THE USA, FRANCE AND IRAQ
There has been lately a lot of strong attacks from the US administration, US legislators, US government, US press against France including petty attacks when Congressmen renamed in the cafeteria of the Congress French Fries: Freedom fries.
I believe it is my duty to explain what is my position on the divisive issue on Iraq as a French citizen but a US resident for the last ten years.
The first clue on my feelings should be my Pen name: Eric Lafayette.
I choose this name Lafayette because it is the absolute symbol of friendship between the USA and France.
There is absolutely no disagreement that the Young Marquis de Lafayette came to help the USA and fought for the Revolution war. George Washington liked him like the son he did not have and Lafayette was totally devoted to him and the American revolution.
Lafayette was also engaged in the battle for the crucial and final Victory of Yorktown where the French Navy first defeated the English Navy preventing England to help its army in the Chesapeake bay and then with George Washington army the French army helped in defeating the English army .
Lafayette lead a charge in unison with Alexander Hamilton who was the other young brave aide of Washington also a favorite of him.
Th two charges succeeded and the two redoubts defending the English Army were taken. The French Army and the French Navy according to all historians without a dissenter was instrumental with its superior fire power and elite troops in defeating once for all the English troops thus allowing the USA to become an independent Nation.
Without French intervention this attempt at independence may have been crushed and although it is more than probable that the USA would have gain their independence at a much later date, the Founding fathers among them Washington and Benjamain Franklin would have been taken out of the political life thus depriving the USA of what is their most important treasure. The Nation USA without these extraordinary Founding Fathers would never have been as great a Nation as it is today.
There was a great feeling during these years and many tales of profound friendship between French people and American people.
Many President Bush supporters have accused French people to be ungrateful nowadays pointing that the American came twice to save France from the Germans in world War I and world War II . My recollection of studying History at school and the stories my parents and relatives told me has always been of admiration and friendship with the Americium soldiers. My parents and their friends where all soldiers in world war II and fought alongside the Americans.
Older people in Normandy many, many years after D day could not speak of their debt of gratitude without tears in their voice.
One event who damaged this Friendship was in recent history the Vietnam war. A whole generation of French people born in the fifties who had not experienced world war II war were strongly against the American government.
The unfortunate but crucial part is that there is a confusion between a government policy and people feelings.
A simple and recent example:
All the People in every Nation around the world are 70% to 80% against President Bush policy on Iraq but these same People when asked are you against the American people are adamant in saying that they like American people if they are not supporters of President Bush.
Remember one very telling picture
After the tragedy of 9/11 in New York 80% of the People in the world were with the American People and liked them.
After President Bush went on the war path against Iraq 80% of the People in the world are against President Bush and by association a good proportion against the American people
The problem comes from the Politicians being so stupid as to renaming French Fries Freedom Fries and the Media who do not have high enough standards and do not take the time to in each of their discussion to force themselves to be precise enough and distinguish between the People and their government. The same distortion of the fact is current practice by Politicians and the Media in the other countries
Another recent example about Italy
Before the big rallies against war in Italy the only version the American people had of the support for the war on Iraq was that Italy,the Nation was 100% behind the USA.
The true version should have been that Italy was not functioning as a Nation: the government was backing the US government but the People were 80% against the American government. A Nation is made of the People and of the Government and it is even more important when the Nation is a Democracy.The same can be said of Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Mexico, Turkey and so on.
My point is that the People reach to each other above their governments and it is a shame that to play Politics the governments try to oppose the People of one Nation against the People of another Nation to further their selfish ambitions.
To continue on; my feeling as a French citizen and a US resident is that without President Bush policy the People of the USA and the People of the rest of the Nations in the world including France would be very good friends.
I will cite a few anecdotes.
I was always a strong supporter of President Ronald Reagan when it was not fashionable to be such in France and I was far from being alone.
