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Hungary for Freedom

A steadfast ally gets some long-overdue recognition.

12:00 AM, Oct 16, 2003 • By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
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"THIS IS VERY EXCITING, we have never had anyone so important here since I started," said the press attaché to the Hungarian embassy, as Paul Wolfowitz arrived at the unveiling a statue on the embassy's lawn.

The statue, according to the invitation, is of "Colonel Commandant Michael Kovats de Fabricy, a Hungarian-born hero of the American Revolutionary War." He is depicted in the throes of death at the Battle of Charleston. His horse's eyes bulge out and one of his arms is flung backwards in agony. In his other hand, he holds aloft the flag of the American revolutionary force, a circle of stars cut out of the bronze.

The memorial to Kovats neatly captured the themes of the day. Hungarians have been dying in American wars for as long as there have been American wars to die in, and in order to advance the cause of liberty, they are more than willing to continue to do so.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz pronounced America and Hungary "partners for freedom for over two centuries," a sentiment that was echoed by every speaker. He said that "small countries are making very big contributions to freedom all over the place." In particular, he cited the use of the Taszar Air Base in Hungary as the training location for the Free Iraqi Forces, a team of Iraqi-Americans who have been facilitating communications and planning between American troops and Iraqi natives. Wolfowitz thanked the Hungarians for their "contribution to the birth of this great nation" and their role "as a willing partner in the war on terror" and as one of three new members of NATO.

Andras Simonyi, the Hungarian ambassador, said that the statue was "a monument of friendship between two great nations in difficult times." He reminded the crowd (which, judging by the number of uniforms, didn't need much reminding) that in modern times, Hungary has fought alongside the United States in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and now in Iraq.

Hungarian minister of defense Ferenc Juhasz picked up where Simonyi left off, saying Kovats's "real sacrifice was the sacrifice of his life for liberty." The statue, which has been in the works for the better part of three decades, "is a testament to the fact that we wish to be a good reliable ally in NATO."

At the end of the formal remarks, Juhasz and Wolfowitz pulled ribbons in the colors of the Hungarian flag and the statue was revealed. As Wolfowitz was hustled out, someone mentioned how beautiful the early October day was for the ceremony. "See how powerful Hungary is," he joked. "Now that we are in NATO, we make one phone call and good weather is assured."

Katherine Mangu-Ward is a reporter at The Weekly Standard.