Cardinal József Mindszenty was the Primate of Hungary and the Archbishop of Esztergom, the seat of the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary, who took refuge in the American Embassy in order to prevent the communists who had imprisoned him from deporting him.
Accused of treason, conspiracy and other offenses against the newly formed communist government, the cardinal, wise in the ways of fascist and communist interrogators, took the precaution before his arrest of writing a note denying he had been involved in any conspiracy and informing much of the world that any confession he might make as a result of duress would be fraudulent.
The always inventive communists accused the cardinal, among other charges, of having orchestrated the theft of Hungary's crown jewels, including the Crown of Saint Stephen, with the explicit purpose of crowning Otto von Habsburg emperor of Eastern Europe. Under duress the cardinal confessed he had schemed to remove the Communist government; that he had planned a Third World War, and that, once this war was won by the Americans, he himself would assume political power in Hungary.
Cardinal Mindszenty was imprisoned and tortured by both fascists and communists. Towards the end of his life, he wanted his bones to sweeten the soil of his homeland, but his communist captors had other ideas. The cardinal, always a burr in the side of the totalitarians, soon became an inconvenience to then President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, the architect of Mr. Nixon’s policy of détente with the Soviet Union.
After much diplomatic agony, the cardinal was brought to Vienna by the Pope, Mr. Nixon having told the cardinal that it was best he bow to his fate. The primate’s seat in Hungary was vacated by the Pope in December 1973, and cardinal Mindszenty was stripped of his titles. Two years later, at the age of 83, he died in Vienna. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Hungary from Soviet tyranny, the cardinal’s remains, repatriated to Hungary by the country’s new democratically elected government, were interred in the basilica in Esztergom.
During the same time span, Mr. Nixon had become embroiled in the Watergate tar patch and, under threat of impeachment in 1974, he bowed to his fate. Hammered to his knees by the unfolding scandal, Mr. Nixon asked Mr. Kissinger to pray with him. While Cardinal Mindszenty had been a casualty of détente, Mr. Nixon fell to his knees a casualty of an always unforgiving ironfisted history.
If Hollywood were not little more than a politically petulant self-indulgent fantasy machine, the “Great Escape” of Chen Guangcheng from China’s fascist thugs would make a stirring film. Chen is telegenic, young, courageous, and the anti-hero of years of stale, soulless, propagandistic, Orwellian blather.
As a means of controlling population, Chinese fascists have for years resorted to forced abortion. Winston Churchill used to say that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Not satisfied with controlling the means of production, Chinese fascist are able to dominate their world by determining precisely who lies in the cradle.
Protesting forced abortion and the mistreatment of women under China’s misogynistic “leaders” earned Chen a rare red badge of courage. After the blind, self-taught lawyer began to advocate on behalf of victims of abusive practices such as forced abortions by China's planned parenthood officials, he was tried in 2006 on trumped up charges -- damaging property and "organizing a mob to disturb traffic" in a protest -- and sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
A blind self-taught lawyer, Chen evaded guards who had kept him under house arrest for more than 18 months in a small eastern village and made his way to Beijing on April 22. On Friday, Chen sent the following message via YouTube to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao:
"They broke into my house, and more than a dozen men assaulted my wife. They pinned her down and wrapped her in a comforter, beating and kicking her for hours. They also similarly violently assaulted me… As you see, I have escaped.”
Chen’s “Great Escape” has occurred, unfortunately, just as President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao are to sit down and discuss matters of moment in the world. Mr. Obama, according to one report,“was tight-lipped about the whereabouts of escaped Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng and his potential impact on the discussions to be held this week in Beijing.”
Asked whether Chen was under U.S. Embassy protection, the president responded during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the White House:
"Obviously, I'm aware of the press reports on the situation in China, but I'm not going to make a statement on the issue. What I would like to emphasize is that every time we meet with China, the issue of human rights comes up.”
The issue of human rights, it may be recalled, also came up during the Mindszenty affair, a tiresome subject really. The main point in such international meet and greets is that the leaders involved in the pointless propaganda displays should make valiant attempts to snatch détente from the ragged jaws of history.
They are not always successful.