Saturday, May 08, 2004

fast and furious

French authorities claim to have thwarted a fire bomb attack on a synagogue in Villiers-le-Bel, a municipality outlying Paris. Police say the bomb, painted with a swastika and nazi slogan and found in a garden on the synagogue grounds, weighed only 800 grams and may have been intended as an incendiary device.


According to Reuters, the Interior ministry simulated a bomb attack at the Place d'Italie metro station as part of a series of exercises to test the preparedness of emergency services. The scenario called for the attack to be followed by a conflagration and a nearby mall was made into a mock triage center.

"France is not specifically targeted by any threat today, even if our country has been mentioned by several terrorist groups," said Interior minister de Villepin.

Er... What?


A silent march in solidarity with France's Jewish community and against intolerance took place in Herrlisheim, scene of the attack on a Jewish cemetery in which vandals descrated 127 headstones on April 30. The march proceeded despite rain. The march was called for by the Mayor, Jean-François Willem.

"You have to take part, it's that simple," a marcher told France 2 television.


In an interview, Secretary Powell told the AFP that relations with France have "changed remarkably" (perhaps because de Villepin has been relegated to the Interior ministry). Meanwhile, the paper that no one reads, the Washington Times, is printing hopeful speculations about French intentions for next month's D-Day commemorations. The batty WaTi quotes former French ambassador to Greece and the MFA's current director for UN and International Organizations" Jean-Maurice Ripert as saying Bush's visit "will be a tremendous occasion of showing that whatever the differences were, or still could exist on some issues, we are still allies and we are still working together."


The seat of the devil himself, French oil company Total SA, announced an 8% drop in first quarter profits over last year. What exactly can an oil company do to lose ground when oil is at $40 a barrel, the highest price in 13 years? Moreover, how can the company suffer only a 2% decline in revenue but an 8% decline in profit? The US dollar dropped like a stone. Global output has increased slightly. Total's exploration and production profits fell by 7% (to €2.82 billion) due to the low dollar while refining and marketing profits fell by 30% (to €546 million) because of the higher price of crude. Since January 1, Total has spent €880 million to repurchase 1% of outstanding shareholder equity. Of course, all that, which I don't really understand, has had serious effect on the company's bottom line.

However, none of that would have mattered if the Iraq war hadn't cost the company the right to exploit Iraqi oil-fields with a combined daily output of 1,340,000 barrels per day. (For the sake of comparison, note that the entire production capacity of Algeria is 735,100 barrels per day).


(A translation of a Le Monde editorial that appeared in the Internet edition on May 8, 2004)

The scandal of torture inflicted on Iraqi prisoners is growing. In the United States, some of the press and diplomatic core is asking for the head of Donald Rumsfeld, the chief of the Pentagon. On Friday, May 7th, the New York Times even entitled an editorial “The Military Archipelago,” just like Solzhenitsyn called his book on Stalin’s crimes, “The Goulag Archipelago.” Although strained, the comparison testifies to the political and moral harm caused by something that is worse than a crime—a mistake.

Of course, the hypocrisy of those regimes in the Middle East that denounce the tortures in Iraq is unacceptable. It is understandable that Arab opinion, which is rarely given any deference by Arab leaders, and that Arab journalists, who often must choose between submission and repression, are indignant over the fates of their “brothers.”

Nonetheless these Arabs remained deaf to the screams of Saddam Hussein’s victims and even to the screams of the citizens detained and even tortured in their own prisons. The Middle East would not be in this disastrous state if Arab leaders had demonstrated greater vision, courage, and respect for the law.

Yet we must not forget that, in the Iraqi torture scandal, it is a democracy that is violating its own principles. What can be done to resurrect America’s image? An apology? President Bush said that he was “sorry” for the “humiliations” inflicted on Iraqis. Punishments? Of course, but these should not be limited to the underlings—to those who shamelessly posed for photos while inflicting nameless humiliations on those for whom they were responsible. No, the entire chain of American command has been placed in question. More seriously, Washington’s strategy and philosophy is in doubt.

Mr. Rumsfeld and his team of “hawks” sit atop this hierarchy. For the past three years, they have been models of arrogance and demonstrated their disdain for the rule of law, for conventional warfare’s practices, and for their allies’ opinions. However this scandal has revealed that, in spite of their authoritarian natures (or maybe because of them) they are out of control and there is no counter-power that can prevent these excesses.

At the beginning of May, the Secretary of Defense had not yet opened General Taguba’s damning report, which had been completed at the end of February. The warnings of the NGOs and of the International Red Cross were ignored; President Bush was kept out of the loop; and Congress remained in the dark.

This is what happens when a power—even a democratic one—openly considers itself to be above the law and drapes itself in an ideological infallibility of Good fighting an Evil that only it is able to define. This is the heavy price of the Bush team’s imperial arrogance and of its refusal to admit that the rest of the world does not work like America.


A political party calling itself Euro-Palestine has been formed and is offering candidates for regional elections. Euro-Palestine's candidates for Ile-de-France can be found here (scroll down). The party's campaign banner consists of the Palestinian flag's colors, a dove, an olive branch, and yellow stars for the members of the EU. For one Euro-Palestine politician, Maurice Rajsfus, "The reason for the new wave of anti-Semitics is the State of Israel as it has existed since 1967." The party also opposes the US occupation of Iraq.


"The third anti-Semitic act of vandalism in a week: Friday morning, the Jewish memorial at Verdun, dedicated to the soldiers of World War I, was covered with anti-Semitic slogans. The inscriptions "Heil Hitler," "88" (the equivalent of "Heil Hitler" in the alphabet), as well as swastikas were sprayed in black on the immense, 15-meter tall commemorative tablet."


