Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Besides Normandy, There Is a Second 60th Anniversary… in Iraq

I have been having a busy week referencing all the anti-American matter in Le Monde, on the occasion of the coming 60th anniversary of D-Day. One prime example: "Here in France, we do not care too much for the analogy that George W. Bush has been making openly for some time between the fight for freedom in Europe that the Normandy battle was and the current intervention in Iraq."

It's refreshing to learn that the French don't appreciate the analogy. Might it be that there are people, American and otherwise, who do not appreciate the practice that has become a habit in France, to compare Bush to Hitler, to compare the U.S. army to the Nazis, to compare Saddam Hussein's Iraq to 1939 Poland (and no, not because those persons are particularly enamored of Dubya ; no, because they find, from an objective viewpoint, those comparisons ever so slightly exagerrated, self-serving (to those making the comparisons), scornful, and, from a historical point of view, completely false).

In this article, which turns out to be another complete apology for the French government (not a single quote which is not from "a member of Jacques Chirac's inner circle" or from a member of the Paris élite or which is not supposed to show Americans in an ironic light), Claire Tréan asks the following question (while repeating the previous expression so that the wording cannot be mistaken): "Should we have gone so far and offered this platform to Mr. Bush, who does not shrink from making an analogy between the fight for freedom in Europe that the Normandy battle was and the current intervention in Iraq?"

So let there be no doubts. It's without a single shadow of a doubt that the Normandy battle does represent the fight for freedom (no disagreement, there; au contraire) just as much as it is without a single shadow of a doubt that the the current intervention in Iraq does not represent the fight for freedom. Here, frankly, I would like to make up my own mind, but Claire Tréan, the Monde editors, and the rest of France's élite will not allow me to do so. According to the question, another thing is also clear: democracy is only viable if it is not given to Yankees of the type represented by W. The only thing that must stand out is the self-serving point of view of the self-proclaimed humanists of Europe.

In another article, on its front page, Le Monde presents the "paradox of June 6". And the newspaper quotes Laurent Fabius at the University of Chicago (where the presidential hopeful serves as a visiting senior lecturer) : Arriving in France for the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings, George W Bush "will be received correctly in his capacity as president representing the brave men who died for freedom, but he will be considered as the exact opposite of the values which cause us to love America ". (The German ambassador, who was in the audience, added that has "very happy" to hear what he had just heard.)

Ah, you've recognized it, right? Europeans' legendary subtlety and modesty, right? These are the people who like nothing better than to sound off against Washington's so-called arrogance. But don't ever dream of speaking of arrogance in a case involving Europeans thus castigating a president and, through him, an entire people (since Dubya remains high in the polls, the remark touches, directly or otherwise, all those who, in America, support him, even if only partly so).

All these opinions are without appeal. Let noone make the mistake of comparing the Ba'aasist régime with that of the Nazis. Let noone make the mistake of comparing the fall of the Third Reich with that of the Iraqi butcher. Let no one make the mistake of comparing Adolf Hitler with Saddam Hussein! To compare the Führer with George Bush, that, yes, sure, go ahead — but with Saddam, don't be ridiculous. The Europeans' viewpoint is of a remarkable clarity, don't you think? And with that legendary lucidité of theirs! …

My article could end at this point. But I've been wondering: had Saddam stayed in office, would one have made so much out of expressing one's disagreements during the 2004 celebrations? No, I'm not speaking of those in Normandy, I'm speaking of those in Baghdad (or those that would have occurred had Saddam survived). Let me tell you what I'm talking about: it turns out that there is another 60th birthday this year. That of the Ba'ath party. Yes. It was founded by a Syrian (a Christian, incidentally) in 1944.

I am currently reading a book by an author variously described as "our greatest modern military historian" and "the most readable and most original of living military historians". In The Iraq War, John Keegan does not only describe the military operations from March to April 2003, but gives the context and background of the Iraq conflict, from the history of Mesopotamia to the historic break between Sunnis and Shi'ites, from the fall of the Ottoman empire to the contemporary rivalries. What caught my attention (and what, if truth be told, got a flame of anger burning inside me) was the information on the last page of chapter 3 relating to the origin of the Ba'ath party.

Speaking of Saddam Hussein : "The nature of his régime owed more to twentieth-century ideologies of intolerance and systems of repression than to anything derived from the more distant past."

Speaking of Saddam's Ba'ath party: "Michel Aflaq, the founder of Ba'athism, had modelled the organization of his party on Hitler's Nazi movement, of which he was an admirer."

Let us remember the Iraqi citizens quoted in Steven Vincent's Reason article: "European and Arab journalists talk to us, but they don’t care about our happiness in being liberated. They only want us to make anti-American comments." One lone, isolated article appeared in Le Monde in March, which put the lie to the initiatives of Paris and the rest of the peace camp of the past 20 months, but it is the the type of which the French press is content to keep from us although it gives an understanding of the Middle East. To return to the Normandy beaches, here's another article which gives a message that is just as isolated from the maddening crowds' anti-Americanism: "Freedom is something you need to be deprived of to understand what it means".

As Winston Churchill once said: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.".

So go ahead, Claire Tréan, tell us again. We need to hear it one more time. "We do not care too much for the analogy that Bush has been making between the fight for freedom in Europe and the intervention in Iraq." And you, Laurent Fabius, come on, let's hear more about the people who fought the Ba'ath party having totally different values than those who fought the Nazis. You self-declared specialists on fascism and neo-fascism, we can't wait to hear your self-serving voices sound off again.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not Anonymous, I'm Pamela taking the lazy path to your comments.

You know what? It's not that you guys are brilliant. You're not. Terribly bright, of course, but not brilliant. It's that your clarity isn't strangled by your passion (mine is, almost always).

So. Merci. Every day I read and every day I say "merci".