Saturday, March 27, 2004

Bill O'Reilly Free Zone

Welcome to all the readers from the National Review! It's developments like these that send me diving for Hitchens' words on having "friends like these..."

Vergès Update

Sulfurous French lawyer Jacques Vergès has been looking ready to defend Saddam for some time. (See here for more info.) The BBC says it's now official.
French lawyer 'to defend Saddam'

A French lawyer who made his reputation defending some of the world's most notorious figures says he will take on Saddam Hussein as his latest client.

In his long career, Jacques Verges defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, Carlos the Jackal and former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Verges says the request came in a letter from Saddam Hussein's nephew, Ali Barzan al-Takriti.

He says he will also defend former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

He will be supported by a dozen other French lawyers to mount a defence case.

Mr Tikriti sent the following message to Mr Verges: "In my capacity as nephew of President Saddam Hussein, I commission you officially via this letter to assure the defence of my uncle".


Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I've been flat out. To make up for it, here's a few briefs on things I've been meaning to mention.

A:Our friend Rémy Ourdan participated in an on-line chat with readers on Wednesday.
Sarah: Since you're on the scene, can you clearly tell us what the feelings of the population are about the military operations and other attacks organized against the occupation forces? How does the Iraqi in the street see these operations: acts of resistance or terrorism?

Remy Ourdan:
For the Iraqis, these are both at once. Many publicly applaud the attacks on the American army because this army is seen as brutal and arrogant. But the same people describe all attacks that target Iraqis as terrorism. Moreover, let's reiterate that the occupation army is very unpopular but that many Iraqis privately admit that they don't want its immediate departure, out of fear, even now, of civil war.
Later, he had this exchange:
Richard 75: It seems that Iraqis (even when they are anti-American) have a virulent anti-French feeling because they think that France tried to save Saddam. Can you confirm or deny this?

Remy Ourdan:
This feeling is very strong in Iraq. Almost all the Shia, almost all the Kurds and many Sunnis think that France defended Saddam Hussein to protect an old friendship and so-called economic and petrol interests. Also, many Iraqis are angry with France because of its attitude after the war. Pragmatic, they feel that once the conflict was over and Saddam gone, France and the other countries of Europe should have come to their aid for humanitarian reasons and, again, not to leave them alone to face the Americans.
ßA mere two years after the BBC, that cutting edge culture journal, did it, helped its readers stay hip on Tuesday by informing them of the Google Bomb phenomenon. They point to the WMD and miserable failure pranks but they forget — or are too clueless to be aware — that they are themselves the victims of such a prank.
ΓHaving found a distributor, Mel Gibson's Passion of the Qrap opens on more than 520 screens in France next Wednesday where, though it contains perhaps a little bit of violence, it will only be forbidden to children under 12. The AFP is reporting that three Jewish brothers, the Benlolos, who have not seen the film, went to court to-day, seeking to have the movie banned. Patrick Benlolo called the film an "incitation to racial hatred because it is the result of an erroneous presentation of the bible, portraying Jews as deicides, which is the cause of the Jews' persecutions." Olivier Laude, the lawyer representing distributor Quinta Communications claims the Benlolos' complaint should be dismissed because it seeks redress for potential violence, which only criminal authorities can prosecute, though it seems that the movie has already provoked its fair share of violence elsewhere. [3/28: In the comments below, a reader points out that in fact the film prompted the murderer to confess, not to kill — which I'd have noticed if I'd bothered to read the articled linked here. ¡No Pasarán! regrets the error.]

Meanwhile, Marin Karmitz, head of the MK2 movieplex chain, has refused to screen the film, calling it "fascist." His interview with Télérama provoked a flurry of hate mail but also approbation. In particular, he said:
It's a film that turns barbarism and violence into a spectacle. For two hours, we see a man being tortured, nothing more. Second fascistic element: revisionism, the way in which History is charicatured, reduced to aphasia for the sole benefit of noises, blows and cries. To deny Christianity its words it to deny its greatness. At last, given the depiction of the Jews, anti-Semitism is the third element of this fascist ideology. But, in America, the Jewish lobbies have led themselves astray by putting the debate in this framework only: they have unwittingly fed the far right attack of which this film is evidence.
Paris Archbishop, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who was born Jewish but converted, has decried the film's "sadism." He told the Catholic TV station KTO that "the Gospels are neither the Gallic Wars nor Napoleon's memoirs." The love of God "is not measured in liters of hemoglobin and spilled blood," he said. "For us, Christ's blood is in the chalice during the liturgy." (The film meeting with great success in Lebanon: "the fact that the film is being shown in the current context of the Middle East conflict, opposing Israel and Arabs, is not unrelated to the success of the film," said one spectator.) Lustiger, you'll remembe, is the one who criticized Abbé Pierre for endorsing the Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy
ΔSpanish writer Juan Goytisolo has an essay in Thursday's Le Monde entitled "Return to Reason."
While the war in Afghanistan, decided on both in the framework of international law and out of the pressing need to end the obscurantist Taliban regime that acted as a refuge for bin Laden and his organization, partially attained its goals (partially, because the number one terrorist and one of his closest followers still move about freely), the Invasion of Iraq to put an end to the alleged threat of Saddam Hussein has been (with the not negligible exception of the latter's arrest and the dismantling of his regime) a total absurdity.


