Saturday, April 03, 2004

Kerry's French Side: A Plus in Europe, a Minus in the U.S.

f ¡No Pasarán! is to be believed, the International Herald Tribune's recent makeover seems to have been a success. It's only been a week, and (with the present posting included) already three of its new page 2 features have been quoted on the blog (following Tuesday's Politicus, Wednesday's Globalist, Thursday's Entr'acte, and Friday's Europa).

In his second Globalist outing (he has two every week, the second being in the weekend issue), Roger Cohen takes a look at The Republicans' barb: John Kerry 'looks French' (for some reason, the title is changed on the website).
…perhaps the surest indication that the looming political season will be ugly has come from repeated Republican suggestions that Kerry “looks French.” …What is going on here? Ever since the Iraq war divided the Atlantic Alliance and the French government emerged as its most vociferous opponent, France has become a dirty word in some Republican circles. The France-bashing has had its lighter side — French fries disappearing from menus — but it has been no laughing matter. The criticism has carried the serious suggestion that France is not to be trusted. So if Kerry “looks French," the inference is clear enough.
Meanwhile, in France,
"There is a nostalgia for the Kennedy years and a hatred of Mr. Bush that I have never known for another American president,” Nicole Bacharan, a political scientist, said. “So the French have just blocked out the America of religious faith and straight talk that likes Bush.”

Much, it seems, is being blocked out in the talk of Kerry's French side. It is true that some of his promised policies seem attractive to many Europeans. He favors diplomatic engagement — in the past with Vietnam, today with Iran. He has castigated the Bush administration for its “intoxication with the pre-eminence of American power.” He has said he understands the need to “cooperate and compromise with our allies and friends.” He has vowed “to replace unilateral action with collective security.”

But Kerry also voted in favor of the war in Iraq — a fact not much aired in France — and urged the new Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to refrain from withdrawing Spain's troops from Iraq.…

The fact is that Kerry understands the reality of post-9/11 America, one often only dimly perceived in Europe. The attack, like Pearl Harbor, changed the country, pushed national security back to the center of the political agenda for the first time since the end of the cold war, and almost certainly made any candidate not strong on defense and tackling terrorism unelectable.…

Still, in an election as tight as this one, the Republicans will do all they can to associate Kerry with what they see as the French penchant for conciliatory weakness and slow-moving international institutions.

After 'Passion,' more in US believe Jews killed Jesus

Earlier I made peremptory comments to end a discussion about the 'Passion.' That was unlike me and I shouldn't have done so. I feared that extensive discussion would turn ¡No Pasarán! away from "scientific socialism."

But anti-Semitism and anti-fascism are prime topics for this blog so I can't pass this up: according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, since the release of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, the idea that Jews are deicides has seen a "modest but statistically significant increase" in American opinion. The study found that
a relatively large proportion of people who have seen the movie (36%) feel Jews were responsible for Christ's death. However, this is also the case among people who plan to see the movie (29%), suggesting people who are drawn to this movie may be predisposed to this opinion more than others. By comparison, just 17% of those who have no plans to see the movie believe that Jews were responsible for Christ's death.
So I suppose it's open season on the Passion here. Indeed, reader Jaed said "bringing [the movie] up on the blog might not have been the best move." He may yet be right. I'm not sure quite what I'm getting myself into here so, given that I'm a materialist, I'll refrain from expressing any further opinions for the moment about that lunatic bastard Mel Gibson and his evil daddy.

And the Real Culprits in Kofigate Are…

Oui, you guessed right: the Americans, bien sûr! That's the idea that comes from reading Friday's Le Monde. First of all, is this major international scandal (as has been noted previously, William Safire said, "Never has there been a financial rip-off of the magnitude of the U.N. oil-for-food scandal") important enough to warrant a place on the front page? Non! Beneath the main story (on Chirac's television appearance), the most important piece on the front page is about… an American supermarket chain (the largest in the world) and how… it strikes fear into the hearts of American consumers! (We're talking about Wal-Mart, here!)

We must turn to pages 2 and 3 of the newspaper of reference to read the news about Kofigate, plus three or four articles devoted to what one might have thought was the most important international story of the day. That's forgetting that the UN, at heart, is an organization devoted to the good of the world against evil, which is represented by Uncle Sam most often these days. Since good represents the ever-wise French, not too much must be made out of this story, and the aim thereof must in any event be deflected, si possible, against the Yankees. So rather than a story on the money-grubbing tendencies of the UN's representatives on the front page, better to have a story on an evil capitalist monster in an evil capitalist country.

As for the UN story itself — First sentence of the summary at the top of the page reads: "The United Nations organization is undermined by a credibility crisis." Another sentence: "Management of the oil-or-food program with Saddam Hussein's régime has been strongly criticized by certain American circles which denounce the corruption scandals" (my emphasis here, as throughout the article).

