Saturday, July 03, 2004

Lance, Aliyah and France

From to-morrow's Times:
ERUSALEM, July 1 — More French Jews have been immigrating to Israel or buying properties here as potential havens, and the Israelis and the French are debating whether the trend is the result of a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in France or just a cyclical oddity.

The Jewish Agency, the quasi-governmental body responsible for settling immigrants, reported a doubling in the number of French Jews who arrived last year and in 2002, to more than 2,000 each year, compared with about 1,000 a year in the previous three years. By contrast, worldwide immigration to Israel has sharply declined during the Arab-Israeli violence.

Michael Jankelowitz, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency, said that as a result of attacks against Jews in France in the past three years, many Jews, particularly those whose religion is evident from their clothes, were feeling increasingly uneasy. Much of the tension has centered in working-class suburbs of Paris where Jews and Muslims mingle.

"If they're made to feel uncomfortable, this is the place they've always dreamed of coming to," he said.
The AP also has questions:
Liege, Belgium–(AP) — It's a valid question: Did Tour de France organizers design a course specifically to thwart Lance Armstrong's drive for a record sixth win?

The course favors some of Armstrong's strongest rivals and blunts some of his own particular strengths. But Armstrong says he believes organizers are just aiming for spectacle.

The EU as a Counterpart, Not a Counterweight, to the U.S.

In answer to Dominique Dhombres' wish for Europe to start existing by taking on America as an enemy, another French Dominique, last name Moïsi, had this to say, several years ago (during the Clinton administration, in fact): "France's dream of challenging the United States is the rest of Europe's nightmare".

One of those Europeans was interviewed about Europe's relationship with the United States by John Vinocur for the International Herald Tribune:

"My position is there are two ways of building Europe", José Manuel Durão Barroso said in a conference room in Brussels last December.

Barroso, then the Portuguese prime minister and now the nominated president of the European Commission, came to the point with almost bracing abruptness.

You could construct Europe, he said, either as a "counterpart or a counterweight" to the United States.

"It's stupid to see it as a counterweight. In some European countries, there's the idea we'll be independent if we're a counterweight. This is silly. It's counterpart, not contrepouvoir," Barroso insisted, reaching from his fluent English for the French word for a balancing force.

… he recoiled from the kind of vocabulary and approach that characterize the relations of some of Portugal's European partners to America and were at the heart of the profound dispute among the Allies surrounding the war in Iraq.

"Emancipation?" Barroso asked, pronouncing the word with the seeming disdain of a leader of a country he defined as Euro-Atlantic in sentiment and geography.

"And to talk of the United States on a confrontational basis?", he continued, in his carom-shot style. It is this straight-ahead manner that could well make Barroso an able EU president. If he is consensual as well as determined, he might also emerge as the strongest holder of the post since Jacques Delors. To do this, Barroso would have to gather and harness behind him the potential new strength of smaller countries in the EU's new membership of 25, while artfully managing what is now frequently described in both France and Germany as their diminishing influence within the institution.

When Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium, the candidate sponsored by the French and Germans for the commission presidency, was rejected late last month at another Brussels summit meetingVerhofstadt talked of Europe's "emancipation" from the Americans, and later suggested friends of the Yanks had done him in — Barroso seemed unexpectedly attractive and available. One explanation for why the Germans and French went along with his choice came in a report that Barroso had agreed to appoint a German to a new post as a super European commissioner for economics, and a Frenchman to either of the important jobs of competition or internal markets commissioner. Barroso's response to this speculation was, ''The selection of commissioners is the president's job, and I'm not about to give up my responsibilities." A second explanation for the selection of the host of the Azores meeting, which grouped the United States, Britain, Spain and Portugal just before the outbreak of the war in Iraq, was provided by Antonio Vilar, a Lisbon political scientist quoted by Le Figaro. He told the French newspaper that Barroso"was pardoned for this because he is not a convinced Atlanticist in the manner of an Aznar," a reference to José Maria Aznar, the former Spanish prime minister.

For Le Figaro, Barroso's acceptability to France and Germany hinged on what it described as his "ambiguous presence" in the Azores.

Barroso's views seemed hardly ambiguous in Brussels in December 2003. He criticized the Bush administration for making remarks that in no way helped the United States' friends. And as a European who actually knew the United States from teaching there, described American diplomacy as weak in presentation.

With this view, he said he spoke more often during the run-up to the war with President Bush than "other leaders of Europe."

Barroso explained that, excepting France, whose leadership is nominally right-of-center, he believed much of the opposition to the war in Europe had "an ideological basis" in the left.

"If it were Clinton or the liberals in power" in the United States, he said, "we wouldn't have had the same criticism.

"There was an ideological construction in this crisis," he said. "Unfortunately, ideology came before strategic thinking, long-term considerations."

Bush, he said, told him that his particular anger with some European leaders involved their attempts at blocking the situation in the run-up to the war. Barroso recalled he replied that the allies had to have their own opinions.

"But," Barroso went on, "you cannot block or instigate. During this crisis, there was not only a difference of opinion, but a cleavage with some people trying to mobilize opinion."

Just as he saw a strong Europe in America's interest, Barroso said, so it was to the United States' advantage to seek multilateral solutions.

"We think it's very important to give high value to the relationship between Europe and the United States. We share the same values — there are differences of sensitivity and style, but the values are the same. Besides, it's in the world's interest. Global terrorism, development, environment. All these challenges can't be approached without the U.S. and Europe working together."

Better European-American relations could come from education and discussion, Barroso said. This was necessary, he insisted, because there were prejudiced notions of one another on each side of the Atlantic in a post Cold War climate where an unacknowledged search for adversaries might exist.

"Is it in Europe's interest to place the United States as our competitor?" Barroso asked, moving again into his pointed interrogative mode.

This time, he answered his own question himself. "It's nonsense," he said.

Solitude Française...

Journalist Eric Zemmour, author of the Chirac biography Chirac, L'homme qui ne s'aimait pas, published the following in to-day's Le Figaro:
For several days after the European elections, the French were everywhere. Skilled in the art of mobile warfare, they seemed to master politics like no one else. They gave one the impression that they were the last in Europe to believe in this. Or, at any rate, they faked it very well. The French have always had the rare gift of being able to hide their personal interests behind grand ideas. Chirac fought in the name of the "European power" ; [Socialst leader François] Hollande reestablished the "left-right split" ; [Former Education minister and UDF leader François] Bayrou sought to invent a genuine third way between economic liberalism and socialism.

