The Left Hook! Archive


Fri. March 14, 2003

Francophobes Lie!

[Editor: Your ailing editor wasn't planning to comment much on the French-bashing currently running wild in the U.S. in reaction to French opposition to the "President"'s war--I assumed, because of its childishness, that it would pass quickly. The poisonous cretins infesting the House of Representatives change "french fries" and "french toast" on the House cafeteria menus to "freedom fries" and "freedom toast." A few restaurants do the same. In a few months, it's forgotten. Now, it seems, Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a Florida Republican is actually suggesting that the dead Americans killed and buried at Normandy during the second World War be disinterred and shipped to the U.S. for reburial--she's even put together an amendment that would allow for this. In all of the disgusting things surrounding this Iraq situation, this has to rank up there with the most disgusting few of the lot; when it gets to this point, something clearly needs to be said about the French-bashing. As it turns out, Scott Erb had something to say about it...]

Lately a spin machine Joseph Goebbels would have been proud of has decided that, rather than confront the argument being made by France and others about war not being the best option, they would simply try to discredit the French, with attacks on French motives and claims France is being greedy.

This is known as "the big lie," and you are seeing it put forth by the far right on the airwaves this weekend.

The fact: France has huge debts owed to it by Iraq which will never be paid while sanctions are in place.  If France were acting in its own economic interest, it would cut a deal with the US and participate in order to secure the oil contracts that it might lose--as well as much of the debt owed--if the US goes it alone.  There is no way the sanctions will be removed while Saddam is in power, so if it were acting on cynical self-interest, it would be taking the opposite position than it does.  This is proof positive that France is going on principle, not economic self-interest.

Beyond that, the claims made by the Francophobes (in language that could be from pre-WWI yellow journalism) are illogical.  One, they point to a French company that apparently was selling Iraq parts recently.  But just as the US didn't control that Halliburton was working closely with Iraq, or that American firms had ties with terrorism, a modern industrial state doesn't  control everything individual companies do.  The other thing is a claim that France buys a lot of Iraqi oil.  Well, so does the US.  But where you get the oil from is irrelevant, the price is set on the world market.

Bottom line: when the pro-war group refuses to confront French arguments, and instead simply tries to attack French motives and use ridicule, they are showing intellectual bankruptcy and dishonesty.  They are trying to stifle reason and logic, and promote emotionalism.  That is a path that leads in a dangerous direction.

--Scott Erb
Scott Erb is the author of the forthcoming
"German Foreign Policy: Navigating a New Era."

I'm of the opinion that wars are ugly affairs to be avoided whenever possible. I certainly don't think one should decide to go out looking for a war to start then try to create a rationale for starting it, which is clearly what has happened with the "crisis" in Iraq. The tough-guy mouthings of the "President" and his underlings, from the fall to the present, were for purely domestic consumption, and it's taken some time for the realization to sink in that the rest of the world doesn't particularly care to go along with a full-scale invasion of another nation for no apparent larger purpose than the election of George Bush Jr. to the White House.

That last isn't, of course, the official proffered rationale, though it's probably one of the very few the administration hasn't yet tried. When the White House embarked upon its campaign, all that seemed to matter was starting the war. The "President" and his minions seemed satisfied to settle for whatever excuse would get the public behind the project. This is why the repeated invocation of the "mushroom-cloud-over-a-major-city" imagery. Most obviously, this is the reason behind the concerted effort to link Iraq to anti-Western terrorism in general and al Qaida in particular. While every expert on the matter (including those within the administration) laughingly dismisses such talk as utterly without merit, the administration presses ahead with its insinuations, and the reason is obvious--to link the two in the minds of the people, thus directing towards Iraq the fury Americans feel over Sept. 11th, and invoking their fear of another attack with images of Saddam Hussein poised to provide Osama bin Laden with a nuke at any moment. A large segment of the population now believes Saddam Hussein was behind the terror attack on the U.S., a notion which has no basis in reality. In a Gallup poll in Aug. 2002, 53% of respondents said they believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the attack. In January, Princeton Survey Research Associates conducted a poll of 1,200 Americans, asking the question: "To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?" Only 17% knew the correct answer: None. That has to be some sort of historical monument to the effectiveness of this administration in shovelling pure bullshit. It also points to another disturbing conclusion those of us who follow these things have reached some time ago; that the relatively widespread public support for the administration's Iraq policy is based on the public's belief in things that aren't true. The shock of Sept. 11th caused Americans to shed their skepticism of power and look for something to rally around. People, in such times, believe their government. They WANT to believe their government. And their government lies to them. One would like to believe in a special spot in Hell for officials who so cynically exploit and manipulate those they're supposed to serve, particularly after such a traumatic event. Here on earth, the best that can perhaps be hoped for is that those in the Bush administration will go down in a crushing defeat in the next election (and that America will manage to survive in some recognizable form until that day rolls around).

Just some thoughts from your humble editor.

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