Those Shameful Frenchmen

by Harry Browne

February 22, 2003         

WorldNetDaily recently published a number of outraged letters, blaming the French for every imaginable moral crime because the French won’t join George Bush’s crusade against Iraq.

This controversy has provided a wonderful opportunity for people to demonstrate their moral superiority. Oh those degenerate Frenchmen! Dilettantes, cowards, opportunists, moral pygmies. We Americans, we’re the brave ones, the defenders of truth, justice, and the underdog. Look at the way we liberated Afghanistan. And now we want to do the same for Iraq, but the craven, cowardly French are standing in our way. And they have the gall to act as though they’re the moral ones!

That’s the thanks we get for saving France from the Nazis. Those ingrates turn their backs on us after all we’ve done for them.

Don’t they realize that what we (meaning a previous generation) did in World War II makes them indebted to us forever obligating every French President to do whatever any American President commands, no matter how violent, aggressive, or irrational?

This is similar to the mother who has a perpetual trump card: "I went through labor for you, and this is the way you repay me. You owe me." Presumably, for the rest of your natural life.

The poor French. They don’t realize that their debt will never be "Paid in full."

Don’t Forget the Collaborators

And we’re not supposed to forget how many of those cowards collaborated with the Nazis.

Of course, Americans are morally superior to the French in that regard mainly because Americans have never been in the same position. It’s easy for people in the safety of their American armchairs to decide how courageous other people should be that they should stand up to tyranny, endure torture, sacrifice themselves. It’s easy when you've never had to face the same choices.

Of course, many Frenchmen did stand up to the Nazis. Over 100,000 of them died before the U.S. ever got into the war. And speaking of forgetting things, why have the tales of the heroic French resistance gone down the memory hole?

Self-Interest

Many of the letter-writers know why the French won’t join the American crusade. It’s because they’re playing Financial Footsie with the Iraqis. They’re shamefully selfish unlike Americans, who only want to bring peace to the world through war.

Once again, maybe some memories need to be jogged.

It was Donald Rumsfeld, after all, who shook hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983. It was Americans who sold deadly chemicals to Iraq during the 1980s. It was the Reagan administration that provided military intelligence to Iraq in its war with Iran. And it was American ambassador April Glaspie who in 1990 gave Hussein the green light to settle his oil disputes with Kuwait by force if necessary.

One disgruntled Frenchman, writing to WorldNetDaily, complained that French politicians have always been chummy with terrorist nations such as Syria. He neglected to mention, however, that Gulf War members of the coalition that attacked Iraq in 1991 (including the U.S.) gave Syria billions of dollars just to get Syria’s name on the Coalition letterhead. Of course, the Syrians didn’t actually fight against Iraq. They were too busy occupying Lebanon to be able to help. But they did give moral support.

Who’s out of Step?

And rather than call the French out of step today, perhaps we should notice that people all over the world are siding with the French, not the Americans. Understand that I said siding with the French, not with Iraq.

It was the French presentation at the UN that was greeted with applause while Colin Powell’s accusations provoked stony silence.

Why There’s a Difference of Opinion

Perhaps the WorldNetDaily letter-writers should understand why the Europeans aren’t as all-fired eager to go to war as so many Americans are. And the reason has nothing to do with cowardice.

To most Americans, war is impersonal. War is dropping a few harmless bombs on foreign countries, the regrettable-but-heroic deaths of a handful of American soldiers, collateral damage, mopping up, peacekeeping, General Schwarzkopf on TV explaining smart bombs.

But to Europeans, war is personal. Their parents and grandparents and even some of those living today have experienced war first-hand. They’ve seen the destruction of their own homes, the loss of the property they worked a lifetime to accumulate, the murder of relatives and close friends, whole cities flattened, dead bodies decomposing in pools of blood, the brutality of conquering soldiers, damage that’s far from collateral, and outcomes far different from what was promised. To them, war is real not a video game.

Maybe the reason they don’t talk in macho terms is because they know what they’re talking about.

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P.S. I neglected to mention one letter-writer who trotted out the ever-popular coup de grâce. You can’t have a discussion about Iraq (or Serbia or Afghanistan or any other Enemy-of-the-Day) without someone mentioning that if only they’d stopped Hitler at Munich, World War II could have been prevented. This assumes, of course, that someone could have stopped Hitler at Munich a fact not in evidence.

Perhaps someday, after America has attacked Iraq, and then Iran, and then Syria, and North Korea, and Libya, and Saudi Arabia, Colombia, the Sudan, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Morocco, Togo, Denmark, and Lapland, people will be saying, "If only they’d stopped Bush at Baghdad!"

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Harry Browne is the Director of Public Policy for the American Liberty Foundation. You can read more of his articles at www.TruthAboutWar.com.