It was a continuation of the electoral campaign. For a fortnight (only), and meeting with general indifference, [former Socialist Finance minister] Dominique Strauss-Kahn reinvented the Roman Empire, Bayrou found a new definition for the word federal, [Former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent] Fabius reintroduced his speeches on a Social Europe... from 1989. [Disgraced former RPR prime minister] Alain Juppé held hands with Helmut Kohl who had once held hands with François Mitterrand. The French, all French leaders, had behaved as if Europe were simply one big France, a sort of revived Napoleonic empire that our elites could adorn with both our cherished prefectures and our ingenious political ideas.

And now they are returning to Earth. The only claim to fame of the next president of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, is in having organized the great summit at the Azores where Bush, Blair and Aznar gathered on the eve of the war in Iraq. Jacques Chirac thus realized that the expansion of the European Union gave Britain a solid majority of which it certainly intended to make use. Even conjoined with Germany, France has found itself in the minority. "Europe's engine" is clogged. The Union's "bosses" have been toppled. Some are beginning to realize that the Franco-German duo can at best be no more than an alternative to the Europe that is forming, decomposing and reforming. An introverted position opposite a (greater) Europe that is supposedly following its natural tendancies: economic liberaism and Atlanticism, without complexes. A mere shoehorn for globalization. This "Françallemagne" can therefore be no more than a Continental and Lotharingian dyke buffeted by the tumult of the wider world. Land submerged by the sea.

And yet Chirac's Socialist opposition cannot take pleasure even in this. They have succeeded in having others forget that the government of Lionel Jospin ratified the increase in retirement age and the change in EDF's public status. On inviting [Spain's newly elected Socialist prime minister José Luis Rodriguez] Zapatero to Toulouse on June 9, François Hollande pretended not to notice that the Spanish prime minister had refused to sign the Social Europe charter presented to him by his "amigo François." Though it is only anecdotal, the matter of the agreements made between the European People's Party (EPP) and the European Socialist Party (ESP) in the European Parliament is indicative of the isolation of France's Socialists. Even our German allies refuse to follow them, this time. For years, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats kept the gravy flowing among friends with presidencies, commissions, pennants and official vehicles. Little arrangements founded on a genuine ideological proximity between Social Christians and Christan Socialists.

But since the '80s, the EPP has veered to the right, increasingly economically liberal, less and less social; even increasingly euroskeptical, given the arrival of Italian Berlusconians and British Conservatives. The Socialists followed this path the right. And to-day, when [France's education minister] François Fillon explains that "the Raffarin government is further the left" than its European Social Democrat colleagues, he is not contradicted. Lionel Jospin defended himself by quite rightly pointing out that he "was the furthest to the left in Europe."

It is precisely because he has learned the lessons of this evolution in the EPP that François Bayrou is leaving it. During the electoral campaign, Bayrou, who isn't economically liberal in the least, argued in favor of a Federal Europe that would speak with a single voice, opposite the "titans" of the planet. He could hardly join the same group as the British conservatives who reject the euro and the Italian Berlusconians who feel quite at home under the American umbrella. But, in order to form a parliamentary group, Bayrou must ally himself with anybody else, British liberals who favor Turkey's entry into the European Union which the UDF rejects ardently or Italian radicals or someone like Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who aren't at all hostile to gay marriage, from which the Christian Bayrou recoils in horror.

Such is the lot of the French in the new Europe, between Brussels and Strasbourg, between naïveté and cunning, between high universal principles and provincial ulterior motives, between idealism and cowardice, between arrogance and contempt for the balance of power. In the reactions of others, one can read surprise, exasperation or amusement with the French. Most of the time, they are not understood. Like dinosaurs? For years, we have been pedantically taught that Europe must be built in order to avoid isolation. We almost succeeded.

Friday, July 02, 2004

"Europe Could Finally Exist if It Agreed to Have Enemies"

Europe could finally come into existence if it agreed to have enemies. It would cease to be boring and colorless if it were to oppose someone.
Thus spake Dominique. Thus spake Le Monde's Dominique Dhombres. Thus spake the Dominique Dhombres column printed in France's newspaper of reference.

And you know who Dominique has in mind when he speaks of enemies, dont'cha? …Don'tcha?

No, it ain't the ayatollahs' Iran. No, it ain't the China of Tibet and Tien An Men square notoriety. Nope. It ain't the Russia that commits real torture (the bone-cracking, flesh-ripping kind) in Chechnya. Non. It ain't Ivory Coast where Laurent Gbagbo has killed untold hundreds of people. No, no. It ain't Zimbabwe where "terror teens" attack political opponents of Robert Mugabe with sticks fit with barbed wire. Non plus. It ain't the UN where a democracy was voted off the human rights commission, two countries with a history of torture (the bone-cracking, flesh-ripping kind) were voted to head same, and a graft scandal of epic proportions is unfolding. Naaahhh… And it sure as hell wasn't Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Nope, you know who it is…

It's good ol' Uncle Sam, the unholy terror from across the Atlantic.

Listen to how DD started the above rant, by waxing eloquently about a famous Frenchman of the 1960s:

Régis Debray … started out on his career by fighting American imperialism by the side of Che Guevara, and today he invites the Europeans, without many illusions it must be admitted, to exist while daring to oppose what he presents as the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire.
Wow, what a heroic character, that Debray. Et quelle lucidité! He really knows who the true enemy of mankind is. And we all know how much humanity suffered under the Roman Empire!

Yup, it's America, folks, whom courageous people need to dare oppose, whom they need to oppose along with anyone — any person, any country, any entity — who has the gall to ally him-, her-, or itself with Washington.

Just read what Dhombres has to say about the Eastern newcomers to the EU:

A free-trade zone under America's military and diplomatic protection is quite enough for them.
Translated freely: the Poles, the Czecks, the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Balts, and all their neighbors are timid souls without dreams and/or blind and greedy retards without vision, if not outright cowardly traitors.

No, the entity the courageous Europeans need to oppose is Uncle Sam. (Who was it who dared to hint that Europeans are lacking in courage?!)

