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Sunday, November 30, 2003 Miscellany (BBC):
This is irresponsible reporting at its worst. Jill McGivering of the BBC has written an article in which she claims, "Baghdad's shops are full again after years of sanctions and American money is gradually restoring Iraq's infrastructure. But few Iraqis appear to have a good word to say for Uncle Sam." [emphasis added]. She also writes, "Some Iraqis say life was better under Saddam." The problem is that McGivering is basing her entire article on one Iraqi family that she followed around. In fact, the "some Iraqis" are really one woman whom she has spoken with. There would be no problem if this article limited itself to what it is: a single data point. But to attempt to extrapolate based on this single family to generalizations about most Iraqis is ludicrous.
Here is a much better piece of reporting from The NYT in which the views of a few Iraqis are represented to be...the views of a few Iraqis. One excerpt:
Mr. Jasim: "I say a prayer every day, five times a day. `God, give me five years without wars.' But we will never have peace as long as we must fear Saddam."
Mr. Farhan: "Saddam saturated us in blood, and with weapons. Why would we ever want him back?"
More on France's troubled Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
"Half the lifts are not working - there's no money to fix them. For three days last month there was no paper and our representatives abroad are having to work 14-hour days." The last straw was a request that living allowances for those posted abroad be cut by £14 million."
"French firefighters quarantined and decontaminated about 30 people on Saturday local time after an envelope containing an unidentified white powder was found in a shop in the Mediterranean port of Marseille, a spokesman said."
"The French government plans to ban the headscarf from public schools to protect teenage girls from “fundamentalist pressures” to wear it, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said yesterday...Muslim girls caught in the headscarf controversy deny their veils are exaggerated or proselytizing and argue that banning them would infringe on their freedom of religion."
"Iraqis are only causing electoral worries for George Bush. Sunnis and Shiites, for once agreeing, viewed the American president's visit to Baghdad as an intrusion, not surprisingly denounced on Friday November 28 during sermons in mosques and also deplored by several local American allies...The Sunnite "street" jubilantly burst into a rage against this person "who came and went like a thief."
"The fact that he is the first American president to set foot on Iraqi soil is a huge event in itself, and a three hour visit to Baghdad Airport definitely wouldn't be the same as a tour in the country and most importantly meeting Iraqi citizens, Iraqis who would be grateful for this visit. But I understand the security considerations and this gesture alone would be sufficient to send a message to whoever it may concern that Iraq is safe enough for an American president to visit. To tell the truth I'm still shocked to this moment that he took the risk to come here. I used to like him before, but now I admire the guy."
Saturday, November 29, 2003 Miscellany (Middle East):
"I just know that the opposition is going to try to make some political hay with this; they wouldn't be Socialists if they didn't. I don't think it's going to change anything, though; sides have been taken on the Iraq issue, and it would take a major change (e.g. hundreds of Spanish deaths or an Al Qaeda strike on Spain itself) to make those sides change."
A demonstration against terrorism. So the ends might not justify the means? How unimaginable in Europe.
Meanwhile, "Police in Hamburg have arrested an Algerian suspected of being the ringleader of a network of al Qaeda activitists who allegedly have been recruiting extremists in Europe to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq...In April, police said dozens of Islamic extremists were being approached by recruiters in Italy and Germany. They were then sent to training camps in Syria before going to Iraq to join a group with links to al Qaeda."
This is a point that is often overlooked in the eagerness to blame the U.S. for fanning the flames of Islamist terror. Many of terrorism's foot soldiers are the result of Europe's failure to address the concerns of its Muslim communities. While Europe may be exporting for now the violent elements of its failed assimilation policies to Iraq, it won't be long before these outcasts return "home" with the skills that they have learned on the battlefield.
Germany's arrests of al Qaeda members are not favors to the US. They are acts of self-preservation--efforts to stop a menace before it grows out of control on European soil.
Slate has a nice summary of European newspaper reactions to France and Germany's continued breach of the Stability and Growth Pact. It also offers the following succinct description of what happened:
"The European Commission, the EU's executive body in Brussels, had recommended disciplinary action—which could have meant billions in fines—if Paris and Berlin did not get their spending under control immediately. In the European Union's complex rule-making structure, a meeting of national finance ministers can effectively overrule most decisions coming from Brussels. In this case, member states basically chose to ignore an unambiguous judgment by the government of the European Union."
