet och att den stora Stalinstatyn skulle rivas. De utlyste ett allmänt protestmöte nästa dag. Det märkliga var att alla kommunisttidningar följde opinionen och propagerade för mötet, vilket gjorde att stora folkmassor dök upp nästa dag. Regeringen försökte först stämma i bäcken, men gav sedan upp. Folkmassan krävde att Nagy skulle visa sig och ställa sig på deras sida. Han steg fram och solidariserade sig i försiktiga ordalag.
Nu begick säkerhetspolisen det ödesdigra misstaget att börja skjuta skarpt på demonstranterna när de stormade radiohuset, flera dödades och poliserna blev i sin tur lynchade och upphängda i lyktstolparna. Pöbeln intog polisstationer där de beväpnade sig, senare fick den tag i vapen från olika kaserner.

Den 25 oktober började ryskt pansar skjuta urskillningslöst mot upprorsmännen och mot misstänkta hus. Men de stred inte helhjärtat, utan agerade mycket tveksamt och återhållsamt. Det hände till och med att de skyddade folket mot de ungerska säkerhetspoliserna. Striderna var förvirrade och man visste inte riktigt vem man skulle skjuta på.
Den elegante, 40-årige översten Pal Maleter blev en av revoltens ikoner. När striderna började var han vakthavande officer på försvarsdepartementet och åkte ut på stan i en pansarvagn för att skaffa sig en överblick över de kaotiska striderna. När han kom till den största kasernen, Kiliankasernen, fann han ungerska soldater som stred mot upprorsmännen. Efter att ha talat med båda sidor fick han dem att sluta skjuta, medan de ryska pansarstyrkorna fortsatte sin skottlossning till höger och vänster. Han började inse vad upprorsmännen slogs för och började sakta ta parti för dem. Efter kontakter med försvarsministeriet och den ryske kommendanten, blev han lovad att ryssarna skulle sluta skjuta. Eldgivningen upphörde, men satte igång igen efter ett slag. Maleter lyckades efter stort besvär få tag på försvarsministern och lovade att han skulle öppna eld mot den första ryska stridsvagnen som närmade sig kasernen. Därmed hade Maleter öppet ställt sig på revoltens sida.

När folkmassan den 23 oktober ropade fram den motvillige Nagy, hade han egentligen ingen plan om hur han skulle gå till väga. Han red på en våg av sympati och hopp, som han inte kunde styra. Marionetten Gerö förstod att han själv inte hade mycket mer att hämta, utan utnämnde Nagy till premiärminister under natten, dock utan att genast meddela det officiellt, medan han i samma andetag bad den ryske kommendanten om hjälp mot revolutionärerna.
Planen var enkel, men infernalisk. - När radion nästa dag kunngjorde utnämningen, rullade de sovjetiska stridsvagnarna in i Budapest, nästan på samma gång. Befolkningen trodde självklart att det var Nagy, som hade kallat in dem och han fick genast en stämpel på sig som förrädare och allmänt opålitlig, vilket skapade dåliga förutsättningar för att agera med kraft och auktoritet. Förhoppningarna och förtroendet raserades under några mycket viktiga dagar.

Nu rasade striderna ute på gatorna. Utländska media tog sig in i Ungern och skickade hem dramatiska och överdrivna skildringar av revolten. Fotografer lyckades fånga herrar i kostym och Edenhattar med ett gevär i handen, eller söta flickan med lilla pälshatten käckt på svaj och en kulsprutepistol, à la Capone, i famnen. Journalfilmare fångade sovjetiska tanks som sköt rakt in i fastigheter under stora moln, skolpojkar som kastade Molotovcocktails på dessa, ungerska stridsvagnar med ungdomar på tornet med en sönderklippt ungersk flagga i handen eller ambulanspersonal som sprang med bårar genom kulregnet. Det smällde och smattrade på filmduken och hela världen lurades att tro att det var ett stort uppror där ungrarna höll på att få övertaget. Under några dagar trodde de själva samma sak. Världen, särskilt i Europa, rördes till tårar, höll andan och väntade. Solidaritetskommitéer bildades överallt och den ungerska flaggan med det urklippta hålet mitt i duken vajade lite varstans. Jag kommer själv ihåg flaggorna på hus och i skyltfönster i Stockholm. Jag var tio år då, fascinerades av journalfilmerna, fotona och läste allt jag kunde om revolten i tidningen.