Remember how French media never fail to use the words lie and derivatives to blast away at the governements led by George W Bush, Tony Blair, and José Maria Aznar? When it comes to an organization, a country, a leader, or a system supported by the French, then suddenly gloves must be used: "Une polémique", "minée par une crise de crédibilité". Ouh-lala! Remember how, to them, it matters little or not at all who is hurling the charges against Bush, Blair, and Aznar, and how politics has little to do with the accusations? (That is entirely secondary to the fact that these leaders are bona fide villains.) Oh, but when it concerns a French friend or ally, then we must point out who the main accusers are, i.e., show how the latter are treacherous and perfidious. As the article makes clear, "certains cercles américains" refers to "the ultraconservative" Americans, while "the campaign is interpreted at the UN as largely inspired by the internal debate in Washington." That's a sweet addition, but why don't we read more in Le Monde about how the lie charges are interpreted in the Bush White House, on Downing Street, and inside the Partido Popular? Why can't they be called simply "controversies"?

The tone in the rest of the four articles (also devoted to two other UN crises — the Rwanda black box and security at the UN in Baghdad) is devoted to casting doubt on the intentions of Americans at every turn. "The corruption scandal linked to the oil-for-food program in Iraq is the one mobilizing most people in the United States." "Since January, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has not spared its efforts." "A British consultant, Claude Hankes-Drielsma … has specialized in promoting this issue."

With regards to the black box, Le Monde's African specialist quotes Boutros Boutros Ghali as claiming that "the department of peace-keeping operations was strongly infiltrated by the American authorities." While Stephen Smith does not accept this accusation flat-out, his reluctance to do so seems to have more to do with wanting to defend Kofi Annan (the head of that department until January 1997) than with not taking Uncle Sam-bashing at face value. Indeed, referring to Rwanda President Paul Kagame, his article ends with this conclusion: Was the loss of the black box "a blunder or the result of American pressure to shield an African ally from international justice?"

The most insidious of the articles comes from Le Monde's UN correspondent and it concerns American firms that have also traded with Saddam Hussein. It starts right away by calling Americans duplicitous or fooled by their leaders' duplicity, while the French press stands strong, as a shining example to the American press. "The readers of Le Monde have known it for a long time, but those of the American press are not often kept informed thereof: American firms also obtained contracts and were susceptible to have handed over 10% to the régime of Saddam Hussein." As an afterthought, almost, the piece adds, "American firms had little chance to be chosen by the Iraqis. They went through their foreign affiliates, notably the French ones" (my emphasis).

You can also say that there is evidence of American GIs and British Tommies occasionally committing atrocities during World War II. Still, I would wonder about the intentions of a newspaper or a book that highlighted these in comparison to those, hundreds of times far worse, committed by the Nazis and the Japanese imperial army. The Corine Lesnes article goes on to say that "all the contracts with Iraq were examined and approved unanimously by the 15 countries, and therefore the United States." So, if there were over 10 billion dollars obtained illegally by Saddam Hussein and the UN's representatives, somehow it's America's fault too! And in any case, "everybody knew about it". Ergo, if Americans aren't malicious, they are idiots.

Suddenly the UN correspondent decides to ask a couple of questions: "Who overpriced the bills? Who pocketed the difference? Did Cotecna close its eyes and certify exports which weren't up to standards? Perhaps the investigation will say." Notice how the tone changes. What a jolly way to approach the issue. All so antiseptic. All so against-the-usual-Bush-bashing tradition. "A reliable source says that certain French contracts involving communications companies are being examined." See, French readers? Don't worry, don't doubt the French authorities. You can rest tranquilles, everything's being taken care of. Au contraire, if you want to worry about something, what you should worry about is… the American onslaught.

"Without furnishing concrete proof, America's conservative press, with a certain ardor, is implicating France." I thought ardeur was what France's press used on Bush, Blair, and Aznar, but never mind. Read on. One third of the article in the independent newspaper is dedicated to a letter that France's ambassador to the UN wrote to the New York Times in response to a column by William Safire. Not a word on the column itself, mind you. That would hardly interest anybody, would it? The newspaper of reference goes through every point of Jean-Marc de La Sablière's letter (in which he claims that shouldering the BNP in Iraq was the Chase Manhattan bank, that the percentage of French contracts with Saddam was pretty low, and that countries like Russia and Australia were more heavily involved), summarizing what "the diplomat… tried to explain to the American reader". Ah, if only ces Américains stupides would wake up, they would understand the reality of the situation and France's bonnes intentions.