The French need an enemy. Europe needs an enemy. The world needs an enemy. (And preferably one with a nature that is easy-going.)

The French have been saying for years that they need to oppose the true enemy (and the rest of the EU and the rest of the world ought to go along with them), and Americans, with their easy-going good nature (which is all to their credit), believe that if they are indulgent enough, and if they explain themselves enough, and if they are patient and understanding enough, and if they are self-critical enough, and if they are willing enough to make changes (at the helm, in their policies, etc…), relations will improve.

Folks! That's a fairy tale. Don't believe it. It's a fairy tale. Dominique and people like him may believe it to be true (they probably do), but you shouldn't; it's all hogwash. It's all pferdemerde.

And if you aren't disgusted enough with Dominique's words regarding France's (and Europe's) need for an enemy, can you figure out what is most ironic in all this?

The greatest irony concerns the rational, reasonable, lucid, tolerant, humanistic, fraternal, and peace-loving Frenchmen and Europeans and their desire to oppose America because its inhabitants (or their leaders) are supposedly blind, greedy, treacherous, simplistic, racist, and inhuman warmongers.

Do you remember what was coyly suggested, both in the United States itself and abroad, as the Cold War came to an end in the late 1980s and early 1990s? Who would serve as America's enemy now, now that the communists had been defeated? The sly question laden with irony implied both that the communist camp had not really been a threat, but simply a different culture (if you believe that, ask yourselves why the Poles, the Balts, and all their neighbors are such eager allies of Washington) whom those crass and intolerant Americans couldn't or wouldn't bring themselves understand, and that those irrational warmongers needed an enemy at any cost.

The older I get, and the more I look at the world, the more I notice several things: one of them is that the inhabitants of America's capitalist society are probably some of the most generous souls — generous souls, not only generous people — in the world. Another is that all the sins, real and supposed, that are generally levelled against them either are usually (if not always) worse in other countries or hide sins that are worse, and this is true not least in those countries where the criticizing is the loudest. And one of these sins is the idea that Americans supposedly need an enemy at any cost.

Because therein lies the irony. The people needing an enemy at any cost are not primarily, were not primarily, the Americans. They are the French, they were the French. In many ways, they seem to be the Europeans! Since this is obviously unfair to the Eastern Europeans, I feel pretty safe in saying that the people needing an enemy at any cost certainly seem to be the people who have been most cosseted in the past 60 years and least felt the danger of a real enemy. For all France's crowing about its logic, its lucidité, and its capacity for reasoning, its protected stance might appear to be something that has destroyed a rational sense of judgment.

Dominique doesn't realize it, but in a sense he has showed France's true colors, and exposed its agenda, and revealed its sorry sense of judgment, as well as any critic of France and its people and society ever did.

Monty Python on American Imperialism

Since Dominique Dhombres praises a French intellectual for chastizing the United States as the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire, I thought it not unhelpful to present one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite films. In fact, any time somebody talks to me about imperialism, American or other, modern or old, I have to resist the urge to jump the person, tie him to a chair in front of a video player, and show him the scene in a loop for 48 hours straight.

In the scene, the members of one of the most patriotic, determined, extremist, and intransigeant resistance groups fighting against the Roman occupier have gathered in a dark room for a secret meeting. All the men of the People's Front of Judea are masked, except for their leaders, and when the scene starts, the top honcho is ending a pep talk.

Furious about the Roman Empire's occupation of their land, Reg spits out: “They bled us white, the bastards! They’ve taken everything we have.” He continues raving and ranting about how they took everything from their “fathers” and their “fathers' fathers”, before ending with a majestic rhetorical question. “And what have they ever given us in return?” With that, he stops, and crosses his arms, feeling very satisfied. He realizes that he has made one of the best speeches of his career.

Just then, a shy masked commando raises a finger. “The aqueduct…”

“What?” asks Reg.

“The aqueduct”, repeats the man.

“Oh yeah yeah they did give us that, uh-huh that’s true…”

Another commando, as masked as his colleague, chimes in. “And the sanitation…”

Stan, Reg's second-in-command sitting next to him, intervenes with naïve energy: “Oh yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.”

Murmurs of agreement rise from the commandos in the room.

The meeting is not at all going in the direction Reg expected it to, and he's starting to lose patience: “Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things the Romans have done…”

Another terrorist interrupts him: “And the roads…”

Reg, brusquely: “Oh well obviously the roads, I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they?! … But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…”

Other terrorists, who have definitely not understood the purpose of their leader’s speech and his rhetorical question, chime in: “Irrigation” “Medicine” “Education” “Public baths” “And the wine” while their comrades nod and murmur words of agreement (“Yuh, yuh that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Romans left”).

Stan adds, innocently: “And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg”. Reg’s lips have become ever more pursed and his expression ever darker as he taps his fingers impatiently, but nobody seems to notice, least of all Francis, Reg’s other neighbor, who adds with joviality: “Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it, they’re the only ones who could in a place like this!” (general laughter)

Finally, with a sharp voice, Reg cuts the discussion short: “Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, the roads, a fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

A shy finger goes up…“Brought peace…”

“Oh, peace! SHUT UP! do you have the world's smallest violin? I might be needing one. proposez-vous le plus petit violon au monde? Il se peut que j'en aie besoin.
We are not all French Zeropeans.
Nous ne sommes pas tous des franchouilles zéropéens.

It was the sound of bones cracking and flesh being ripped Oui, c'était le son des os qui se brisaient et de la chair qui se déchirait
Le Monde Al Jazeera on the Seine misses the Saddam Years.
Le Monde Al Jazira sur Seine trouve que les années Saddam manquent cruellement.

When Saddam was around we had the sound to go with it ...

Super Size Danger from Yankee-Land

For French people wanting their anti-American prejudices to be "proven" by "documentaries", it's been a good year. Following Fahrenheit 9/11, Liberty Bound, and Le Monde selon Bush (all were lionized in Le Monde), now is the turn of Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me. In his article, Thomas Sentinel explains how "the American director warns of the dangers of food served in fast-food chains", talks of the "McDonald's chain's misdeeds" and Spurlock's self-imposed "infernal diet".

