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Friday, February 20, 2004
I have decided to team up with two great bloggers in order to cover and analyze French-related news. This will provide more diverse and frequent insights into French culture and politics. While I will keep this site up for the purpose of maintaining its archives, my news posts can be found at www.no-pasaran.blogspot.com. The new site may be slow to start up, but I hope to see you all there.
Friday, February 13, 2004 NOTE: Postings will resume shortly with some news regarding this site.
Friday, February 06, 2004 Terrorism:
The international nature of terrorism is evident in the following incident: The Pakistani terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba (which might have links to Al-Qaida), sent the Frenchman, Willie Brigitte, to Australia in order to attack military bases. While in Sydney, Brigitte was scheduled to meet with a Chechen arms expert.
On January 16, several people attacked a homosexual in the region of Pas-de-Calais, pouring gasoline on him before setting him afire in the garden outside of his house. The victim, whose first name is Sébastian, suffered third-degree burns on one-third of his upper body. The 35-year old man had been living with his partner and had been the subject of repeated aggressions with, for example, knives and screwdivers. The door of the couple's house was also burned last year, causing the two men to move. Yet in August of 2003, individuals broke into Sébastian's house and attempted to strangle him.
Thursday, February 05, 2004 Pakistan:
Musharraf has refused the intervention of the International Atomic Energy Agency in investigating Pakistani nuclear leaks. However this seems to be the best chance of uncovering the extent of the damage, given the likelihood of embarrassing revelations around the globe and the desire of different governments to cover up their involvement (although the IAEA states that "the emerging picture so far has not indicated governments are involved, but rather points to individuals engaged in illicit trafficking of material and equipment"). The press is referring to German suspects and "2 other European countries," without specifying the latter.
Wilson John in The Pioneer notes long-standing US and European involvement in Pakistan's nuclear program. He writes that in the 1970's:
"A Belgian firm, Belgonucleaire, and a French corporation, Saint-Gobain Techniques Nouvelles, designed a pilot reprocessing facility called the New Labs at PINSTECH. In 1976, under a highly secretive project codenamed 706, Pakistan bought components for centrifuges from the Netherlands; orders for 6500 tubes of specially hardened steel were placed with Van Doome Transmissie...Other support components and subsystems were bought from Vakuum Apparat Technik (high vacuum valves) of Haag, Switzerland and Leybold Heraeus (gas purification equipment), Hanan, Germany. A year later, the British subsidiary of Emerson Electric sold 30 high frequency inverters to Pakistan for controlling centrifuge speeds. In 1987, West Germany sells a tritium purification and production facility with a capacity to produce 10g of tritium daily."
Moreover, Greenpeace wrote about a German black market in plutonium back in the 1990's.
One question concerning Dr. Khan's sale of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea is what Western companies and governments were involved. In an interview with the BBC, Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy claims that German and Swiss companies were likely involved, and Henderson found it hard to imagine that those countries' governments were not aware of Pakistan's nuclear commerce. Pakistan's nuclear trade is likely much larger than Dr. Khan, extending not only throughout Pakistan's army but also well into the West. One way of determining how complicit Western countries were is to watch their reaction to Dr. Khan's revelations. In particular, which Western countries will push for the truth and which will be content with Musharraf's canned explanation?
The Kansas City Star reports: "Suspects in Germany and two other European countries are also being investigated in the growing probe of the clandestine black market apparently headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan..."
Meanwhile, the CIA director is placing credit for the revelations on US and British intelligence agents.
"France, which has been faithful to all of its international engagements with respect to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, believes that the dissemination of secret material, equipment, and technologies constitutes a threat to peace and international stability...France hopes that Pakistan will strengthen its controls over secret materials, equipment, and technology--notably the exportation of such items. France believes that the Pakistan government's recent actions are moving in the right direction, and France is ready to lend its aid in this area."