The phraseology of the current occupant of the White House regarding "international terrorism" has nevertheless had an immediate effect, both in the East and the West, in the European Union and in Russia. Sharon has seized on it to crush the Palestinians and pen them in ghettos encircled by a wall even more bloody than the one erected in Berlin a half century ago.
Had enough? You may remember that, like Russell Banks and Oliver Stone, Goytisolo is a member of the International Parliament of Writers who visited Yasser Arafat in 2002. While there, one member, Nobelist José Saramago, told reporters that "What is happening in Palestine is a crime which we can put on the same plane as what happened at Auschwitz, at Buchenwald," adding that "There are no gas chambers yet. But that does not mean there will never be gas chambers . . . one can kill without having gas chambers." Following these remarks, Saramago was denounced by other IPW members. However, philosopher Alain Finkielkraut also reported the IPW subsequently "appealed to the director of France Culture to rescind the invitation extended to [then Israeli ambassador to France] Elie Barnavi, the representative of a “terrorist, neo-fascist and nazi” government, to a radio program which they were also to attend. Laure Adler didn’t give in so Juan Goytisolo refused to sit at the same table as the ambassador."
ΕLe Nouvel Observateur has posted its cover story from March 25, 1974: "Can we do without the Americans?"
...of the thirteen divisions that the American army currently comprises, four (a third!) are in Europe. Of the 2,250,000 men in the the US Armed forces, all services combined, including the Marines, 313,000 are supposed to defend us. There are 228,000 of them in West Germany, 3,000 in Greece, 2,000 in Holland, 3,000 in Iceland, 10,000 in Italy, 1,000 in Morocco, 2,000 in Portugal, 7,000 in Turkey, 23,000 in the Sixth Fleet and 2,000 roving.


If one considers, in addition to this spearhead, the deployment of the 8,000 nuclear warheads located somewhere in Germany, one can form a rather precise impression of the great atomic umbrella that the United States — for the modest sum of $7 million a year — graciously extend over European heads that are grateful or that should be...


France has failed in its campaign to convince the EU to lift its 15-year arms embargo on China that was imposed after Tiananmen Square. The BBC reports:

"France is spearheading EU moves to lift the ban, hoping that China's rapidly expanding armed forces will offer a good market for its loss-making arms firms and that a coalition can be built with China to counterbalance the United States."

France seems to have ripped a page out of the US book of foreign policy during the Cold War--to wit, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Not surprisingly, there is no indication that France has supported the US resolution on China's human rights problems at the Human Rights Convention in Geneva (the Chinese government doesn't sound too supportive either). With respect to a few of these problems, Amnesty International writes:

"Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown on Uighur opponents of Chinese rule and others branded as 'ethnic separatists' in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), in the west of China including detaining several thousand people. AI [Amnesty International] is concerned that the new provisions enlarge the scope of application of the death penalty in China and may be used to further suppress freedom of expression and association."


"The French government supports the initiative of Mr. Annan, which may shed light on any improprieties with respect to the sanctions imposed by the Security Council in Iraq. As the Secretary-General intends to invite all members to participate, the French government will naturally cooperate with the commission."

--French Foreign Ministry

Germany, a permanent member of the UN Security Council?

Hell no. But Schröder is making a push, and he claims to have the French government's support. Russia and Japan are also allegedly in favor. No word on the English or Americans. Yet although Schroeder confidently asserts that "our friends in America will also agree to support this wish," the U.S. State Department spokesman, when asked about Germany's ambitions, responded "I have to check and see if that's something we did support. I really don't know for sure."