The Lesnes article ends with the evidence of American infamy. De La Sablière's letter was not printed entirely in the paper! And the final sentence reads that the "diplomats were told that such statements needed to be 'verified'." Oh, American perfidie! "Verifié" is in quotation marks, to make the NYT's argument sound like a hypocritical excuse, but I have news for Corine Lesnes and the newspaper of reference, which want to give Americans lessons in journalism. In American periodicals, there is indeed a tradition of not printing a piece without first double-checking every part of it, with at least two sources for even the most mundane detail. And as a former fact-checker myself, I know to what extents one must go sometimes. In addition, I will add this: To me, it sounds like the Times did do their homework, and that if the editors didn't publish certain sections of the letter, it is because they found de La Sablière's arguments wanting or misleading (if not entirely false). But if I react that way, it is probably because, like most Americans, I am not as wise and intelligent and open-minded as the French.

The Ghost of François Mitterrand

"Like imagery, such a need for humanitarian assistance crosses the boundaries of ideology, language, censorship and often state sovereignties. Because it belongs to every man, suffering is universal. The right of victims to be saved, from the moment they cry out for help and are saved by professionals who claim professional neutrality, out of what was recently called the humanitarian 'duty of intervention' in situations of extreme urgency; let us have no doubt that all this shall one day appear in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So evident is the truth that no state can be accounted the owner of the suffering that causes or contains."

— François Mitterrand, speaking at the ceremony for the transfer of the ashes of René Cassin to the Panthéon in 1990. Documents officiels de l'Assemblée générale, 45ᵉ session, A/45/587, 27 octobre 1990, §26.

Friday, April 02, 2004

The Ghost of Charles de Gaulle

ince its first remodeled issue appeared last Monday (the front page will be in color from now on), the International Herald Tribune will be featuring a different column every day of the week on page 2. Tuesday's column, entitled Politicus, will be signed by the ever-excellent John Vinocur, and his first article has already been discussed here. Friday's, entitled Europa, will be signed by Richard Bernstein, and his inaugural article discusses French foreign policy since World War Two.

In the article, entitled "Behind the Gallic bark, more rhetoric than bite", the New York Times writer says that
in large part because of the discrepancy in actual power between [France and the United States], Gaullism is actually more a rhetorical pose than a political reality, or, as the French commentator Alain Duhamel puts it, 'Gaullism is not a doctrine or a policy, it's a sensibility.' Perhaps Gaullism gets its most concrete manifestation in France's urge to maintain its own special zones of influence outside Europe, most importantly in the Arab world.

Indeed, that is one reason it refused [Ronald Reagan's] Libyan overflight request [in 1987] and why it refused to go to war in Iraq or to send troops there for the reconstruction. France does not want to be seen in the Arab world as an American handmaiden. Yet the main principles of French foreign policy — building European integration and upholding the United Nations Security Council as the sole authority legitimizing the use of force — are hardly Gaullist.

Both principles adapt a certain Gaullist Vulgate in that both magnify French power. But in following them, France gives primary authority to international organizations of the kind that made de Gaulle's nationalist skin crawl. After all, de Gaulle kept the British out of Europe and he called the UN "a contemptible platform for sensational speeches, auction-house bidding, and the worst of threats"…

[Bernstein ends his article thus:] It is important to remember that de Gaulle himself sided with the United States in the big crises of his era: on the Berlin blockade, for example, or the Cuban missile crisis. Similarly, Chirac sided with the United States in the 1991 Gulf war, in Kosovo and in Afghanistan. Iraq was an exception. And that suggests what might be the biggest difference between France today and in de Gaulle's time: it is that France may feel the impulse from time to time to build Europe as a counterweight to the United States, but whatever France does in the post-Gaullist world, it does not want to, and indeed cannot, do it alone.
All good stuff. But what reporters, Americans or otherwise, always seem to fail to get, it seems to me, is the following, and it is the most important: the extremely harsh (hateful, actually) anti-American tone in the population, the relative insouciance of the government and the population alike with regards to appearing to be the handmaiden of anybody else (Chinese autocrats, third-world dictators, Iraqi butchers, etc), and how all this plays out in France's day-to-day relations with Washington and other countries and in its attendant policies.

How surprizing, after all, is it that a former KGB colonel (Stanislas Sorokine) could declare the following to a French journalist: "It was never too difficult to find Frenchmen who, without feeling they were spying for the USSR, were ready to collaborate against a common enemy: the United States. After all, that was the official policy of your government at the time"? (Il n'était pas trop difficile de trouver des Français qui, sans avoir le sentiment d'espionner au profit de l'URSS, étaient disposés à une collaboration contre un ennemi commun : les Etats-Unis. C'était après tout la ligne officielle de votre gouvernement à l'époque.)

And even when Paris does assist the United States, it actually does remain consistent. All it ever does, or fails to do, is always part of its commitment to peace, of its superior capacity to reason, of its more enlightened lucidity, etc, and if only everybody listened to the French, and understood how much wiser they are than everybody else, problems in this world would start getting solved. C'est l'auto-congratulation permanente.