I traveled extensively to Germany when I was living in Europe and was happily surprised to see that the young generation liked the American People very much. They were very happy to have had the protection of American troops during the cold war and understood very well that Germany reunification was due to the Americans.
I think it is very unfair to criticized them for their pacifist view when many American government told them that being pacifist was their only chance to redeem themselves.
The USA generated all over the world an American culture adopted by young people in totally different sectors of the population.
Movies, Surfing, Computers, Space and other. In each of these segments there is always a group of young people that had a cult for the American Idols of these segments.
I read or heard stories that even in the largest anti war, qualified as anti American protest that were held in Europe if you said that you were American but you opposed President Bush you were very welcome. It seems according to most Media commentators that today the problem is not anti Americanism but an anti Bush Problem.
During President Clinton years even his worst critics could not say that President Clinton did not improve relations between all the People in the world and the American People. So much so that It is a shock to see that today 70% to 80% of the People in all the Nations all over the world dislike the US government and by association but only by association they dislike the American People that had elected such a President.
During President Bush Senior years and the Clinton years I have not heard one American person who went to France for holidays come back upset by anti Americanism from the French People. American tourist expecting unpleasantness from French people were happily surprised by the friendliness towards American People. The antagonism created by the Vietnam war had finally disappeared.
That do not erase the fact that the French Bourgeoisie is snob and arrogant but so with everybody including any French person who is not of the French Bourgeoisie.
An interesting trait of the American People is their Patriotism: It is in my opinion a Jewel. No other Western People that I know of is as Patriotic as the American People and this trait of Character makes me admire even more the American People.
Unfortunately President Bush has used this sacred quality, which is so easily triggered, in shaming American People who are as patriotic if not more that his supporters in making the American People feel guilty if they did not support his pet war.
I am coming now to the crisis with Iraq and for me who is so pro American, so much in love with the American people and this great Nation it makes me very sad to see the People I like so much going towards an abyss.
The best parabola I can come with is the following:
If you see a dear friend walking towards the edge a precipice you should feel obliged to react. He has not noticed but you have that the terrain is slippery and treacherous. He wants to pick up his back pack full of important things. This bag has rolled by itself at the edge.
Then you have two sets of action: One,: Give a small warning then do nothing, two: try strongly to prevent what you believe could be a catastrophe.
Option one: Give a small warning then do nothing:
Your friend does not listen, he falls, injures himself, is crippled for the rest of his life, you rescue him and he is grateful to you because he knows you warned him and you rescued him. You come up a winner,he comes up a looser.
Option two: try strongly to prevent a catastrophe
You hold him by the arm and drag him away from the edge of the precipice.
He hates you while he struggles to do what he thinks he is agile enough to do it then he resents you for many years because he believes he has lost his back pack with a lot of important things because of you.
But he is not crippled and he is healthy. You come up a looser, he comes up a winner
I will always choose the second solution and in the actual case involving the war on Iraq I did speak forcefully against this war. It is probably one of the few times that I am in concordance with the French government.
However I am not a Pacifist and I was extremely happy when the USA and the credit has to go fully and only to the USA waged war in Kosovo to stop a genocide.
The European governments and particularly the French government were so weak and stupid and selfish that I was nauseated.
The United States of America are so powerful militarily compared to the rest of the world that they can afford by their sheer power and gigantic presence not to act in a hurry in a reckless way. They should exude confidence not bravado.
All that to let you know that I am extremely sad at the Idea that the American People who inspire me everyday with their courage and compassion in the way they deal with their everyday problems big or small and their magnificent Patriotism are going to be dragged into a quagmire similar or worst than Vietnam. I am talking of what is going to happen after the war is won. I have been very forceful because I want so much for my very dear Friends to avoid what is going to be a catastrophe for them. I do not want to have the opportunity to say I told you so and I still hope that this war can be avoided.
Eric Lafayette LA 03/ 12/ 03
© AllThePerspectives. All Rights Reserved.