For an unimpressive critique of the current and highly debatable French position on Iraq (urging a rapid transition of power to Iraqis), read (in French) "Une révolution française en Irak ?" by Joseph Loconte and Nil Gardiner here (the October 26th posting).
A reader just e-mailed that the English version is here.
"Despite its obvious electoral advantages, Bush's visit can nonetheless be interpreted negatively: beyond the show of solidarity with soldiers on the front line, Bush's visit on the sly to enemy territory constitutes an admission that the US remains on the defensive in Iraq."
Even French diplomats might go on strike. According to Expatica:
"Unions representing the Quai d'Orsay's 9,200 permanent staff complain that as a result of the ministry's parlous financial situation jobs are being cut, foreign travel tightly restricted, cultural programmes axed, and allowances and pay bonuses pared to a minimum...
The lack of resources was embarrassingly exposed last month when the company that supplies the ministry with paper refused to make a new delivery till its account was cleared. Staff were deprived of writing materials for three days and European Affairs Minister Noelle Lenoir had to buy her own note-pads."
The article also notes:
"From its lavish 19th century palace looking over the river Seine, France's foreign ministry oversees an international network second only to that of the United States. In addition to 154 embassies there are 98 consulates, and nearly 500 cultural offices and French-language schools."
Tombs in a Jewish cemetery in Marseilles were defaced with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
It looks like French and American authorities will reach a settlement over the Crédit Lyonnais-Executive Life scandal. It remains unclear how much the French government will pay for the immunity of the crooked French businessmen.
I have translated an interview with Pierre de Bousquet de Florian, the director of the DST (Direction de la surveillance du territoire: France’s version of the CIA) over at EuroPundits. The interview addresses Islamist threats to France and indicates that Islamist terrorists are less inclined than Europeans and Americans to note differences between France and the US.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003 UN:
France and the UK want to make the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) into a permanent agency (either a permanent section of the United Nations Secretariat or an organ of the Security Council) to investigate biological and missile programs. UNMOVIC, which was previously funded by Iraqi oil money, was responsible for looking into WMD in Iraq. In retrospect, it seems that UNMOVIC made an accurate assessment in Iraq. Given the threats posed by biological arms, it's about time that the UN had a permanent inspections team.
On one hand, the IAEA resolution regarding Iran will be regarded as evidence that the US, France and Germany can work together to address threats of weapons proliferation. However, we shouldn't get our hopes up. An agreement was only reached after negotiations between Powell and...Jack Straw. The latter had been designated by France and Germany as their interlocutor with the US. This would suggest that their remains a lack of understanding between Berlin-Paris and Washington.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003 Religious Minorities:
"French Justice Minister Dominique Perben has barred a woman from a court jury for wearing a headscarf.
Mr Perben said the Muslim scarf, worn by the juror at a trial in Bobigny, north-east of Paris, was contrary to the principle of impartiality."
"For the sake of a few billion euros, the finance ministers of the euro zone took the risk on Tuesday, November 25 of dealing a major blow to the European Union's Stability Pact. With a qualified majority and against the opposition of four other ministers, the Eurogroup's ministers in Brussels adopted a text of "committee conclusions" that rejected the European president's recommendations. In reaching an agreement to set aside any proceedings against Berlin and Paris for their over-sized deficits, the Eurogroup ministers have spurned the European Commission."
Spain, Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium have all expressed their anger at France and Germany's exceptionalism.
Sunday, November 23, 2003 Middle East:
As France, Germany and the UK attempt to convince the US that Iran can be trusted to comply with nuclear, non-proliferation guidelines, Al Jazeera reports that the recent bombing in Riyad was planned by an Al-Qaida member in Iran. Iran's foreign ministry claims that the country is "serious about confronting al-Qaida." Almost as serious as it is about using nuclear technology for non-military ends.
$361,742,179=France's dues to the United Nations from 1999-2003 (based on 2002 dues for France of 6.516% of UN budget)
$22,906,000,000=Amount Bill Gates has pledged to charity from 1999-2003
The French are taking a second look at affirmative actions policies which they have long dismissed as too "American:"
"For decades France told its immigrants that a condition of citizenship was to become French. If you did, you would be treated like every other French citizen, regardless of colour or religion.