Men sanningen var att de aldrig hade någon chans. Det var ett fåtal som lyckades få tag i vapen och striderna var begränsade och oorganiserade. Bland de första sakerna de upproriska lyckades göra var att välta omkull den stora Stalinstatyn, något som var en stor symbolhandling och som återgavs i alla världens medier.
Under tiden fortsatte förhandlingarna med ryssarna. Den 28 oktober lyckades man få fram ett ”eld upphör”. Från den dagen kan man säga att Nagy någorlunda kunde kontrollera situationen. Den 30 drog sig ryssarna och deras pansar ut ur Budapest. Nu trodde alla och hela världen att revolten hade lyckats och att Ungern skulle bli fritt. – Segern var vunnen!

En annan kraftfull ikon steg nu fram i rampljuset, kardinalen Jozsef Mindszenty. Han hade fängslats av kommunisterna redan i februari 1949, och dömd till livstid i en skådeprocess, anklagad för ”valutasmuggling och brott mot statens säkerhet”. När kardinalen släpptes ringde alla klockor i staden och han gick i ett mycket emotionellt ögonblick ut ur fängelset, eskorterad av patriotiska, ungerska soldater.
Men sovjetiska trupper låg kvar i hela landet och den 1 november anlände nya trupper, som drogs samman runt om Budapest. De som hade dragits tillbaka ansågs inte pålitliga, efter all fraternisering med befolkningen, och skickades hem. - Upprorets svanesång hade börjat.

Inne i Budapest hade Nagy plötsligt fått råg i ryggen. Den viktigaste frågan gällde de sovjetiska truppernas uttåg ur landet.. Den 25 lovade han att han skulle börja förhandla med Sovjet om uttåget. Den ruskige, sovjetiske chefsideologen Michail Suslov och överlevaren Anastas Mikojan befann sig redan i Budapest för att förhandla. Förhandlingarna drog ut på tiden, men det var uppenbarligen en förhalningstaktik.
Nagy tyckte inte om förhalningstaktiken och protesterade när han fick reda på att ryssarna hade fått förstärkningar utanför Budapest. Han deklarerade i radion att Ungern nu hade gått ut ur Warszawapakten och betraktade sig som ett neutralt land. Senare under dagen vädjade han till Förenta Nationerna om hjälp.
Maleter, som nu blivit general och försvarsminister kom tillbaka den 3 oktober, efter förhandlingar med ryssarna och meddelade nu att de var beredda att förhandla om tillbakadragandet. Han åkte tillbaka samma kväll för att fortsätta förhandlingarna i det ryska högkvarteret i Tököl, utanför Budapest. Ett vittne berättade hur vakter plötsligt rusade in i rummet och förde bort honom. Maleter hade gått i fällan.

Dagen efter, den 4, öppnade ryskt artilleri eld mot Budapest och 1 000 stridvagnar ryckte in i staden under häftigt bombardemang. Ungerska armén, som nu hade gått över till revoltörernas sida kunde inte sätta emot mycket. Förbittrade strider rasade på Budapests gator i flera dagar, men det ungerska motståndet trycktes ned mer och mer. Det blev rena rama slakten.
De sista radioanropen var förtvivlade och desperata:”... Hjälp... SOS ... hjälp... vi är alla vid gott mod och kämpar vidare... ”