Now we'll see whether there is any follow-through.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004 United States:
Here is some more info on Kerry and his French cousin, Brice Lalonde (see also Jan. 29 posting). Lalonde is quoted: "Kerry and I saw each other six months ago, and I hoped that he would be in the running and become President." The exact relation between the two is that their mothers were sisters. According to Lalonde, the Kerry family was dispersed from France after WWII. Lalonde is planning on attending the July Democratic Convention in Boston if Kerry is nominated.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004 Politics:
I have been trying to come up with an American analogy for the scandal sweeping over Alain Juppé. The closest I can come is this:
Imagine that, while Bush was governor of Texas, his lieutenant governor also happened to be the chairman of the Republican Party. Now imagine that the lieutenant governor misappropriated approximately $1.8 million from public funds and placed it in the coffers of the Republican Party. Over a decade later, the lieutenant governor is brought before a judge and banned from public office for 10 years in addition to being given 18 months in prison. Now imagine that Bush--who has since become President--calls a White House press conference and announces that he has nothing but "friendship, esteem and respect" for his old lieutenant governor. Cheney and Powell express similar support. To make matters worse, the judge before whom the lieutenant governor appeared claims that, during the case, her phone was tapped, her office was bugged, and that she received death threats. The President promises a thorough investigation--to be conducted by the Executive Branch!
Chirac could take lessons in political honesty from Nixon.
Middle East & European Union:
The New York Times has translated a Der Speigel interview with Michèle Alliot-Marie. The whole thing is worth a read, but two quotations particularly struck me:
"From the very beginning, France has urged that Iraqi sovereignty be restored as quickly as possible - immediately, really - following the end of hostilities. Meanwhile, a lot of time and, unfortunately, a great deal of credibility has been lost. ..Power cannot be transferred to what is little more than a puppet administration. Nothing is gained without inner legitimacy, and without it the situation cannot improve."
What exactly does this mean? When did hostilities end? To what government should Coalition forces have transferred power after Saddam fell? There is a political vacuum in Iraq, and the idea that an Iraqi government would have spontaneously arisen if only the US and UK would have stepped aside is hopelessly naive or criticism made for the sake of criticizing.
The other quote concerns European defense forces:
"The development of a European defense has remained largely unaffected by these differences. It is progressing more quickly than the movement to establish a common currency did at its time. The European rapid intervention force reached its objective last year: It can mobilize 60,000 troops, 400 aircraft and 100 ships within 60 days. In addition, we even plan to develop a high-speed crisis and intervention force that would consist of 1500 troops and could be deployed within 48 hours. That would a global first....If the Americans are becoming suspicious, it means that they are taking us seriously."
The efforts of the "international community" to combat Al-Qaida have run up against international dissonance. The 5-member UN monitoring group that was established in July of 2001 to shut off Al-Qaida's financing was dissolved earlier this week by an angry Security Council. A final act of the panel was to offer harsh criticism of the UN's failure to stop Al-Qaida financing. In the past, the organization had criticized many countries, including Liechtenstein, Italy and Switzerland, for lax financial regulations.
The panel has been replaced by the "Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team," which will, for the next 18 months, continue to track terrorist networks but will be under the direction of the Security Council. Its membership will mirror that of the 15 members in the Council. This will better allow Security Council members and their allies to censor the Team's reports.
Meanwhile, the Security Council' s Counter-terrorism Committee has noted that Resolution 1373, which was passed back in 2001 and called upon all states to "[p]revent and suppress the financing of terrorist acts" is "encountering serious problems, both at the States and at the Counter Terrorism Committee levels." Of the 191 UN member states, a full 100 have failed to submit reports on how they are implementing Resolution 1373. Although the names of the countries have not been released, the Security Council is threatening to publicize the names if the reports are not submitted by March 31.
The Committee also notes problems with its own structure, ranging from the lack of a clear budget to insufficient funds to pay international experts.