Friday, May 07, 2004

Privatized Warfare

(A translation of a Le Monde editorial that appeared on May 7)

The end of the Cold War and of the bi-polar order blew up the traditional framework for international relations. For fifteen years, infrastate conflicts have replaced the military and ideological conflict that pitted the West against the communist world. With the apparition of these infrastate conflicts, bands of fighters whose goals are as dissolute as they are political have appeared. Witness, for example, the Balkan wars in Europe during the 1990’s.

However, the privatization of warfare is no longer unique to small populations without armies or to ethnic or religious groups for whom the use of arms purchased from the “free market” is the only means to be heard. Warfare is becoming privatized among larger States and, first and foremost, in the United States. This phenomenon began in an unsuspecting fashion. In the interest of better management, armies externalized those operations that were not directly related to military activities. These included administrative tasks, the management of parking garages and even of installations requiring scientific skills, etc.

There are several reasons for this privatization, and they are both ideological (privatization is popular nowadays) and common-place. The elimination of mandatory military service in most modern States deprived the army of inexpensive labor. Professional military officials and civilian companies have filled the void. Out-sourcing also gives the impression that the military budget is smaller than it really is. However the American intervention in Iraq revealed that privatization has extended well beyond non-military activities. War, itself, has become privatized in all of its forms, from logistics, information gathering, training, surveillance and interrogation of prisoners to the protection of officials and even to combat. This is not really novel. “Private” soldiers intervened in Latin America against the guerillas and drug traffickers; in Croatia and Bosnia in order to modernize the armies; and in Afghanistan, including during the hunt for bin Laden.

A veritable financial industry has developed over the past few years in the United States. Several hundred private military firms rake in more than $100 billion. These companies often employ former Pentagon bureaucrats who lobby the US government. In Iraq, these private employees numbering 20,000 men constitute the second largest contingent in the coalition, outnumbering the British.

This trend is dangerous. These private companies and their employees are not subject to any military hierarchy, they do not obey the same rules, and they are not subject to the same sanctions. They escape all democratic control. One should invert Clemenceau’s quote: war is too serious a matter to be entrusted to civilians.

Some Cartoons Say It All...

Here's more from Daryl Cagle's Pro Cartoonists Index home page

Don't forget…

Today's the day

Wacky French Cartoons Roundup

A collection of French-bashing cartoons can be found on Daryl Cagle's Pro Cartoonists Index home page (along with a reprint of Dick Morris's New York Post editorial). It's a nice website to bookmark or, better yet, get regular news from by subscribing to their newsletter.

(And non, French readers, don't be paranoïaques: American cartoonists are not particularly anti-French. As can be seen on Cagle's home page, no topic is taboo and all subjects — particularly American — are broached.)

Wacky French News Roundup

Visitors to Paris will have noticed the electronic signs placed at major intersections by the mayor's office. They often indicate pollution levels and sometimes issue warnings for the elderly to stay in doors and keep activity levels to a minimum. Now the French Agency for environmental health security (AFSSE) is reporting that auto-mobile air pollution kills five to six thousand people a year in France. That's about a third of the number of peopel that died in the space of two weeks during the heat wave last August; however, back then, authorities cited air-pollution as one of the major contributing factors in the death toll. ("...searing temperatures and a lack of wind left a cloud of smog hanging over Paris," say Reuters.) I was there. It was so hot you couldn't move, hotter than I've ever felt it here in NYC.) France is two years behind schedule in its plans to meet minimum requirements for biofuel ingredients in gasoline by 2005. View AFSSE's March '04 report here (PDF: 1.9 Mb; 147 pp).That crazy, racist witch Brigitte Bardot is on trial for hate speech AGAIN. She's been dragged to court for passages in her book, "A Cry in the Silence," which is supposed to be about how much she loves animals but reportedly contains denunciations of interracial marriage, the unemployed, homosexuals, women in government, Muslims and Islam in general. She is reported to have broken down in tears to-day during testimony.

Click here for a picture of her and Jean-Marie Le Pen comforting French soldiers during the Algerian war. In October '97, a court fined Bardot for saying France was being overrun by sheep slaughtering Muslims. In January 1998, she was again fined $3,250 for incitation to racial hatred in comments on civilian massacres in Algeria (you can all guess what the substance of racist remarks on the subject will be, no doubt). Let's hope they give her a meaningful punishment this time.
The Elysée Palace is announcing that Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac will meet with 400 French and British students at the Palace this Sunday at 11 am local time. They will all have a chat about European construction. (This has obvious echos of April's visit by the Queen in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the entente cordiale. Sunday is also Europe Day. ) Blair and Chirac will hold a working lunch with Raffarin.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

"Liberty Is Something You Need To Be Deprived of to Understand What It Is"

As the 60th anniversary of D-Day approaches, the press will be publishing more and more material about the greatest seaborne invasion in history. A full-page article in Le Monde describes get-togethers where veterans and civilian survivors, some of them sharing their experiences for the first time, remember the horrors of June 6, 1944, and the ensuing battle of Normandy.

