A datapoint on France.

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NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all translations to English are the work of this site's contributors.

Friday, January 30, 2004  

On January 19, I wrote about the car bombing against Aïssa Dermouche, the recently appointed Muslim prefect of the Jura region. There have since been two more attacks: a mail bomb sent to the Nantes high school attended by Dermouche's son and an explosion at the business school where Dermouche has taught. Although the police are not revealing any leads, an anti-North African, pro-monarchist group has claimed responsibility.


Thursday, January 29, 2004  

The Middle East Research Institute has a translation of the Al-Mada article (hat tip to LoFIP).

ABC News notes:

"According to the document, France was the second-largest beneficiary, with tens of millions of barrels awarded to Patrick Maugein, a close political associate and financial backer of French President Jacques Chirac.

Maugein, individually and through companies connected to him, received contracts for some 36 million barrels. Chirac's office said it was unaware of Maugein's deals, which Maugein told ABCNEWS are perfectly legal.

The single biggest set of contracts were given to the Russian government and Russian political figures, more than 1.3 billion barrels in all — including 92 million barrels to individual officials in the office of President Vladimir Putin.

Another 1 million barrels were contracted to the Russian ambassador to Baghdad, 137 million barrels of oil were given to the Russian Communist Party, and 5 million barrels were contracted to the Russian Orthodox Church."


Recommended Reading:

"Last year, France was indulging its illusion that it could galvanize all the antiwar, anti-U.S. sentiment to make itself the great global Uncola to America's Coca-Cola — the new balancer to America. It would be a win-win for President Jacques Chirac. He would enhance his political stature at home by opposing America and make France the supreme power in Europe, marginalizing Britain.

A year later, France was not only unable to stop the war, but it paid a big price in Europe. "It turned out to be lose-lose for France," remarked Peter Schwartz, head of the Global Business Network. By going to such lengths to oppose the U.S., and by denouncing those Europeans who sided with America, France drove pro-U.S. Europeans, like Poland and Spain, deeper into the U.S. camp, noted Mr. Schwartz. This, in turn, gave Poland and Spain more backbone to resist German and French demands for greater control over E.U. affairs.

France was not quite the elephant it thought it was, and the winds of anti-Americanism couldn't carry it any farther than its real economic and military weight. Thud."

--Thomas Friedman in The NY Times


United States:

John Kerry's cousin is the French environmentalist, Brice Lalonde. Lalond was Minister of the Environment under Mitterand in the late 1980's and is the founder of Génération écologique.



A recent study by the Institut national d’études démographiques uncovered the following details regarding immigration in France:

--Of all European countries, France's population growth depends the least on immigration (only one-fourth to one-fifth of French population growth being due to immigrants).

--In 1997-8, 130,000 immigrants asked to be naturalized in France (90,000 actually were). In comparison, as many as 500,000 immigrants have recently sought naturalization in each Spain, Italy, and Greece.

--The ferility rate in France is not heavily skewed by immigrant families. In 1991-1998, the number of children per woman in France was 1.72 in comparison to 1.65 children per French woman. Female immigrants represent only one-twelfth of child-bearing women in France.

More information (in French) on the study can be found here.


European Union:

"France and Germany intend to establish a European think tank, based in Brussels, to advance European ideas on the World stage."

--via EU Observer


Wednesday, January 28, 2004  
As it becomes indisputable that WMD claims in Iraq were exaggerated, it is also becoming increasingly clear that many of the voices against the war had their own fair share of problems. The BBC, which has led the journalistic pack in accusing Bush and Blair of lying, has been harshly criticized for flawed journalism. Some of those who shouted "no blood for oil" have, it seems, accepted oil themselves from a bloody regime. And Howard Dean, who personifies the anti-war position that contented itself with its moral superiority and failed to propose practical alternative solutions, is being soundly rejected by voters who are turned off by his anger and lack of a positive vision. Deception and mixed motives were no stranger to either the "Axis of Peace" or the "Axis of War." One certainty that emerges from this morass is that, as the old adage says, truth is the first casualty of war.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004  
Middle East:

On Sunday, Al-Mada, an Iraqi newspaper, published the names of more than 270 people alleged to have received oil from Hussein in 1999 (after 1991, Iraq's oil transactions were limited by the United Nations to exchanges for food and medication). These are people who often had little to do with the oil industry. They were allegedly assigned barrels of oil that were then sold to companies and then took the commission. The list includes two prime ministers, two foreign ministers, and the sons and daughters of various heads of state. This list includes approximately one dozen French figures. Here are some of the French figures implicated:

--Bernard Mérimée, former French ambassador to Rome and to the UN and relative of the famous 19th century French writer Prosper Mérimée. Bernard Mérimée is alleged to have profited from 3 million barrels of oil from Saddam.
--Charles Pasqua, former French Minister of the Interior (1993-5). He is alleged to have received 12 million barrels of oil. Pasqua has already been investigated by French courts for possible arms sales to Angola in 1993-4. Incidentally, a French court has issued an international arrest warrant for Pasqua's son, Pierre-Philippe, for financial misdealings with respect to Sofremi, an export business linked to the French Ministry of the Interior. Pasqua fils is currently in Tunisia.
--Patrick Maugein, head of the oil and gas company, Soco International and friend of Chirac. Maugein is alleged to have profited from 25 million barrels of oil from Hussein.
--Michel Grimard of the French-Arab Partnership Organization
--Gilles Munier, secretary-general of the French-Iraq Friendship Association.

Other figures that appear on the list include:
--The UK's George Galloway, who is mentioned in six contracts and, according to Le Monde, was "particularly well treated."
--Khaled: the son of Egyptian President Nasser
--The son of the Syrian Defense Minister
--The son of the president of Lebanon
--The daughter of the former Indonesian President Megawati
--The Russian Orthodox Church
--The Russian Communist Party
--The Palestinian Liberation Organization

The information from the list comes from Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), and Iraq's Minister of Oil is requesting Interpol's assistance in tracking down any funds.


Monday, January 26, 2004  
Religious Minorities:

The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy has weighed in on the hijab debate.



Blogorrhée has posted an interesting diagram of French political parties.


Middle East:

Back on January 16, I wrote about how a French court had attempted to release Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a member of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, from prison on the condition that he be expelled from France. The French court's ruling was overruled by a superior court. However, Slate is reporting that the German government, in order to facilitate the recent swap between Lebanon's Hezbollah and the Israeli government, asked the French government to release Lebanese prisoners. I wonder if there was any connection between the lower court's ruling and the German government's pressure.


United States:

"He is not guilty of anything. But you know how American justice works: they want to you plead guilty even if you are innocent."

--The lawyer of Franck Moulet, a 27-year old French student, who "joked" to a stewardess on an American Airlines flight to New York that he had placed a bomb in the plane's bathroom. After pleading guilty, Moulet was released with a fine.



--"The European Union is to consider lifting its arms embargo against China...But so far France is the only country to take such a strong public stance on revoking the ban, with many countries stressing the need to tread cautiously."

via IRIB news

--"...the People's Liberation Army was especially interested in buying French Mirage jets as well as French avionics and astronautical equipment."

via CNN

--"A Pentagon report in 2002 warned China was intent on developing a vastly more potent military, with its training focusing more on America as an enemy. For 13 consecutive years, China has made double-digit increases in the public budget for the 2.5-million strong People’s Liberation Army. Reported defence spending grew 17.6 percent to US$20 billion in 2002."

via Daily Times


European Union:

--"The UK and France are jostling over who is to head up a new European armaments agency, a crucial element of the EU’s common foreign and security policy...'The UK vision is capabilities-driven, the French vision is arms-driven,' he [a UK diplomat] said, arguing that London wanted to build the specific defence armory needed for the task in hand. 'This may not mean buying new shiny equipment…we could lease it instead of buying it,' he said, adding that Paris was more focussed on 'propping up ailing defence industries.' "

via EUpolitix

--"Across the [French] country statistics show that Euroscepticism remains a powerful force, with 54 percent of the public opposed to enlargement and only 18 percent thinking the the EU can "function well" with 25 members, according to a Eurobarometer poll in November."

via EU Business

--"The European Commission has rejected French calls to increase the minimum excise duty on tobacco."

via EUpolitix


Saturday, January 24, 2004  
All Americans Are __________:

" 'You buy my products,' says China. 'Yes, but you finance me,' replies the United States. It's the great alliance between the two empires of the 21st century. There is an agreement between the 1.3 billion individuals who are rushing to the factories on the Chinese coast in order to leave behind the agricultural misery and the 280 million richest people on the planet who want to continue to consume like madmen.