I see at least three problems with Germany's idea. First, if Germany and France are so intent upon creating a unified European foreign policy (the Germans and French have plans to open shared embassies in smaller countries abroad in order to symbolize the two countries' close relations), then France and the UK (depending on the latter's level of EU integration) should abdicate their permanent seats in favor of one European Union seat. One foreign policy=One seat.

Secondly, what is the justification for having three European countries as permanent members of the Security Council? Admittedly, the Security Council is far from being a representative institution. However, it will become no more representative by admitting Germany. If the UN had the option of adding just one more permanent seat, my vote would be for India. Its economic power (such as GDP and growth rate) outstrips Germany, it has nuclear weapons (making it, for better or for worse, a global security player), and its ethnic and religious diversity (viz. the world's third largest Muslim community) would add an alternative viewpoint to the Security Council.

Finally, although the Security Council should be expanded to reflect modern day realities, it should not be expanded in piecemeal fashion or through desperate PR campaigns of increasingly unpopular leaders.


French Police Arrest 3 for 'AZF' Terrorist Threats, RTL Says
March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Paris police have detained three suspects in the course of their investigation into threats by the previously unknown "AZF'' group to bomb French railroads, RTL radio reported, without saying where it obtained the information.

Yesterday, repeating a demand for about $6 million, AZF said it was ending its bomb threats in France temporarily, according to a letter released by the French Interior Ministry. The group said the suspension would allow it to address "technological, logistic and other shortcomings.''
French embassies in Djibouti, Mali receive threat letters
DJIBOUTI (AFP) - The French embassies in Djibouti and Mali have received letters threatening French interests in the two African countries, the embassy in Djibouti and sources in Mali said Wednesday.

Several letters have been received in recent days by French embassies in "seven or eight predominantly Muslim countries," a judicial source in Paris said Wednesday.

"The threats against French interests in Djibouti were contained in a letter" sent from France, a French diplomat in Djibouti said.

He said the letter had been signed by "Mosvar Barayev, commando."
Commander Abu Sayaf: 'No brigade of Movsar Barayev is in existence'

[from Kavkaz Center]
In a brief interview to Kavkaz Center news and information agency Chechen Commander, Amir of the Islamic Regiment of CRI Armed Forces, Abu-Sayaf (Said-Emin) strongly denied the media report that Chechen fighters (Mujahideen) allegedly have anything to do with the letter containing threats to carry out terrorist acts on the French soil, which French authorities mentioned not too long ago:

"There is no 'Brigade of Movsar Barayev' in existence. This is a lie. There is the Islamic Regiment of CRI Armed Forces, which is a part of the Southwestern Front of CRI Armed Forces and which Movsar used to be in command of earlier. And today I am the Commander of this Regiment. All of our military targets are located in Chechnya or in Russia. We are not waging a war against France. France did not attack us. We are waging a war against the Russian empire and we are conducting strikes on our military adversary. This is why I am calling on the French Government to stop its anti-Chechen hysteria, to stop the filthy political fuss around Chechens and to stop echoing Moscow."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Letter (Part II)

Last Wednesday, March 17, Douglas wrote about the alleged letter by Movsar Barayev to the French Prime Minister and media outlets, threatening France with terrorist acts because of the law on secularism. Well, the alleged Barayev has struck again: seven or eight French embassies in predominantly Muslim, African countries have received letters similar to those mailed last week and signed "Movsar Barayev." Apparently the letters were posted from Paris.

French Media Blackout

I think that some of the differences in opinion between French and Americans with respect to the Israeli-Palestininian conflict are the result of varying media coverage. Case in point: A Palestinian teenager's failed suicide bombing that was recorded by an AP camerman is the front page of the Internet version of the The NY Times and is being reported throughout American newspapers from Atlanta to San Francisco. In contrast, no major French newspaper (other than blurbs in Nouvel Observateur and Liberation) has thus far even mentioned the incident.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Growling for Colombani

Any of you who have seen me over the past 10 days knows how furious I get anytime I read or hear the French media trying to stuff down our throats their self-serving lying charges (those against Aznar, Bush, and Blair, i.e., anybody whom they don't feel any sympathy with).