The article ends with an old-timer from Sainte-Mère-Église saying, "But for us, it was the Liberation. Liberty, one needs to have been deprived of it to know what it is." The article is moving, as it is supposed to be. The problem, however, is that as Le Monde explodes with indigation over the war in Iraq and the scandal of a handful of Americans torturing Iraqi prisoners, the old Frenchman's words seem to be falling on deaf ears…

More on…

Paris Survival Fight Guide: lesson #37 Guide 'baston et survie' à Paris: leçon #37
I get quite a few letters from readers inquiring if Paris is safe for Americans. Here's what to do when confronted by a belligerant Parisian. The first move attempted by any Parisian guy in a fight is a head butt. Don't know why because these guys don't know Bobo Brazil from Koko B. Ware but that's what they do. Meet the guy's nose with a direct upper cut elbow smash. That will throw him back (don't mind the crunching noise his nose will make) and have our old friend the red vino make its appearance. 'red vino on tap and the same in all places, like it's put out by the same big firm' Now that he's staggering it's time to go in for the kill. Don't be shy. Get down on one knee, then reach up and grab the nutsack and tell him his eggs are ready. Apply pressure. The high pitched wail is proof that he's now a 'made man'. He's part of the Soprano family (not the one from New Jersey). If this little incident attracts a gathering, don't worry. One of the good things about living in a Latin influenced degenerate cesspit is that you can explain away most violence as the result of some kind of 'passion'. If some pain in the ass innocent bystander tries to get involved just tell him that the guy was making advances to your mistress. That, these degenerates manage to understand despite their pea brains. If no one is around and you can take your time clearing out, then kick him while he's down, and use both feet.
Je reçois de nombreux courriers qui posent la question 'Est-ce que les américains peuvent aller à Paris en toute sécurité?' Voici comment faire avec un parigot qui cherche la bagarre. La première chose tentée par un mec parisien lors d'une bagarre de rue est un coup de boule. Pourquoi? Je n'en sais rien car ils ne connaissent rien au catch style WWE, mais c'est comme ça. Faites-lui gicler de bas en haut un coude méchamment ajusté direct au pif. Là, sur le coup il va tituber (ne prêtez pas attention au bruit de craquement répété) et là notre vieil ami le vino rouge va faire son apparition. 'vino rouge au robinet, le même en tous lieux, comme s'il venait tout du même grand cru'. Pendant qu'il titube il faut livrer le coup de grâce. Ne soyez pas timide. Mettez vous sur un genou, levez votre main et prenez-lui bien par les bourses en lui disant que ses deux oeufs sur le plat sont servis. Appliquez la pression. Le cri aigu que vous entendrez est bien la preuve qu'il vient d'obtenir sa promotion. Il fait desormais partie de la famille Soprano (pas celle qui passe sur France2). Si cet incident attire un attroupement de badauds, ne vous inquiétez point. L'un des avantages de vivre dans un pays latin style fosse septique est le fait que beaucoup de violence s'explique par la 'passion'. Si un connard de bon samaritain essaie de s'y meler, dites-lui que le mec a essayé de draguer votre maîtresse. Ca, ces dégénérés arrivent à comprendre avec le peu de matos qu'ils ont entre les deux oreilles. Par contre, s'il n'y a personne et vous êtes peinard pour partir, donnez-lui des coups de pied pendant qu'il se trouve par terre. Et soyez sûr d'utiliser les deux pieds.

Bush and Chaos

(A translation of a Le Monde editorial that appeared on May 6, 2004)

American neoconservatives wanted to change the Middle East, by force if necessary. In the disarray of the 9/11 aftermath, they convinced George W. Bush. The status quo had bred those authoritarian regimes—once allies of the US—whose brutality and incompetence had, in turn, fed the flames of Islamism. Not knowing how to encourage an internal evolution—eminently more desirable but necessarily more slow—the neoconservatives concluded that the region needed shock therapy: a good, strong kick. There was no need to fear temporary instability. On the contrary, this was deemed to be an indispensable step to the reformation of the Middle East along lines that would be better for the entire world. One spoke of a process of “destruction-creation.”

The war in Iraq was the good, strong kick. Were the situation not so tragic, one might ironically comment that the neoconservatives seem to be on their way towards accomplishing the first phrase of their strategy: spreading chaos.

Wherever one looks in the complicated land of the Middle East…pessimism is in vogue. Not a single hot spot, not a single conflict is better off as a result of Bush’s government.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is on the brink of despair. The Bush administration never made it a priority. Prior to the Iraq war and merely for show, the Bush administration went through the motions of supporting a schedule for resuming negotiations between the two sides before the establishment of a Palestinian state in 2005. This was called the “road map:” it never got off the ground. Then the Bush administration enthusiastically supported the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Thanks to domestic Israeli politics, Sharon’s plan has disappeared. Each day, ignored as if it had become part of the global landscape, there is the daily roll call of deaths in the Occupied Territories and in Israel. And, to top things off, these images are broadcast throughout the Arab world.

By supporting Sharon’s policy, Washington abandoned its role as honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians. The Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak recently told Le Monde that he had never known such loathing of the U.S. in the Middle East as he does today. The Jordanian King Abdallah postponed a visit to the White House so as to avoid making a visit on the day after Bush had endorsed Sharon’s plan. It is in this context that the devastating effects of the revelation of torture in Iraqi prisons must be understood. The images of torture have completely discredited the image of the United States which that country’s handling of the post-war situation in Iraq had badly undermined. The occupation of Iraq has given strength to the Islamists, who have multiplied their attacks in Saudi Arabia.

The whole situation is turning into a monumental and tragic fiasco.

In Honor of the Resistants
Who Died for Denmark's Liberation (1945)

Drenge, I drenge, som døde,
I tændte for Danmark i dybeste muld
en lysende morgenrøde!

Kaj Munk

Boys, ye boys, who lie dead,
Ye lit for Denmark in darkest gloom
A shining morning red

Kaj Munk


"The ashes of Algeria sleep framed in these photos. Those whose memory is longest recognized the practices of the nazis in the ghettos, the gratuitous cruelty that consisted in humiliated Jews by forcing them into obnoxious strip-teases." — commentaries on the torture photos by Le Monde editor Eric Fottorino, whose self indulgences lead him far astray in to-day's issue.
"Either these goons were acting on someone's authority, in which case there is a layer of mid- to high-level people who think that they are not bound by the laws and codes and standing orders. Or they were acting on their own authority, in which case they are the equivalent of mutineers, deserters, or traitors in the field. This is why one asks wistfully if there is no provision in the procedures of military justice for them to be taken out and shot." — Christopher Hitchens on the torture scandal

Coming to a Head?