One day, things will be different. In twenty or thirty years, the first will despise the second for having once been their workers. But, for the moment, the ragged agricultural laborer is happy to flee the Mao-style rice fields, and the American consumer is ecstatic that he can change a shirt, television and, tomorrow, a car at bargain prices."

--Eric Le Boucher in Le Monde


French "Journalism:"

I have avoided Radio France Internationale since the war in Iraq because of its obsession with facile critiques of American policy. This morning, I tuned in with the hope of hearing about French politics, events in Africa, problems in the Middle East, etc. Imagine my disappointment, therefore, when I tuned in to RFI and heard a "special" program on: America after 9/11. RFI has a particular style of reporting: finding Americans or other angolophones who think that Bush is a raving lunatic and asking them to speak French. There was one rambling monologue after another that took up about 20 minutes during which only one viewpoint was presented: America was wrong to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. There was a cartoonist who described why he drew Bush as a monkey. Another described how he was now considered to be "honest and courageous" for criticizing Bush given the jingoistic atmosphere in the United States. Then there was an American who, after mentioning that he "detested" Bush, described how CNN is the cheerleader of the American army. Most of this report could have been produced six months ago: there was nothing timely about it with the exception of a few references to the upcoming presidential election and the unanimous hope among those interviewed that Bush would be crushed.

Let me be clear. My objection is not that RFI would dedicate a program to criticizing American foreign policy. My objection is how mindless that criticism is. The program was little more than opinions that were never challenged and never supported with any details. BBC presenters have clear biases, but one normally has the impression that they have done some research and are familiar with the opposing arguments. In contrast, the RFI program simply presented a parade of trite and denigrating stereotypes that had as much social value as hate speech.


Thursday, January 22, 2004  

The following is the final installment of a three-part translation of a speech by the French foreign minister (Dominique de Villepin) that was delivered on January 17 at UNESCO. Scroll down for parts I & II.

"The Clash of Civilizations Will Not Happen"

...Take, for example, the crises involving weapons proliferation: the approaches to Iran and North Korea must be different. The problem of Iran’s weapons program was resolved—or is on its way to being resolved—thanks to the determined action of France, Germany and the UK, who maintained pressure on Iran and have a direct interest in that region’s stability. The U.S., China and Russia, with the assistance of South Korea and Japan, are dealing with North Korea. All of these countries have ties to the North Korean problem, whether as a result of their geographic proximity or security arrangements. They have, therefore, a reason to implicate themselves more directly in the search for solutions in that region of the world, provided that these solutions respect the same rights and apply the same inspection guidelines as those sketched with respect to Iran. These are regional variations on a global, strategic theme.
This type of approach is particularly relevant to the Middle East—an unstable region where the stakes are immense and that risks exploding at any given moment. The crises that perpetuate themselves in that corner of the globe arise from very complex causes and risk creating feelings of permanent alienation. Without a political space in which it can express itself, this feeling of alienation finds an outlet in radical Islamism. Radical Islamism, in turn, seeks to channel this unhappiness against the West, which it accuses of denying cultural identities and of perpetuating injustices. Let us beware: if there is one single place where a clash of civilizations is to be feared—East vs. West, Islam vs. Christianity and Judaism—it is in the Middle East.

The international community must involve itself carefully, attentively and unselfishly in the transformation of the Middle East. We must act with a discriminating judgment in order to avoid contributing to political and religious extremism. This means taking into account each country’s uniqueness since the Middle East is neither homogenous nor undifferentiated. It also means returning dignity to people who are convinced that they have been, for decades, a pawn in others’ games. Finally, it means eliminating the belief that their exist double standards in international relations.

The Middle East needs a global strategy that is implemented gradually and with full awareness of that region’s different problems. The search for solutions to conflicts—in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—is a prerequisite to eliminating the atmospheres of instability and injustice that are intimately linked. We must put aside a “I won’t act until you act” negotiating style that gives control to the enemies of peace. We must risk making the first step. Everyone understands Israel’s security concerns. But the best guarantee of security is peace, and this is only attainable through a political solution that entails the creation of an independent, viable state in keeping with the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. In contrast, a purely security-based approach will only lead to more violence.

Along similar lines, we must encourage the modernization of the Middle Eastern states towards democracy. We must work towards their economic development with a cooperative spirit. We must think about the creation of a Middle Eastern organization of collective security. And we must organize a dialogue between cultures that will dissipate the sentiment that identities are being ignored. This strategy’s elaboration and implementation must be a joint project. And based on the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, the European Union has a wealth of experience in designing a framework of instruments and points of reference.

Ladies and gentleman, that which is true in the Middle East is equally valid elsewhere. In our global world, all situations that we once considered to be peripheral must be addressed in all of their diversity. Peace, security, and democracy form a virtuous circle that it is up to us to trace. But only the desire for justice and cooperation is capable of creating this circle.

It is up to us to win this battle that pits humanity against intolerance, dialogue against violence, and hope against confrontation, division and rupture. The forces of instability are on the march. But together and in a spirit of peace, we can construct a more just, more certain, and more unified world.

Thank you.


Recommended Reading:

LoFIP has translated here a Le Monde editorial on anti-Jewish conduct by France's Islamists.


Wednesday, January 21, 2004  

The following is part II of a three-part translation of a speech by the French foreign minister (Dominique de Villepin) that was delivered on January 17 at UNESCO. Scroll down for Part I.

"The Clash of Civilizations Will Not Happen"

...Our planet needs structural guidelines and regulatory mechanisms. The significance of nation-states is diminishing as new actors arise on the international scene. All of the multilateral mechanisms face a crisis, from the WTO to the Kyoto Protocol. Moreover, people feel that they have been abandoned to the uncontrolled forces of globalization. Traditional belief systems generally offer little support, and, as the traditional points of reference fade, a new moral system will be long in coming in this world dominated by technical systems and commerce. Assumptions regarding identity, religion and culture that are often based in fear are affirming themselves with unexpected strength in a world that risks becoming uniform.

And this is why we run the risk of significant confrontations. A world that seeks to deny cultural identities will only exacerbate them. A world that is perceived as unjust will only provoke allergic reactions. Now, terrorism seeks precisely to gather together all of this resentment into a bloc composed of modernity’s rejects. In furtherance of this goal, terrorism has acquired a strategic dimension, threatening us with an asymmetric conflict that pits the weak against the strong, the periphery against the center, and before which the traditional instruments of power seem to be futile.

The use of force is not an adequate defense against the glorification of sacrifice. Material power stumbles when faced with the intangible. Force cannot become a common problem-solving tool and must remain a last recourse. And this is why the terrorists want to drag us into confrontations, knowing that a war between cultural identities will likely destabilize the world. The clash of civilizations is a trap into which they seek to lure us.

In responding to this challenge, we have an advantage: the emergence of a global conscience that is opposed to disorder and instability. We also have principles and objectives to defend: the solidarity of people, the unity of the international community, the establishment of a world democracy.

