Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Two Different Interviews, Two Different Standards

Today's Figaro has two major interviews. Check them out, and see if you can spot the legendary objectivity of the French reporter…

The first interview is with Iraq's ambassador to France.

One of Isabelle Lasserre's first questions is, "Is Iraq's stability linked to the departure of the American troops?"

(To which Mowafak Abboud answers: "Above all, it is linked to the end of terrorist activities." He adds: "The terrorists claim to be fighting against the occupation but in fact they are contributing to having American forces stay longer by keeping the country from normalizing. If there weren't all those attacks, we would not need the American troops any longer." Later, incidentally, he estimates the number of foreign fighters in Iraq at between 1,000 and 1,500.)

Subsequent questions include the following: "How do you judge the French position on Iraq, before, during, and after the war?", "The French approach, relatively [sic!] complacent, vis-à-vis Saddam Hussein, was it efficient?" (ho-hum, matter-of-fact questions and a let's-have-a-calm-and-objective-discussion-about-it perspective which in no way resembles the attitude of anger and spite towards the Bush administration, an attitude which, at best, invariably makes mention of its "colossal blunders"), and "Do you think that the American project of imposing democracy in the Greater Middle East is a good or a bad idea?" (Notice that Lasserre in no way admits to the possibility that France, or the "peace camp", or simply the Chirac administration, made blunders — colossal or otherwise — and that she indirectly suggests that the status quo was/is not that bad — she does not ask, for instance, what would be a far more objective question: "Which idea is the better one — the Americans' for democracy in the Greater Middle East or France's (or the 'peace camp's' or Chirac's) for the status quo?")

Mowafak Abboud, incidentally, notes that "Without the war, Saddam Hussein would have stayed in power for centuries. Irak and the countries of the region would have continued to suffer."

Four pages later comes an interview with Michèle Alliot-Marie. Although the main part of Alexis Brézet, Philippe Migault, and Judith Waintraub's interview deals with the danger for Jacques Chirac's UMP of the government and the ruling party going in opposite directions, a second part touches on Ivory Coast.

Read the type of deferential questions being asked in this case: "What do you answer to those who, on the subject of Ivory Coast, accuse the French army of deliberately shooting on civilians?" and "In what circumstances [did the French troops open fire]?" In other words, setting the scene for France's defense minister to provide her explanation, and to do so in a way [it really sounds more like "What is the answer to those who accuse…"] that makes her statement appear as the bottom line and the final word on the matter...

Slightly refreshing, though, in view of this case of double standards, is to read Renaud Girard's editorial on American successes from Kabul to Ukraine through the Middle East and to hear someone say (and with no negative connotation) that "Maybe, in France, we have underestimated George Bush." (Of course, this did come only after the obligatory mention of the Americans' "colossal blunders".)

Still, I like the following quote:

It's a tactic as old as the world to accuse an opponent of having the bad intentions one has oneself.
Could also be said of France, or the "peace camp", or Chirac, on certain occasions, n'est-ce pas?

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