So when I read that the Mémorial de Caen was organizing a conference with Jean-Marie Colombani, among others ("QUELLE LIBERTÉ POUR L'INFORMATION DANS UN MONDE INQUIÉTANT ?", organized in tandem with Les Amis de l'hebdomadaire La Vie and Reporters sans Frontières), I knew I had to attend. I wanted to give Le Monde's director a piece of my mind (in a diplomatic manner, natch). Three hours before it started at 7 pm on March 23, 2004, I jumped into my trusty jalopy, and drove the 260 km to Caen, arriving just in the nick of time.

And sure enough, the first thing any of the five intervenants did (with a constant wry smile on his face) was to attack the lies of politicians, ridicule the partisanship of the media, and bemoan the jingoism of the population (meaning those of the US, the UK, and Aznar's Spain exclusively, bien sûr). It was Jean-Marie Charon, "Sociologue des médias" (whatever that means), who opened the débat — the others being (left to right on the admittedly unclear photo) Colombani, Walter Wells, Directeur de l'International Herald Tribune (beard), Jean-Jacques Lerosier, Grand reporter à Ouest-France, and Jacqueline Papet, Rédactrice-en-chef de RFI, with the moderators answering to the names of Daniel Junqua, Journaliste et Vice-président de RSF, and Jean-Claude Escaffit, Journaliste à La Vie et Directeur des Amis de La Vie.

Before I left Paris, I'd reviewed and written down (in telegraph-style) a handful of arguments: these ranged from the Iraqis quoted in Reason, on Iraq the Model, and in Le Monde itself, to Doug's post on Le Monde's partisan mistranslation of Michael Ignatieff's piece in the New York Times.

The only problem was a rather big one, I learned as a I headed for my seat: questions would not be permitted, except in written form on small pieces of paper handed over to one of the animators. So I knew I had to pay close attention if I wanted to find an appropriate moment when to jump in. And I would obviously not have time to develop any of the arguments (especially since Eskaffit seemed to be a control freak).

It happened towards the end. There was a brief lull as Wells was about to make his last extensive remarks. Suddenly everybody turned to me as I let out : "Je pense que nous devons tous remercier les médias français pour leur admirable abilité à détecter les mensonges. Mais je ne comprends pas pourquoi ces spécialistes en la matière ignorent des sujets qui ont été traités dans le Herald Tribune, par exemple." (This was punctuated by Eskaffit's protests on his mike, you realize.) "Nous avons pu y lire des articles détaillant ce qu'on pourrait taxer de mensonges dans le camp de la paix, comme le fait que les Allemands, les Russes, et les Français avaient pas mal d'affaires avec les autorités baasistes, et que Total devait avoir un contrat exclusif avec Saddam Hussein. Pourquoi les médias français n'en font-ils pas autant état que de ce qui concerne les Ricains, les Rosbifs, et les Espagnols?"

Eskaffit was growing increasingly more vocal in asking/telling me to keep quiet (shades of Chirac?) — he claimed that "de toutes façons", nobody could hear me — so seeing the end approaching (and having a hard time competing against a microphone), I pulled out my final ace — the final ace being a book, which I held above my head. (Yes, there did seem to be a somewhat theatrical element to this scene; why do you ask?) "Et en matière de mensonges, il y a ce livre d'un rédacteur de La Croix, qui a été licencié pour l'avoir publié, qui s'appelle Comment la presse nous a désinformés sur l'Irak. Et qui raconte les partis pris des Français pour diaboliser Bush, pour sanctifier Chirac, et pour communier avec les partis de la 'paix'."

Even a few audience members had by now started to tell me to keep quiet, but that seemed an appropriate place to end anyway, so with that I sat down.

As for Eskaffit, he went on talking to the intervenants… ignoring completely what I had said. (While a couple of people behind me asked to see the book.) Well, I felt I had done my blogger's duty, so to speak, so I sat back, pretty content with myself.

Then, as Junqua made his last remarks, I understood that some people had heard me; the RSF moderator surprised me by pulling out his own copy of Alain Hertoghe's book (which he had in his briefcase), and explained that it provided a negative view of the French media during the Iraq war. But then he added that there was another book, detailing the French press's doings during the first Gulf war, with a positive slant, and that one could not read the first book without comparing it to the second. He tried to conclude that Hertoghe's book was a partisan "brûlot" that was not very friendly to his colleagues. (This from a colloque which had just declared that, happily, the old tradition in the press of refusing to criticize one's colleagues had now become "caduc"!)

I wasn't going to let him get away with that as the final word, so I let out another comment: "Les médias ont complètement censuré ce livre!" (But Eskaffit immediately started interrupting again.)