The AFP reports that a Jewish synagogue in Valenciennes was found defaced on Saturday. Some one drew swastikas on the exterior wall of a synagogue, reports the agency, citing "judicial sources." On a wall bordering the synagogue, someone wrote the words "Sieg Heil," and "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" (On people, one kingdom, one leader), in blue ink.

Regular readers will be noticing a streak of incidents here. On April 29th-30th, the Jewish cemetery at Herrlisheim was defaced: 127 headstones were marked with nazi grafitti. On Saturday, the attack in Valenciennes occurred. (Meanwhile, on May 2nd, the Interior ministry reported a rise in anti-Semitic violence for the first three months of this year.) The same day that the Interior ministry made its figures public, a Roman Catholic cemetery in Niederhaslach was found defaced with nazi slogans and swastikas in what police presume was an act copying the Herrlisheim desecrations.

In to-day's issue of Le Monde, former Middle East correspondent Georges Marion (a pro-American and highly talented reporter*) published an essay entitled "European anti-Semitism: the alarming signs." He notes that the Herrlisheim desecrations occurred within hours of the end of the Berlin conference on anti-Semitism held by the the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
One could think that this act, apparently in memory of Adolf Hitler's birthday, is also not unrelated to the Berlin conference, as if the perpetrators had sought to respond dramatically to what they must view as an unacceptable provocation. But for the Jewish associations that for three years have been denouncing the persistent public expression of anti-Jewish sentiment and the rise of its corollary in the form of physical assaults on people and property, the desecration of Herrlisheim-Hattstatt constitutes only a bitter illustration of the fact that their warnings were not superfluous.

The Berlin meeting will at least have allowed us to establish, if not the exact extent of the phenomenon, at least the area over which it has spread. Nearly all of those who appeared reported the return of anti-Semitism to their countries with varying degrees of virulence. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel offered painful contemplations on this new beginning, sixty years after the Holocaust, the horror of which, he thought, would have protected the Jews henceforward. Alas! he could only become disenchanted. "The Jew that I am belongs to a traumatized generation," he told his audience. "We have antennae. Better still, we are antennae. And when we say that the signals we're receiving today are alarming, the world would do well to listen." The message is clear: as European history shows, anti-Semitism concerns not only Jews but the liberties of all.
Marion notes that the first OSCE conference on anti-Semitism was much the same and that this one promised to result in equally little concrete action. However, he notes one change:
Significantly, the principle decision taken at the Berlin conference concerns the collection and central tabulation of trustworthy data by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), an organization founded in Warsaw and funded by the OSCE.

Each country will now have to define its criteria for observation and make its data compatible with those of its neighbors in order to enable comparison, which is no mean feat.

Yet, the "signals" perceived by Elie Wiesel are no less real. A report written last year [shelved under suspicious circumstances — D], by two scholars in Berlin at the request of an EU office, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), professed to be able to discern the presence of a "new anti-Semitism" riding the wave of the Arab-Israeli conflict (Le Monde, December 1, 2003). The report was not published in the ground that its data were incomplete.

The one followed, published (PDF, 1.1mb ; 346 pp./press release here: 2 pp ; 24k) in April, corroborates the conclusions of the previous report while refining its analysis. "Between 2002 and 2003, we've observed a rise in anti-Semitism in Belgium, in France, Holland, Germany and the UK," says Beate Winkler, director of the EUMC. "In Austria, in Greece, in Spain and Italy, the speech is disturbing." According to the EUMC, the "old anti-Semitism" is being expressed once again, serving as a vehicle for the oldest stereotypes of European anti-Semitism: a taste for money, suspect communal allegiances, global conspiracy, the financial exploitation of the Holocaust, etc. But, which is a more recent phenomenon, these ideas are taken up by social, national or political groups that had until now been alien to them.

Gathered in Berlin prior to the conference were several non-governmental organizations that also provided many examples of the old European anti-Semitism, which is now widely exploited in the Arab press and television to feed criticism of Israeli policy. Identical instances are cited in Europe, in political sectors that are theoretically inoculated against anti-Semitism, but that nevertheless remain susceptible to exploiting it.

That is what the German president Johannes Rau recalled upon opening the conference: "Every one knows that behind the criticism repeatedly directed at Israeli policy during the last decade a violent anti-Semitism is hiding."
(*) Marion was one of the only French reporters to cover the famous remarks of Imad Faluji, former Palestinian Communications Minister who gave speech at Lebanese refugee camp on March 2, 2001, asserting that "the Intifada had been planned since the failure of negotiations at Camp David."

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Colin-Rummy Feud?

A couple of days earlier, William Safire put a different perspective on the so-called Powell-Rumsfeld spat, which has been portrayed in Europe as the evil war-loving neo-coms squishing out the life of the valiant and reasonable fellow peace activist ("fellow" to them, the Europeans). Safire, who has enjoyed the company of both (together), says that
these two old pros genuinely [enjoy] sparring intellectually with each other. That [portends] a personal civility to ameliorate the usual State-Defense institutional hostility.

Desperately Seeking Leaders...

William Safire has some choice questions for Iraqis, one of which is:
Where is the leader brave enough to tell fellow Iraqis that the danger to them is not from America, but from Iran, Al Qaeda and a new Saddam?
I'm wondering: is that the type of question that can also be addressed to the peoples of France and Europe?

