Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Togo Ties

In the paper, Le Togolais, Comi Toulabor, reveals the closeness of the ties between France and Togo in less than flattering terms (part I is here and part II is here). Writes Toulabor, “Togolese sovereignty and national independence, reduced to a flag, a hymn and a seat in the United Nations, have been gutted of all substance.” Referring to Togo as France’s “colony,” Toulabor writes that Togo has become “the ideal place for French and French-African colonists to run wild. Their impulses are unchecked here and moral standards in politics are ignored. ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’—the slogan of the Republic—and ‘France, the country of human rights’ are nothing more than jingles in Togo, fairytales for the naïve.”

Toulabor suggests that the French government and Jacques Foccart in particular played a hand in the 1963 murder of Togo’s first president, Sylvanus Olympio, who had helped free Togo from France. Afterwards, the Francophile Nicolas Grunitzky assumed power, only to be replaced later by the Francophile General Eyedema, whose party has held onto power since 1967 (making Eyedema the longest-ruling current leader in Africa). Eyedema’s party, the Rassemblement du peuple togolais, is supposed to have close ties to Chirac’s party, the RPR, and Chirac’s political counselors have assisted Eyedema with his image. These close ties have been maintained despite the fact that Eyedema has accused the French government of trying to assassinate him in 1967 when Eyedema nationalized Togo’s mines, taking them away from almost exclusive French control. In addition, after the assassination of Olympio, France and Togo entered into military treaties that enabled France to arm and shape the Togolese army. For example, in the 1970’s, Togolese soldiers were trained on French soil in accordance with defense accords between the two countries. Even today, joint Togo-French military exercises take place on Togolese territory, although the EU has suspended most aid to Togo as a result of Togo’s democratic and human rights problems. And back in mid-January, the French Defense Minister awarded a Legion of Honor to the son of the chief of staff of Togo’s armed forces, who had died in training exercises with France's elite Saint Cyr military college. Moreover, French intelligence services are alleged to have close ties to the current Togolese regime, keeping them abreast of threats from opposition parties.

Toulabor suggests that France’s support for Togo’s military is indicative of a larger trend. According to Toulabor, the French government maintains its dominance over francophone Africa by supporting a certain African elite in return for their fealty to the Republic. The French government is accused of promoting “stability” above all other values, including democracy. However “stability” means the preservation of Francophile Africans’ power—even if this entails the French government’s support of military dictators who seize power and hold onto it for decades. By emphasizing the importance of “law and order” which can often be maintained only by an army that France has shaped, France exercises a powerful influence over Togolese politics. Toulabor suggests that Chirac adheres to this philosophy as much as Mitterand, and offers a Chirac quote from 1990 made in Abidjan: “For developing countries, a multiparty political system is a political mistake…a luxury for developing countries, which should focus their efforts on economic expansion.” Toulabor notes little change in Chirac’s attitude and writes, “For Chirac and French-Africans, democracy and human rights are not fit for African consumption—we are not mature enough for them.” According to Toulabor, democracy would only threaten the status quo so favorable to France, and he notes that in 1991, the French government supplied tear gas, bullets, billy clubs, and bulletproof vests to Togolese police who suppressed pro-democracy street demonstrations.


An uninspiring speech from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office on French-UK cooperation in Africa. The only thing that stood out to me was that the Foreign Office is letting French officials at the Quai d'Orsay draft its speeches.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Thanks Gringo! Merci camarade!
Thanks to the Dissident Frogman for designing the ¡No Pasarán! masthead.
Merci au Dissident Frogman pour la conception de la tête de page ¡No Pasarán!.

Your UN Dues at Work

For all those who thought that last Saturday, February 21, was special, you were right. UNESCO designated that day as International Mother Language Tongue Day. I can see the work of the French delegation behind this holiday; and now that Bush has put the US back in UNESCO (NECO didn't exactly trip off the tongue), Americans may also rejoice. We can now cry hallelujah, alléluia, and hee haw.