Hopes increase with the retreat of national egoism, the beginning of shared sovereignty, the end to isolated corners of the globe that allowed dictators to thrive, the rapprochement of different people: there are many ideals that our countries ceaselessly defend against regimes that seeks to isolate their populations and to maintain them in the yoke of oppression and silence.

Never before have universal values so merited their name and never before has there been a better forecast for democracy. Synonymous with technological progress and modernity, globalization has created new centers of growth. People now understand that they belong to the same human community and that they face the same dangers. Across the globe, new nations are affirming their desires to take their place on the global stage: Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. A dynamic of regional regrouping has been unleashed, of which the European Union is the best example. This historical movement promises peace, security and prosperity.

This multipolar world is creating a new multilateral architecture. In a world in which the challenges are global, in which no state—no matter how powerful—can solve them alone, in which no state will accept solutions imposed upon them from the outside, it is essential to forge the unity of the international community around popular projects and demands for justice. These will lead to efficiency and legitimacy—two concepts that are inextricably linked. The new issues facing the world require collective responsibility. This, in turn, requires a true world democratic government that is able to efficiently handle the world’s problems, to deal with crises and formidable, strategic challenges, and to place concern for humanity at the center of globalization.

The European Union will play a unique role here. For half a century, the EU has endeavored to construct a coherent, efficient political system that is based on the diversity of its members and accepted by all of them. The EU does not presume to impose a democratic model but it merely offers the example of a geographical group that knew how to force open a way to unity in order to devise solutions to problems that were too overwhelming for individual states. Each of its members has willingly delegated some essential aspects of its sovereignty in order to create a space in which the fairest rules are imposed on all.

In a world susceptible to terrible ruptures, the world community must reflect the demands of the people: (1) the respect of cultural identities, because individuals, societies and beliefs want to be recognized in all of their uniqueness; and (2) sharing, because solidarity must be the corollary to power.

This is why we must abandon the status quo whenever it is a source of injustice and resentment. However we must not do so in a fashion that plays into the hands of those who would destabilize the world. The essence of the problem is: how do we eliminate a faceless enemy without creating new enemies, how can we lop off the hydra’s head so that it will never regenerate? The solution will require diverse approaches in response to the different, regional problems. Each one will demand a specific treatment, while, at the same time, requiring the recognition that crises are increasingly interlinked throughout the globe...


Religious Minorities:

"A van used as a schoolbus by a Jewish school in Strasbourg has been firebombed in what a community leader has called an apparent anti-Semitic attack, local police said on Tuesday."

--via Ha'aretz


Tuesday, January 20, 2004  

The following is part I of a three-part translation of a speech by the French foreign minister (Dominique de Villepin) that was delivered on January 17 at UNESCO.

"The Clash of Civilizations Will Not Happen"

At the beginning of the 1990’s, following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Communist regimes, some announced the end of history. Today, on the contrary, some fear a clash of civilizations. In the midst of multiplying, global fractures, the great cultural and religious spheres seem doomed to confront one another. Devoid of meaning and mourning progress, history seems to be pursuing a chaotic path in the shadow of fear and scorn.

I would like to express here my conviction: Far from forming homogenous and antagonistic blocks, civilizations can neither survive nor evolve without sharing, intermixing, and exchanging. History has taught us this: more than simply frozen realities, civilizations are living and constitute areas in which men, ideas and performances intermingle. These civilizations have always developed to the extent that they have been willing to borrow from others and to the extent of their metamorphoses through countless detours: the detour of Ancient Greek thought through the academic centers of Baghdad before reaching, via the Muslim Andalusia of Averroes, the heart of Christian Europe; or the sliding of the story of the Deluge from the cuneiform tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh into the Book of Genesis.

Today, all images and cultures are echoes of this “every-world” that Creole poets celebrated. Humanity should seize this opportunity and reconcile itself with this cultural diversity without renouncing the universal values of liberty, justice and tolerance. To understand another man’s position is to renounce the mysteries of nationality and ethnic purity that only divide people: We must find an equilibrium point where one identity—recognized and respected—can open itself to and welcome another.

If the notion of “civilization” first appeared in the 18th century in L’ami des Hommes by Mirabeau and in opposition to savagery and barbarism, people began in the 19th century to speak not of one civilization, but of several civilizations. In this shift from the singular to the plural was contained a new question: is this plurality of civilizations opposed to the civilization, recognized by Enlightenment philosophers in the modern West? Do not modernity and its corollaries—individual freedom, the shrinking and disillusionment of the world, the reign of technical skills—contradict the fundamentals of civilizations—national identities, religions and cultures? Thus an anxiety appeared—notably in Europe: If civilizations live and die, as Arnold Toynbee, Oswald Spengler and Paul Valery demonstrated, what is the future of the West?

With the advancement of globalization and its threat of uniformity, with identity crises and the revival of fundamentalism, we have reached a critical point in this analysis.

We can give in to the temptation of fear and fold in upon ourselves, at the risk of provoking the aforementioned clash of civilizations. We can ignore the cries of wounded cultural identities, at the risk of an explosive backlash. Or we can construct, on the basis of respect, openness and dialogue, a new equilibrium and a source of new resolve and energy. Civilizations can be citadels or agoras, places of conflict or meeting places. It is up to us to choose the world in which we want to live. It is up to us to act, with determination, in order to lay the foundations.

Today, we must quickly harness the forces of disorder and rupture in order to construct a world order that is concerned with understanding and justice. The urgency is great because new dangers are arising from every corner of the globe.

Since 9/11, we have entered an age of mass terrorism. It strikes every continent. It fuels extreme violence, destructive urges, an exaltation of sacrifice, and an erroneous interpretation of religion. Even though its objectives are global and even though it arises from the disorder that inevitably accompanies times of change, terrorism takes advantage of local conflict and conflates resentments. It seeks to unleash a spiral of violence and reprisals that will escape all control.

Muslim countries are paying a heavy price to the adherents of fanaticism and hate. In Casablanca, Bali, Istanbul and Baghdad, their citizens are the first to be hurt. Therefore nothing could be less true than to view to mass terrorism as the opposition of one bloc against another—the East vs. the West. Nothing could be worse than to fall into this trap of over-simplification. Above all else, the terrorists target, wherever these may be, the spirit of respect and tolerance, the eagerness for dialogue, and the desire for reform and modernization.

In these troubled regions, there is also a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This problem exploits the cracks in globalization, uses secret avenues, take advantages of borders. Owing to the trafficking of secret technologies and materials, terrorists may obtain weapons of mass destruction, increasing by tenfold their destructive capacities.

These acts of violence are only warning signs. The turbulence on the surface hides greater disturbances underneath. These problems lead one to ask if, in their mad rush to progress and wealth, our societies have not weakened humanity and unbalanced the planet. Environmental destruction continues inexorably. New diseases appear and spread, while famine continues to ravage impoverished people. In addition to attacks on biodiversity, there are threats to the richness and plurality of culture. The gaps between the development levels of different countries remain intolerable and fuel feelings of frustration and injustice among their victims.

There are many dangers that add to the world’s instability. Today, regional crises that have not been resolved—that the tension between the East and West keeps under control—risk spreading and joining forces. Wherever borders are perceived to be artificial and governments are seen as illegitimate, wherever cultural identities are denied and the rights of minorities are ignored, the conflicts that have continued sometimes for decades spread their destabilizing effects. And no power, alone, can claim to contain them. Today, even the most peripheral situation can unleash a global crisis.