It was a nice idea, but it foundered on prejudice. Moroccans, Algerians and Senegalese who learned French and dreamed of August in a Provençal gîte were still refused jobs, loans and better accommodation.
As the problem mounted, as minority leaders said violence was rising, as radical imams were telling young Muslims to fight back, Paris clung to the belief that immigrants were forced through the blender and turned into Frenchmen, the state's guarantee of égalité would do the rest."
"Citing [Director General Mohamed] ElBaradei's assessment in last week's report that Iran committed "breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of the safeguards agreement," the U.S. ambassador asked, "Does the phrase 'breached its obligation to comply' differ from 'noncompliance with its obligations'?"
"In fact," [Kenneth] Brill said, "there is no substantive difference in meaning, and to any objective reader of the D.G.'s [director general's] report there can be no doubt that Iran's conduct, stretching back for well over a decade, constitutes noncompliance with its safeguards obligations."
"If the board fails to find noncompliance," he said, "we will send the message to states throughout the world that they, too, can disregard their safeguards obligations in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction without repercussions."
--There is no longer any doubt that Iran hid its production of plutonium and low-enriched uranium, and the US is correct that Iran's lies to the IAEA regarding its nuclear program constitute "non-compliance." The question is whether the IAEA will turn a blind eye to Iran's non-compliance in order to encourage the country to cooperate in the future. Of course, the problem is that, given Iran's past record of concealment, there is no way to verify whether the country will, in fact, cooperate. Ultimately, it comes down to how much of a threat does one think that a nuclear Iran represents. The French, German and English governments are willing to live with the threat.
UPDATE: "Diplomats close to the talks said U.S. officials had abandoned their demand that the resolution contain an explicit reference to Iran's past "non-compliance" with its NPT obligations and that Tehran be reported to the U.N. Security Council, which could choose to impose economic sanctions...In exchange, diplomats close to the talks told Reuters that the United States, which is convinced Iran wants nuclear weapons, were now helping Britain, France and Germany revise the resolution to include a timetable to keep pressure on Iran to cooperate."
"Several diplomats said the French, British and Germans had annoyed other Europeans on the IAEA board by monopolizing the drafting process and refusing to strengthen it to express views of European capitals who feel closer to Washington's position."
The French Court of Appeals has rejected a suit on behalf of a deceased smoker against cigarette companies. The court, essentially, blamed the smoker's fate solely on her own behavior.
The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1515 in support of the Quartet's road map for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Russian-drafted resolution was co-sponsored by France and is even-handed, reaffirming "the demand for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction" as well as "a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders."
A French government inspector in Lyon risks one year of suspension without pay for...wearing a headscarf. The 33-year old Muslim, Nadjet Ben Abdallah, is appealing a lower court judgment affirming the French government's disciplinary actions against her.
"Bush's trip reawakens a certain European ambivalence without creating any real alternative to what Bush offers. In order to meet the aspirations of the British pacifists marching in London today (just like those who, in similar fashion, marched for the European Social Forum in Paris last Saturday), we must take another path that promises a European identity based on peace, social justice and the creation of jobs. In other words, we must break away from the Anglo-Saxon model."
In honor of South African President Thabo Mbeki's current trip to France, here is the following factoid: "France was the ninth biggest foreign investor in South Africa in 2002, pouring more than 448 million US Dollars into South Africa's economy."
Also, the Vanguard, a Lagos paper, has more on the finished ELF trial:
"Many of the missing millions were paid out in illegal "royalties" to various African leaders and their families...[A]nnual cash transfers totaling about US$16.7 million were made to Gabon's President Omar Bongo, while other huge sums were paid to leaders in Angola, Cameroun and Congo-Brazzaville.
The payments were partly aimed at guaranteeing that it was Elf and not US or British firms that pumped the oil, but also to ensure the African leaders' allegiance to France. In Gabon, Elf was a veritable state within a state.
France accounts for three-quarters of foreign investment in Gabon, and Gabon sometimes provided 75 percent of Elf's profits. In return for protection and sweeteners from Elf, France used the state as a base for military and espionage activities in west Africa."
The article also notes: "Elf, now privatized and part of the Total group, paid "at the very least" 5 million euros a year to all of the main French political parties to buy their support...Most of the money went to the centre-right RPR party founded by the present president, Jacques Chirac, until the socialist Francois Mitterrand, soon after his presidential election in 1982, demanded that the spoils be evenly spread."