According to UNESCO, "there are about 6,000 languages spoken in the world today. Ninety five percent of these languages are spoken by only four percent of the population, and an average of two languages die out each month." UNESCO views this dwindling of dialects in a negative light. Now, it may be my Bible-thumping education; yet I always thought that the polyglot resulting from the Tower of Babel was a curse, not a blessing. As if to reinforce this point, UNESCO's quintessence of sinecure, the "Goodwill Ambassador to Languages," is the unpronounceable (yet serene) Vigdis Finnbogadottir.

Finn*?!etc. is the former President of Iceland and a francophone who studied at the Sorbonne as well as at the University of Grenoble--which only strengthens my hypothesis of a French International Mother conspiracy. While there may be a certain aural richness to linguistic diversity, perhaps a little Darwinian survival of the fittest--a linguistic euthanasia--is in order for a few thousand of those languages. It might make the international community more accessible to that 4% of the population stuck with those 5,700 little-used combinations of vowels and consonants.

Monday, February 23, 2004


Amnesty reports that: "Torture of political detainees is common in Egypt, in State Security Intelligence (SSI) branches, police stations and occasionally prisons. The most common methods of torture reported are: electric shocks, beatings, suspension by the wrists or ankles, burning with cigarettes, and various forms of psychological torture, including death threats and threats of rape or sexual abuse of the detainee or their female relatives."

The French government's response? Launch "high-level military cooperation" with the Egyptian government, including joint French-Egyptian weapons production and military training exercises. Perhaps the DST and Egypt's Mukhabarat can put their heads together in order to devise novel ways of extracting information from uncooperative Egyptian dissidents.

What do Chirac and the al-Assad family have in common?

They both seem to have a problem with Syrian human rights activist Nizar Nayouf. Nayouf spent ten years in a Syrian prison thanks to his role as Editor-in-Chief of Sawt al-Democratiyya (Democracy's Vote) and as Secretary-General of the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Freedom. He was placed in solitary confinement and his torture at the hands of Syrian's Intelligence Services left him with spinal injuries, a failing left kidney, a bleeding gastric ulcer, deteriorating eyesight, paralysis in his lower extremities and disfigurements caused by cigarette burns.

France granted Nayouf political aslym in 2002, and Nayouf has since sought to publicize the less pleasant aspects of the al-Assad regime. However, as Petrified Truth notes:

"Despite repeated requests by Nayouf during the last 18 months, the French government has refused to grant him access to official documents that would allow him to travel freely and continue his human rights work. Moreover, upon asking French authorities last month for the political refugee passport he was legally granted in 2002 (and is due to him by French law), Nayouf was denied yet again and told, much to his surprise, that he "already had" a Syrian passport.

As a result, Nayouf remains confined to Paris, denied permission to attend Syrian human rights conferences, where he has often been invited as a featured speaker."

ChronWatch has further details:

"Most recently he [Nayouf] was unable to attend a November conference of Syrian democracy advocates in Washington, D.C. that spawned a fledgling Syrian Democratic Coalition led by the Syrian-born Farid Ghadry...Nayouf says he was ''advised'' by French police not to attend the conference and speak out against the Ba'ath Party. According to Basheer Bakr, a journalist from the newspaper Al-Hayat, a senior French official confirmed that his government did not want Nayouf participating in the conference. While Nayouf is not the only ex-political prisoner on Syria's list of gag-order targets, his case is unique in that, like President Assad, he is an Alawite and hails from a family connected to the country's Ba'athist ruling apparatus."

ChronWatch goes on to note that Nayouf's case "is considered sensitive in the corridors of the French foreign ministry."

For its part, the French Foreign Ministry categorically denies that any unique restrictions have been placed on Nayouf.