All areas of crisis are henceforth linked, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from the Middle East to Africa. All of the elements of risk are concentrating themselves in areas of agitation and conflict. This is all the more true since globalization involves a process of decompartmentalization that spreads, in an almost instantaneous fashion, problems that start off as regional. In this fashion, epidemics, attacks on the environment, financial crises, and computer hacking become health, ecological and social disasters of enormous proportions. Once contained conflicts now establish secret connections with other wounds and scourges...


Monday, January 19, 2004  
Religious Minorities:

It is amusing to watch the French implement affirmative action policies, all the while fervently denying the fact. The French have long looked down upon the American “discrimination positive”—dismissed as a policy for a melting pot of a nation without a culture, where each new wave of immigrants was simply piled atop the previous one. Yet Chirac, under pressure from Sarkozy—the popular Minister of the Interior—appointed Aïssa Dermouche to be the prefect of the Jura region near the Swiss border (a prefect is a high-ranking civil servant who represents the State at the level of the département or region. Basically, his responsibility is to ensure that the central government’s marching orders are properly carried out at the local level). Dermouche was born in Algeria but immigrated to France at the age of 18 and was a business professor before assuming his political responsibilities.

In early January, Sarkozy had called for a “Muslim prefect,” noting in a refreshing burst of honesty that “There are parts of France and categories of French citizen who have loaded on their heads so many handicaps that if we do not help them more than we help others, they will never escape.”

Later, Chirac stated, “…last July, I said during a cabinet meeting that I would not accept a candidate for prefect who was not a French immigrant.” However Chirac, in an effort to distance himself from Sarkozy, vehemently denied that he was following any policy such as that pursued in America during the 1960’s. “The idea that someone could be nominated on the basis of their last name is deeply disturbing and unacceptable,” said the French president. One wonders, however, if Dermouche would have been appointed if his last name were Delhommais or Potet. In a valiant effort to distinguish between France’s affirmative action and America’s, the French newspaper, La Croix, writes “In speaking of a ‘Muslim prefect,’ Nicolas Sarkozy used a religious or cultural criterion. This is unconstitutional. That is why the socialist, Dominique Strausse-Kahn, although welcoming affirmative action à la française, ‘does not like Sarkozy’s phrase because it had overtones of affirmative action à l’américaine, which is based on ethnicity.” La Croix goes on to explain, “Affirmative action à la française is based on social or geographical criteria.” Frankly, the distinction escapes me. How is choosing Dermouche based on the fact that he comes from Algeria different than choosing Dermouche because he is of Algerian origin? Yet the French will try any argument in their efforts to distinguish themselves from the U.S.

The appointment of Dermouche is a sea change in French policy. This is a nation that does not gather national census data based on race, religion or ethnicity. The appointment was bound to elicit strong emotions—however few people would have guessed that Dermouche would be attacked in a fashion reminiscent of Birmingham circa 1963. At 4:30 AM on Sunday morning, Dermouche’s Saab was blown up (here is a picture of the car), twenty meters from the new prefect’s house in a posh neighborhood in Nantes. The explosion was so strong that it blew the car’s roof across the street and broke the windows of a nearby house. The Nantes state prosecutor has astutely noted, “There is no doubt that this concerns a criminal act,” and the French police are investigating possibilities among the extreme right or Islamists. However Jean-Marc Ayrault, the socialist deputy and mayor of the city, has warned against jumping to conclusions. He noted that the explosion might have been a random act of car combustion, "as happens regularly and unfortunately in big cities."


United States:

This must be a joke (at least I hope so):

"Each Yankee soldier who falls today in Iraq is a step towards the liberation of the peoples of the four continents....We affirm without complex our primary, secondary and tertiary anti-Americanism...The USA is the enemy of mankind...Organized on a transnational basis, the "Iraq Committees" are regrouped in a "Transnational Coordination of the Iraq Committees", and in Frenchspeaking Space (Belgium, France, Quebec, French-speaking Switzerland) in a "Frenchspeaking Coordination of the Iraq Committees".

The site links to the Parti Communautaire National-européen, which advocates the following:

"Europe's liberation implies a global withdrawal of the US. The end of american domination must intervene at the military level (disbandment of NATO) as well as at the economical level (nationalization of european based american companies and financial assets)...To remediate the present situation one must first discover the primary causes of the European Bankruptcy. This is important to give Europe the Moral, the ethics and the aesthetics wich have been so much lacking to this day. The question is simple to put : we only have to be masters in our land...Freedom can only be guaranteed by force...Europe must be in europan [sic] hands."


Sunday, January 18, 2004  
Religious Minorities:

Writes Will Hutton in The Guardian, “the French position since 11 September is much stronger and more coherent than our own because it is based on a systematic Enlightenment worldview…France is…right to insist that it will not support Islamic sexism; thus, the recent ban on wearing headscarves.”

However, nothing could be further removed from Enlightenment values than France’s current attacks on Muslim girls. While the Enlightenment fought against religious dogma and sought to place reason at the center of intellectual pursuits, it was Voltaire who wrote, in his Treatise on Tolerance, that “[a]n atheist who is rational, violent, and powerful, would be as great a pestilence as a blood-mad, superstitious man.” Enlightenment philosophers often expressed a certain disgust with nationalism and a concomitant emphasis upon the common links binding humanity. In his Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire wrote, “Such then is the human state that to wish for one's country's greatness is to wish harm to one's neighbors. He who should wish his fatherland might never be greater, smaller, richer, poorer, would be the citizen of the world.”

How, therefore, is the French government’s legislation the inheritor of Enlightenment ideals? Muslim girls are being denied the opportunity to have a secular education; and by denying them a French public education, the French government is pushing these children into religious schools. Moreover, the French government’s policy is little more than a nationalistic impulse to reinforce French identity through exclusion. The French government seeks to turn its public schools into Potemkin villages that ignore the reality of France’s millions of Muslims. That 13-year old girl who is forced to remove her veil before entering her classroom will place it back on when she exits the school doors. How will her classmates react to her differences then? Is it a lesson in tolerance to pretend that all individuals dress and behave in the same fashion? Isn’t it better to accustom children to their neighbor’s differences as soon as possible and to teach them to look beyond these differences to a common humanity? For Chirac, France’s immigrants and their sons and daughters are not sources of strength—there is nothing that the French believe that they can gain from them. Instead, they are only potential converts to the religion of the French state. Globalism is valued only to the extent that the rest of the world becomes more French.

And the victims of France’s policies extend beyond its Muslim population. The archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, has reported attacks on nuns in France and stated, “At a university in Paris, a woman wearing a small cross had it torn off by other students.”

During the Cold War, the American government created alliances with dubious States in order to combat Soviet atrocities. Perhaps this policy of tolerating lesser problems in order to combat a greater one was justified. Yet in the current battle against Islamism, the United States should not ally itself with secular fundamentalists in order to combat religious ones. On the contrary, the US government should reject an alliance of convenience and make clear that France’s intolerance is no more acceptable than that of the Taliban. Despite the taboo of intervening in a foreign nation’s internal affairs, President Bush should have voiced his support for the 5,000 demonstrators who marched in Paris on Saturday against the French government’s policy as well as for those 3,500 protestors in Lille, 1,800 in Marseille, 1,500 in Mulhouse, 2,400 in London, 1,000 in Brussels, 2,000 women in Beirut, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza City, and demonstrators in Baghdad. Such a move on the part of the American government would enable it to triangulate the issue, placing itself as a more moderate alternative to the fanaticism on both sides. Although the tragedy of 9/11 remains fresh in Americans' minds, Americans must not forget that Europe’s bloody twentieth century has taught us the dangers of secular zealots who seek to create their Kingdoms on earth through the persecution of others.


