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The French connection

The week before last France was the only nation on the Security Council that attempted to derail the U.S.-led U.N. resolution supporting the new Iraqi government. Then last week, French President Jacques Chirac followed this by choosing not to attend the funeral of Ronald Reagan even though he was several hundred miles away attending the G8 Summit at Sea Island, Ga. During the early 1960s when thousands of American troops were stationed in France as a part of the NATO forces there, then French President Charles de Gaulle, in an effort to show that France remained an independent force on the world stage, demanded the withdrawal of all American soldiers from French soil. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, in a rare moment of dark humor, asked if he meant the 57,000 American dead buried there as well.The French, Russians and Germans have opposed U.S. efforts regarding regime change in Iraq every step of the way. But Russia has opposed U.S. efforts for almost 60 years, and they had lucrative oil field contracts pending with Saddam. Germany’s Helmut Schroeder ran on an anti-American platform, and he couldn’t very well deviate from his stated position. Besides, after starting two world wars, pacifism has become institutionalized in Germany.But the French have been the only nation on the Security Council to actively politic against the United States in the U.N. Why? First, Muslims comprise almost 8 percent of the French population. Second, the French government is employing its long-standing strategy of “appeasement at any cost” not to incur the wrath of al Qaida. Third, there’s a extremely influential and strident neo-communist anti-U.S. faction in France. Fourth and perhaps more importantly, sympathy for the Israel-hating Arab world is a fact of life in France.French society continues to generate the greatest manifestation of anti-Semitism in Europe. In fact, during World War II French authorities actively corroborated with the Nazis during their occupation and deported 75,000 Jews to concentration camps in Germany and elsewhere. No other nation so openly assisted the Nazis against the Jewish people. The ultra-right and the ultra-left are powerful factors in French politics. During the last presidential election, 17 percent of French voters backed racist candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once characterized the Holocaust as “a detail of history.” (Le Pen finished second to Chirac.) Another 17 percent of the voters backed either the French Communist Party or the ultra-left Green Party. Thirty-four percent of French voters supported either extreme right or extreme left candidates!When viewed from an historical perspective, French culture once permeated the planet. French art, literature, philosophy, language, political thought and their customs once held enormous sway throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. But today English is the universal language, and French culture has been overshadowed by movies, television, fast food and music, etc., all stamped “Made in America.” It must be maddening to President Chirac and Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin that this trend will continue as the world continues to globalize. France has been increasingly limited in its ability to project its power and influence beyond its borders since before World War II. That fact eats at the very soul of Frenchmen. Britain, Russia, Japan, Germany and even Spain have experienced the recession of empire. The problem with Chirac and de Villepin is that they have never learned to accept it. The French government was also in bed with Saddam for years: Saddam’s first visit to the West was to Paris; later, Jacques Chirac cemented the relationship with Saddam in Baghdad. France was second only to the Soviet Union in supplying Saddam with military hardware and in the late ’70s they were the primary suppliers of money and technology to build a nuclear reactor for Saddam, which had the primary purpose of constructing a nuclear device that could threaten Israel.The French have feared that any American military operation in the Persian Gulf would interfere with their significant commercial interests. After the first Gulf War, Saddam sold oil to France far below market prices in violation of U.N. treaty agreements and let oil contracts to French companies to develop Iraq’s southern oil fields. Considering 57,000 American dead and our umbrella of protection during 45 years of Cold War, French ingratitude is infuriating. Yes, French troops are on the ground in Afghanistan and French intelligence services assist our FBI. But let’s not fool ourselves. Politically speaking, they had little choice in the matter. Francophiles will argue that the French government is not anti-American; it’s simply acting in its own best interests because they face a continuing loss of international stature, a declining economy, a large Muslim population and a huge political constituency on the fringes.But Chirac’s latest insult to the United States by not attending President Reagan’s funeral is far beyond “national interests.” It’s a slap in the face to all of us and patently anti-American.The French government has crossed the line far too often to be chalked up to simple arrogance. But we can take heart because it’s not a permanent condition. When the French government needs America again, they will gladly sidle up to us and barter their vote on the Security Council. Regardless of the happy face President Bush paints on it, the French government is anti-American. Disagreement among friends or allies is expected, but the French have set a new standard of ingratitude and duplicity. We belong to an international community, and I don’t believe in organized boycotts. But as a citizen with freedom of choice, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I purchase anything tagged “Made in France.”Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz68@earthlink.net


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