Although Sentinel admits that there is something fishy about propaganda-type films (such as this one and Michael Moore's), where an essential ingredient to the great documentary works is missing — liberty ("one of those documentaries that build a reality … nothing here occurs that has not been organized, planned, wanted … everything or almost joins in the demonstration of a thesis, with beings and places having no other reason for being on celluloid") — in the final analysis he comes down on the side of filmmakers.

In other words, what Spurlock confirms is the French (and European) certainty that the darkest, most destructive, and most insidious dangers facing the world today comes from Uncle Sam, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Hollywood, and a mouse named Mickey. The film gives shivers, warns Sentinel.

I don't wish to defend obesity, American or otherwise, but here is a slight reality check:

(By the way, here is the movie that Disney chose to distribute instead of Fahrenheit 9/11. Don't expect to see it in French theaters, though.)

What is it about Socialists and murder? Pourquoi le meurtre branche-t-il tellement les socialos?
Paris mayor Delanoë honors Mumia, and now takes the defense of Battisti. French Socialist Party chairman Hollande makes his pilgrimage to Battisti's prison. A appeals court has ruled that Battisti is now good to be shipped out. French socialist commie red-brown-greens are now screaming like stuck pigs that French jurisprudence (meaning the despicable 'Mitterand doctrine' of providing safe haven to leftist terrorists) is not being respected. Berlusconi will know what to do with this trash.
Mumia béatifié par le Maire de Paris Delanoë, qui ensuite prend la défense de Battisti. Le chef des Socialos franchouilles Hollande effectue son pèlerinage à la Santé. Une cour d'appel a rendu un avis favorable à l'extradition de Battisti. Les socialos-cocos-rouge-bruns-verts franchouilles couinent comme des porcs égorgés que la jurispridence française en la matière (un truc ignoble du nom de 'doctrine Mitterand' qui accorde un abri sûr aux terroristes de gôche) n'est pas respectée. Berlusconi saura quoi faire avec cette ordure.

Please give me lots of Tabasco with that Je prendrai ça avec un max d'harissa
The anti-semite Saddamite Willem in Libération PropagandaStaffel fails to mention how many Iraqis were turned into hamburger meat by Saddam himself. French Saddamite media is playing up Saddam's combativity (the French envy combativity in anybody) and are starting to play up an anti-death penalty angle. This is one burger that might be better than White Castle.
L'antisémite saddamite Willem dans Libé PropagandaStaffel passe sous silence le nombre d'irakiens eux-mêmes charcutés par Saddam. Les médias franchouilles saddamites mettent l'accent sur le caractère combatif de Saddam (les fwançais envient toujours un caractère combatif chez les autres) et commencent à monter un discours pour contrer la peine capitale.

First French Arab Named Minister... in Iraq

It seems that, as a French Arab (or an Assyrian), you're more likely to get a job in government in Iraq than in France.

Back in February, I blogged the latest spectacular failure in including Arabs in the French political process. Though Maghrebans make up 10% of French society (slightly smaller than the percentage of blacks in the US population), there is not a single Arab mayor in France. In December, PM Raffarin had a list of forty to fifty candidates of Arab extraction drawn up to stand on the UMP list the March parliamentary elections. Three weeks later, the list had been cleansed of almost all the Arab names on it and the handful remaining began withdrawing in protest. There are now only 7 Arabs in the French parliament (there are more Arab MPs in Israel, a country 90% smaller than France!). Until then, there had not been a single Arab member of parliament (and therefore not a single Arab minister). Currently, France has only two Arabs holding executive public office: Aïssa Dermouche, prefect of the Jura department in Loire-Atlantique. (You'll remember how his nomination was greeted. It wasn't pretty.) There is also undersecretary for Sustainable Development Tokia Saïfi (Environment Ministry) who called for affirmative action and told Le Monde "I am calling on political officials [to confront this problem]. Can they ignore the diversity of our society?"

Meanwhile in Iraq... Le Parisien's Baghdad correspondent scored an interview with Pascale Isho Warda, 43, the new Iraqi minister for Immigration and Refugees. Ms. Warda is an Assyrian Catholic and a life-long opponent of Saddam, (who tortured her father). She also lived in W.'s favorite place, Sarcelles (just outside Paris), for 15 years. The interview on Le Parisien's Web site doesn't display properly for me but the newspaper publicized the interview by allowing the AP to preview it. They report that she said, in part, "after all that Saddam did, he doesn't deserve to live." She hoped that Saddam's trial would come quickly "because we must rid ourselves of this problem as soon as possible. Saddam is a monstrous criminal, a murderer who killed more than a million Iraqis, according to the most conservative estimates." [The June issue of National Geographic contained an excellent report on the Shia of Iraq. On page 28, the author wrote, "the Free Prisoners Society estimates that five to seven million people 'disappeared' in the past two decades, the majority of them Shiites." I don't know that that's possible but it's likely the other end of the scale in terms of estimates.] Would Saddam get death? "Without predicting what the final decision of the judges will be," Warda said, "I am personally in favor of applying this sentence to him."

Warda laments France's attitude toward the intervention: "saying no to war was to say yes to Saddam so that could continue to massacre us." According to Moroccan daily Le Matin, Warda added to this that "Freedom comes at a price and France didn't want to see this. It retreated behind the UN, partly to defend its own economic interests." But, she said, "France is not unwelcome in Iraq. To the contrary, if she wants to, she can yet play a major role here." Finally, she admitted to fearing for her life in the current circumstances.

On June 5, Libération ran an interview with her: Ms. Warda grew up in Daudiya, a village in Kurdistan. "We lived well. My father, a landlord, farmed several hundred hectares." But Saddam's repeated military offensives spread death and destruction. "Our village was dynamited four times in a row." Her father was arrested on suspicion of aiding the peshmergas in 1968 and tortured for six months. "I was only seven years old but I'll always remember the day papa came home. He had a long beard and all his fingernails had been torn out," she says. At 17, she taught the Catechism and sang The Fables of La Fontaine to children in Aramaic. "France beckoned to me even then because the priests taught me about the lives of Napoleon and the French saints." She was an insubordinate student and refused Ba'thist indoctrination or enrollment in the youth sections. At 20, she won a grant to study philosophy at the Auxilium center in Lourdes, where she spent 8 years. "I wanted to study philosophy in order to forge weapons that would allow me to battle the Ba'th..."