Note the contrast (as well as the flat-out contradictions) between reality and the following statement by the UK Foreign Office:
"The UN's response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US was swift and decisive. The Security Council rapidly adopted Resolution 1373 imposing uniform obligations on all states to suppress and prevent financial and other support for terrorism. It established the Counter Terrorism Committee to monitor implementation of the resolution. All 191 UN member states have submitted at least one report and 148 two or more on measures taken to combat terrorism in their own countries. The UK is pressing for separate expert support and leadership for the CTC so that it can focus on specific areas and tackle those countries least committed to the fight against terrorism."
Sunday, February 01, 2004 Miscellaneous:
Although this point has nothing to do with France, I mention it only because of the picture on this site that was taken at a rally in Paris at Place d'Italie last spring. The sign read (in French): "North Korea has the Right to Possess Nuclear Weapons!"
"Witnesses have described watching entire families being put in glass chambers and gassed. They are left to an agonising death while scientists take notes...Defectors have smuggled out documents that appear to reveal how methodical the chemical experiments were. One stamped 'top secret' and 'transfer letter' is dated February 2002. The name of the victim was Lin Hun-hwa. He was 39. The text reads: 'The above person is transferred from ... camp number 22 for the purpose of human experimentation of liquid gas for chemical weapons.'...Most are imprisoned because their relatives are believed to be critical of the regime. Many are Christians, a religion believed by Kim Jong-il to be one of the greatest threats to his power. According to the dictator, not only is a suspected dissident arrested but also three generations of his family are imprisoned, to root out the bad blood and seed of dissent."
I don't know whether I find it harder to imagine that these events are happening in 2004 or that French protestors have advocated the nuclear empowerment of such a regime.
When I watched the millions of French filling the streets to denounce Bush's overthrow of a bloody dictator and when I now see the French government fawning over Hu Jintao (that pillar of international law and human rights) and the French public ignoring the atrocities in North Korea, I wonder if Americans and the French live on the same planet.
Did French police crack down on peaceful Falun Gong members in Paris in order to appease the visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao? The Australian calls Chirac's behavior towards Jintao "grovelling," and Taiwan has suspended senior officials' visits to France after Chirac lashed out at Taiwan for its "aggressive, dangerous and irresponsible" behavior. Chirac was referring to Taiwan's efforts to convince China to stop pointing 500 missiles at the island. Now why is Chirac calling Taiwain aggressive?
Le Monde has an unintentionally hilarious article on Franck Moulet, the 27 year-old French art student who thought that it would be amusing to joke about having placed a bomb in an airplane's lavatory. Although his exact words are disputed, Moulet is alleged to have raised his fist in the air and exclaimed (while returning to his seat on the airplane after having used the bathroom): "Oh shit! The bomb that I placed in the toilet isn't working!"
Before being released from custody, Moulet was put on Rikers Island, where the other inmates called him "The Frenchy." Says Moulet, "They told me that it was the law of the jungle over there...When they told me that I was being transferred there...I said to myself, this is my last day." Moulet writes how Latinos ruled Rykers and how he was befriended by African-Americans who warned him against placing his hands on his hips (too feminine) and made him do 50 push-ups each day. The whole article makes Moulet out to be a character from the Great Escape.
Moulet has vowed never to set foot on American soil ever again. Good. Although Moulet's treatment seems to be provoking some outrage among the French (Le Monde dismisses Moulet's revolting conduct as mere "irony"), it's difficult to feel any sympathy for Moulet. How hard is it to understand that you don't make jokes about bombs on airplanes? Of course, Moulet (who chose to express his comments in English) did understand that some other passengers would be shocked by his comments. However Moulet's desire to express his disdain for American security measures overcame any scruples for his fellow passengers.
Some French papers are claiming, in a pique of paranoia, that Moulet is the victim of the American government's anti-French campaign. Perhaps Moulet did not get kid-glove treatment based on his French passport; however the charges leveled against him were New York state charges and, to the best of my knowledge, did not involve federal authorities.
Note: LoFIP has a partial translation of the Le Monde article.
The following is a translation of a Le Figaro interview with André Kaspi, a professor at the Sorbonne in North American history:
Why does America provoke more passionate reactions than ever in France?