I find it strange that Le Monde is unenthusiastic towards an investigation into the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program. The theft of $10.1 billion from humanitarian ends seems worthy of some detective work, even though governments and companies are merely "invited" and not required to cooperate with the proposed investigation. Le Monde portrays pressure upon the UN to launch an investigation as an "ultraconservative," American conspiracy and asks, "Why attack the UN right at the moment when the Coalition is relying upon its support in Iraq after June 30?"

Why does asking that the UN be held accountable for one of its programs constitute "attacking" that organization? On the contrary, if the UN is to assume greater responsibilities upon the world stage, it should be willing to investigate charges of corruption and mishandling. And as for that $10.1 billion, if only a small portion of that money could be recovered, it wouldn't hurt the Iraqis right now.

Contrary to what Le Monde seems to suggest, a permissive attitude towards incompetence at the UN will not make that organization any stronger.

Iraqi Injustice: 'Peace Camp' Europeans Need Armor Too

ollowing the tragedy in Fallujah, French television showed a story Thursday about an Iraqi company specialized in renting out armor-plated cars. Business was brisk, needless to say. (If I remember correctly, the price was 500 Euros a day.)

Ending the TF1 news item was an interview with one of the Iraqi's latest clients. The man, a German television producer, shook his head and complained that he had no choice but to rent a car like this. Indeed, it made no difference who the Westerners were. A couple of weeks ago, he explained, a fellow German had been killed, and so had a couple of Finns.

The subtext of his statement, as well as the general tone of the French news story, seemed to be, "Don't the Iraqis (meaning the terrorists) realize who the good guys are? And that the latter — the sweet and kind anti-Bush European peace-lovers — are not supposed to be mistaken (perish the thought) for the bad guys (the distastefully arrogant American warmongers)?" Quelle injustice!

Interestingly, the entrepreneur who created the car-rental company does not echo the sense of tragedy permeating Europeans' usual point of view. "Here in Iraq, we don't care about the bombings. We're used to it. It is the Westerners who are worried" (and who are his clients). The debonair Iraqi is obviously not somebody who will be sought out by European journalists in their usual articles of doom and catastrophe.

Lire la version française

In France, Seven of Ten Racist Acts are against Jews

rance's National Advisory Council on Human Rights (Conseil national consultatif des droits de l'homme) has submitted its annual report (PDF: 766k/650 pp) to prime minister Raffarin. The report indicates there were 817 racially motivated incidences of violence in France in 2003 — against 1,313 for 2002, a drop of 38%. This decline holds true across the board: 229 assaults, down 152, and 600 threats or acts of intimidation, down 399. Thirty-two persons wounded.

Anti-Semitic violence peaked last spring when the Iraq war began: 78 acts recorded for the months of March to May alone. And, reports Le Monde:
Anti-Semitism remains in the majority relative to other forms of racism. This trend, begun in 2000 with the flare-up of anti-Jewish violence during the start of the second Intifada, has continued in 2003 with 72% of violent threats recorded. "Anti-Semitism continues to be very much present in French society," observes the CNCDH. The data, which were also recorded by the Interior Ministry and the Representative Council of France's Jewish Institutions [Conseil représentatif des institutions juives de France or CRIF], show that violence has been maintained at a "considerable level." Five hundred eighty-eight incidents are cited, including 125 violent acts (70 assaults, 49 desecrations of places belonging to the Jewish community and 6 arsons) and 463 threats (insults, graffiti or leaflets).

Worrisome sign: 32 assaults targeted children and minors and the number of victims  (21 in 2003) has never been as high. "These statistics demonstrate that violence against the Jewish community is taking root and getting worse," the report states. "According to the police, the perpetrators come principally from among "the young delinquents of the so-called problem neighborhoods," who act as much out of xenophobic provocation as out of the rejection of all institutions, with members of the Jewish community joining the traditional targets (the police, firefighters, doctors...)
The report also notes, however, that 81% of violent acts target the Maghreban population, which is "the highest percentage since 1993." There was also a "disturbing percentage" of acts with anti-Islamic intentions: 36 attacks or threats against Muslim places (mosque, place of prayer or burial plot). The report speaks of a "growing conflation" of anti-Arab racism and hostility to Muslims.

CNCDH also commissioned a poll of 1,052 people by BVA that indicated that opinions on immigration haven't really changed. Forty-one percent feel that the number of immigrants is too high (which, believe it or not, represents a ten-point drop since last year!!) Forty-six percent say the presence of foreigners is source of tension. Thirty-nine percent say there are too many Muslims and 23% say that Muslims are "not like other French people."

The Day After

oday we got some of the answers to Yesterday's questions. The four men were employees of this company. The families of the dead are of course a subject no one can approach but the people near where they live are contemplating events like the rest of us:
At Carolina Fanny's, a cafe in Moyock, co-owner Shellie Langley said the brutal killings were the talk of her establishment all day today.

