jeudi 6 décembre 2007

Far from the madding crowd.

How many Americans in 2002 knew who the President of the French Republic was? One year later he was the most hated and despised foreign politician among a majority of them. What a difference one year makes…

Because he was the one who wanted more evidence about the existence of WMDs and had the courage to oppose the hysterical urge to war of the Bush administration (bolstered by about 80% of the American media), Jacques Chirac became the paragon of treachery, deceitfulness, ungratefulness, wickedness, perversity etc. Look no further: the ultimate anti-American antichrist was French!

No matter how strongly he voiced his concern about the consequences of a war he knew America would win and how strident he was in his insistence in telling our American friends that what they were about to go into would be catastrophically detrimental to themselves, he predictably has been more vilified, despised and insulted than the real enemies of the U.S. ever were.

Yet, when we look at the history of his life, nothing, absolutely nothing, could vindicate the American accusation that he acted out of “anti-Americanism”.

He spent one year in the U.S. as a student back in 1952, worked there and wrote an essay about the New Orleans’ harbor, he speaks very good English, had the American anthem played (for the first time ever) in the courtyard of the Elysée palace when the then new American president (G. Bush) visited France in 2000 and was the first head of state to side the U.S. the day after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Following this event, he is said to have told the French secret services to share any information with their American counterparts as if they were French. Talk about being anti-American!

Although the unfolding of History has proven him right from the very beginning, it looks like America will never forgive him for having dared opposing her when she was becoming inebriated with a lust for war and death. There’s no point, it seems, trying to explain to those who hated him in the first place when he said “no”, that he certainly didn’t act out of anti-Americanism, the “concept” that is supposed to explain any dissension with Americans.

I promise I have even read in some articles in the American MSM that Chirac’s ultimate goal when opposing America was to initiate a European anti-American dynamic that eventually would lead to a new Holy Roman Empire with France at the helm! The mind boggles… 

About every accusation has been hurled at him: He was Saddam’s buddy, France was on the payroll, he was protecting French oil contracts in Iraq, he wanted to keep alive a regime to which France was eager to sell weapons etc. All this has been debunked time and again, there’s no need to return to it.

Even the coolest of Americans, those who opposed the war, couldn’t forgive him the effort he made on the international stage to gather enough votes in order to prevent a majority at the UN to authorize the American attack on Iraq. They will never accept, it seems, that when someone sees a friend about to commit the worst mistake ever, he will do his utmost to prevent said friend to do the irreparable.

The funny thing (sort of) is that Jacques Chirac is the least missed president of a huge majority of the French who certainly would be hard pressed to remember anything positive he made on the domestic stage but who will thank him nonetheless for the position he held during the Iraqi crisis. That may be the only thing he will ever be gratefully remembered for in France. Not exactly America’s point of view, is it?

(The painting is St. Thomas, by Georges de La Tour, Louvre, Paris)

6 commentaires:

Greg a dit…

Flocon, that slug Chirac wasn't the only one to oppose Operation Iraqi Freedom, but he gets pounded in America for a reason - he was a total dick about it. He opposed the US in a very undiplomatic way, waiving around his little UNSC veto. Allies don't act like that. Even Putin - Chirac's friend in the allegedly correct and comically named "Peace Camp" - was more restrained.

In my life experience, most big arguments can be avoided if the antagonists use more thoughtful tone. And diplomacy was supposed to be Chirac's strong suit (I personally think his strong suit was corruption, but I digress) - shouldn't he have known that?

Anonyme a dit…

Greg, you may have a point about the undiplomatic voicing of a righteous grudge. Déformation professionnelle, i presume?

How would you have handled the delicate matter of *gently* telling a deaf not to cross the street without looking all sides?


Anonyme a dit…

The problem for Americans was that their president made a public announcement: "Either you stand with us, or against us." In that context, M. Chirac opposed US actions, and so in the minds of most Americans, France was "against America." This is the problem with media sound bites — officials should carefully consider what they wish to say before they say it.

Unlike most Americans, I do not believe that nations are "friends." I respect that fact that each country must act in its own interests, and when those interests apply to multiple nations, there is a coalition. As the French know very well, coalitions only last for as long as separate parties can agree.

Perhaps M. Chirac's tone was the French version of our cowboy president. I do not sit in judgment of your president because I am unaware of the circumstances under which he was prompted to act. There was an unsubstantiated suggestion in our press that the French government had a "behind the scenes" deal with Saddam Hussein — one revealed at about the same time as the UN Oil for Food scandal.

As a political moderate, I believe there is a time for negotiation, and a time for action. I believe that the war in Iraq was as much precipitated by never-ending UN dialogue as it was in the revelation (to Americans) that there are never any serious consequences for ignoring UN demands. Of course, even today the UN maintains that the US invasion of Iraq was illegal (according to international law), and perhaps in that context, it was. On the other hand, do nations — like individuals, have a right to self-defense? I do not suggest that Iraq was a viable threat to the US, only that a perceived threat could be an argument set forth by Mr. Bolton.

One minor post-script: Saddam Hussein was a remarkable “buffer” against Iran. I wonder if anyone gave that much serious thought before the balloon went up.

Flocon a dit…

Hi Greg,

I know you've seen this post before but it's a promise I made to LA... ;-)

I have a feeling the "undiplomatic" way Chirac warned Americans is now the last argument against him after all the usual ones have been proven false (France was on the payroll, he was Saddam's buddy, anti-Americanism, protecting French oil contracts etc.)

Now you refer to Putin who acted more restrained. Isn't that another evidence of who your real friends are? In the end Putin couldn't care less what would happen to America, not to mention the Chinese (both with a seat in the UNSC).

Someone had to do the dirty job to oppose this administration in its own interest, you certainly couldn't count on Russia or China to give you any good advice.

As for Germany, Schröder also opposed but since he has no seat in the UNSC, his opposition was of no consequence to the US; diplomatic or undiplomatic.

Regarding the corruption affairs (Berlusconi anyone?) you'll be glad to learn he's now under investigation by some judge in Paris.

I have to agree with Etchdi here, how was he supposed to say "no"? Saying no when your friend expects "yes" is always traumatizing I know.
Isn't it the hysterical reaction of the American MSM which made the French position seem all that formidably undiplomatic?

Thanks for your comment anyway.

Flocon a dit…


Right you are to recall the ""Either you stand with us, or against us" which eventually was so detrimental to the very interest of the US. A binary mindset doesn't really help in time of need when so many factors are involved and decisive.

"I do not believe that nations are "friends."
Do I detect some Gaullist flavour here?

Regarding the legality or not of the decison to go to war, this issue was far less debated in Europe as it seems it was in the US. Not that it was irrelevant but, I would tend to think Europeans, by and large, saw the whole affair in a more prospective and historical perspective.

Thanks for your interest.

Anonyme a dit…

Hello Mustang,

You are wondering if Saddam Hussein was not "a remarkable “buffer” against Iran. I wonder if anyone gave that much serious thought before the balloon went up."

Well, this was already more than subliminal years ago. Iran is probably the real winner of this lousy game for now...
But looking back to it, could have Chirac openly said that this was one of the ultimate threats if Irak was invaded? As Greg suggests (you do suggest, Greg, don't you?), he would have been met with other reproachs of being an undiplomatic friend of Saddam ;-)