När Röda Armén trängde in i Budapest den andra gången och hoppet verkade ute, började en strid ström av flyktingar ge sig av mot österrikiska gränsen. De ungerska gränsvakterna höll bommarna uppe. Det var människor som hade haft förhoppningar om en framtid i ett fritt, demokratiskt land, men som inte kunde stå ut med att återgå till ett liv i en kommunistisk polisstat. Många unga flydde och kunde senare, med sina insatser, väl löna de länder som tog emot dem. Ungern förlorade en stor del av sin intelligentsia och många välutbildade ungdomar som skulle ha kunnat föra sitt land framåt.
Ett lysande exempel är min gamle vän Geza Kostyal, som flydde sitt hemland 1956. Han var då 20 år och gick på en teknisk högskola inne i Budapest. Som alla innevånare där hade han som 9-åring upplevt fascistväldet under sista delen av kriget och Röda arméns påföljande belägring och invasion med dess oundvikliga gatustrider, plundringar, massvåldtäkter och godtyckliga likvideringar.
Själva flykten var tämligen odramatisk. Han tog helt enkelt tåget till gränsstationen vid Sopron, promenerade över gränsen med sin resväska och fortsatte till Wien med tåget på den österrikiska sidan.
Han blev efter en tid i ett flyktingläger i Wien, varmt mottagen i Sverige, där han utbildade sig på universitetet och senare gjorde en lysande karriär i näringslivet med höga poster.

Nagy befann sig i ett trängt läge. Bakom hans rygg utsåg ryssarna den f.d. låssmeden och ärkekommunisten Janos Kadar till premiärminister. Han hade befriats ur fängelset av Nagy, inspärrad av Rakosi för ”Titoism” och blivit svårt torterad. Kadar svek sin befriare och lämnade senare ut Nagy till ryssarna för att bli avrättad två år senare. Men Kadar hade nog inte mycket att välja på utom att rädda sitt eget skinn. Nagy och regeringen gömde sig på den jugoslaviska ambassaden i tre veckor tills de utlovades fri lej om de kom ut. De greps genast ute på gatan av NKVD. Maleter avrättades också. Kardinal Mindszenty tog sin tillflykt till amerikanska ambassaden, där han stannade ända till 1970.

Utgången av upproret var tragisk. Ungrarna fortsatte att slåss i flera dagar men var till sist tvungna att ge upp inför övermakten. 30 000 ungrare stupade och 7 000 ryssar. 200 000 människor lyckades fly så länge gränserna var öppna.
Upproret hade egentligen ingen chans att lyckas från början. Det kom för plötsligt och oppositionen var alltför splittrad. Händelserna rusade iväg alldeles för fort. Läget var helt förvirrat och motstridiga besked, ryssarnas svekfulla maktspel och bristen på klara planer gjorde att upproret var dömt att misslyckas.
En annan faktor som spelade in var att Nagy var en tämligen svag person, som saknade den karisma och kraft, som skulle ha krävts för att få läget under kontroll och driva utvecklingen i rätt riktning. Den tredje faktorn var att till ungrarnas olycka så utbröt Suezkrisen på samma gång, vilket gjorde att tragedin i Ungern kom i skuggan. FN och västmakterna reagerade inte med tillräcklig kraft. Ryssarna kunde, förvånansvärt nog, meja ned ungrare på Budapests gator och lägg arbetarkvarteren i ruiner utan större protester.

