Tuesday, April 03, 2007

It's All America's Fault

How was Airbus allowed to get in the mess it did? The threat of the lurking Americans was used a uniter. Because when you evoke the/an American bogeyman (Boeing, in this case), everybody shuts up and unites (while keeping their eyes — conveniently — shut). Airbus got good press, all its rosy declarations were believed, the champion of Europe brought hope and ecstatic pronouncements from all (from citizens to rosy-eyed reporters), and, then suddenly, when the whole edifice crashed, there was little choice but to open one's eyes. (I say "little" choice instead of "no" choice, because you may remember — and this (unfortunately) is the main lesson here — the number of Frenchmen in our comments section who leaped to the defense of the company and its thieving executives.)

In France, (un)covering the Total scandal is all about (or mainly about) dressing the portrait of the treacherous, lying, devious Americans. (And the people are nothing if not eager to buy an umpteenth time this (self-serving) story about the American bogeymen and their numerous plots.)

Incidentally: note that Jean-Michel Bezat grants two entire paragraphs to arguments (sic) supporting French officials' position (as well as a — self-serving — government report warning about the …American bogeyman and the attending plots!).
Dans un rapport intitulé Stratégies de désinformation des médias américains à l'égard des entreprises européennes, la délégation aux affaires stratégiques (DAS) du ministère de la défense recense les attaques avant et après le veto de Paris à la guerre en Irak et décrit les liens entre l'administration Bush, les think tanks néo ou ultra-conservateurs et les médias américains.

Le document note que les groupes français restent dans le collimateur, même si le French bashing ("casser du Français") est moins hystérique qu'en 2003 et 2004. "La création au Pentagone, en mars 2006, d'un "Iranian Directorate" constitue une claire menace pour les entreprises françaises ou européennes ayant des projets/activités avec l'Iran, comme Technip/Cryostar, Total ou BNP Paribas", prévient le rapport.
There are several things that the French forget; left untouched, for starters, is France's own anti-Americanism (or America-bashing) and whether it should rightfully be described as hysterical (oh que oui, and this very article serves as a perfect illustration thereof). Nor do the Americans get the benefit of the argument (in reverse) that anti-Americanism (or -bashing) is not such albeit only (understandable) anger because of Washington's policies and who is in the White House (the counter-argument, in this case, might be, hysteria and French-bashing (as far as those are the correct terms) are understandable because of Chirac and Villepin's policies opposing the Iraq war).

So, at this point, the question begs: should we be diplomatic and conclude that France's America-bashing and America's French-bashing, hysterical or otherwise, are at best equivalent and both actors are equally to blame? No. As I have argued before, there is a difference between a country that takes action and one that remains passive. In America's case, Bush (and Blair) — rightfully or wrongfully — took risks. George W Bush put his politics at risk, he put his popularity at risk, he put his presidency at risk, he put his party at risk, he put his country at risk, and most importantly, he took decisions that put the lives of his soldiers at risk. In France's case, it did nothing — nothing being lauded as courageous by one French citizen after another ("au moins Chirac a eu les couilles d'opposer Bush"). That was its policies (or lack thereof) — all the while bringing opprobrium on America and its foreign minister going out of his way to get the most autocratic countries to oppose Washington in this riskful undertaking. Trust me, America's anger was anything but hysterical.

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