Core Europe

BusinessWeek (scroll down the linked page to find the article) takes a critical look at the French government's involvement in Sanofi-Synthelabo's successful takeover of rival French drugmaker Aventis. Karibu has more on this.

One German Seeing Eye to Eye with Uncle Sam

"The terrorists should know this: If you love death so much, then it can be yours."

Who's that speaking? A neocon American, assuredly. But which one? Dubya? Rummy? Ashcroft?

Wrong all wrong; you're listening to the voice of Otto Schily. "What?" a reporter asked, seemingly startled. Germany's interior minister went on to state that the situation was such that in extreme cases involving the potential death of thousands, Germany had to decide "if killing a person is justified as an emergency protective measure."

The level of frankness was all the more striking since it came from an extremely popular politician, a Socialist Democratic Party member, and, close to 30 years ago, the former lawyer of Germany's own Baader-Meinhof terrorist group
writes John Vinocur in his IHT column about "a palpable European adjustment to reality", which explains how "the psychic context of Europe's approach to terrorism appears to be altering significantly".

France is also concerned, with
Algerian newspapers on Sunday prais[ing] France for finally abandoning what one called its "benevolence" over the years toward Islamic fundamentalist preachers.

Talking about the connection between Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism as if he had discovered the wheel [our emphasis], Villepin explained on Saturday: "Here's today's reality: under the cover of religion, individuals present on our soil have been using extremist language and issuing calls for violence. These are statements that favor the installation of terrorist movements on French territory. It's necessary therefore to oppose this together and by all available means."

Germany's Vision Closer to Uncle Sam's

In an article for the New York Times Magazine, Richard Bernstein argues that U.S.-German relations have much improved since last year's annual Munich Security Conference, which was beset by mutual hostility. This year, Germany's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said that
even though the United States went ahead with a war that Germany opposed, it is now in the German interest for the Americans to succeed. It is certainly not in Germany's interest for its major ally, the United States, to become bogged down in a quagmire. Fischer used his Munich appearance to put forward a strategic vision that is actually very close to the American one. We face a common threat, Fischer said, and he attached a clear name to it: ''destructive jihadist terrorism with its totalitarian ideology.'' Facing that threat, Fischer declared, it is imperative that ''the coalition's efforts must be successful; the forces of violence and terror in Iraq must not win the upper hand.''
One former U.S. secretary of defense, however, would not let Fischer off the hook:
If Germany agrees that it is essential to win the peace in Iraq, and if winning the peace is so essential to the security of Europe and America, [William] Cohen asked, why would Germany rule out sending troops to Iraq to help the coalition in its struggle?


Un avion s'écrase au Soudan, 115 morts, un enfant rescapé

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat...

French police are in a panic to locate 1,100 pounds of ammonium nitrate — a fertilizer, famously used in the Oklahoma City and Bali bombings and the recent bombings in Istanbul, where the government has only just begun regulating sales of the product — which went missing on Monday in the north, according to the Times.

Police suspect the fertilizer was indeed stolen as long ago as Easter weekend from the port of Honfleur (between the Seine Maritime, Calvados, and Eure departments, near the mouth of the Seine river), where large quantities of the material were stored without special protection.

Two unexploded bombs recently found on French commuter railway tracks were made with ammonium nitrate and a group calling itself AZF (for more on AZF, see here, here and here) claimed responsibility. Police in London seized more than a half ton of the substance in March during a raid on a suspected Islamic terrorist hideout. AZF also issued demands for millions of euros.

The name AZF may in fact be a reference to a chemical company that owned an ammonium nitrate factory in the south which exploded on September 21, 2001, killing 30.

In its last communication with the government, AZF said they were regrouping to develop greater capacity. Another group (or individual) calling themsel(ves)f the Mosvar Barayev commando, sent threatening letters to prime minister Raffarin and to the French embassies in Mali and Djibouti, and to five or six others. Authorities noted that the name Mosvar (a non-existent given name) is really spelled Movsar, for Movsar Barayev, the leader of the Chechen group that held a Moscow theater audience hostage in 2002. The spelling error was originally made by an English-language press service and widely repeated. The commander of Abu Sayaf also has claimed that there is no such group as the Mosvar Barayev commando. On March 17, reported then Interior minister Sarkozy claimed that the letters in question were composed directly in French rather than translated from Arabic, perhaps definitively discrediting them.
The AZF factory which exploded on 9/21/01, killing 30

Seventeen people (six women and 11 men) have gone on trial in Outreau (Pas-de-Calais), near Boulogne-sur-Mer, for "rape with torture" and "rape with barbaric acts." They are accused of gang-raping 18 children, aged three to 12 years. Some of the victims were allegedly raped by their own parents.

The accused vary in age from 24 to 67 and all of them deny the charges.

Prosecutors learned of the matter in December of 2000 when social services informed them that an unemployed couple might have been sexually abusing their own four children. The children told investigators that, once in foster care, they were again sexually abused, raped and made to watch pornography. The children also named neighbors. Police have seized sex toys and pornographic videos from the foster family's apartment. As part of an investigation, Police placed a court bailiff, his wife, a taxi driver and a priest under surveillance in 2001.

The investigation has netted 20 arrests. One suspect has committed suicide while in prison and another was declared unable to stand trial. The trial will call hundreds of witnesses and may last six weeks.

Just over the border in Arlon, Belgium, unemployed electrician Marc Dutroux, 47, is currently on trial with three other defendants, for for the kidnapping of six young girls, four of whom Dutroux is accused of murdering in particularly barbaric circumstances. Dutroux has denied the charges and blamed is ex-wife for the crimes.

United Nations

Q: What do you give to a government that wages a scorched earth campaign, displacing one million of its own civilians?