With respect to Iran's nuclear program, Le Monde writes: "Paris, Berlin and London advocate a diplomatic approach before the IAEA, while Washington wants to obtain a condemnation of Tehran that will lead to a UN Security Council meeting."
This is simply false reporting that caters to the image that the French want to have of the world. On one hand is the diplomatic finesse of Europe and, on the other, the American Lone Ranger. However there is no reason to characterize the European approach as any more "diplomatic" than the American one. Both are basing their activities on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Furthermore, a proposed EU-backed draft resolution at the IAEA is being opposed by the head of that agency: Mohamed ElBaradei. According to The NYT: "American officials were alarmed over a proposed EU-backed draft resolution that would urge Iran to continue cooperation with the agency but refrain from harshly condemning it for concealing elements of its nuclear program, diplomats said.
IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei was also disappointed by the lack of stronger language in the European proposal..."
French intellectuals have denied any anti-Semitic problems for years and claimed that they were being targeted for criticizing Israel. Now, these same people are claiming to be shocked at the acts of violence against Jews in their country. Too little, too late.
"President Wilson had come to Europe with his 14 points for peace. Many complimented him on this vision yet some were dubious.
Take, for example, the prime minister of France. He complained that God himself had only 10 commandments.
"People from the Middle East share a high civilization, a religion of personal responsibility and a need for freedom as deep as our own.
It is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited to liberty. It is pessimism and condescension, and we should have none of it...
Those who would lead a new Palestine should adopt peaceful means to achieve the rights of their people and create the reformed institutions of a stable democracy.
Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences.
Arab states should end incitement in their own media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel.
Leaders in Europe should withdraw all favor and support from any Palestinian ruler who fails his people and betrays their cause.
And Europe's leaders, and all leaders, should strongly oppose anti-Semitism, which poisons public debates over the future of the Middle East...
The British people are the sort of partners you want when serious work needs doing. The men and women of this kingdom are kind and steadfast and generous and brave, and America is fortunate to call this country our closest friend in the world."
"U.S. officials estimate Arafat's personal nest egg at between $1 billion and $3 billion...[But] Arafat has always lived modestly, which you can't say about his wife, Suha. According to Israeli officials, she gets $100,000 a month from Arafat out of the Palestinian budget, and lives lavishly in Paris on this allowance."
The Guardian has a letters page with British reactions to Bush's visit. Two grabbed my attention:
I would just like to say how much I hate you. You have done nothing positive in your whole time as president. You are the reason for the poverty in the Middle East...You keep talking about September 11 when all you do is bomb other countries and give Israel lots of money."
That was written by a 12-year old child. Imagine the journalistic and cultural messages that have been sent to this child via the British media to inspire such loathing. The British Left is breeding its own Intifada.
Slightly more heartening is the following letter:
"We in Britain don't hesitate to challenge your decisions when we think you are wrong. Such as your overambitious initial plans for postwar Iraq, your steel tariffs or your rejection of the Kyoto accord. We shall continue to push you in directions in which you are reluctant to move, like the road map for peace in the Middle East. But when the chips are really down, Britain is as always a firm ally, standing alongside the United States in the cause of making the world a safer place. That is what we have done for well over half a century and what we shall continue to do, whatever the chants of the demonstrators."
Member of the House of Lords; foreign affairs adviser to Margaret Thatcher and John Major
Tuesday, November 18, 2003 United Nations:
In a cost-cutting move, the UN will close its information center in Paris in December. Despite the fact that 12 other UN information centers in Europe are also being closed, some French (such as Maurice Druon, secretary of the Académie Française) are convinced that the closing of the Paris office is an American plot. In an interview with Le Figaro, Javier Perez de Cuellar (former Peruvian Secretary-General of the United Nations) states: "Language is a type of patriotism. Fighting for the French language is like fighting for France...The UN's abandonment of Paris is not neutral. This action expresses the conviction that official relations must be conducted in English."
Miscellany (The Extremist Left):
An Italian group calling itself "Antiimperialista" is raising funds to support the Iraqi Patriotic Opposition, a group that supports violent resistance to the Allied forces and that has past ties to the Baath party.
Monday, November 17, 2003 Miscellany (UK):
"Liberal Democrat supporters were most opposed to Mr Bush’s visit, with 43% saying they would prefer he did not come, compared to 39% who said they welcomed him."