"I've been here since a quarter til 6, and that's all people are talking about," Ms. Langley said. "They're saying how they would like to know what Bush is going to do now. Will he go back in and take it or how is he going to handle the situation?

"It's hitting close to home.," she said. "It's like losing your neighbor. Oh yeah, people are mad."
And apparently, Jonathan wasn't the only one wondering why the military didn't make an attempt to restore order sooner. Officials had to answer that question:
"Should we have sent in a tank so we could have gotten, with all due respect, four dead bodies back?" said Col. Michael Walker, a civil affairs commander. "What good would that have done? A mob is a mob. We would have just provoked them. The smart play was to let this thing fade out."
On this subject, the PBS Newshour had yet another commentator with incisive and pertinent remarks in their first panel (realaudio 18:08) of the evening. U.S. Army Colonel W. Patrick Lang, a former special forces soldier and head of HumInt for the DIA in the 1990s. He said:
I don't think any kind of approach to this as a criminal action is going to be very productive, either in terms of rendering justice or in terms of improving our situation in Iraq. In fact, I think you have to treat the Fallujah area and the larger Sunni triangle as an area under enemy control and concentrate forces in there and begin a process of going through the place a block at a time, developing your own intelligence in order to break the back of the resistance there. If we don't do that, we're going to look awfully bad in the rest of Iraq and indeed the rest of the Arab world.
Earlier in the same segment, Deputy Director of Operations for the Occupation forces Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said:
We're not going to do a pell-mell rush into the city. It's going to be deliberate. It'll be precise and it will be overwhelming. We will not rush in to make things worse. We will plan our way through this. We will reestablish control of that city and we will pacify that city. We will be back in Fallujah. It will be at the time and place of our choosing. We will hunt down the criminals. We will kill them or we will capture them and we will pacify Fallujah.
I hope Brig. Gen Kimmitt's thinking isn't too far from Col. Lang's. The Times also quotes Colonel J.C. Coleman of the First Marine Expeditionary Force as saying "We were going to roll in there all quiet like the fog." The second Times story linked to above has the following blind quote from an "occupation official" who said that Fallujawis "are acutely aware that Falluja now has a reputation as the worst place on earth." Indeed, the Times Jeffrey Gettleman reports from Fallujah that many embarrased not by the killing but by the behavior of the mob. According to the AFP, however, Bagdadis are as horrified as the rest of us:
"I was shocked and very pained by the scenes of violence that I saw (on television). These people should have been buried, not cut up to pieces," said Assaad Jassem, a 33-year-old elementary school teacher. "I feel ashamed and I believe that those who did this will regret it because these people were human beings like us, with families and children. What was done violates the teachings of Islam," he added. ..."How will the families of these people think of Muslims and Islam after this ugly action?" said Jassem.

Khalaf (27) was convinced that what happened in Fallujah "will harm the reputation of Iraq's people for years to come" but he insisted those who carried out this act were not representative of the Iraqi people."They do not represent the real Iraqis," said Khalaf, declining to give his full name. ...

Iraqi journalist Khalil al-Azzawi (50) was outraged by what happened and dismayed that the horrific scenes from Fallujah were shown on television across the world.

"What happened will reflect badly on the Iraqi people as a whole, but not on those who carried out these barbaric acts," said Azzawi.

"Television networks will exploit these ugly images in order to portray Iraqis as criminals. But that is not the reality. Iraqis are peaceloving people who wish to live in harmony with all the countries of the world," he added.
Meanwhile, Juan Cole had this rather facile analysis:
What would drive the crowd to this barbaric behavior? It is not that they are pro-Saddam any more, or that they hate "freedom." They are using a theater of the macabre to protest their occupation and humiliation by foreign armies. They were engaging in a role reversal, with the American cadavers in the position of the "helpless" and the "humiliated," and with themselves playing the role of the powerful monster that inscribes its will on these bodies.
I'm hoping for something more helpful from Iraqi commentators but so far, few of them have written on the matter. Fayrouz, of Live From Dallas, can only muster the strength to register her horror and disgust. I was touched to read what Firas' had to say over at Iraq & Iraqis. He says he felt "anger, disgust, terror, depressed, pain in stomach, and even guilt, I am sure I wasn’t thinking clear so I waited a while before I left back home. ¶ But Now I know that I want to tell the world that me and the Iraqi people I know and those whom I saw since yesterday all shamed of what happened and refuse it and want to do something to stop things like that. Of course we need the help of the coalition to do so but we will do our best.?"

Thursday, April 01, 2004

'Unilateral Pacifism'

rom Rome comes a nice but short lesson for Romano Prodi and his fellow would-be crusaders against Washington, whether in Italy or elsewhere.