Afterwards, I went up to speak to some of the intervenants. Wells asked to see Hertoghe's book, which he wanted to check out. As for Junqua, he admitted it was news to him that the La Croix editor had been fired as a result of the book's publication.

So, all in all, a satisfying 10 minutes. (But hardly worth doing again, not at that distance. At least not without a couple of chums to have a drink with, afterwards.)

P.S. This is my first post for ¡No Pasarán! Muchas gracias, amigos, for inviting me to participar.


Explosives discovered on French railway line. French authorities have stated that the device does not resemble the work of AZF.


"Although former senior Elf officials have been jailed in France for ‘misuse of company assets’, their legacy of opacity and hair-raising accounting endures [in Congo Brazzaville]...Once one of the richest states in Africa, Congo now has the highest per capita debt in the world...Elf had an enormous amount at stake as the dominant oil company in Congo Brazzaville, where oil receipts today account for around 70% of the country’s income and 90-95% of its exports. Elf’s proprietary interest in Congo Brazzaville led it not only to feed corruption, but also to meddle with elections, encourage massive indebtedness and, worst of all, to fund both sides in the 1997 civil war. Elf’s successor, the private-sector TotalFinaElf (now Total), remains a major player in Congo: in 2002, it still accounted for around 70% of the country’s oil production. Transparency is still desperately needed in Congo...Recent negotiations between the Congolese authorities and Total show that the tradition of secrecy surrounding oil income continues under the government of Denis Sassou-Nguesso, autocratic strongman turned elected president."

--from Global Witness's report, Time for Transparency, Coming Clean on Oil, Mining & Gas Revenues

In an example of French prejudice against the English, Le Monde has an article on the Global Witness report that mentions British wrong-doings in the petroleum industry but fails to mention the report's critiques of French companies.


"Germany is no threat to terrorism!" writes David Kaspar.

We got that attitude...

sorry folks: we had to smoke a commenter who couldn't mind his manners. That was simply not tolerable. The revolution is aware that the forces of reaction are in our midst and it will act accordingly to stamp them out. Don't make us send H.R. here after you (see left). Therefore, let it be known that we reserve the right to ban discourteous posters immediately and without appeal (especially anyone caught using this juvenile term). This blog represents an unreasonably large portion of our spare time so it ain't here for you to piss on (or.. in better syntax: On for you to piss, it is not here.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004


Doudou Diene, a United Nations special rapporteur, has criticized France's ban on religious symbols in public schools. In his testimony before the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Diene said: "The dominant perception is that, behind the ban of religious symbols in public schools, it is the expression of Islam that is being targeted." Diene went on to state, "The stigmatisation of Islam, at least in public debate, contains ... a serious risk of fostering and giving legitimacy to hatred of Islam and discrimination against Muslims." According to an AFP report via Expatica, Diene "also claimed that the Muslim question was treated in other European Union member states, which he did not identify, with more tolerance than in France."

On another note, Diene also suggested that Canada pay reparations for the immigrant tax once levied on Chinese and to blacks ousted from a town in 1970.


The United States will introduce a resolution on China's human rights practices at the 2004 UN Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva. The US is seeking, but not finding, co-sponsors for its resolution. France is MIA. Here's the State Department on the issue:

MR. BOUCHER: "...obviously, there are other people who are concerned about the situation in China. It's sometimes difficult to turn that concern into actual votes in the Commission, frankly.

QUESTION: what are the initial feedback with the consultants -- the consultations with EU and other countries?

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, yeah. Same answer. I can't speak for them, but we've noted this problem in the past."

The French Betrayal of America

Chirac's lies to Bush. French deals with dictators. Claims of French support for Arab genocide. These are just a few of the claims made by Kenneth Timmeran in his book, The French Betrayal of America. Timmerman lived and worked as an investigative reporter in France for 18 years, and you can read an interview with him here.

Quiche vs. Big Mac

"French nutritionists have discovered that the Big Mac is healthier than that Gallic classic, quiche lorraine."

--via The Sunday Times

Monday, March 22, 2004

Middle East

"France condemns the action led against Sheik Yassin, as France has always condemned all extra-judicial executions contrary to international law. This attack carries very grave risks of reviving tensions throughout the region. Violence is not a solution.

The French government expresses its grave concern that this act risks further deteriorating the situation, and we call upon all parties to exercise restraint in the face of this new blow to the recent efforts to re-launch a political process."