When the Anfal campaigns began in 1988, her family fled to the Turkish border after narrowly avoiding bombs during a long exodus. France at first refused her family's request for asylum but at a refugee camp in Diyarbakir Warda met President Mitterrand's wife Danièle (one of the architects of Operation Provide Comfort who was regrettably driven by senility or cowardice to oppose the US intervention in 2003). The first lady helped Warda's family settle in Marseilles. Says Warda, "When I saw the refugee camps, I said goodbye to philosophy. For me, it became obvious that I had to focus on matters of human rights and politics." She obtained a law degree in Lyon in 1993 and earned a living as a court interpreter while working for the rights of Assyrian women. Armed struggle became "a necessity" to struggle against "Saddam's atrocious regime. [...] The only solution." She became involved in a clandestine insurrection. "Thousands of Assyrio-Chaldeans fought alongside the Kurds in 2003 without engaging in looting and other immoral acts."

She also says that "the American occupation is an unavoidable consequence, the price of our freedom... for we do not forget that freedom is the most important thing. We had to put an end to Saddam at any price... I said at any price."

(Hear her interviewed by NPR's Scott Simon here.)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

What goes around comes around Voici le retour de manivelle
Chiraq foots the bill for his unilateral hysterical on-the-rag behavior.
Chirak paie les pots cassés pour sa politique unilatérale de franchouille hystérique qui a ses règles.

"I Hate Americans"

The final sentence in what is currently Le Monde's most popular article (according to readers' votes on its website) is actually "I hate them". But no matter. It applies to Americans, and so I extrapolated a bit for this post's title.

Iraqis seem optimistic, as we've already seen, and seem to welcome the transition of sovereignty in joy and harmony. Besides, they seem to think that if they have any enemies, it is the forces of terrorism that launch attacks on them as well as on the coalition forces.

But you wouldn't know that from reading France's newspaper of reference. Le Monde offers their special envoy in Iraq one full page to develop a story on Iraqis, and the article Rémy Ourdan pens concerns a couple of Iraqis who… hate the United States.

And, to be quite honest, they have reason to. They were prisoners — innocent as it turns out — in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and they do not have fond memories of their jailers, to say the least. Ourdan doesn't even need to flex his writing muscles. The entire page is composed by the men's quotes. And here, of course, is where the problems start. There does not seem to have been any fact-checkers set out to corroborate the men's testimony, and no effort to get differing opinions and quotes from other sources. (But that, of course, is forgetting that when capitalist America is involved, any attack is good and welcome.)

Still (that is, in spite of the fact I find hard to believe some of their "testimony" concerning things they did not directly experience, such as a soldier lobbing a grenade into his cousins' mother's house for no apparent reason), I see no reason to go out of my way to put the gist their testimony concerning their own detention into doubt.

The last sentence is devastatingly strong — "I hate them" (the Americans) — and the idea retained is that the bulk of Americans in Iraq is hated by the bulk of Iraqis in Iraq (which, if true, would tend to corrobrate the Gallic thought that France has been right from the beginning and that the Iraqis ought to be grateful for Paris's position and stand by the side of their true protector and benefactor) — which probably helps to explain why the article found itself at the very top of the items recommended by readers.

The article's title seems just as devastating and to paint a picture just as generally harmful to good relations : American Torture, Iraqi Testimony. But as far as testimony goes, when I mentioned "a couple" of Iraqis earlier, I meant that literally; the quotes in the entire article come from just that: two Iraqi men. Sure, the pair were innocent, sure, they suffered, and no doubt they deserve compensation. Still, this was the exception rather than the rule. The exact opposite of the previous state of affairs (under Saddam, that is). But that is something Le Monde will not, will never, explain to its readers.

As far as Guerre contre le terrorisme et droit humanitaire, is concerned, there is not a single article in that special Monde section (to download) on the real torture in Iraq, that practiced by Saddam Hussein for three decades. You know, the severed hands, the faces doused in acid, the meat from wives' arms given to their husbands to eat, etc, not to mention the mass graves throughout the land… (It's probably a safe bet that the newspaper of reference never made any special sections on human rights in Iraq during Saddam's reign.)

So, since Le Monde doesn't present other views to its readers (in spite of the homily that all opinions ought to be represented), I will do it for them. Here are some Iraqis who are hardly ready to believe that the prisoners deserve pity or that they are even innocent or that the Americans (jailers and other) are dirty rotten scoundrels, the true bad guys in the whole Iraqi mess.

But since one of them (an M.D. at Abu Ghraib) showed more discernment than Ourdan — he said "Some of [the prisoners] say they are [innocent] and others boast in front of me, … telling the crimes they committed in details. Of course I’m not naive enough to blindly believe either" — and since they are not the type of Iraqis who would say "I hate Americans", do not expect them to get much room in France's media.

Update: Whereas you have heard about the outrage of the Arab street, Iraq the Model gives us a quite informative piece on Iraqi reactions to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Sample (Please notice that the question directed at the Arab media below can also be directed at the French media and other publications on the European continent and, indeed, in the United States):

I think that the event took more space than it actually deserves and the media are creating a mountain from a grain. It's enough for us to remember Saddam's doings to comment on what recently happened"; "I think that those criminals who were responsible for the mass graves in my country (who are now in your jails' cells) should apologize for their massacres against the Iraqi people"; "I'd like to direct my question to the Arabic media 'where were you when Saddam mass-executed my people and used all kinds of torture against us?'"; "I think that our Arab brothers should mind their own business and take a look at their own prisons."

French Connections with Iran

A letter to the editor of the International Herald Tribune:
The article French investment in Iran: Tehran traffic confirms its acceleration (June 23) got it right in pointing to the fact that French companies have rushed to use Iran's petro-dollars to emerge as Tehran's second partner among EU countries (following Germany) in just a few years.

Yet, the story failed to underscore the appeasement policy that the French government has adopted vis-à-vis the clerical regime.

France has sought to placate the mullahs in Iran by ignoring their egregious human rights abuses, their quest for a nuclear arsenal and the regime's undercutting of peace in the Middle East. Last year, in a made-for-TV operation, heavily armed French policemen raided the homes of Iranian political refugees and the office of Iran's anti-fundamentalist opposition leader in northern Paris, arresting dissidents. One year on, little evidence justifying the raid has been produced.

These spineless policies have proven to be a dismal failure, serving only to solidify the grip of the most anti-Western and extremist wing of the ruling theocracy on power.