I Suez-krisen var alla stormakter inblandade, inklusive FN. De hade alla sina egna intressen att bevaka och det kalla kriget lade en kall hand över händelserna. Upproret i Ungern betraktades mer eller mindre som en intern uppgörelse inom östblocket, där ingen kunde göra något och man bara kunde stå vid sidan och titta på och kanske fälla en tår.
Suez kriget var från början en skamlig komplott av England, Frankrike och Israel. Egypten blev besegrat men kunde dra höga växlar på kriget och framstod egentligen som vinnaren i det långa loppet.
!956 var Egypten lika med den helgonförklarade Gamal Abder Nasser, som sedan 1952 hade styrt sitt land med en blandning av socialism, överspänd nationalism och en flod en hatpropaganda mot Israel. Efter att ha kommit på kant med USA blev han vägrad vapenleveranser och kastade sig istället i armarna på östblocket, som sände in en flod av vapen, mest från Tjeckoslovakien, som hade en framstående vapenindustri.
Relationerna försämrades också med England och Frankrike. England hade att tänka på sin oljeförsörjning och vikten av att hålla Suezkanalen öppen, medan Frankrike hade fått upproret i Algeriet på halsen, som också skapade splittring inne i hemlandet. Upproret stöddes öppet av de flesta arabländerna.
Stämningen blev inte bättre när Nasser i juli nationaliserade Suezkanalen. England hade visserligen gått med på att lämna kanalzonen redan 1954, dock med den reservationen att man hade rätt att återbesätta den i händelse av krig. Nationaliseringen var ett direkt svar på USA:s och Englands beslut att inte vilja finansiera byggandet av Aswan-dammen., som var Nassers stora megaprojekt. Han menade att kanalavgifter då istället skulle finansiera byggandet.
Egyptierna var väl installerade i Gazaremsan med stora truppstyrkor och skickade därifrån in mördarpatruller in i Israel. En situation som i längden blev ohållbar för de säkerhetsmedvetna israelerna.

De inblandade parterna möttes i all hemlighet i en villa i Sèvres, utanför Paris den 22 oktober 1956. Konspiratörerna var Israels premiärminister Ben Gurion och överbefälhavaren Moshe Dayan, den engelske utrikesministern Sewyn Lloyd och den franske konseljministern Guy Mollet, tillsammans med utrikesministern Antoine Pineau.
Ett fördrag slöts dagen efter. Konspiratörerna lovade varandra att ingen skulle berätta något om överenskommelsen för någon under deras livstid (vilket uppenbarligen inte lyckades).
Fördraget gick helt enkelt ut på att de skulle starta ett krig. Planen var att Israel skulle starta ett blixtkrig mot Egypten och rycka fram mot Suezkanalen. England och Frankrike, som inte ville framstå som angripare, skulle upprört protestera och uppmana parterna att sluta slåss. Därefter skulle de erövra kanalzonen, i vad de trodde, en lätt operation. Samtidigt skulle Royal Airforce krossa det egyptiska flyget. Historien är full av ”enkla operationer” som går över styr, ungefär som Österrike–Ungerns tänkta promenadseger mot Serbien 1914. – Planen var lysande, tyckte de inblandade.. Israel kunde köra ut egyptierna ur Gazaremsan och därmed skapa säkerhet för dem själva och England och Frankrike skulle framstå som sherifferna som ville skapa fred, ordning och reda.

Konspirationen var naturligtvis inget tillfälligt hugskott uppsprungen ur en konversation i salongen på Travellers Club i Paris, utan resultatet av noggranna avvägningar, även om man kan tycka att de var aningen omdömeslösa och pompösa.
Den enda som egentligen hade direkta skäl för ett krig var Israel, som var direkt hotat av Egypten. Engelsmännen kände sig visserligen också hotade, men hade ändå gått med på att släppa kanalen två år tidigare. Premiärministern Anthony Eden hade, vid kanalens annektering, genast givit staberna order om en krigsplanering, vilket visar att han hade bestämt sig för krig.. Den enda som inte hade godtagbara skäl var Frankrike. Situationen i Algeriet skulle näppeligen kunna förändras genom ett krig mot Egypten. Den enda tänkbara anledningen kunde ha varit att man, enligt ett klassiskt manér, ville avleda en besvärlig hemmaopinion med ett segerrikt krig. Fransmännen hade dessutom skickat mängder av vapen till Israel, som i sin tur visste att de aldrig kunde besegra Egypten om inte dess flygvapen var utslaget. Alla var insyltade i varandra.

Den 29 oktober, dagen efter Röda armén drog sig ut ur Budapest efter de inledande striderna, anföll Israel med full kraft. Två dagar senare bombade engelsmännen de egyptiska flygfälten.
Israels blixtkrig lyckades över all förväntan. De jagade genom Gazaremsan, krossade de egyptiska styrkorna och tog där ett enormt krigsbyte. Anfallet underlättades också av att den i orden aggressive Nasser, som insåg att han inte hade mycket att sätta emot, gav order om reträtt, väl medveten om att han kunde bli anfallen i ryggen av England och Frankrike, vilket också hände.