Friday, January 16, 2004  
Middle East:

Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, a member of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions (FARL--a group which, through violence, sought to establish a Marxist-Leninist state in Lebanon), was implicated by a French court in the 1980's murders of Charles Ray, deputy military attache at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, and Yacov Barsimentov, second secretary at the Israeli Embassy, as well as in the attempted murder of U.S. Consul-General Robert Homme in Strasbourg in 1984. In order to scare the French government into releasing Abdallah and in order to make France pay for its support of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, the FARL killled thirteen and wounded over 300 people during a series of bombings in Paris in 1985-6. Nonetheless, Abdallah was sentenced to life in prison in 1987.

However this past November, a French court ruled to release Abdallah on the condition that he leave France. The French court was convinced that Abdallah had put aside violence and wanted to reintegrate himself peacefully into Lebanon. Alternatively, the French court might have thought that Abdallah was free to carry out his murders, provided that they were not in France.

Yet under pressure from the French Ministry of Justice, another French court has now overruled the earlier decision and has ordered that Abdallah remain in prison. Abdallah's lawyer will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Moreover, the French lawyer accused the French judges of sharing "Mr. Bush's vision" of terrorism.


Middle East:

France is sending mixed messages to Iran. On one hand, Chirac declared this past Saturday that "Iran has its own particular attraction and Paris favors broadening the span of its ties and cooperation with your country...France and the EU wish to expand and strengthen their ties with Iran in political, cultural, and economic fields." Chirac went on to praise Iran's decision to limit its nuclear capacities and its cooperation in the Middle East peace process.

Then, yesterday, de Villepin offered an implicit critique of recent Iranian efforts to shut reformers out of elections and of Iranian government arrests of student demonstrators. In response, Hassan Rowhani, the head of Iran's National Security Council who is on a 3-day visit to France, took the opportunity to criticize the French government's efforts to ban the veil from public schools.

Despite Chirac's praise of Iran's compliance with nuclear weapons limitations, Iran may be taking liberties in its interpretation of its promises to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Reports CBS: "Iran agreed last year to halt uranium enrichment and allow wider inspections of its nuclear facilities...But diplomats tell Agence France-Presse that while Tehran appears to have stopped enriching uranium, it is still producing the centrifuges that make that enrichment possible, in case Iran wants to resume the process later on."

On an unrelated note, de Villepin--who is on a diplomatic tour of the Gulf--yesterday proposed a regional Gulf security organization under the auspices of the United Nations. One of the goals of the organization, which would include the five permanent Security Council members, would be to discourage terrorism and the development of WMD. It might rival the current Gulf Cooperation Council, which was created in 1981 and only includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


Thursday, January 15, 2004  

In an affront to end-to-end architecture, the French Assembly plans on making ISPs liable for the content that passes through their servers. The bill obligates ISPs to filter criminal content, such as hate speech. An organization called Odebi is protesting the proposed law, arguing that private organizations should not be granted the role of censors and claiming that the additional responsibilities cast on the ISPs will increase costs, which will be passed on to consumers. Odebi also notes that since multiple websites may share the same numerical IP address, the blocking of one illegal site may result in a denial of access to many legitimate sites.


Religious Minorities:

Despite the French government's efforts to ban the veil from public schools for the cause of a secular state, it is interesting to note the number of Catholic state holidays in France. Christmas is a given, but how about : Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Assumption Day, and All Saints' Day. These are days when French state offices and schools are closed. Of the eleven official holidays in France, six of them are Catholic-based.

Incidentally, what the French Revolution could not eliminate, France's financial woes may. The French government is proposing to take back Whit Monday in order to raise tax revenues.


United States:

In the following excerpts from this Le Monde editorial, one can see the fear of some French in reaction to American progress in space. It is difficult to take charges of unilateralism seriously when they are leveled against any step that the United States takes without first consulting the French president.

"America's new ambitions in space, as expressed by George W. Bush, on January 14, signal a rupture with the period of internationalization that has predominated over the course of the last thirty years. After the Apollo program, which was completed in 1972, there were experiments with the Spacelab, Mir, and the ISS that gradually involved different nations, culminating in the construction of the Space Station. While the conquest of the moon crystallized the East-West rivalry during the Cold War, space played a more peaceful role at the end of the century...

For Europe, the situation is sensitive. Even if Jean-Jacques Dordain, the head of the European Space Agency, applauded America's renewed ambitions in space, Europe's role in this new era is far from clear. Will we play a minor, diplomatic role or will we be a true, technological partner? The growing dominance of Airbus over its rival Boeing illustrates the types of battles that will take place over the corridors of space."

What is so difficult to understand is the sense of entitlement that the authors of this article feel. Four thousand researchers in France recently addressed a petition to the French government, accusing it of neglecting funds for pure research purposes. R&D constitutes only 2.2% of the French budget. In contrast, R&D constitutes roughly 5% of the US government expenditures in 2003. The "partnership" that the French seek will not be obtained by miserly French expenditures on R&D accompanied by efforts to get a free ride off of American taxpayers through cries of "unilateralism."


Wednesday, January 14, 2004  
United Nations:

Mark your calendars:

February 21: International Mother Language Day
October 1: International Day of Older Persons
June 26: International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
April 7: International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

These are some of the 55 special days that have been approved by the UN General Assembly


Recommended Reading:

LoFIP has an update on the fate of the French journalists imprisoned in Pakistan as well a translation of a British sociologist's critique of France's anti-veil legislation.


European Union:

The EU is investigating yet another possible instance of regulatory violations by the French government. This time the investigation involves French aid to the semi-public France Telecom (55% owned by the State). A loan offered by the French government to France Telecom and statements by the French Finance Minister, Francis Mer, dating back to 2002, such as: "If France Telecom has financial difficulties...the State will take the necessary decisions to ensure that the difficulties are overcome," may have violated EU regulations that limit certain types of governmental support and subsidies. At the time that the statements were made, France Telecom was facing a liquidity crunch and had 70 billion euros in debt.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004  
Religious Minorities:

The latest victim of French secular fundamentalism? A 13-year-old girl.



It's official: The European Commission will challenge exceptions made last November in the Stability Pact for France and Germany. The French government's response? "[N]ot worried."


French "Journalism:"

As the US presidential elections draw closer, expect the French press to increase its criticism of the Bush administration. Cases in point:

--The most popular article on Le Monde's website as of today was entitled "They Hate Bush." It discusses anti-Bush sentiment among Americans and contains phrases such as "One finds every type imaginable in the group of Bush haters--senators' moms, artists, renowned journalists who expose their hatred like one who is finally coming out and is getting rid of a great burden..." Incidentally, in the same article, Matt Drudge is described as "the poster boy of the Right;" whereas Paul Krugman is the "distinguished Princeton University economics professor" and "intellectual icon of all Bush-haters."

--Le Courrier International, which is owned by Le Monde, finds a way to criticize Bush's rumored plans to revitalize America's space program. The program is deemed to be nothing more than a campaign ploy, which is an argument that rings hollow whether uttered in the French or American press. It suggests that something that a President does during any of his four years (and, in particular, his first four years), is something other than political. In addition, the fact that Bush might announce a new space commitment during his campaign does not make his commitment less sincere than any of his other commitments. On the contrary, the fact that a President would be willing to make such a promise during a campaign--when the voters will soon have the opportunity to vote on his platform--identifies the politician more, rather than less, with his campaign promises. The end of the article reads, " 'Big projects attract people's attentions,' emphasizes an official source from the Bush administration. One might cite, as an example, President Bush's involvement in Iraq." It takes a truly active imagination to compare sending a man to Mars to the war in Iraq.