André Kaspi: Perhaps because of a certain historical proximity. Our two nations have promoted, for a long time, two universalisms that can rival one another. French hostility and sympathy towards the United States has existed since the creation of the U.S. For example, de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, was struck by American penitentiaries. They were better organized than French prisons. “Penitentiary” suggested that one could reform criminals by helping them to improve their ways. This was during a period when, in France, prison was not viewed as a place where people got better.
On the other hand, the US quickly appeared to the French like a primitive and savage world filled with bric-a-brac and lacking the hierarchies necessary for a true civilization. Chateaubriand began this critique without evening knowing the country, and it continued with Baudelaire and then Ernest Renan, for whom Americanism was simply “a vulgar way to imagine things.” America was viewed as pure and radical materialism. As for the word “antiaméricanisme,” it was invented in 1968 during the Vietnam War.
People often speak of “French anti-Americanism.” However we speak less of America’s Francophobe tendencies that have recently reached unprecedented heights. How do you explain this virulence?
André Kaspi: The US is a nation of immigrants, very few of whom came from France. Today, there are a million immigrants that enter the United States each year, and there are few French among them. There is a myth regarding France—linked to La Fayette and his integral role in the American Revolution—as well as an American ignorance regarding the French. This ignorance has fed stereotypes regarding the French, such as notions that the French are “dirty” or “depraved.” However, since the Iraq war, France has also become the “traitorous ally” whom Americans cannot trust. France is viewed as an arrogant country that, in gathering together America’s allies with its threat of a Security Council veto, gave priority to its commercial ties with Arab countries. The French criticize America for its mercantilism; but Americans reproach the French for exactly the same thing. Now, with the debate surrounding the Muslim veil, Americans have no idea what to think because they thought that the French were “pro-Arab.” Moreover, they criticize us for not giving enough freedom to our Muslim citizens.
What do you think of the pro-American positions taken during the Iraq war by intellectuals of the Left, such as André Glucksmann or Pascal Bruckner?
André Kaspi: They are like the neoconservatives in the United States. Neoconservatives, like Paul Wolfowitz, are often former Trotskyites, who detested Stalinist communists. Of the leftists that you mentioned, their current positions may be continuations of their anti-Stalinism. Of course, the enemy has changed: it is no longer Stalinism but Islamism, and the spirit of the Crusades remains. The United States today represents a center of resistance to Islamist terror, but it is always dangerous to reduce reality to a binary world.
At what point does criticism of America turn into anti-Americanism?
André Kaspi: That’s the problem. Anti-Americanism is the result of a radical and systematic critique of American society. Take, for example, the exaggerated role of money in the United States. Doesn’t money play the same role in French society? The same can be said of safety and security…In fact, we are witnessing, today, a strange phenomenon: on one hand, French society is undergoing a significant Americanization. On the other hand, French society is losing its certainties and a large part of its identity. American culture has destabilized French society. French men and women no longer know who they are, and this insecurity provokes a paradoxical rejection. The same people who say that they hate the United States consume American films and eat at McDonald’s. Moreover, we are drowning in a mass of information coming from the United States—information that we do not always know how to analyze.
André Kaspi: When protestors march at the Place de la Concorde in order to “tell the US President” that they are against the death penalty, this only shows that these French protestors know nothing about America’s constitutional structure, under which the states are sovereign in this field, not the federal government. Before judging the United States and in order to make valid comparisons, the French must learn about American history as well as about their country’s own institutions. How can we French judge a judicial system in which there are 11 different opportunities for appeal after a death penalty sentence when we French often are terribly ignorant about our own justice system? The issue of the death penalty, which is used to stigmatize the United States, is indicative of the stereotyping that is happening. In reality, the number of executions in the United States in 2003 (a total of 65) occurred principally in the southern United States and is lower than those committed in 2002. The percentage of Americans who support the death penalty has dropped from 70% in 2002 to 64% in 2003. Abolitionists are saying that the “death penalty is losing ground in the United States.” With respect to this issue as well as to so many others, the misunderstandings that exist between the United States and France are the result of our ignorance of each other’s countries.