According to a story in Tuesday's International Herald Tribune, it would appear that Prodi would like to be to Italy what José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is to Spain: if elected to power, the head of Italy's largest opposition coalition (who is also the president of the European Commission) would make a huge contribution to the advancement of mankind by… ending Italy's military role in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Le Monde can hardly disguise its glee. After the ouster of José Maria Aznar (ah, zose Madrid bœmbs, quelle bénédiction!), another Washington ally and opponent of the European constitution (as it is now), Poland's Leszek Miller, is out of power. My, aren't we lucky! As for Ségolène Royal, since the French socialist party leader's long-time companion defeated Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's stand-in, she is being hailed by the rank-and-file as "la Zapatera" (i.e., "she who brought down Raffarin"). Goes to prove that as long as you oppose America and/or the society and economy it symbolizes, you will be hailed as a hero(ine), whether in France, Spain, Italy, or elsewhere, and whatever the circumstances.

(Isn't it strange that nobody in France ever seems to complain of Zapatero, or those of a like mind, being France's poodle(s)?)

Which brings us back to the IHT's piece on Italy, which ends with an appeal to common sense:
"Withdrawal today, just like that, of our troops from Iraq would be a catastrophic decision", the head of the lower house of the Italian Parliament told a political convention on March 27, before denouncing what he called unilateral pacifism in the war on terror. Added Pier Ferdinando Casini: "Shouting 'Peace, peace' is nice, but it's not enough."
Amen to that.

(Italian-speakers can also read this short news item.)

Lire la version française

Truth and Lamentation

How many people will today's images from Fallujah have sent scurrying to private places to weep? I can't stop thinking of the mothers of those people who reared and loved their children only to see all their life's efforts "mooted" in an instant. How can it feel to see your son's charred remains smashed with steel bar and leaving a trail of blood as they are dragged from a car or strung up on a bridge? And to see a ten year-old step on his skull?

I was nearly overcome with nausea all day and had to force myself to watch the news this evening. After another report from John Burns (realaudio 9:01; I try never to miss them), there was the usual excellent discussion (realaudio 13:58) on the PBS Newshour. There were talking heads from CSIS, the Kenedy School's Belfer Center and a former asst. SecDef under Reagan. They reasoned and talked of the military significance of casualties and the ability to continue our operation. All three agreed with Robert Orr when he said:
Though every death matters and every person lost is a tragedy, we need to keep in mind that this number of deaths is not out of the realm of what we've been seeing in recent weeks and months. The real key is whether people overreact to the gruesome scene here in America or there in Iraq. There's a political process going on in Iraq and that's as important as security developments. If these security developments affect the political process there or here, then we could see a much bigger impact.
CSIS' Anthony Cordesman continued:
I think Mr. Orr made a very important point. We saw some horrifying images but there are now, if you count killed and wounded, close to four thousand coalition personnel. There have been roughly two deaths a day of people in uniform and these images are simply deliberate efforts — I think psychologically — to manipulate opinion. We also need to remember — because we may focus on the fact that these are Americans — that equally if not more violent actions have been conducted during Shi'ite religious ceremonies where hundreds of innocent people have been killed in bombings. The Kurds in the north were the target of these grouops. We are dealing with approximately 150 to 180 attacks a week. The casualties relative to the number of attacks — still — are relatively low. We're not losing in that sense. And Fallujah is an isolated area. Opinion surveys in Iraq conducted in the last several weeks show the vast majority of Iraqis oppose this kind of attack.
I very much agree but these sentiments remain muted for the moment. It is perhaps because he shares this view, or perhaps because he'd prefer not to think about these events that Glenn Reynolds gave them only a single, 56-word post ("I don't have a lot to say about this...," he wrote). Coming among other, far happier matters, the post included a crack about sending in Kurdish forces (really not funny).

I can't share Glenn's insouciance. Something tells me this will not be simply another roadside death of US soldier. I can imagine four waves of shock, revulsion and grief spreading westward through the country as the nightly news aired in each time zone. The emotional value of these events will be far worse, in my estimation, than that of Mogadishu because it comes after far more sacrifice and investment, both personal and psychical, on the part of the public.

This has received far more explicit coverage than any I can remember seeing in the cases of other anti-American murders that have occurred in Iraq. Seeing the cruelty shown even to the corpses of people who were only there to help will surely undermine the optimism and generosity of large numbers of Americans. Orr cautioned against overreacting but I imagine that many will at first have feelings somewhat similar to those expressed by Zeyad last November:
Those militants don't understand any language except the language of force. Fuck human rights. Those aren't humans anyway. We desperately NEED to see some heads rolling. Believe it or not. Theres going to have to be some bloodshed for this to work. Bomb the hell out of Tikrit and Al-Awja. Massacre every last person of Saddam's tribe. Rape his women. Yeah. Let them taste some of what we have endured the last 30 years. I don't want to see my dreams ruined because of those trianglees. If the CPA doesn't want to do it, send in a force of IP and civil defense forces and turn your face the other way, they'll be more than glad to do it, believe me.
(It's important to note that Zeyad posted more sober reflections on this subject in January.)