While I can understand British politicians and other citizens opposing Bush's policies, it is inconsistent to criticize Bush for "unilateral" policies and then oppose his presence on English soil and his efforts to speak with British politicians (incidentally, I don't recall wide-spread protests when madman Mugabe accepted an invitation to a UK state visit in 1994). It is the height of hypocrisy for the Liberal Democrats to seek to banish from their presence those whom they do not deem to be as open-minded as themselves.
Meanwhile, a Le Monde front page article is entitled "George Bush visits a Great Britain whose public disapproves of his policies." This seems to be at odds with The Guardian's assessment: "The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world"....The ICM poll also uncovers a surge in pro-war sentiment in the past two months as suicide bombers have stepped up their attacks on western targets and troops in Iraq. Opposition to the war has slumped by 12 points since September to only 41% of all voters. At the same time those who believe the war was justified has jumped 9 points to 47% of voters."
Back on October 28, a fire destroyed a Muslim hall of worship in Montpellier. The cause of the fire is unknown.
Watch has a detailed description of the French government's influence on Agence France-Presse (AFP), the third largest wire service in the world. The article was originally written by Clément Weill Raynal and has been translated by Douglas Gillison.
"[The French] State is very much present at the heart of the AFP, especially in the administration of the agency. On the Administrative Council there are three representatives of public services that make use of the AFP. These representatives are named by the Prime minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance respectively. Of the eight members of the executive board, there is one member of the Council of State, a magistrate from the Court of Appeals and two persons "having represented France abroad." Finally, it is widely known that the nominating process for the Chief Executive office of the AFP requires the assent of the highest authorities in the land. This nomination is the subject of lengthy negotiation.
The State is also present thanks to the very numerous subscriptions held for administrative accounts (ministries, embassies, commissions, large public agencies…). In the 1980s, these subscriptions represented 60% of the Agency's business. In 2000, this proportion was reduced to 40%. The single largest client of the AFP remains the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs."
Introducing the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. I wonder whether the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted that "France" be listed first in the center's title. One of the FRANCE-stanford Center's goals seems to be for French businessmen to learn how to copy American business practices in Silicon Valley.
"...France’s stubborn commitment to the European Common Agricultural Policy that protects an antiquated agricultural sector in the name of preserving rural life. In truth, the policy does nothing to preserve rural life – it merely enshrines a reactionary attitude, undermines international free trade and reinforces an archaic and pointless system. That France is the largest beneficiary among Europe’s nations is not surprising."
"France says the deadline of 30 June of next year for the United States to hand over power to an Iraqi government is too late. It has instead called for a transitional body to take control by the end of the year."
"Huge anti-terrorism demonstrations were held in Nassiriyah yesterday by students association condemning the attacks on the Italian force carrying signs such as 'No to terrorism. Yes to freedom and peace', and 'This cowardly act will unify us'. I have to add that there were similar demonstrations in Baghdad more than a week ago also by students against the bombings of police stations early this Ramadan."
In the months leading up to Gulf War II, many French intellectuals rejected the possibility of any relationship between the Islamist bin Laden and the secular Saddam. Recently released information from the American government suggests otherwise. Why this information wasn't released earlier is a question that deserves a response.
An orthodox Jewish religious school was burned on Saturday in a Paris suburb. No injuries were reported. Arson is suspected. In a departure from past practices, the French government--from the Minister of Education to Jacques Chirac--have been quick to strongly denounce what they are calling "anti-Semitism."
Friday, November 14, 2003 Ghettos:
"Bondy is typical of the banlieues--suburbs--on the outskirts of France's major urban areas. Its 48,000 inhabitants come from 65 countries but mainly from North Africa. In overwhelmingly Catholic France, about 70 percent of Bondy's residents are Muslim...The banlieues also are home to soaring crime and to the country's highest unemployment rates."
"...violence against coalition troops has increased as the occupation has lengthened and, in regard to the all-important objective of winning Iraqi hearts and minds, unemployment rates are still too high. However, most other trends are encouraging--declining crime rates in Baghdad, increasing numbers of Iraqi police officers being trained, and telephone and water services at about 80 percent of pre-war levels. Once one accepts the premise that the United States and its partners are still at war in Iraq, and that the mission there is clearly the most challenging American military operation since the Vietnam War, the most accurate long-term outlook is one of guarded optimism."