--the French government's response to Sheik Ahmed Yassin's assassination

Compare with:

"[T]here is no doubt of Israel's right to self-defense against the brutal use of terror by Hamas and other organizations. At the same time, we're deeply troubled by this morning's events in Gaza. We do think, as you asked, that this event increases tension, and it doesn't help efforts to resume progress towards peace.

We think all the sides need to remain focused on measures to bring to an end the terror and violence and to avoid actions that escalate tension and harm the efforts to achieve peace. It's essential that all the parties exercise maximum restraint and do everything possible to avoid any further actions that would make more difficult the restoration of calm.

As we remain focused on how to move forward, we remember that both sides have obligations, and in particular, the Palestinian Authority must do everything in its power to confront and halt the terror and violence. "

--U.S. State Department

Sunday, March 21, 2004

El Justiciero

Time has come for decisions. Either Europe unifies to resist the engineers of the apocalypse, following Tony Blair. Or it poses as an opponent of the United States, following the pseudo-"camp of peace" led by Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin and the hesitating Gerhard Schroeder. The "viva la muerte" chanted by the Islamist legions vindicates Tony Blair. But the terror they spread, petrifying European citizens, threatens to lead to resignation after resignation. — My personal hero André Glucksmann in the Wall Street Journal. (Hat tip: Franco Alemán of Hispa Libertas — sitting in for Tim Blair — Alemán also blogs on recent revelations about what the Aznar government knew and when it revealed it).
Glucksmann also gave an interview to Le Figaro yesterday. "Sleeping soundly is the slogan of every cowardice," he hissed. Here is more:
[...]Are Europeans blind to this threat?
Opposite such a ferocious desire for annihilation, by what perversion of intelligence is one able to chastise not its henchmen or its agents but those who, in churchillian fashion, have from the very first day decried, identified and fought the destructive rage driving the international terrorist organizations? What visual dysfunction must one have to substitute the slogan "Aznar, Basta Ya! for "ETA y al-Qaeda, Basta ya!" and to exorcise a planetary threat by brandishing quaint signs adorned with the word "Paz" ?

Precisely. In your book, West Against West, you talk of Islamism as if of a machine for "total war" against civilians...
The fantasy of a great planetary revolution, anti-Liberal, anti-Western and anti-capitalist has by turns fed the fanaticism of the nazis, the communists and the Islamists. It is their secret nihilist convergence that explains their common taste for redemptive violence. The obsessive fear common to these movements is not of capitalism but of the "spirit of capitalism" (Max Weber) and human rights which are inseparable.

In other words, as you say in your book Dostoevsky in Manhattan, Islamism is one of the many contemporary variants of nihilism. Can you explain this point?
Some commentators would have you believe that Islamism is not nihilistic because those who are mad for Allah "believe" in an absolute. Indeed: their absolute is terror. Islamism, like communism and nazism, is in fact the crowning achievement of a desire for annihilation: better to want nothingness itself than not to want anything at all. Dostoevsky and Nietzsche called that nihilism and Heidegger would call it "desire of desire." The nihilists want to rule by chaos and tyranny. They show themselves to be all the more bloody for thinking, deep down, that evil, like the devil, that other stale idea from the superstitious era, no longer exists. "May the sun burn out!" : that was how Leon Trotsky invoked the "eternal darkness." In Baghdad, Istanbul, Atocha or Jerusalem, the terrorist sacrifices to the same logic. Islamism is the local dialect of a globalized, destructive state of mind. The nihilist, be he Islamist, Bolshevik, fascist, racist or chauvinist, breaks every taboo and shrinks before nothing, like the child soldier of Monrovia who, when asked whether he might slaughter his own parent, answers, "Why not?"


You call on intellectuals to have more lucidity and courage in the face of international jihadism. What do you mean?
Comes the moment for decisions. Either Europe unites in resistance to the engineers of the apocalypse, as Blair has chosen; or it poses as an opponent of the United States, the path of the pseudo-"peace camp," behind Chirac, Putin and the hesitant Shroeder. The "viva la muerte" chanted by the Islamist legions vindicates Blair. But terror they inspire and that freezes the European citizen risks, on the contrary, compounding retreat upon retreat. For the Old Continent, nothing would be more juvenile and more fruitless than hoping to cement its unity in opposition to the United States.