Shahin Gobadi, London
National Council of Resistance of Iran

Also of interest: a letter on Syria and Lebanon
from Syria's Embassy in Washington

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…

Taking aim at pantywaist collaborators Cibler les collabos pédaloïdes
While Zeropeans navel gaze, Al-Qaeda goes for the jugular.
Pendant que les zéropéens se regardent le nombril, Al-Qaida s'appretent à arracher le jugulaire.

No, France is simply ignored Non, la Fwance est tout simplement ignorée
Chiraq tries to convince those that still give a damn that France is not isolated. What a jerkoff. France is worthless.
Chirak essaie de convaincre ceux qui ne s'en foutent pas déjà que la Fwance n'est pas isolée. Quel branleur. La France ne vaut plus rien.

Window In Lebanon

WiL writes:
Bush argues for Turkey's admission into the European Union, which wouldn't be a bad idea in order to avoid having the country sink into fanatical islamism. "If president Bush really said that, as I read it, then not only did he go to far but he is outside his own domain." Jacques Chirac feels that George Bush would do better to mind his own business as Chirac doesn't give Bush advice on Mexico. Eh? Chirac and his group don't give lessons to the whole world? I am speechless, given that for years I've been keeping track of the homilies by de Villepin et al. Let's recall that, after all, Chirac was glad that the US intervened in Kosovo four years go, even though "four hours from Paris," as they said, isn't exactly in America's sphere of influence.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Ambiel, Leeches, etc.

Ambiel Sullied, Defamed Discredited... Could be Fined €2,000

Back in April I blogged the emerging scandal of Raffarin communications director Dominique Ambiel's arrest in the presence of an underage prostitute in the middle of the night in Paris.

The Paris prosecutor's office (somewhat like an American District Attorney but not really) sought to haved Ambiel fined €2,000 for "insulting behavior to an officer of the law" and for having "sollicited, accepted, or obtained in exchange for payment, sexual relations with a minor who practices prostitution" (a crime punishable by three years in prison and a €45,000 fine).

Red in the face, Ambiel told the court, which has postponed judgment until September 6, that "all of this is entirely alien to me. I am dumbfounded. I have a nine year-old daughter, 80 year-old parents have taken this like an assault. [...] I have been sullied, harassed, discredited, defamed. I have been crucified for two months

French leeches for sale in US

The AFP reports that French company Ricarimpex has received FDA approval to sell medicinal leeches in the US for the purpose of treating blocked veins and skin grafts.The Biorica Web site claims the company has been breading hirudo medicinalis since 1850. (Little did you know it, reports NPR, but "for years now, leeches have been used in a variety of medical techniques."

Crony Diplomacy

In awarding the Algerian ambassadorship of France to Hubert Colin de Verdière, Jacques Chirac has given another close friend an important diplomatic posting (see below). Since Daniel ("shitty little country") Bernard's death at the end of April, the position had been vacant. Bernard had replaced Colin de Verdière when the former took up his position in London (the city in which he famously referred to Israel as "that shitty little country"). The AP writes that some feel that Colin de Verdière could steer the Algerian market, which some say is "Americanizing," back toward France.

EDF Reform Passes as Expected

The liberalizing reforms of EDF passed the Assemblée Nationale 376 - 180, with the vote split straight down ideological lines. (See here for the text of the law.)

According to swissinfo, EDF executives say that by midday 12% of their workforce was on strike (On June 15, as many 33% had picketed. On May 27, 41.3%.). From 3,000 to 6,000 demonstrators marched in Paris from place de la République to l'Opéra. At least 36 transport stations were shut down during the day and workers reduced output at a ten nuclear power stations as well as thermal and hydraulic plants.

Meanwhile at France-3... there were almost no regional newcasts to-day. Of the 24 normally broadcast, only 7 actually aired. (Try the Web casts. It works in Pays de Loire and Picardie, at least...)

Clinton Offers Little Sympathy to Europe's Bush-Bashers

In this week's installment of his weekly column for the International Herald Tribune, John Vinocur describes how a decent American disappoints Europe.
With Europeans lining up and shelling out to read Bill Clinton, he turns out to be a guy who insists on reminding people that two-thirds of the Democratic Party in Congress voted George W. Bush the specific powers he needed to make war in Iraq. Then, piling it on, he goes and says that France and Germany wrongly made light of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

No Michael Moore, this Kid from Hope. And for some Europeans, including a few who invested massive sums in serializing or publishing his autobiography, My Life, not much support either from Clinton for the political notions they may have thought they were buying into with the book or from the Clinton interviews that have accompanied the package.

For Der Spiegel, the Hamburg newsmagazine that has never found an American president subtle enough to match its tastes, this was clearly a problem as it completed its second installment of extracts. In its table of contents last week, it announced a conversation with the former president about "Bush's Iraq debacle."

In the headline over its interview, it promised Clinton's take on "the Disaster of the Bush Administration in the Iraq War."

As it turned out, the single time the word "debacle" came out of anybody's mouth in the Q-and-A, it belonged to the Spiegel people asking Clinton questions. The former president verbally sprinted in the other direction.

It was this kind of whoosh: Clinton said his successor was now moving toward a turnaround in Iraq that might take two to five years to achieve. In Clinton's view, sovereignty was being returned to the Iraqis, a new UN resolution had been passed, and the Iraqis were freeing the Americans from having to decide on everything. …

Although you couldn't tell from the magazine's promotional material or headlines, Clinton also took pains to recall why the Democrats had backed Bush's request for war powers and, with it, to criticize the French and German attitude at the time, which he said would not have supported the use of force even if Saddam had refused to cooperate with the United Nations.

Clinton told Spiegel that whatever the state of the Iraqi Army, he didn't agree "with the German and French position that Saddam never did anything that he wasn't forced into" and "didn't constitute a threat."…

This is a long way from the line of anti-Bush Europe's current decent American, Michael Moore, who repeatedly thanked the French and the Germans for their Iraq stance while promoting his film attacking the president.

In fact, for Europeans irritated these days by anything that sounds like an American's support for a non-capitulationist view of the United States' self-interests, Clinton's approach may have come as disappointingly as John Kerry's when he pounced on José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero's Spain for pulling its forces out of Iraq, and urged the Europeans to share the mission's risks and burdens.