--Adriana Lins de Albuquerque and Michael O'Hanlon from the Brookings Institution in The NYT. The op-ed piece also contains a chart tracking various trends in Iraq.
Contrast the above statements with the recent piece by the editorial board of Le Monde:
"The French diplomatic establishment can be proud of itself. It anticipated the difficulties that the Americans and their allies would face in Iraq after a military campaign...Heralded by the ideologists surrounding the American president, the democratization of Iraq was supposed to be a picnic and to change the entire region. It has turned into a nightmare....George W. Bush cannot send more supplementary troops to Iraq without the risk of finding himself in a spiral of violence like Vietnam."
"From President Jacques Chirac down, French heavyweights have swung into action. Francis Mer, the finance minister, discussed the crisis with John Snow, the US Treasury secretary, on Monday; Dominique Perben, the French justice minister, and John Ashcroft, the US attorney-general, held emergency talks over a hastily scheduled dinner in Washington last week. At every opportunity, the French government has been drawing on its meagre capital with the Bush administration, so far to no avail."
"French actress Catherine Deneuve resigned as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Safeguarding of Film Heritage earlier this month in protest of the nomination in September of Pierre Falcone, a suspect in a French arms-trafficking scandal, as Angola's ambassador to the agency..."
Pierre Falcone is a French businessman who, in addition to being accused of selling illegal arms to Angola, was being investigated (by the French government) in connection with the misuse of funds by the Angolan government--funds which had been set aside for payment of the Angolan debt to Russia but which ended up (allegedly thanks to Falcone) in the pockets of Angolan politicians. Incidentally, Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, son of the late French president, was jailed on suspicion of being involved in the same set of criminal events. By offering Falcone diplomatic immunity, the Angolan government seems to be paying back the French businessman for whatever favors he once offered the Angolan powers-that-be.
Under Article 43 of the 1907 Hague Convention, an occupying power "shall take all the measures in his power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country." Does the latter part of this article ("respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force in the country") mean that Allied efforts to reform the Iraqi government and constitution are illegal under international law?
Miscellany (Middle East):
Le Monde offers a breakdown of the nationality of troops in Iraq:
Some newspapers are claiming that the US plan to speed up the transfer of power to Iraqis is a step in the French direction. Just to clarify, back in September, the French Foreign Minister proposed to establish a temporary Iraqi government in a month, have a new Iraqi constitution by the end of 2003 and hold elections in the spring of 2004. The Bush administration is now pushing to hold elections in the first half of 2004 that would establish a temporary government which would, in turn, draft an Iraqi constitution. The proposed French time line and the revised American time frame can hardly be said to resemble one another.
"Faced with rising unemployment figures and a looming recession, Mr Chirac, his Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Finance Minister Francis Mer are making quasi-nationalist capital by defying the accountants of Brussels in the cause of escaping recession. It is a new and worrying departure, according to pro-Europeans."
"The United States — many people say it's so good," José Fernandes, 45, a 26-year-veteran at Michelin, said as he sipped a drink of mint syrup with water on ice and smoked Camels at Le Marina bar. "But the bottom line, the only thing that counts, is money. Retired people are forced to go back to work. The lowest workers don't get paid vacations. If your boss doesn't like you, you're fired."
The French government has placed on the Internet the names, military grades, death dates and causes of death of 1,325,290 soldiers who have fought for France since 1914. You can search for a dead French hero by last name, first name and approximate date of birth and pull up an image of that individual's death certificate.
Politics & Law I:
Forbes has a nice summary of the complicated issues underlying the Crédit Lyonnais-Executive Life debacle, and how questionable conduct may one day be traced to Chirac. The article offers the following interesting insight:
"What we have here is a clash of cultures and of constitutional approaches. On one hand is the U.S. system of the separation of powers, in which neither the Executive nor Legislative branches can dictate to the Judicial branch. On the other is the French overlapping system, in which it is common for the dominant commercial firms to be owned by the government and for others to be run by politicians, civil servants or cronies of the man occupying the presidency."
Politics & Law II:
"Stiff sentences were handed out on Wednesday to the three central figures in France's biggest ever corruption trial involving the diversion of €300m from Elf, the former state oil group, for personal enrichment and bribes during the late eighties and early nineties."