A: A third term on the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Canada, Finland and France were elected from the Western group. Incidentally, the US representatives were the only ones to protest with their feet. In response, the Sudanese representative equated the Sudanese governments' massacre, rape and abduction of tens of thousands of Sudanese civilians with US army prisoner abuse in Iraq.

The allegations surrounding prisoner abuse in Iraq are horrific and deserve to be investigated thoroughly. However they do not deserve the global media frenzy that has developed around them. The result of this journalistic circus is that a Sudanese representative can actually compare his country's atrocities to the prisoner's abuse in Iraq and not be laughed out of the room. Other wide-spread human rights abuses are ignored. Any sense of perspective has been completely lost. As a blogger noted in a slightly different context, "You should know that the life of a Muslim is cheap when it is taken by another Muslim as long as it is in the name of Allah." One might say more generally that lives are cheap these days unless an American has taken them.

Ils sont fous, ces Américains !

...Yes, we admit it, Americans are crazy, and we solemnly promise to no longer deny it...

 (Important memo: Don't let anybody forget to mark their calendars, now;
it's Friday, May 7, everybody.)

Arnold Gets High Marks from The Economist

A special survey on California in the May 1 edition of The Economist starts thus:
What a short, strange and surprisingly pleasurable trip it's been … Six months into his term, the idea of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger no longer seems so weird.
The issue also includes an article which states that
it is hard to find anyone in Californian politics who has a bad word to say for Mr Schwarzenegger in public. He has charmed people, bringing a touch of glamour to a town that has not seemed cool since Jerry Brown's days; he has a first-rate team of advisers; and, just as in Hollywood, where he remains as much admired for his business sense as for his acting, nobody makes jokes about dumb action heroes any more.
It adds that
momentum will surely be the key to Mr Schwarzenegger's success. In much the same way that a good action movie seldom leaves you much time to watch the details, a successful Schwarzenegger governorship will rely on pushing forward—and solving problems.
I'm just offering this to all those wise people, French or otherwise, who castigated Americans for being so silly and retarded to vote for somebody not hailing from the ENA (France's École Nationale d'Administration) or its equivalent abroad.

To the West of Allah?

Paris police have arrested Turkish imam and 28-year resident of France Midhat Guler in order to expel him. The Interior ministry accuse him of leading an extremist group that advocates terrorism. In a statement on their Web site, the Interior ministry say that there had been a standing arrest and deportation order for imam Guler since April 30 and that Guler was apprehended during a routine traffic stop and placed in administrative detention. Guler has since applied for political asylum in France and the Ministry say they will seek to prolong his detention pending his application.

Reuters reports that Gulat's son Abdulrahman says his father didn't even preach at the mosque and was just its caretaker. They report that he says his father doesn't understand why authorities are holding him and Abdulrahman as saying, "My father has presided over this mosque since 1984, there have never been problems, not an anti-Semitic word or anything, never."

The Guardian reports that there have been five such expulsions in the past four months, adding that the Interior ministry say that just 10% of France's 1,000 to 1,500 imams are French citizens, that many of the rest are undocumented, and that less than half speak French.

On April 20, French authorities arrested Imam Abd al-kader Bouziane of Vénissieux, who preached wife-beating, and then expelled him from France only to watch him be readmitted, to their frustration and embarassment.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris head of the French Council on the Islamic Faith (CFCM), gave an interview to Libération on April 29th. Boubakeur has sought to include the council in expulsion decisions but was not consulted in the case of imam Bouziane. He commented, "the handling of this case was distressing. The authorities came away flouted and embarrassed. And, among the Muslim community, this purely law-enforcement handling of events may cause the opposite of the pacification they seek."

However, the next day, Boubakeur claimed his words had been misinterpreted and that he never said that "in the handling of [the case of Abdelkader Bouziane, imam of Vénissieux] the authorities came away flouted and embarrassed." He said that he intended to criticize "the media portrayal and not the authorities' actions," which Boubakeur says he approves of "because it is consistent with public order." Those who read the full interview can see, however, that unless Boubakeur denies practically all of the statements he gave Libé, his intention was clearly to damn the government's actions. He did not mention the press at all. Libé say the stand by the entire interview.


Le Monde editorial
Torture in Iraq
LE MONDE | 03.05.04 | 12h49

The accusations of torture of Iraqi prisoners couldn't have come at a worse time for the US-American coalition, the end of the bloodiest month since the — official — end of the war. The accounts and photographs of brutal and degrading acts have traveled round the world, and their impact in the Arab street cannot be denied. Even if doubt persists as to the authenticity of the photos implicating the British.

The stone must not be cast at the coalition alone. With their blind attacks, the Iraqi opposition are not to be excluded. And torture is, alas, a damndable but common byproduct of situations of conflict and repression. No country can escape this, including France, for those who have not forgotten the black hours of the Algerian war.

Nevertheless, these unacceptable acts were part of worsening relations between Americans and Iraqis since the "liberation" of their country. And may they serve to contradict the Bush administration in its notion that it need not be bound by the relevant international conventions.

Since its arrival in Iraq, the American army has been heavy-handed and has, at the very least, been clumsy in its psychological war. At the same time, the Pentagon seriously underestimated the troop levels necessary to achieve peace. Still, it is true that even a quick reaction by Washington against the guilty parties may be insufficient, so general is the hostility of Iraqis, Shia and Sunna alike.

At least as serious is the dammage to president George W. Bush's prestige that this matter involves: a lessong-giving administration caught in its own trap. And, as the Washington Post points out, " There is an important and deadly serious lesson here, for American politicians as well as military commanders: The rule of law matters, even where America's worst enemies are concerned."