The issue here is not Bush, whose admirers in Europe are squad-sized rather than legion. It is rather that Clinton's bottom line on America's world role — like that, as well, of virtually all the mainstream foreign policy players in Washington — may not jibe with the America that Spiegel, or Le Nouvel Observateur in France, another investor in his memoirs, or many of their readers, say they want to love.

"Bill Clinton was a great president," the French magazine wrote. "A cool president for a cool epoch. When the Net-economy propelled growth and melted unemployment. When the American hyperpower didn't deviate into autistic unilateralism." … In fact, Clinton specifically told Spiegel that when it must, America has to be able to deal with events alone (although acting in cooperation with friends is obviously preferable). …

[Here's another of Vinocur's Reality checks.]
Because there is considerable concern among European politicians and the media of being seen as anti-American rather than anti-Bush, which is as easy here as kicking a can, the publication of the memoir looked to some as a good chance, via Clinton, to be publicly counted among the Friends of a Well-Behaved America.

The most conspicuous revisionist among these was Hubert Vedrine, who as French foreign minister spent considerable time saying that Clinton's America was a country indulging in "inadmissible" unilateralism. This, he said, had to be contained by other countries working together to save the world's "mental identity."

France's task in gathering blocking groups to hold Clinton's America in check was of such importance that, like Marcus Aurelius laying out Stoic principles for political action, or Che Guevara defining the revolutionary struggle from the Sierra Maestra, Vedrine actually made up a list of five precepts (like having solid nerves and perseverance) for the undertaking.

Now, with the book out and Bush's defeat a possibility, Vedrine describes Clinton as a president "who succeeded wonderfully on all levels" and who made the American "hyperpower" both "likable and seductive." In contrast to Bush's, he suggests, Clinton's world was a pleasure to deal with.

But this goes only so far. Vedrine rejected Clinton's assertion accompanying the book's publication that Yasser Arafat's unreliability had been the essential cause of the failure of the Camp David accords between the United States, Israel and the Palestinians.

"Clinton is loading this on Arafat because, however brilliant Clinton is, he remains an American politician," Vedrine said. "He's a bit constrained on this point."

Nudge-nudge. Vedrine is not only saying that dark forces, which he is too discreet to name, run American Middle East policy, but that Clinton was not being forthright about a critical moment of recent history.

This is a French vision, like others in Europe involving American motivations on various subjects, that even when larded with flattering phrases essentially demeans Clinton and other presidents, or presidential candidates, for defending American notions of what is both just and in the interest of the United States.

If Clinton, from his spotlight of the moment, persists these days in saying a lot of things some Europeans would prefer not to hear, the explanation may come down to his being, very irretrievably, like Bush or Kerry, just another American. The U.S. Census Bureau's latest figures count 282,421,906 of them.

He blew a gasket Il a peté les plombs
Isolated from partner and neighboring countries, must make more efforts with regards to multilateralism, suffering important diplomatic setbacks, upcoming difficulties to obtain re-election. Bush? No, Chiraq.
UPDATE: The meltdown continues.
Isolé des pays partenaires et voisins, doit mieux faire en matière de multilatéralisme, en train d'essuyer des revers diplomatiques importants, difficultés en vue pour se faire réélire. Bush? Non, Chirak.
DERNIERES INFOS: L'effondrement suit son cours.

Monday, June 28, 2004

The French "are very professional at manipulating the UN system"

In looking after their interests abroad, the French have overlooked bribery, corruption, and even genocide, writes Becky Tinsley in the New Statesman as she reports on a foreign policy based on the cash register.
When it comes to foreign policy, opinion polls as well as a sampling of Hollywood blockbusters show that Americans see themselves as the good sheriff, selflessly sorting out a strange and unpredictable world. But as they chew over the congressional report on 9/11, they are clearly struggling to come to terms with the reality of their latest foreign adventure.

In contrast, the French foreign ministry is unambiguous about its role: France is the birthplace of human rights and the cradle of the Enlightenment. Thanks to giants such as Voltaire, France inspired others — for example, in the United States — to liberate themselves from oppressive, corrupt aristocratic elites.

So much for self-image: in practice, the French are running the cash registers in a Wild West whorehouse. Not only do the French, like Edith Piaf, regret nothing: their determination to keep their arms exports booming pushes them to sidestep their own laws, not to mention the international conventions they have signed. …

The Elysée Palace's routine disregard of its clients' human rights records makes President Jacques Chirac's new status as hero of the left and guardian of Europe's conscience on Iraq all the more ironic. This is the same Jacques Chirac who, as French premier in the 1970s, sold Saddam Hussein two nuclear power plants ("This deal with France is the very first concrete step towards production of the Arab atomic bomb," gushed Saddam). Chirac later declared himself "truly fascinated by Saddam Hussein since 1974". France went on to sell the Ba'athist regime $1.5bn of weapons.

In the 1990s, the French oil giant TotalFinaElf spent six years developing the Majnoon and Bin Umar oilfields, representing 25 per cent of Iraq's oil reserves. …once the trade embargo was partially lifted, France controlled 25 per cent of Iraq's imports. It is estimated that, in 2001 alone, 60 French firms did $1.5bn in trade under the now-suspect oil-for-food programme. In December 2003, when the US announced it was barring opponents of the Iraq war from bidding for US-financed projects worth $18bn, France professed astonishment. The then French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said Iraq's sovereignty should be resolved before reconstruction could begin. …

Sympathetic observers point to France's large aid budget. … A high proportion of this sum goes to Africa and pays for the global network of 1,000 Alliance Française centres, a brave attempt to hold back the global spread of US political hegemony, bubblegum culture, and the English language. But Richard Youngs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace questions France's commitment to propagating democracy, suggesting that its aid is focused on projects which spread French culture, rather than schemes that foster human rights and transparency in government, or fight corruption.

…"In the run-up to the [Rwanda] massacres, the French had 47 senior officers living with and training the génocidaires. French policy is about influence and money and Francophonie," says [Linda Melvern, author of two studies on the Rwandan genocide]. "They are very professional at manipulating the UN system. By controlling Boutros Boutros-Ghali, their candidate for UN secretary general, they determined what information about the Rwandan genocide reached the outside world."