Forbes has some timelines regarding the ELF corruption scandal, and for more background info on ELF, read the article on this site posted back on March 15.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003 UN:
"Which countries...pay the largest shares of the U.N. budget? The United States, with 24 percent; Japan, 19 percent; Germany, 9 percent; France, 6 percent; Italy and the United Kingdom, 5 percent each; and Brazil, Canada, South Korea and Spain, 2 percent each...China and Russia drop off the charts at only 1 percent."
Al Jazeera likes to point out every alleged violation of civil liberties in Iraq committed by US forces. However, now that the Saudis are arresting individuals suspected of being involved in the recent Riyadh attacks (or, as one Al Jazeera source stated: "The campaign to hunt down those responsible is continuing"), there is no discussion of whether these suspects are given access to lawyers, placed in cells that conform to International Red Cross standards or will be entitled to a trial by a fair and impartial judge. Why doesn't the media hold an Arab government to the same standards that it holds Western governments? How about some blunt questions about what methods the Saudi government is using to extract information from suspects?
Miscellany (the Extreme Left):
"The Neocons in Zionist "think-tanks" who served as advisors to the Bush regime - engineered the war. The corporate media garnered and maintained the support of the flag-waving U.S. population for the war...The Zionists have been given the greenlight for escalated atrocities, destruction and land-theft in Palestine. The guns are cocked in other Middle-Eastern nations and Russia."
"Most men of the caliber required suffer a political taint. When we discover someone whose ability and politics are alike acceptable, we usually find as we did in one case that the man has been living abroad for the past ten years and is hopelessly out of touch with the local situation. We have already found out that you can't run railroads without taking in some Party members..."
--Allen W. Dulles at the Council on Foreign Relations, December 3, 1945. Republished in Foreign Affairs. Dulles notes that the French were making life difficult back then as well: "To complicate matters, the French have been saying that they could not set up an administration in the zone assigned to them until they knew what disposition was going to be made of the Rhine and the Ruhr."
Friday, November 07, 2003 French "Journalism:"
Here's a question that was recently asked at a French press conference with a spokesperson from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
"Yesterday, the American President gave Middle Eastern countries lessons in democracy and in fighting terrorism. Meanwhile, French authorities are in the process of investigating the possible involvement of an American company in corruption and bribes. Does President Bush have the right to give lessons while he, himself, is implicated in corrupt affairs?"
The American company to which the French journalist referred is Halliburton, which the French are investigating--together with a French engineering firm--in relation to a Nigerian gas contract. According to The Guardian, some view the French investigation into Halliburton as a tit-for-tat in response to the American government's judicial pursuit of Credit Lyonnais. The French journalist's claim that Bush has implicated in the affair has no basis in reality.
(Incidentally, the response of the Ministry spokesman was "No Comment.")
France is extending a warm welcome to Putin. Writes the (ever so slightly biased) AFP:
"The Putin-Chirac meeting should consecrate the solid franco-russian entente that was spectacularly demonstrated during the Iraqi crisis when these two countries, along with Germany, formed an anti-war front. In parallel, the foreign affairs ministers, Dominique de Villepin and Igor Ivanov will lunch together at the Quai d'Orsay. In the afternoon, Jean-Pierre Raffarin will receive the Russian vice-prime minister, Boris Aliochine..."
"Islam is part of the French landscape; it has a right to public recognition and respect; on condition that it respects republican rules and does not demand separate rights, special dispensations for women, various privileges and favours. The best thing we can wish for it is not "phobia" or "philia" but benevolent indifference in a market of spirituality open to all beliefs. If it no longer wants to suffer suspicion, it should engage in a reform as radical as that performed by Catholics or Protestants in the course of the past century. Until then it will remain, moderate Muslims included, the object of justified caution."
A report recently released by the Conseil d'analyse économique has noted a growing chasm between France's immigrant ghettos and its more well-to-do neighborhoods. Average household incomes in some poor neighborhoods have plummeted 15% over the past 12 years. In contrast, the household income of France's wealthier neighborhoods has only increased. The report cites French discrimination against immigrants as one cause of the problem.
The bodies of 17 German soldiers were recently exhumed from a mass grave in the region of St-Julien-de-Crempse. The soldiers had surrendered to French Resistance fighters during WWII in exchange for promises that their lives would be spared. The French then proceeded to execute the Germans.
