Wednesday, September 01, 2004

But… C'est Injuste! Don't They Realize that the Hostages Are French Friends!?

Let's see, what have we got here?…
The Kidnappers of French Journalists Renew Their Blackmail…
Paris Tries to Isolate the Terrorists
Wow. "Odious blackmail"! "Terrorists"! Quite different from the bland and straightforward headlines when Americans and other nationalities are kidnapped, huh?

No rightfully angered locals here, no members of the "Iraqi rebellion", no "insurgents", no justification, no "executions", no "Ils l'ont bien mérité" (they deserved it, they had it coming)… Au contraire! Au contraire, as it turns out…

Take a look at Paris Tries to Isolate the Terrorists By Orchestrating Arab Disapproval:
"Maybe [Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot] were kidnapped by mistake [wonders Malbrunot's editor.] Maybe the kidnappers didn't know they were journalists and French citizens."
Is this supposed to mean that it is, perhaps not normal, but to be expected that Americans and other nationalities should be kidnapped (and beheaded)? No mistakes, in those cases? They asked for it, they deserved it? D'accorrrdd…

In her article, Mouna Naïm writes that
France, all as one — the government, media outlets, and public opinion — was convinced that no harm would befall the kidnapped due to the "soundness" of French policy with regards to the Arab world, in general, and of Iraq, in particular
Note how the independent newspaper neatly absolves the politicians from any excessive load of responsability ("la France toute entière"). Some criticism follows, but it is relatively low-key, and it has been neatly deflected.
the idea was to attempt to isolate [the kidnappers], to ask the greatest number of authorities of all types [what is that supposed to mean?!] to distance themselves from the kidnapping, to make the hostagetakers understand their total isolation in order to make them give in.
Of course, if "America's number one friend" does have this capacity, one wonders if, out of pure friendship for Uncle Sam, she might not have tried to use her influence in other kidnappings.
From the Arab League's secretary general … to Al Jazeera television … and Hezbollah television, along with a twice-sounded call from Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, condemnation was unanimous. Journalism unions, party leaders, Arab dailies [and Muslim religious authorities] joined in the chorus, some of whom underlined France's "sympathy" for "Arab causes", others the harm that the kidnappings and threats were doing to Islam and to Muslims in general.

One of the main leaders of the Palestinian radical movement, Islamic Jihad, called on the kidnappers to free their hostages who "are friends of the Palestinian people and have visted Palestine several times". [Mohammed Al-Hindi added that] "the issue of the veil cannot be resolved in that manner, especially since France's position on the American occupation of Iraq has set it apart from that of other Europeans."

In "the interest of Islam" Yasser Al-Serri, director of the London-based Islamic Observatory, the institution which defends [sic] Muslims in the entire world and commands a certain notoriety with Islamists, demanded the liberation of the two journalists "who, through their work, are helping to denounce the American crimes in Irak".
Meanwhile, Jordan's Al-Diyar daily opines that
France remains the European country which sympathizes the most with Arab causes, which it supports, particularly in Palestine and Iraq.
On the media page, our old friend Dominique "Europe needs an enemy and it should be the United States" Dhombres is back from vacation, and he waxes carefully, very carefully about the kidnapping, ending his chronicle with an admiring nod to Al-Jazeera
which took an official stand [for the men's release], which is a first.
How impressive! As usual, the lucid French understand when there is a need for admiration (and when there is not) and who is deserving of admiration (and who is not).

Oh, but wait a minute. It would seem that there is a slight hiccup in the lavish (self-)praise. There is one Muslim leader who, although he has joined in the calling for the release of the hostages, has not joined in lauding France for its support for Arab causes, notably against "the American occupation in Iraq".

Who might he be, I wonder? Oh, he just happens to be the president of Iraq… of course, he just happens to be among the Muslims most concerned by America's presence in Iraq. Is he a stooge, maybe? Well, it just so happens that among the wealth of Arab and Muslim voices calling for the hostages' release due to France's sympathetic leanings and to its righteous position on Iraq, there is not one Iraqi quoted. Not one!

Iyad Allawi was interviewed by Cécile Hennion and five other newspapers the previous day, declaring that the kidnapping of the Frenchmen showed that there was "no possible neutrality" in Iraq and that those who do not fight at the government level can not escape terrorism. "None of the civilized countries can escape," he said, noting "there is no possible neutrality, as shows the kidnapping of the French journalists." "The French deluded themselves if they would hope to stay outside".

And so, returning to the chorus of support on the newspaper's second page, it turns out that it is a bit spoiled by a filler in which the French foreign ministry declares that the words of Mr Allawi are "unacceptable".
"Those declarations of his seem to throw doubt on France's determination in the fight against terrorism [declared the Quai d'Orsay,] France is untiringly leading a resolute action against this scourge and it has always brought its support and its contribution to all of the international community's initiatives in the area"
Except when it comes to using its great influence to try to help bring about the release of the kidnapped nationals of its "allies" (see above).

(Kind of reminds you of Le Monde's editorial calling the doubts about Spanish courage in the wake of the Madrid bombings "a scornful theory", doesn't it? It seems like the French, who proffer intellectual "openness" when it comes to wondering whether America's D-Day landings amounted to a liberation or an occupation, are hardly so open-minded when it comes to putting into doubt their own intentions, or those of their allies.)

Allawi, of course, is the man that the independent newspaper has mocked, dismissed as a CIA stooge, and compared to a mafioso (a scorn Le Monde has never reserved for the above-mentioned authorities "of all types"). That scorn has been absent in the past couple of days; the French seem to be a lot more timid and circumspect when their own citizens' lives are at stake.

Meanwhile, (live) from New York, Patrick Jarreau brings us news of the Republican Convention, notably the opening speeches of John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani. John Kerry bragged that he had the support of foreign leaders, said New York's former mayor, the very same "who opposed the ouster of Saddam Hussein".

"Our choice wasn't between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war," Le Monde quotes the Arizona senator as saying. "It was between war and a graver threat. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not our critics abroad. Not our political opponents. And certainly not a disingenuous filmmaker." Many of those "who criticize military action", he added, were "ready to do business" with Saddam Hussein. (Some of the above quotes were translated back to English from Le Monde's own French translation.)

Now isn't that strange? These are references to France and the rest of the "peace camp" members, but the independent newspaper — which usually loves to explain the nuances of politicians' speeches and what they left unsaid — refrains from doing so in this case. And that, although it would help to explain why there were no Iraqis to quote from among the chorus of Muslim fawners-for-France. Bizarre, n'est-ce pas?

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