- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2006

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising in the fall of 1956, one event, or rather one nonevent, is ignored: the dishonorable role of the United States during the bloody insurrection by Hungarian patriots against Soviet occupation of their war-torn country.

I was personally involved in that nonevent and even now as I write about it half a century later, I feel a sense of shame for my country and its then-president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

For it must be remembered that the campaign slogan of the Republican presidential campaign was: “Rollback the Iron Curtain.” Rollback meant liberation. Containment of the U.S.S.R., the counterstrategy, was defined by Republican spokesmen as quasi-treason. The containment formula had been developed along the lines of George Kennan’s still readable July 1947 Foreign Affairs article. But containment wasn’t good enough for candidate and then President Eisenhower. Rollback would be America at its finest.

So what happened in the post-Stalin era when rollback was a possibility, if not a certainty? On June 17, 1953, came the first break in the Iron Curtain. The construction workers of Berlin rose up in protest at some work norms slapped on them without consultation by the Soviet military occupation. Not only was there no statement from the White House but as I learned later from indignant sources in the State Department, Secretary John Foster Dulles had ordered that there would be no comment, on or off the record, by the State Department. How do I know this? Because when on the order of AFL President George Meany and CIO President Walter Reuther, I phoned a department spokesman for a comment I got a no-comment reply. That attitude sounded to me more like appeasement of the Soviet Union than a policy of rollback.

We now come to Hungary. We all know what was happening in that embattled land, victimized first by Adolf Hitler and then after Hitler’s defeat by Josef Stalin and his successors. The democratic forces had been led by Imre Nagy, a communist who had broken with the communists. He sent a spokesman to America to speak for the Hungarian people, Anna Kethly. A Social Democrat who had served jail time during the Nazi occupation and more jail time under the communist regime, she came to the United Nations as a member of Nagy’s Cabinet. By the time she came to the United Nations, the Nagy regime had been overthrown by Soviet bayonets and a Soviet stooge, Janos Kadar, had been installed in his place.

As a leading Social Democrat, Mrs. Kethly was well known in Europe and was welcomed by her contemporaries at the U.N. like Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgian statesman who had been elected first president of the United Nations Genera1 Assembly in 1946. The United States representative, Henry Cabot Lodge, refused to meet her. His deputy, James Wadsworth, stood no more than a dozen feet from where she sat in the U.N. chamber, and he refused to see her.

When she came to Washington to meet with Meany and told how she had been snubbed by Lodge and Wadsworth, Meany phoned Undersecretary of State Robert D. Murphy and insisted she be received at the department or he would go public in his condemnation.

Keep in mind as you read this, that this was an administration that demanded: Rollback Not Containment. Here was a leader of armed resistance against Soviet occupation, being treated like Typhoid Mary. She was finally received by Murphy but with no public announcement before or after the meeting.

So here’s Rollback a la Ike.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.


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