Enligt planen protesterade England och Frankrike mot kriget och krävde att parterna skulle sluta stillestånd och dra sig tillbaka. Men man krävde samtidigt att temporärt få återbesätta kanalzonen.

Problemet var emellertid att Eden tvekade att sätta igång sitt eget anfall och anföll först den 5 november, dagen efter det stora sovjetiska anfallet mot Budapest. Vid det laget hade Israel besegrat Egypten, mer eller mindre på egen hand. Edens vankelmodighet, som liknade Chamberlains schabbel när engelsmän och fransmän skulle undsätta norska armén i Norge 1940, gjorde att hela den listiga planen föll samman. Timingen misslyckades och när väl invasionen kom igång hade Nasser hunnit blockera Suezkanalen och England och Frankrike blev fördömda av hela världen, inklusive FN. Det var ett magnifikt fiasko och de diplomatiska konsekvenserna blev förödande.

Egytierna försvarade sig tappert, men när USA och FN tvingade fram ett stillestånd den 6 november .hade den anglo-franska koalitionen bara hunnit erövra en fjärdedel av kanalzonen.
England, Frankrike och Israel, de tre konspiratörerna, blev till slut tvungna att böja sig eftersom Sovjet hotade med militärt våld för att skydda Egypten. Detta kunde man lugnt göra eftersom upproret i Ungern i praktiken var över. De amerikanska hangarfartygen ”Coral Sea” och ”Randolph”, som legat i positioner utanför Egypten, flyttade sig norrut mot Kreta för att möta det nya hotet.
Det var inte bara en militär katastrof, utan framför allt en diplomatisk. Hela världen fördömde angriparna. De förödmjukade England och Frankrike började dessutom bråka sinsemellan och relationerna förblev dåliga under hela 60-talet. Nasser som i alla år skrutit med sitt lands militära överlägsenhet blev nesligen besegrat av Israel och skulle säkert inte kunnat sitta kvar om striderna fortsatt några dagar till. Englands och Frankrikes intåg på arenan gjorde att han kunde skylla nederlagen på dessa. Imperialisterna och kolonialherrarna hade blivit besegrade av araberna. Den svidande förlusten mot Israel trollades bort i retoriken.
Israel var en annan vinnare på kuppen. De krossade de egyptiska baserna i Gaza och fick, när kanalen röjts 1957, tillgång till den förut stängda Akababukten.
Sovjet kunde också triumfera. Medan man krossade det ungerska upproret, kunde man vända bort uppmärksamheten från övergreppen och ödeläggelsen i Budapest, och peka ut England och Frankrike som aggressiva angripare.

Den engelske premiärministern Anthony Eden fick med rätta bara huvudansvaret för Englands värsta fiasko i modern tid. Han underrättade inte parlamentet om krigsplanerna och inte heller bundsförvanten USA, som tog mycket illa upp. Eisenhower blev ursinnig när han fick reda på nyheten om Israels mobilisering. Inte heller oppositionspartiet, Labour blev underrättat. Den engelska överbefälhavaren hade ingen aning om det hemliga avtalet och det rådde fullständigt kaos i militärledningen, när ingen visste vad som skulle hända och när Eden hela tiden försökte ändra på de uppgjorda planerna. Hans tveksamhet och brist på klara besked gjorde också att förvirringen spred sig till den egna regeringen inte visste hur man skulle ställa sig. Han tog också ansvaret och avgick den 1 januari 1957.

Min pappa Harald satt i sin fåtölj med rynkad panna och lyssnade på TT-nyheterna kl. 18 under dessa dramatiska dagar. Jag kommer ihåg hur han skällde på engelsmännen och fransmännen vid middagsbordet efteråt. Stämningen blev ganska dyster.
Skrivet av Erik Edelstam