In response to the recent EU-sponsored poll (see Monday's posting), Le Monde writes:
“But we leave the realm of legitimate criticism of a government’s policies when we practice—as do certain circles in Europe—a discourse of systematic and unilateral denunciation that demonizes Israel. This rhetoric implies that such a systematically criminal state cannot have its place among other states. From this criticism of a government one passes almost unconsciously to questioning the right of that country to exist. It matters little that those who hold these ideas are conscience of it or not, the fact remains: this spiteful, anti-Israeli anger is nourishing a new form of anti-Semitism that is becoming apparent in Europe.”
What is so absurd about this editorial in Le Monde is that it has been the French Left and its mouthpiece--Le Monde--that has for years denounced the actions of the Israeli government while turning a blind eye to the human rights atrocities rampant in other parts of the Middle East. (And if you think that the previous sentence suggested that criticizing Israel is anti-Semitic, read the previous sentence again). Now, in an effort to recast itself to a public with a short-term memory, Le Monde denounces the very actions of which it has consistently been guilty.
The French often believe that Americans are too quick to portray them as anti-Semitic. And occasionally, as the Andrew Sullivan quote from yesterday points out, they may be right (yes, I understand that Sullivan is English, but you get the point). However Le Monde's outrage at the fact that most Europeans believe that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace is simply hard to believe. It is also incredibly disconcerting that the French--who, given their recent past, should know better--can be so blind to the hateful sentiments that they have nurtured through their one-sided, Manichean discourse. For example, it is the French Left that has advocated boycotts--academic and economic--against Israel while embracing Russia in the "camp of peace" and conveniently forgetting about a bloodbath called Chechnya.
The French have unleashed a hatred that they now seek to disown. A mea culpa is long overdue.
"France denied Tuesday that it helped convince Saddam Hussein the United States would not invade Iraq in March...Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous dismissed as 'completely unfounded' the claims reportedly made by former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz during interrogations by U.S. officials."
On another note, Healing Iraq writes: "According to a poll by an Iraqi agency, only 3% of Iraqis want Saddam back and less than 40% want the Americans to leave immediately...Thousands of people are applying to be members of IP, FPS, and the civil defense force...Iraqis are providing intelligence to the CPA hourly."
Tuesday, November 04, 2003 Africa:
The situation in the Ivory Coast just keeps on deteriorating. Rebel groups have withdrawn from the government, and the latter has banned street demonstrations. As for France's 3,800 soldiers...well, they simply cannot stabilize the situation. Read more at the BBC.
Denis Boyle over at National Review also offers a damning glimpse. He writes: "France has been a conflicted leader in Ivory Coast. For one thing, France has a huge and growing Muslim population, and they're all on the side of the rebels — as the government discovered when it tried to arrest some of the rebel leaders in Paris, only to release them when Muslims in both Paris and the northern districts of Ivory Coast squawked. For another, the French method of "peacekeeping" is to put soldiers on the ground, concentrate them in a small area, then declare peace in the place where the soldiers are — but not where they aren't."
An EU poll of citizens of member countries found that the greatest threat to world peace was:
(1) Israel (59% of respondents)
(2) U.S. or North Korea or Iran (53%)
(3) Iraq (52%)
Syria was 6th, with only 37% of respondents deeming it a threat.
Sunday, November 02, 2003 Miscellany:
"Since that time, in what has been called the American century but might better be termed - considering Einstein, Freud, and the New York Times et al - the Jewish century, we have seen the continuation of mass murder covered up by lies, of oppression masked as economic opportunity, and of a so-called civilized society slaughtering innocent indigenents for profit, and then sitting back smugly while praising their own humanitarian self-satisfaction."
--via Jihad Unspun. It would be interesting to know where this flashy site got its money. Apparently one of the site's creators is Canadian.
With respect to the recent attacks on Iraqis and Americans, Jihad Unspun noted: "It is unlikely that the attacks targeting civilians are being waged by Arab Mujahideen These groups have no history of targeting civilians and with Mossad also operating inside the region along with approximately 2000 US mercenaries, it appears these attacks are a public relations move on behalf of Washington to garner support from the international community."
Also, the Financial Times reports: "Germany and France will on Monday night join forces in a last-ditch legal attempt to save themselves from the full impact of the EU's budget rules...France...is also set to break the rules for a third year in succession."