--Le Courrier International also criticizes U.S. efforts to convince other countries (such as France) to forgive Iraqi debts. The gist of the article is that Iraq is wealthy enough to pay off its debts and that poorer countries with overwhelming debts should be the focus of the American government's attention. However it is not clear why Iraqi money should be spent on rewarding countries or businesses that loaned money to Hussein instead of on rebuilding the infrastructure of the country. Even though Iraq does have oil reserves, this is not an argument that the money should be used to line the pockets of French bankers instead of being used to provide better education, health care and jobs for the Iraqis. Furthermore, even though a change in government does not absolve a country of the previous regime's debts, there is something to be said for a diplomatic policy that discourages lending money for dubious purposes to dictators.


Monday, January 12, 2004  
& the UK:

"Britain's and France's experiences of the second world war were profoundly different. Britain's memories are of lonely and dogged resistance of 1940, and of the support of the Empire and of the United States in winning final victory. France remembers not just the contribution of the Resistance and French forces to the eventual defeat of Nazism, but also the horrors of invasion and occupation. Inevitably, our approaches to Europe in the decades after the war were shaped by these experiences. France's overwhelming priority was to build a framework where war with Germany, which it had suffered three times in seventy years, would be made impossible. And General de Gaulle was determined to recover French national pride through leadership in Europe. Britain's first reaction to European integration was to treat it as something which did not concern us; only later did we decide to be part of it. Our experience during the war convinced us deeply that keeping the strongest possible relationship between Europe and the US was the cornerstone of our security and prosperity...

Our differences over Iraq were, in essence, differences over how best to maintain the authority of international rules. I respect the position which France took, and it is a matter of regret to me that we were divided over it. But Britain went to war in Iraq, as a last resort, because Saddam Hussein was still defying the international community after 12 years of discussion and 17 UN resolutions. We felt that international law without enforcement would become a dead letter. If we had failed to live up to the tough words of the unanimous Resolution 1441 and its many predecessors, we would have not only been left with the continuing threat from Iraq: our ability to persuade others to respect international standards would also have been much diminished."

--Jack Straw, in his speech celebrating the Entente Cordiale, a 1904 agreement in which France and England agreed to respect one another's colonial conquests in Northern Africa.


Sunday, January 11, 2004  
European "Journalism:"

"What distinguishes the British soldiers from their American counterparts in Baghdad is the British willingness to communicate, their sense of humor, and their rejection of all vulgarity and clumsy propaganda."

--German journalist Peter Scholl-Latour in this French translation from an article in Welt Am Sonntag.

Often underlying European critiques of American vulgarity are implicit criticisms of America's fluid social hierarchy and large immigrant population. Dominique de Villepin, with his aristocratic last name and as the son of a French senator, simply cannot be "vulgar." As this Belgian newspaper notes, de Villepin has the "natural elegance of the well-born, of the very well-born." Canada's CBC has described him as "elitist and arrogant." In contrast, de Villepin's American counterpart, Colin Powell, is the son of Jamaican immigrants and the product of the South Bronx. The commander of the coalition forces in Iraq is another "vulgar" American--Ricardo Sanchez--who was born dirt poor in Rio Grande City, Texas into a Mexican-American family. In contrast to the European stereotype of American soldiers as Bible-thumping, culturally isolated, trigger-happy adolescents, Sanchez grew up in a land between two countries and, in order to succeed, had to demonstrate an awareness of different cultures. Yet Powell and Sanchez do not have the skin color, bank accounts, or backgrounds that are necessary to gain access to European corridors of power. One can therefore understand a certain European frustration that such individuals should wield power in today's world.


Saturday, January 10, 2004  
Journalism (Update):

A Pakistani court has sentenced the French journalist Marc Epstein and news photographer Jean-Paul Guilloteau to 6 months in prison and a 1,350 euro fine apiece for violating Pakistani immigration laws (see December 21 posting). The Pakistani prosecutor had sought a 3-year sentence. Epstein and Guilloteau's lawyers is appealing the case. A hearing for Khawar Mehdi Rizwi, a Pakistani journalist who accompanied Epstein and Guilloteau and has been denied, since his arrest, any contact with the outside world, is scheduled for January 13.

Le Courrier International quotes an anonymous Western diplomat as stating, "The message of the Pakistani government to foreign journalists who challenge Pakistan's image of itself has been made eminently clear."


Terrorism (Update):

French intelligent services (i.e. the "DST") are now claiming that ben Chellali and others arrested last Tuesday (see January 8 posting) near Lyon were planning a chemical attack on French soil. The French are also claiming that ben Chellali provided false papers, money, explosives and lodging to those who were planning an attack on a Russian delegation back in December 2002.

Further details include:

--Menad, ben Chellali's eldest son (the younger one being currently in Guantanamo), unsuccessfully tried to enter Chechnya in order to fight against the Russians. He allegedly encouraged the younger people in his neighborhood to give him their passports and, if asked, to report them as "lost" to French authorities.
--The French are building up an argument to expel ben Chellali, an Algerian citizen, back to his land of birth.


Friday, January 09, 2004  
French "Journalism:"

Le Monde begins its coverage of Bush's recent immigration announcement with the following lead:

"Only 10 months away from the Presidential election, George Bush has proposed to regularize illegal immigrant workers by according them a legal status limited to three years but renewable. This regularization is temporary and the illegal workers will not be able to obtain the "greed card" of permanent residents."

One-third of the article consists of a section entitled "Negative Reactions," which notes, "Although the United States has historically been a country of immigrants, the arrival of new immigrants provokes negative sentiments in American society." It also criticizes Bush's plan for not according the illegal immigrants full US citizenship status.

Deutsche Welle suggests that Le Monde's reaction to Bush's proposal was typical of the European press. Rather than noting the differences between American and European immigration policies, the European press chose to dismiss Bush's ideas as a political ploy that did not go far enough.

Meanwhile, the French Interior Minister has signed an agreement with Hong Kong designed to stem the flow of illegal Asian immigrants into France.


European Union:

Yet another case of France flouting European Union regulations. This time it's safety regulations. What is amazing is how the French government doesn't even bother to respond--let alone comply--with the adverse court decision.


Religious Minorities:

The international backlash against the French government's secular fundamentalism is growing. The prominent Egyptian cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has threatened to sue the French government (presumably in French courts) over any legislation that bans the veil from public schools.

Jordanian protesters demonstrated outside the French embassy in Amman, asking whether France wants a "war with Islam."

In Iran, 60 professors at Al-Zahra University wrote a letter to Chirac, claiming that the proposed French legislation would violate the "human right" to education.

In Gaza City, hundreds of female supporters of Islamic Jihad marched through the streets, chanting "Islamic women against the French orders."

The Canadian Islamic Congress addressed the following letter to the French government:

"We consider this move to be a regressive one which clearly violates Muslims' democratic freedom of religion and the human rights of some five million French citizens -- especially those of Muslim women who wish to exercise their rights and freedoms in a democratic and liberal French society.

If your country's proposed legislation against religious clothing becomes law, it would set a very dangerous precedent for the further erosion of the rights of religious minorities in other Western countries. It would signal a return to the ugly period of the Inquisition and place France outside the world's civilized community.

We therefore sincerely hope that your government will reconsider the passing of this legislation. For the sake of France, its citizens, and its global neighbours, the anti-Islam law deserves to die before it kills the rights of countless patriotic and law-abiding Muslim citizens."

In stark contrast to the denunciations of the French action, the French Council of the Muslim Faith is discouraging protests against the proposed French legislation. The Council, which some consider to be a Muslim Uncle Tom, was established with the support of the French government in order to encourage the development of a French form of Islam, distinct from its North African and Arab relatives. Dalil Boubakeur, the chairman of the Council, is quoted as saying: "Demonstrations in the name of religion are very dangerous."


