I don't know who "Diplomat Anonymous" is, but I received his letter from a most reliable source. Therefore I can vouch for its authenticity. It is an emotional piece and reflects the helplessness many people feel over the current Hungarian situation. Tom Lantos, a Hungarian-born member of the United States Congress, was a Holocaust survivor who cared about the country of his birth. Therefore it is not surprising that an institute bearing his name was established in Budapest. The Tom Lantos Institute's official opening will take place on June 28, 2011.
This letter is a plea to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to attend the ceremony. A lot of people believe that the state-funded Tom Lantos Institute will not appropriately serve the memory of Mr. Lantos and will not function in the spirit of his ideas. Tom Lantos was deeply committed to the kind of democracy the current Hungarian government is in the process of destroying.
* * *
SECRETARY CLINTON: PLEASE DON’T VISIT BUDAPEST
By “Diplomat Anonymous”
My purpose in writing to you, Madame Secretary, is to plead with you: Please don’t come to my country – as I hear you plan to do – later this June.
I’m a Hungarian diplomat not in good standing, but I’m a Hungarian patriot. I love my country. A mid-level official, I’d probably be an Office Director in your Department of State. Last summer, soon after the government of Viktor Orbán took over, I was assigned to cover a country about which I know nothing. I accepted the challenge, but I was also demoted. I’m now a Desk Officer, a lowly position. Compared to hundreds of other Foreign Service colleagues who were summarily dismissed (together, of course, with the political appointees), I’m considered lucky because I could stay on and get a (reduced) paycheck.
While I’m afraid to disclose my name – forgive me, I have a family – you should know that I’ve never belonged to a political party. I entered the Foreign Service in the late 1990s; I’m now 36 years old. Why was I demoted? Have no idea. Perhaps I had advanced too fast under the previous (socialist-liberal) governments. (I passed three language tests in five years with what would be a top score of “4” in your system.) Perhaps, in a previous assignment, I had supported too strongly Hungary’s integration into Western institutions. (Imagine our messy condition: Foreign Minister János Martonyi, my boss, still favors the European Union while Prime Minister Orbán rants and raves against it even though Hungary held the EU’s Presidency this year.)
Bitter as I’m, please don’t discount my views. This government is so emotionally nationalist that it has changed the name of Roosevelt Square in the heart of Budapest. Given our historic experiences, it’s more understandable – but still childish – that Moscow Square is no more either. The other day the Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Orbán’s closest friend, questioned the territorial integrity of neighboring Slovakia. Because of our political leaders’ offensive and at times even irredentist rhetoric, relations with Romania are worse than ever. The usually cautious German government explicitly criticized our new constitution. Meanwhile, at home, the government has eliminated all checks and balances and our press is no longer free.
It’s especially painful to hear that you may be coming here to bless the opening of the Tom Lantos Institute (TLI). I didn’t know the late Congressman well; we only shook hands once in Washington. But I know that he fought against prejudice, he fought for human rights. Yes, to his great credit, he cared about the Hungarian ethnic minority in the neighboring countries, and the Institute may well publish books or pamphlets on that issue. But what about media freedom here? What about anti-Semitism? Will TLI address these painful issues? I predict that it will not – it cannot — because the Orbán government authored this very restrictive media law, and it doesn’t believe there’s anti-Semitism in Hungary. As for the Roma issue, which is the most agonizing social problem here, please ask an aide to check out the background of Rita Izsák, TLI’s new Director. In the Roma community, of which she’s a member, she’s known as Uncle Tom. She will respect the wishes of the government, which, after all, is TLI’s sole financial backer.
I understand that you have to deal with leaders who are more authoritarian than Hungary’s. I understand that you cannot ignore such countries as China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia. I served in one of those countries earlier in this decade; I’m afraid democracy doesn’t fall on fertile soil there. In Hungary, however, we have a very real chance in the next few years to restore a democratic political order. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll fight internal oppresssion and we’ll regain our place in the community of democratic nations. But it would help – it would reinforce the courage of our convictions — if you were to send a low-ranking official to Budapest. It would be a very useful signal from the United States, which remains to many Hungarians the gold standard when it comes to freedom and democracy.
Otherwise, even if you were to give a lecture here on ”values” or whisper friendly advice ”from one ally to another,” your presence would only help legitimize a democratically-elected undemocratic government.
Madame Secretary: Thank you, in advance, for your consideration.