Given that we've sent our soldiers into harm's way, the public must be unflinchingly informed of the dangers our soldiers are facing. However, what is completely unpardonable is typified by this. If the Voice had made an honest attempt to acknowledge the horrors of Saddam's Iraq (with the possible example of Nat Hentoff's tepid essay of a year ago) they might now deserve some attention when they discuss the war. As it is, they have trivialized themselves beyond all credibility. I can find not one single hit for the phrase "mass grave" in any Voice story on Iraq since the war began.

Hypocrisy is feigning emotions that one does not feel. I can tell that, as the number of coalition dead rises, many are only going through the motions of lamentation in order to twist the knife in those of us who are agonizing over our support for this war.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Chirac Shake-Up

Good riddance to de Villepin as foreign minister. He has been promoted from defending the Muslim world from American aggression to defending, as Interior Minister, the French Republic from Muslim girls brandishing head scarves. And hello to Michel Barnier.

Jewish leaders slam EU anti-Semitism report

by Bertrand Benoit in Berlin
Published: March 31 2004 11:47 | Last Updated: March 31 2004 11:47

The European Jewish Congress on Wednesday severely criticised the first large-scale report on anti-Semitism in Europe hours before the study was to be unveiled by the European Union's anti-racism watchdog in Strasbourg.

Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary-general of the Paris-based EJC, told the Financial Times the work suffered from "enormous contradictions, errors and preoccupying omissions."

Mr Cwajgenbaum, who had been due to attend the presentation of the report at the European Parliament's headquarters at 2.30pm, said the EJC was reconsidering whether to participate. The organisation is expected to issue a press release commenting on the study later on Wednesday.

The criticism could revive accusations that the European Union has been trying to minimise the scale of anti-Semitism in the region while questioning the view, common among European Jewish communities, that the perpetrators are mainly young Muslims.

The controversy broke out after the FT revealed last November that the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) had shelved a previous study after its authors concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind the rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

Anne Clwyd

"...would put the sloganising hypocrites of the anti-war crowd to shame, if only they were capable of feeling any shame." — SIAW on the latest by the right honorable Anne Clwyd (pronounced Clew-id).

Frédéric Encel the worse for wear...

Over at LOTF, I've posted a complete translation of an online chat at with Frédéric Encel. I've long considered Encel to be a lonely but eloquent voice of reason on Middle East matters. Yet I have to admit he doesn't come across to well here:
Milan: If the Israelis withdraw from the Gaza strip, don't we risk seeing the rise of an Islamic regime? What is the future of Islamism in the region, in your opinion?

Frédéric Encel
: This is a central question: it is likely that Gaza could ultimately be governed by an Islamo-nationalist leadership. Which would be a catastrophe, not only for the prospect of peace, but also for the Palestinian population. Now, such is to-day the lot of most Arab states: if the current nationalist or monarchist leadership were to fall, it would be to the profit of the Islamists. For this reason, the regional situation is therefore very serious and the West would be well inspired to give more support, particularly economic and social, to the authoritarian regimes that are more or less struggling with their Islamist oppositions.
Not the answer I was looking for.

The Non-Negotiable Demands of Human Dignity

The US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is suing an Oklahoma school district in order to defend an 11-year old girl's right to wear a hijab in school. The school's refusal to allow the girl to wear her head scarf is alleged to be a violation of the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. Stated the assistant attorney general: "No student should be forced to choose between following her faith and enjoying the benefits of a public education...We certainly respect local school systems’ authority to set dress standards, and otherwise regulate their students, but such rules cannot come at the cost of constitutional liberties. Religious discrimination has no place in American schools." (emphasis added)

Europe in for a letdown if it's counting on Kerry, says Vinocur

Via Instapundit and Just One Minute: the IHT's John Vinocur, who went to Oberlin, had an article to-day on a U. Michigan seminar (thanks, Mr. Minuteman, for the link) attended by ranking Dems and European diplomats. Vinocur has Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman Joe Biden making the following remarks:
Recalling that he had talked to six European government chiefs about the war, Biden caricatured how they would have done things better. "Blah blah blah, international cooperation," the senator mimicked. He added, in his own voice, "Give me a break, huh."

When Biden offered the possibility, beyond more civility, of a future in contrast to the Bush administration, it was in a plague-on-your-houses context. He said of the two, Europe and Bush, "You have fallen in love with international institutions to the extent that this administration has fallen in love with unilateral action."

For good measure, Biden threw in the view that the European Union will not have a unified foreign policy, and with it, the phrase, "I hope you do, I wish you well, but I see no evidence you're going to spend the money needed" to create a serious European military force either.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Passion

RFI had a segment on Gibson's film which is opening in France. The film was described as "fundamentalist," as "distorting" the New Testament, and as anti-Semitic. Moreover, Gibson was called an "extremist." Mid-way through the discussion, both individuals who were speaking admitted that they had not seen the film. Simply amazing.