Thursday, January 08, 2004  
European Union:

The French government often casts itself as the defender of cultural and linguistic diversity. This generally means nothing more than promoting French culture and language. Case in point, on January 6, the French National Assembly unanimously passed a bill that shamelessly promotes the French language in the European Union all under the banner of linguistic diversity. With the imminent increase of EU member countries to 25, the EU representatives are currently trying to determine the working languages of various committees. The French Assembly's bill, whose goal is to combat "the growing hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon model," noted with alarm that only 30% of EU documents in 2001 were originally composed in French, as compared to 58% in 1998. In order to fight the possibility that one language other than French might predominate in the Union, the French National Assembly recommends that:

--French and English be used at all meetings of the Common Foreign and Security Policy committee.
--French, German and English be used at all meetings of permanent EU representatives
--French be taught in all schools throughout the European Union as well as to all European Union officials.

But, if the goal is linguistic diversity, then why choose French and not Spanish, Italian or Polish? In fact, to promote real diversity, one might select one of the less popular languages such as Maltese, in order to ensure its presevation. The likely response to this argument is that the French language used to occupy English's role as the lingua franca of business and international affairs. Yet this was in the past, and why should the European Union favor the language now when English is far more popular? The National Assembly's efforts serve as yet another example of France trying to throw its weight around in its efforts to dominate the European Union.


Religious Minorities:

In the early morning hours of January 6, masked and armed men broke down the doors of several Muslim households in search of the 59-year-old Chellali ben Chellali. Not finding their target, they grabbed, instead, ben Chellali's wife and son and searched their apartment, emptying drawers onto the floor, confiscating their mail, and taking their cell phones--including that of ben Chellali's 12-year old daughter. ben Chellali, himself, was later found outside the apartment.

Baghdad? Felluja? No, this scene transpired near Lyon, and the masked and armed men were members of France's intelligence service, the DST. Their actions were part of a larger French investigation to find those responsible for allegedly preparing a chemical attack against a Russian delegation in Paris back in December of 2002 in order to protest Russian massacres in Chechnya. In addition, the French police might have feared that these men and women (ben Chellali's wife was also taken into custody) were planning a new attack on French soil.

ben Chellali, who immigrated to France in the 1970's, is an imam belonging to the Salafist sect . He had previously been detained by the Croats in Bosnia (ben Chellali's friends claim that he was just "delivering medicine"). One of his sons left France for Pakistan in June 2001 and was captured by the Americans in Afghanistan. He is currently in Guantanamo.

André Gérin, the Communist mayor of the ben Chellali's hometown of Vénissieux, praised the DST's action, stating that it "will help to limit all of these cells and this radical and political Islam that is harming our neighborhoods. For too long, this movement of obscurantism and violence that feeds off of the most disgusting activities has rotted our neighborhoods."

Needless to say, members of ben Chellali's neighborhood did not share in the mayor's sentiments. About 50 of them gathered yesterday to discuss the arrests and vowed "revenge." Writes Al Jazeera, "Support for the Chechen cause is strong amongst France's Muslims, as it is throughout Muslim communities all over the world."


Wednesday, January 07, 2004  

Some legal developments highlight the tension between the EU and France:

First, the European Commission is planning to take legal action against France for restrictions on tourist operations in France. Only tour guides approved by the French government can host tours in designated French museums and other sites; however the labyrinthine application process is alleged to be difficult for foreigners to fathom. France ignored a European Commission warning last April regarding this issue, and the European Commission's action risks a confrontation with France's influential CFE-CGC union.

Foreign tourist guides may be the least of France's problems, however, if EU lawyers decide to challenge the recent suspension of the Stability Pact's deficit rules for France and Germany in the EU Court of Justice. The European Commission has until January 25th to challenge the French and German exceptionalism.

Finally, the French government is investigating corrupt former employees and partners of Eurostat, the European Union's statistical office. Several individuals, including Yves Franchet, Daniel Byk and Hervé Charlot, have been implicated in the slush funds and accounting frauds that occurred at the end of the 1990s and involved over-charging for services to the tune of millions of euros.



Michael Radu, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, describes how various European countries (but Germany in particular) have paid off terrorists. According to Radu, after Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat kidnapped 32 European tourists last year, the German and Swiss governments may have paid as much as 1 million euros per head for some of the hostages. Radu writes that Germany's efforts to buy off terrorism is not new: "In 1974 it [the German government] paid 2 million marks for the release of a citizen kidnapped in Chad; and according to reliable Turkish sources, it made a deal with the terrorist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) to permit the PKK to operate freely in Germany in exchange for not engaging in violence there."


Tuesday, January 06, 2004  
Middle East:

An Islamist group called Ansar el-Haq (The Apostles of Justice) has called Agence France-Presse’s Cairo bureau to claim responsibility for the recent Flash Airlines crash in the Red Sea. Given Egypt’s response to the 1999 Egypt Air Flight 990 crash off of New York (which the Egyptian media blamed on the U.S. and Israel) and the fact that the Egyptian government’s denial of any terrorist involvement in the Flash crash was practically simultaneous with the crash, I don’t trust any declarations or denials of the Egyptian government with respect to the crash. However French attorney general, Dominique Perben, has stated that the Ansar el-Haq claim lacks credibility, and I don’t see any reason for the French to cover up a terrorist attack.

Ansar el-Haq’s claim is nonetheless interesting because, in the same phone call to AFP, the group also threatened to attack Air France unless the French government reconsiders its ban on the veil in public schools. This may be nothing more than an ugly prank call designed to drum up publicity; however it may also point to a potentially violent backlash against Chirac’s crackdown on veils in French public schools.


Recommended Reading:

David Brooks writes, in The NY Times, of the myth of the neoconservative conspiracy that has become the Gospel in certain European circles. Writes Brooks:

"Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposé on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators...And if you can give your foes a collective name — liberals, fundamentalists or neocons — you can rob them of their individual humanity...You can say anything about them. You get to feed off their villainy and luxuriate in your own contrasting virtue."

Brooks accurately describes the French media mindset that cast Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle as Rasputins who slinked about the Beltway and cast their almost mystical influence over the Bush administration. Brooks also, I think, gets the motivation right--to simplify and thereby more easily dismiss and demonize one's opponents. Rather than grappling with the multiplicity of factors that led a country as large as the United States with its multiple constituencies to endorse an undertaking as vast as the Iraq war, French intellectuals conjured up their own strawmen--alleged masterminds driven by money or Zionism who hijacked the US government.


Monday, January 05, 2004  
International Law:

In a recent interview with the BBC, Jack Straw made reference to the legal mechanism which will help to define Coalition forces' status in Iraq after the establishment of a sovereign Iraqi government. The devise is known as a Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) which defines the rights and responsibilities of soldiers from one country (“sending state”) who are placed in a friendly, foreign state (“receiving state”). According to one source, the United States has SOFAs with more than 90 different countries (although the State Department only cites around 50), and their details vary widely. It should be noted that the US is not unique in the negotiation of these agreements. The UN generally negotiates a similar instrument, called a Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA), before embarking on peace-keeping operations. The UN SOMAs generally exempt soldiers on the mission from trial in local courts for crimes committed in the course of their duties.

In general, the US SOFAs treat issues ranging from susceptibility of US military personnel to local incomes and sales taxes to the liability of US soldiers under local criminal laws. For example, a SOFA might indicate that conduct that is a crime only in the receiving state will often be tried in the receiving state’s courts. In instances of concurrent jurisdiction (where the conduct at issue is against the law of both the sending and receiving state), the sending state often asserts primary jurisdiction when the victim of the crime is from the sending state or when the crime was committed during “official conduct.” To take one example, the multilateral SOFA that exists among NATO members provides, in part, that:

“the military authorities of the sending State shall have the right to exercise within the receiving State all criminal and disciplinary jurisdiction conferred on them by the law of the sending State over all persons subject to the military law of that State;”

Even when the receiving state, under the terms of a SOFA with the US, has authority to try US military personnel, the US insists on certain safeguards, ranging from an impartial court to prohibitions on confessions extracted through torture.