Burma is not part of the Elysée Palace's francophone project, but it is of great concern to TotalFinaElf, which has been involved in developing the Yadana gas pipeline project for nine years. … The Nobel prizewinning democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi says simply: "Total has become the strongest supporter of the Burmese military system." Lord Alton of Liverpool, a regular visitor to Burma, believes there is a concerted attempt to end sanctions, cleverly orchestrated and probably bankrolled by supporters of the regime. …

Perhaps the nation that brought us the Enlightenment has the best of motives in lobbying enthusiastically — as it currently is — to end the EU sanctions on selling military equipment to China, imposed after the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests. French exports increased 32 per cent to 4.6bn (£3.1bn) last year, and Chirac's backing for China is unwavering. …

A book by Andrew Swindells due to be published early next year reveals the cynicism with which French interests are pursued in "la France Afrique". "Everything with France is about business, and nothing would make them blush. Officials shrug and say, 'Many people have died: c'est la vie.'" …

Alongside the blatantly commercial focus of French foreign policy is France's desperation to keep its place on the UN Security Council. The Elysée's self-image is one of a wise and shrewd world power stiffening Europe's nerve against bloated US imperial ambition. No doubt the French are sincere — but listen carefully, and you will hear the ring of a cash register.

(Thanks to Gregory Schreiber)

...within hours

Over at Watch, Mårten comments on this Guardian report on Chirac's rejection of proposed Nato assistance to Iraq: " Weasel Watch. Considering that sovereignty is transferred to Iraqis this very week, Chirac is basically against NATO having a formal role in supporting a fledgling independent Iraq in the face of a massive terrorist campaign against it. In fact, Chirac can't hide behind the mantra of 'occupation' anymore, making the cynicism of his 'resistance' completely transparent."

Yet to-day Forbes magazine reports that Sarkozy is once again running counter to Chirac. Within hours of the announced transfer of sovereignty, "the French Finance Ministry said in a statement that full economic ties with Iraq will be restored..." Given Iraqi FM Zebari's harsh words for those who opposed the war, one would suppose that Chirac could hardly expect to attend the next Babylon festival (see below) as if it were still the good old days (er... I mean just the old days). Yet this is perhaps another front in the battle between Chirac and Sarko, who looks to be announcing the strategic and diplomatic directions he intends to take France... if elected president.


Grève x 4

There was widespread disruption of French train service today, halting rail service to Spain, due to power cuts by striking electricity workers who oppose the planned privatization of Electricité de France. The action delayed service to 150,000 passengers during the morning rush and service on more than 200 train routes was delayed at the Gare Saint-Lazare. Saboteurs severed electric cables and broke equipment in Nanterre, according to EDF. Immediate suspicion fell on CGT union members who's national spokesman has condemned that acts and declared that he is not solidarity with their perpetrators, though local offices blame the government and suggestively say that all theories as to who may be behind the sabotage are possible.

Other power cuts caused heavy delays on 8 lines of the Paris metro and the RER A, though RATP officials foresaw a return to normal service by 10 am.

The Assemblée Nationale is to vote to-morrow on the proposed privatization and in response labor unions CFDT, CFTC, CFT and Force Ouvrière are calling for a "mobilization equal to the historically high stakes."

Striking workers continue to occupy 22 transport stations, in some cases preventing hydraulic generation in the Massif central region. A 2,000 megawatt drop in production was recorded at power stations in Cruas, Fessenheim, Chinon and Nogent-sur-Seine. This affected operations at the Saint Nazaire shipyard, the the Peugeot assembly line at Dompierre and the Vicat cement works in Créchy. A 400,000-volt power line feeding north-eastern Spain was also turned off.

As part of so-called "Robin Hood" operations, seven Paris-region hospitals and charitable organizations got electricity for FREE. Some households that had failed to pay their bills had power restored to them briefly.

Socialist leader François Hollande said that EDF employees are "fighting for the preservation of [EDF's public enterprise] statute. It's not for them. It's for us."

[Cue: Californians nodding...]


Employees at France 3 are calling for a 24-hour strike for midnight to-night to protest proposals made by the executive board. CFTC rep Sélim Farès says that more than 40% of France 3 employees may participate and that local newscasts should be affected.

Executives at France 2 are threatening to fire Jean-Marc Surcin, a union representative, for refusing to return to work at an opinion program instead of at the documentary division where he now is. CGT, CFDT, SNJ and SRCTA have taken umbrage at his treatment and Lord only knows what it may set off...

Rocket launchers: to shoot down which planes, exactly?...

The Ivorian media are abuzz following reports that France's 43rd marine infantry battalion, stationed at the French military base of Port-Bouët in Abidjan, has received a shipment of surface-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.

A customs declaration obtained by and dated June 18 of this year indicates that the 43rd mib received air-to-ground and ground-to-air rocket-launcher tubes, flame throwers, grenade launchers and torpedo launchers. This comes after French denials that Leclerc tanks would be dispatched to IC, perhaps in response to what had only been calculated misinformation in the first place.

Just what peace are they planning to keep? One might well ask... The only military air-craft in the country belong to the FANCI, one of whose soldiers recently just lost it, according to the official version, and murdered a French soldier in cold blood.

Cantona: French 'arrogant and selfish' (!!??)

Unlike a certain somebody, it seems Eric Cantona was rooting for England. The Beeb writes that Man U legend Eric Cantona has reportedly said that "I am French but I was supporting England. It’s my country, I don’t want to know about France — I was born there but I feel English.”

Cantona also bemoaned the nastiness of the French press in reacting to France's elimination from Euro 2004:
[The French] are arrogant and selfish and always need people to tell them they are the best. [... In England], when a player is good like [Wayne] Rooney, they say he is good. They give him an incentive. They support him — the team-mates as well as the fans. [...] The French have only negative things to say about everything and everyone.
Depardieu Busts Tibia

Actor Gérard Depardieu fell off his scooter while riding down avenue du président Wilson in Paris this morning and fractured two bones in his leg. Doctors say his condition is good.

Depardieu's son Guillaume, who refuses to speak with this father and who cut an iconic figure riding motorcycles in the brilliant 1999 Carax film Pola X, had a leg amputated in 1996 when an infection set in during hospital treatment after he crashed his motorcycle. The two starred together in the very dull 1991 film Tous les matins du monde.