In other words?
Europe's genuine cement must be the struggle against terror and the absolute rejection of the massacre of civilian populations. Let's judge a political doctrine by its effects. The dainty pleasure of putting sticks between the Americans' spokes leads to European impotence, to the paralysis of the Security Council, to the dramatic weakening of Nato. Let's stop jumping around like baby goats, shouting, "anybody but Bush!" After all, that "cretin" George W. Bush isn't all wrong: a minimum of democracy and a zest of tolerance in the slums of the world, sometimes introduced from outside and manu militari will foment security for Madrid, Paris, London and New York.
See some of my other Glucksmann translations here, here, here and here.


Last week, the New York Times Magazine ran Michael Ignatieff's thoughtful essay on the year that has passed since the war first began. Not surprisingly, NYTM's copy editors entitled it, "The Year of Living Dangerously" (after the 1982 Peter Weir movie).

This week it appears in translation in Le Monde. The title? "How I changed my mind on Iraq."

Oh, really? Igantieff changed his mind? Where do they get that? To me at least, it looked as though he explicitly denied this in the third fucking paragraph:
A year later, Iraq is no longer a pretext or an abstraction. It is a place where Americans are dying and Iraqis, too, in ever greater numbers. What makes these deaths especially haunting is that no one can honestly say -- at least not yet -- whether they will be redeemed by the emergence of a free Iraq or squandered by a descent into civil war.
Oh... wait a minute. I see. Ignatieff talks about having "second thoughts." Their translator Florence Lévy-Paoloni did not render this as doutes but as "changing my mind." Rather presumptuous of her, no? For the example sentence "I'm having second thoughts (about it)," my own dictionary gives "Je commence à avoir des doutes (là-dessus)," (I'm starting to have doubts (about it)).

Who is Florence-Lévy-Paoloni? A highly active English-to-French translator it seems. She's also been available for the publications of other illustrious commentators such as Robert Fisk, Scott Ritter (twice!), Robin Cook, Gore Vidal (despite the spelling error, it's her), Engels and Amos Oz (at least when he spoke out against the war).

What an interesting collection of people! I wonder if she shares their views on the Iraq war? Might she have been tempted to translate Ignatieff's words tendentiously because of this?

Man, they are getting a letter from me!

French Regional & Cantonal Election Coverage

--Le Monde is reporting that the UMP-UDF (France's mainstream Right) has suffered a set-back in the first round of regional elections. The Socialists, Communists and Greens are estimated to have won 40% of the vote. Le Pen's Front National has won almost 20%.

--Most polls have now closed in France, and the voter turnout at around 7 PM French time was estimated at around 60%, slightly higher than the 1998 elections. The first results should be reported in a few hours.

--As of noon, the percentage of electors voting in regional elections was 18.09%--0.8% higher than at this time in 1998. The percentage of electors voting in cantonal elections was 17.29%--1.35% lower than at this time in 1998. Voting stations will close at 6 PM in most areas.

Here is some background on the regional elections process: Over 17,000 candidates are competing in this first round of elections (the second will be held next Sunday for certain posts), with 50% men and 50% women on the ballots, as required by French law. The average age of UMP candidates is 49, compared to 45 among the Socialists.

Regional Councilors are elected for six years by direct suffrage, and a proportional election system is used. In cantonal elections, General Councilors are elected by direct suffrage for a term of six years by absolute majority (single member), with one Councillor for each canton (a canton being a grouping of municipalities). Thus for the cantonal elections, the candidate or candidates obtaining the most votes are elected (think US congressional election). By contrast, in regional elections, the voters vote for "lists" (generally arranged according to party), and the regional councilors are divided up among the lists or parties in proportion to the number of votes obtained by each. Consequently, although I stated above that there are 17,000 candidates in both regional and cantonal elections, it would be more accurate to specify that 12,302 candidates are competing for 2,304 seats in the cantonal elections. Meanwhile, there are 234 lists competing in the first round of the regional elections.

The primary consequence of choosing a majority or proportional electoral system is that, in majority systems, large parties are advantaged and small parties disadvantaged. As a result, minority voting interests obtain only indirect, approximate representation, and majority systems tend to create two-party systems. In contrast, systems of proportional representation may guarantee both large and small parties representation proportional to their electoral strength. However because almost every vote under the proportional representation system actually does count, it presents the risk of being unworkable because so many different parties may be elected. For more technical details of this electoral system, there is an English translation of a Maurice Duverger piece here. In addition, for a good English-language perspective on the issues at stake in the French regional elections, go here.