How, for example, can one justify "out-sourcing" the interrogation of prisoners or of others to civilian "consultants," mercenaries recruited from specialized outfits? it is crucial, as much to the coalition's image as to its efficiency, that it respect the Geneva conventions, in the field and in that zone of non-law that is Guantánamo.

It is not certain that this will be enough to right the situation on the ground. Despite this, the honor of the United States, former leader of the "free world" and sole super-power, depends on assuring that the guilty are punished, the such atrocities do not reccur and that international law prevails.

If not, how will they convince the Iraqis and Muslims — if this stil possible — of Washington's good faith? And how will they persuade other countries — European ones in particular — to participate in ther Iraqi peace process under American command?


Monday, May 03, 2004

No Zapo, He

News from Poland.
The new prime minister, Marek Belka, promised to push ahead with tough reforms and keep supporting the United States in Iraq as he took office a day after Poland joined the European Union. …

Belka, who recently completed a term as director for economic policy for the U.S.-led provisional authority in Baghdad, has said he will continue Miller's support of the U.S. mission in Iraq, where Poland has some 2,400 soldiers and leads the multinational force.

He said Sunday his foreign policy priorities continue to be "a successful fulfillment of our mission in Iraq" and overcoming obstacles to a new EU constitution. The constitution was stalled last year by Polish and Spanish opposition to the draft document, which would have reduced their voting powers. "Both those issues must be solved in accordance with the national interest of Poland," said Belka, a member of Miller's Democratic Left Alliance.

Le Lobby Juif

Although the French media often makes much of the "Jewish lobby" in the U.S. (more here) and around the world, it seems that the time has come to begin discussing "le lobby arabe."

On a completely unrelated note, Afghan freedom fighters have courageously scored another victory.

Do Questions Reveal Journalists' Curiosity, Or Their Hidden Agenda?

When interview subjects respond to anti-American diatribes with a ready answer (or if they simply fail to take the bait), French journalists... quickly change the subject.

In an interview with three reporters from Le Monde and El País (Enrico Franceschini, Jean-Pierre Langellier, and Walter Oppenheimer), Ralf Dahrendorf — German sociologist and pundit, British Lord, and a self-described European and Atlantist — states that
Europe must understand that the United States is its partner, its ally, a brother country with whom it forms the free world. And that without the United States, it would assuredly be less free.
This obviously ignorant and horrific statement is too much for one of the journalists, who immediately responds:
Even without George Bush's America, which invades Iraq on the basis of lies?
But Dahrendorf won't be baited, and he won't let that stand.
The debate on the war in Iraq is as just as animated in the United States as in Europe. One would be wrong to reduce the United States to their president or their current administration. Having said that, I remain favorable to the intervention in Iraq, for personal reasons. Saddam Hussein once owned weapons of mass destruction, and he used them. Maybe he no longer had them in 2003. But if, instead of closing their eyes, the allies had intervened against Hitler in 1938, we could have avoided the Holocaust.
One good point for Dahrendorf. And what do his interlocuteurs do at this point? They change the subject!

For what matters here is not that the German-British national responds, and does so accurately, but the extent to which the Frenchmen (and Spaniards) he is speaking to do not hear him. The extent to which they do not hear him, or hear those who are like-minded. All that seems to fit their agenda is recarping the official mantra (Le Monde's? France's? Europe's?), and pooh-poohing or minimizing anything that goes against it.

At one point they softly criticize Dahrendorf for not having always been part of the élite that knew, for a fact, that monetary union was an inestimable good for Europe — "You did not use to be very enthusiastic about the Euro" was the way one question (rather, a sly type of criticism) — is formulated. (Which means, of course, that no doubts, however small, must be harbored, when following the all-wise majority in what is undoubtedly for the common good.) When discussing the European Constitution and Tony Blair's decision to call for a (British) referendum thereupon, they ask him "Is it possible that Great Britain still isn't decided to be wholly part of Europe?" (Which means, of course, that democracy is not something that should be resorted to, if the result risks going against our common wishful thinking.)

To return to the Iraq war questions: when Dahrendorf starts speaking in a way that starts dilluting the charge against Bush (showing how the lie charge is exagerrated and how the outcome, in any case, was positive), the Europeans drop the matter. It's too bad that such an intelligent person as he, they seem to be thinking, does not realize what the élite — people such as themselves — knows, that the U.S. is a terrible country, with an inhumane system, and deserves to be unreservedly opposed.

Lire la version française sur Le Monde Watch

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Don't play him cheap 'cause you know he ain't shy

Dauntless and indefatigable, Erik has started a NEW BLOG! Please go check it out (and make sure to extract promises that he won't be leaving NP any time soon. We need him around here).

Culturally enlightened French celebrities show simplistic Americans what human relations are all about Vedettes françaises culturellement évoluées montrent aux américains simplistes de quoi il retourne en matière de relations humaines
Douglas beat me to it... Trailer trash gone wild. The guy can't have a child with his wife so he bangs his step-daughter and has a kid with her. Later on, he bangs his step-son's wife. So who else in the family got nailed? Is this an episode from the Jerry Springer show? Not at all, it's a chapter from the life of French cycling champion and number one degenerate Jacques Anquetil.
Douglas a tiré le premier... De petits blancs de souche qui pédalent dans la déchéance tout autour du vélodrome baisodrome. Le gars ne peut pas avoir d'enfant avec sa femme donc il baise avec sa belle-fille. Plus tard il pine l'épouse de son beau-fils. On peut se demander qui d'autre dans la famille est passé à la casserole. Le dernier épisode de l'émission de Jerry Springer? Pas du tout, il s'agit tout bêtement d'un chapitre tiré de la vie de Jacques Anquetil, champion cycliste franchouille et dégénéré extraordinaire.