Incidentally, it is via the instrument of the SOFA that the US government has tried to get around the International Criminal Court, by driving a legal truck through the Rome Statute’s Article 98 exceptions (details on and an argument against the US’s legal argument can be found here ).


Middle East:

There are rumors that Ariel Sharon is planning to visit Paris. I find this hard to believe, but, if true, it would make the European reception of Bush in London look positively friendly.


Saturday, January 03, 2004  

In an unintentional act of irony, those who brought AK-47's, hand grenades, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and anti-aircraft missiles into a holy place of worship have accused those who removed these weapons of not respecting religion.


Recommended Reading:

Christopher Hitchens has a great piece in Slate on the dissimilarities between the Battle of Algiers and current operations in Iraq. Sample quote:

"I would challenge anybody to find a single intelligent point of comparison between any of these events [surrounding the Battle of Algiers] and the present state of affairs in Iraq. The only similarity that strikes the eye, in point of guerrilla warfare, is that the toughest and most authentic guerrilla army in Iraq—the Kurdish peshmerga—is fighting very effectively on the coalition side. Not even the wildest propaganda claims of the Baathist and jihadist sympathizers allege that the tactics of General Massu are being employed by General Abizaid or General Sanchez: Newspaper and political party offices are being opened not closed, and just last month the Saddam ban on Iraqi pilgrims making the hajj to Mecca was rescinded."


Religious Minorities:

Several articles are printed each day on the French government’s approach to Islamic veils in school. Most of these articles are indistinguishable from one another. Here, however, are a few of the more interesting ones:

The reaction from the Arab world has, not surprisingly, been negative. In Iran, the Ayatollah Ahmad Janati called for a reevaluation of diplomatic and business ties between Arab countries and France, while thousands of Iranian Muslims shouted “Death to France” after a mosque sermon that condemned French efforts to ban the veil from state schools. France's few Sikhs are also becoming more vocal and have called upon India's Prime Minister Vajpayee to pressure the French government to exempt turbans from any legislation. According to this article from the Hindustan Times, "Sikh men in France are often refused identity cards because they will not take off their turbans. Some schools have expelled Sikh pupils for wearing turbans." Interestingly, the article also notes that "Sikhs enjoy exemptions in other European countries, such as one in Britain dropping a requirement to wear a crash helmet when riding a motorcycle."

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, on the other hand, has supported France's power to ban the headscarf; however his rationale is worrisome. He stood behind the declarations of the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar mosque, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, who had earlier stated: "If a Muslim woman is in a non-Muslim country, like France, for example, whose officials want to adopt laws opposed to the veil, it is their right." The reason that I find this rationale troubling is that it suggests that a Muslim cannot fulfill the full extent of her religious obligations outside of lands ruled by Muslim governments. This goes beyond rendering unto Caesar's that which is his and seems to support Islamic theocracies. If Muslims can only truly be Muslims under the leadership of a Muslim, then what future is there for secular states in the Middle East?

Meanwhile, the English-language Arab News notes that many of the most fashionable veils in the Middle East come from French fashion houses, suggesting that France has literally manufactured the veil controversy. The Arab News also presents a paean to the eroticism of women's hair.

In order to gain perspective on the problems between the French government and France's sizable Muslim community, this article from the New Zealand Herald describes the French love affair with bureaucracy. The French government employs 25% of the French workforce and occupies an intrusive yet welcome role among the French populace. In order to boost the number of French natives, "each year the President awards Medaille de la Famille Francaise to women who have large families, something that would not be out of place in North Korea. Women who have at least four children get a bronze; there's a silver for those with six or seven offspring; and those with eight kids or more hit the jackpot with a gold medal." Although the article does not directly address the veil controversy, its description of overwhelming French dependence upon the State for solutions and economic welfare helps to explain why the French are so set upon a forceful integration emanating from the central government in ways that seem to trespass upon individual rights.

Finally, although the above articles might suggest that Islam is having to conform itself to European ways, an article by Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post (registration required) on the Egyptian-born historian Bat Yeor presents a slightly different viewpoint: Europeans are growing ever closer to the Arab world. In France, Yeor traces the roots to de Gaulle's efforts to weaken the alliance between the United States and Europe. Says Yeor, "The Arabs were to give France strategic independence from the US. France's attempt, first through the European Economic Community and now through the European Union to create a unified European foreign policy, in competition with the US and led by France, sees European alliance with the Arab world as one of the primary sources of this strategic independence." It was this strategic alliance, according to Yeor, that was partially responsible for a liberal immigration policy between Europe and the Arab world, and this alliance has continued up until today. Yeor notes that when Chirac visited Egypt in 1996, "Chirac proclaimed that Europe and Muslims should write history together."

It will be interesting to see whether the goodwill that France has acquired in the Arab and Muslim world as the result of its opposition to the war in Iraq will be squandered over the veil.


Friday, January 02, 2004  
Miscellaneous (Middle East):

Despite approximately one hundred American humanitarian aid workers who were sent to the earthquake-devastated Iranian city of Bam and the temporary easing of American sanctions against Iran in order to provide support for the earthquake victims, anti-American sermons were still delivered in Bam's Saheb Alzaman mosque. Said Asghar Asqari, "I hope for the day when we will cut off the hands of our American and Israeli oppressors, of these belligerent forces that are occupying Iraq and Palestine, in order to replace them with hands that offer, assistance, friendship and humanity." In Tehran, the ayatollah Ahmad Janati claimed that the US was "trying to take advantage of the situation, but the Americans have received a slap in the face." Despite the devastation that has killed at least 30,000 Iranians, the Iranian government rejected offers of assistance from Israel.


New Years:

In what is becoming a French tradition, hundreds of cars were set on fire in poor neighborhoods throughout France on New Years Eve.


Thursday, January 01, 2004  
French "Journalism:"

One of the most popular articles on Le Monde's website is a piece entitled, "In the US, Colin Powell is distancing himself from Donald Rumsfeld's strategy." The article is really just a blurb that strings together some quotations from Powell, such as one that notes that the strategy of the Bush administration is "not characterized by a strategy of preemptive strikes." Powell's comment that "it would be ridiculous to state that Bush's foreign policy has been perfect" is somehow interpreted by Le Monde as a "conciliatory" gesture towards Europe.

Powell's op-ed in The NY Times presents a slightly different point of view. Writes Powell, "President Bush's vision is clear and right: America's formidable power must continue to be deployed on behalf of principles that are simultaneously American, but that are also beyond and greater than ourselves...Freedom cannot flourish and prosperity cannot advance without security, and this we are determined to achieve."

The French have a strange fixation with Powell, believing that he would embrace their foreign policy if only he were free to speak his mind. Their portrayal of Rumsfeld vs. Powell is like some Manichean battle between the forces of darkness and light. Yet the French journalists are making a mountain out of a mole hill. While Rumsfeld and Powell clearly have their differences of opinion, Powell often refers to the work that he and Rumselfd are doing together (in this interview, Powell mentions how he and Rumselfd have been seeking greater NATO cooperation), and they are closer to one another than either is to the French. Powell does not sound anything like de Villepin when he states, "Syria still doesn't get it that they have to abandon support of terrorist activity. They've got to return any Iraqi monies that they might have in their bank...And we're trying to persuade them that, you need to get out of the hole that you had been in for all these years, and you need to start getting rid of weapons of mass destruction programs, stop supporting terrorist activities which destabilize the region, and come out and start participating in the 21st century world that has benefits for you, if you will get rid of this kind of behavior. "

French journalists want there to be strife in the Bush administration and are desperate to find a sympathetic face in the American government. They are willing to engage in a kind of wish fulfillment journalism when reality runs counter to their illusions.


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