"Fascist" is the word that Marin Karmitz, head of the movie theater chain MK2, used to describe the film and to explain why his theaters would refuse to show the film. France's communists in L’Humanité remind us that Emmanuel Levinas once stated that the Holocaust was a re-enactment of the Passion (does that mean that any teachings with respect to the Passion are necessarily anti-Semitic?).

Le Monde levels similar accusations against the film (hopefully someone there actually saw it). It claims that the anti-Semitism in the film is typical of traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants and argues that the film indulges in the "worst fundamentalist tendencies of the modern age." I find it telling how this "fundamentalism"--despite the film's success in the US--hasn't triggered anti-Jewish riots or kamikaze attacks on cafes, subways or skyscrapers. The film--or, more specifically, the response that it has triggered in France--does, however, indicate a certain French intolerance towards any signs of faith that are not hung on a museum wall.

Meanwhile, France's newspaper with Catholic inclinations, La Croix, writes that the French Catholic church is not crazy about the film, worrying that the "extreme violence will hide the Passion's meaning and the larger message of Christ." Nonetheless, Gibson's "sincerity is not in question" and "the film will attract men and women who seek to know Jesus." However, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger is not a fan, describing the film as a reflection of "group sadism."

The lone voice in the wilderness is Le Figaro, which contains an article in defense of Gibson's film. The writers note: "If one intends to truly film the Passion and the crucifixation, we cannot simply refer in passing to Christ's suffering...Should we be angry if the result does not resemble a pre-Raphaelite tableau?"

Monday, March 29, 2004


"At least $5 billion in kickbacks went from corrupt contractors — mainly French and Russian — into the pockets of Saddam and his thugs...The money for the huge heist known as the Iraq-U.N. account passed exclusively through BNP Paribas. "

Safire maintains the pressure

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Battles Brewing

(1) U.S. and France Apparently at Odds Over Labor Rights: "A squabble over whether to encourage the involvement of workers in corporate management has at least temporarily derailed, and could even kill, efforts of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to publish a comprehensive revision of its principles of corporate governance."

--via The NY Times

(2) Meanwhile, Algeria's Le Matin writes that Der Spiegel is set to announce on Monday that the US and UK are opposed to the German government's ambitions to gain a permanent member seat on the Security Council. France is, not surprisingly, supporting Germany. Incidentally, Le Matin incorrectly states that the American government does not want to change the composition of the Security Council. That is not quite correct. Last year, The Washington Times wrote: "During the Clinton administration, the United States indicated that it would consider an expansion of seats on the council while opposing efforts to limit or eliminate the veto...But the Bush administration has not taken a position." Based on this transcript from the State Department, there is no indication that this policy (or lack thereof) has changed. In addition, Blair's government has taken the lead in pushing for reforming the Security Council.

The Right Swept Away, the Left Triumphant

(The following post contains translated excerpts from this AFP article which appeared today in Le Figaro):

The majority UMP-UDF suffered a definitive setback in the second round of regional elections. Voters, who turned out in higher numbers than on March 21, increased the Left’s victory. Polls indicate that the Right has lost a dozen regions, without however losing Ile-de-France.

The Left won a landslide victory in the second round of regional elections, increasing the protest vote against the Raffarin government and sweeping the Right from 20 out of 22 regions in France. All eyes are now on Jacques Chirac.

The fate of the government and, above all, of the Prime Minister, is in the hands of the President. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, while recognizing that, given the results, “there will definitely be changes,” notably with “a more fair course of action,” nonetheless did not, in any way, suggest that his days were numbered at Matignon.

Although expressing himself with care, the head of government made a point of mentioning that the “any response” should be “carried out under the authority of the President of the Republic.” According to a poll conducted this week by SOFRES, which will appear Monday in L’Express, 59% of French want to see Raffarin go, and 29% hope that he will remain. 40% want Nicolas Sarkozy to replace Raffarin.

A little less than two years after Chirac’s overwhelming victory in the presidential elections (which was followed by the Right’s parliamentary victory), the right-wing majority has suffered a complete collapse, in a reversal of electoral fortunes that has not been seen since 1981. It seems that the Left got its maximum possible vote in the election, including from the Far Left and from those who abstained from the first round of elections who turned out to vote on Sunday…

A sign of the Left’s victory and of the scathing repudiation of the Prime Minister: his former electoral stronghold, Poitou-Charentes—that Raffarin led for 14 years up until 2002—went to Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party. Royal obtained 55.5% of the votes, 20 points more than Elisabeth Morin (UMP), Raffarin’s successor in the region…

Other victims of the landslide victory for the Left included the former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (UMP) in Auvergne…