Shithouse yes, but not a brick one Un chalet d'aisances oui, et en plus pas très solide
Zeropa displays its weakness for all to see. If you thought that diplomacy with 15 countries was a mess just wait for the pig sty to come with 25 countries.
La Zéropa fait l'étalage de ses faiblesses. Si vous croyiez que la diplomatie à 15 était un foutoir, attendez un peu le bazar à venir avec 25 pays.


"Unable to have a child with his wife, he had one with her daughter from a previous marriage, and lived with them for 15 years before the arrangement collapsed in unhappiness and betrayal." — The weirdness of Jacques Anquetil.

Wrong Cemetery, Dumbass

Reuters reports the following:
Vandals desecrated around 20 graves with Nazi slogans in a Roman Catholic cemetery near the French border with Germany, police said on Sunday, two days after a similar incident at a nearby Jewish cemetery.

The two incidents appeared unrelated. Nazi swastikas daubed around the Catholic cemetery in the village of Niederhaslach, west of Strasbourg, were the wrong way around -- unlike those at the Jewish cemetery, where 127 graves were desecrated.

"It doesn't look at all like we're dealing with the same sort of context," one policeman said, adding that the Niederhaslach incident could have been a copy-cat act.

Sarkozy's Faux Pas

(A translation of a Le Monde editorial that appeared in the April 29, 2004 Internet edition)

Nicolas Sarkozy, the Minister of Economy and Finance, hurt the quality of public debate in France on Wednesday, April 28. During a question-and-answer session in the National Assembly, the number two in the prime minister’s government was asked by a socialist deputy about his recent trip to the United States.

Mr. Sarkozy had gone to Washington for a spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are headquartered in D.C. Sarkozy had just assumed his role as finance minister, but it was still expected of him to attend that meeting. However Sarkozy made more than a simple visit. He took advantage of that trip to the federal capital to be received—at his own request—by the National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, by the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and by other highly placed government officials.

By all appearances, Mr. Sarkozy did not mind bolstering his growing stature and national political ambitions. This was perfectly legitimate. And the American officials were likely quite happy to welcome a French official whom they judge, correctly or incorrectly, to be more Atlantic than many other French politicians. The Americans also probably sought to engage in a more direct dialogue now that they are seeking French support during UN negotiations over Iraq.

However Mr. Sarkozy should have limited his conversation to generalities. Instead, he went too far. He revealed that he had been invited to the US by American Jewish organizations. This is a good thing—France’s image over-seas was harmed by the wave of anti-Semitic attacks in 2002. But Mr. Sarkozy went further still when he added, in his overexcitement, that from the time of Lionel Jospin’s government “we have managed to make the US think that France is an anti-Semitic country.”

One might reproach Jacques Chirac and Jospin’s government for not having, in the past, made a strong enough political statement—for example, a solemn declaration on television—against the repeated attacks on Jews in France. But one should not suggest that the Jospin government was complacent with respect to anti-Semitism. To use language that raises this doubt is to dangerously play, in the manner of a demagogue, with the theme of anti-Semitism.

In the complex fight that he is waging in the heart of the conservative majority and against the opposition, Mr. Sarkozy is subject to hyperbole—when he said, for example on Tuesday at the National Assembly that France has the most unemployed individuals in the world! But there are subjects for which insinuations, even those that are more clumsy than intentional, are more serious than rhetorical exaggerations.

Let's Hand the Prisoners on America's Cuban Base to Europe...

It's obvious that the situation in Guantánamo is a shameful scandal and that the common-law courts championed by the EU represent a much more practical way of dealing with terrorism and creating a peaceful world…

10 More Countries, 9 More Languages: The Babel Union?

Alan Riding has a piece on EU languages in his weekly Entr'acte column in the IHT, in which he notes that the "number of language combinations for interpretation will … jump to 420 from 110, although in practice 'relay languages' like English and French will serve as a bridge between less-spoken languages."
The problem of managing a cacophony of tongues is thought far less daunting than having to silence any individual language. After all, if Dutch, Greek and Danish are used, why not also Estonian, Hungarian and Maltese? The 191-member United Nations may tick along just fine with six languages, but in Europe the right of officials and legislators to work in their own language is now enshrined as a democratic imperative. …

[But] having a voice in Europe — tiny like Latvia or powerful like Germany — does not automatically mean that a country's language will be more widely studied or spoken. A language's use in Brussels may improve public perceptions of the European Union, but this acceptance is more likely to influence how a country sees itself than how it is viewed by others. In fact, since no Union language is actually threatened, the issue is really one of political pride.
(Alan Riding: With 9 more languages, EU's Babel grows louder
By Alan Riding, International Herald Tribune, Thursday, April 29, 2004)


The day after news broke of the attack in Herrlisheim, the Interior ministry reported that the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France rose during the first three months of 2004. This comes not too long after the National Advisory Council on Human Rights submitted its annual report which found that seven of 10 incidences of racially motived crimes were against Jews in 2003 (though 8 of ten violent acts were committed against Muslims).

Foreign Minister Barnier says there can be "no mercy."

Chirac and Raffarin continue their slide in the polls toward positively Shroederian levels. A survey of 1,003 adults found that Chirac's approval rating now stands at 32%, a drop of three points from March. Poor, long-suffering Raffarin is down to 26%.

However, Finance minister Sarkozy, transferred from his lionizing role in the Interior ministry to his current booby-prize of an appointment (likely in order to frustrate him in his declared intentions) to run for Prime Minister and who may run against Chirac for president in 2007), is currently the most popular politician in France, with a 55% approval rating.

France's Olympic team will require special police protection when it travels to Athens this summer. It's not just us, it seems.