Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Le Monde Makes a Complete Abstraction of Saddam's (Mis)Rule, the Bagdad Butcher's Crimes, and the Dictator's Foreign Allies…

…but compares Iraq's new prime minister to… a mafiaso!

Plus ça change… In France, nothing has changed: the mocking (especially that of Plantu), the pooh-poohing, and the minimizing of the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis continue, when the transfer isn't used to castigate Uncle Sam.

Thus, the main titles, many of them on the front page ("Power Returned to the Iraqis", Iraq's Return on the International Scene, Iyad Allawi Inherits an Iraq in Ruins, Occupied, Divided, and Infiltrated), imply that it was perfidious America which had seized the Iraqis' power in the first place, which removed their country from the international scene, and which, besides occupying Iraq, ruined and divided it, and provoked the country's infiltration — that is, making a complete abstraction of the years of horror under Saddam, and suggesting that the Butcher of Baghdad used to be the legitimate representative of the Iraqis he slaughtered indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, the front page of the economic section turns the screws: "George W. Bush Hands the Iraqis a Devastated Country". Because it is certain that if Iraq is a devastated and ruined country, the devastation and ruin is due to the Americans' war alone and has nothing to do with the mass killings perpetrated by Saddam or the decades-long purchases, by his minions, of French perfume, German limousines and 1,500 ping-pong tables (among other things) from countries whose actions and cynicism one doesn't quite know how to start describing without having fury well up in one's heart.

Le Monde also uses the words guerilla and rebellion, and we learn that the assassination of an American marine by terrorists — sorry, by activists — is described in these words: "an American soldier, Keith Maupin, was executed by his kidnappers".

In contrast to French and other European media, Iyad Allawi calls the terrorists "cowards". Oh, poor man. Like the Americans, Iraq's new prime minister has not understood anything. No more than the citizens of his country, like Ali Abbas, 19: "We will fire our guns in the air" when Abu Mosab al-Zarqawi is caught. He is "a dog" (one of the strongest insults in the Arab world). Decidedly, Iraq, just like America, needs French leaders and intellectuals to explain to them how to think rationally, reasonably, and with tolerance.

The most surprizing in France's newspaper of reference is a full-page portrait of the above-mentioned prime minister: The title informs us that Iyad Allawi is The Protégé of the CIA. And from then on, Patrice Claude multiplies the expressions to put into doubt his credibility (the "'honorable client'", "a nefarious reputation as a huckster"); to wax ironic ("that future pilote of the America's grand democratic project"); to castigate him as well as the countries of the coalition (the "two puppeteers, American and British, who pull … the country's strings", "the legions of Bush the elder", Saddam's bloody purge of 800 people, which remains a secret fiasco and "which didn't cost a single American life"); and… to compare him to a gangster (his resemblence with "Tony Soprano, the mafioso of the famous American TV series")! (The type of comparison that you can bet that Patrice Claude never made with Saddam Hussein.)

During all his sneering at Allawi ("the CIA's duly paid 'Joe'", "their filly") and at the perspective of a renewed democratic process in Iraq ("a trial gallop before the grand electoral derby"), there is never the shadow of an admission that in the fight against a dictatorship even the most faithful and principled democrats have little choice but to make compromises and work in the shadows. It is only halfway through the article, and almost as an aside that we learn that Iyad Allawi has credentials other than being a disgusting bag of sh*t. (It is true that this information takes up… one whole sentence: "Héritier d'une grande famille commerçante chiite de Nassiriya, fils d'un médecin qui fut parlementaire sous la monarchie, neveu d'un homme qui fut ministre de la santé jusqu'à la chute du roi, en 1958, et petit-fils d'un grand notable qui participa aux négociations devant mener l'ancienne Mésopotamie à l'indépendance en 1932, Iyad Allaoui a la politique dans le sang".)

Meanwhile, another article concerning the Franco-American discord over NATO says that "one need not be a magician to figure out who was holding Mr Allawi's pen when he wrote the letter [asking for NATO help], a request which was dictated by others". Of course, it helps to know that (besides Jean-Pierre Stroobants) the article was written by Claire Tréan, whom we have already met.

Towards the end of Patrice Claude's article, we finally learn why he, Tréan, and the rest of the Monde crew are so bitter with Allawi: "on May 27, their filly was named head of the temporary government, whether the United Nations — and whether the French, whom the party concerned [i.e., Allawi] scorns — liked it or not." Well, hell, why didn't you just say it right away?…

Maybe with an entire page, Patrice Claude might have explained why Iyad Allawi does not hold the French high in his esteem (rather than use the verb "scorn", which implies a lack of reasoning, or even arrogance) ! But since bringing up Paris and the UN's wheeling and dealing with Saddam Hussein is rarely on the agenda of this country's media, and since, as everyone knows, the best defense is counter-attack, (even though some might say that is not exactly the role of an independent media), it is true it makes more sense to ridicule the man and the countries in the coalition. That, rather than to try and explain that for this man with a "a nefarious reputation as a huckster", maybe France presents the image of a country with "a nefarious reputation as a huckster", a country for whom Saddam was the equivalent of the filly winning the derby every time…

If Tony Soprano could have pulled off such a coup, he would be a proud (and rich) man…

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