Next thing you know, they'll be marrying their dogs, and then their dead dogs Et pour un peu, ils vont se marier avec leurs chiens, et ensuite avec leurs chiens morts
Some French broad married a dead guy. Oh, but don't be worried. Everything is under control. She requested permission first from the Preznit Chiraq before proceeding. It's not like Chiraq has more important things to do. As for the husband, is he a lucky stiff or what?
Une gonzesse franchouille s'est mariée avec un mec clamsé. Ne vous inquiétez pas. Tout était fait selon les règles de l'art. L'épouse a d'abord demandé l'autorisation auprès du Raïs Chirak. Ce n'est pas comme s'il avait autre chose de plus important à foutre. Quant au mari, à part le fait qu'il était un peu raid, ça allait.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


There has been a noteworthy escalation of rhetoric used by the Quai d'Orsay with respect to the suicide bombings in Israel. Compare:

--January 22, 1995: "The French government vigorously condemns the odious attack that cost the lives, this morning at Netanya, of at least 18 persons and that injured dozens of others. Violence is never a solution, and the French government hopes that this criminal act will not slow down the peace process."

--October 10, 2002: "We most strongly condemn the suicide attack committed this morning in Tel Aviv. We are very concerned by this new spiral of violence. Nothing will be obtained by violence. The current crisis does not have a military or a security solution..."

--April 24, 2003: "France forcefully condemns the attack perpetrated yesterday in Kfar Saba in Israel and claimed by the Al Aqsa Brigade..."

--Today: "The French government is horrified and concerned to learn that a suicide attack has been committed this morning in West Jerusalem, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. France most strongly condemns this intolerable act of barbarism. Nothing will ever justify terrorism."

Today's declaration isn't the first time that France has called the suicide attacks "terrorism" (the first time seems to be November 2002), but it is the first time that its condemnation has been made in such strong language--referring to "barbarism" and not offering an implicit criticism of Sharon's policies at the same time that it condemns the suicide attacks. Is this a sign that France is adopting a less tolerant approach towards certain Palestinians' targeting of civilians? One can only wonder whether there would still be suicide bombings today (and how many Palestinian and Israeli lives could have been spared) if France and other European countries had adopted this strong rhetoric at the beginning of the second Intifadah so many years ago.

The French-Saudi Connection

Bush is expected to make a greater push for reform in the Middle East during the G8 Summit in June, calling for an American-European alliance to endorse greater democratic and human rights principles in the Middle East. The initiative is expected to build upon Bush's words at Whitehall Palace back in November, when he said to a British audience: "We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. Longstanding ties often led us to overlook the faults of local elites. Yet this bargain did not bring stability or make us safe. It merely bought time, while problems festered and ideologies of violence took hold."

Well, Chirac is already busy undermining any such initiative. On Saturday morning, the French president met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal in a show of French-Saudi solidarity. The two men expressed "the shared opinion that any action designed to encourage modernization and reform in the Arab and Muslim word must be accompanied with a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem." What do the thousands of political prisoners in Egyptian prisons have to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Why should Syria be able to claim that it will not lift its 40+ year state of emergency that has crushed intellectual discourse in that country until the status of Gaza and the West Bank is determined? By all means, make peace between Israelis and Palestinians a priority. However don't make all reform in the Middle East contingent upon it. Chirac is merely providing an excuse for totalitarian governments. Moreover, the French government is encouraging perverse incentives. The longer the House of Saud can focus Western attention on the West Bank, the more it can ride roughshod over basic human rights and, for example, continue to treat Saudi Shi'ites as second-class citizens in their own country.

It's clear that Chirac's government cannot be relied upon to support any initiative of reform in the Middle East. It would rather support an oppressive status quo and use the current Middle East regimes as allies to fight the American menace.

Playing Dumb

Now why did the French government lie about its knowledge of WMD negotiations between Libya, the UK and the US?

UN vs. France

Back in September of 2003, de Villepin outlined the French government's vision of a new Iraq. According to the French minister, the "timetable ought to anticipate the stages of a constitutional process targeting the submission of a draft text before year end. General elections could be envisaged for as soon as possible, spring 2004." Well spring 2004 is approaching, yet last week, Kofi Annan recommended against holding elections in Iraq before the June 30 U.S. transfer of power to Iraqis. Although hindsight is always 20/20, one can only wonder whether de Villepin's ridiculous proposal was made in good faith or, instead, was nothing more than a public relations stunt that enabled France to appear as an eager advocate for Iraqi independence while compounding American problems in Iraq with an unrealistic timetable for sovereignty.