US bears all blame, say French elites

"We are all Americans!" proclaimed the uncharacteristic but dramatic and poignant headline in Le Monde, France's left-wing newspaper, on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the dastardly terrorist attacks on the United States of America. Six years later, the sympathy that rightfully characterized French reactions to infamy and abomination has regrettably vanished. Instead editorials, op-eds and commentaries in France last week almost unanimously blamed America for making the world a far more dangerous place to live, hypocritically rued what they described as America’s loss of prestige and “moral authority," and expectantly looked to French diplomats to broker some sort of international ceasefire and restore peace, love and understanding to a troubled world. They may as well look for them in Sesame Street.

Le Monde, the business daily Les Echos, the center-right Le Figaro, respected commentators on the radio, and prominent political scientists all deplored the fact that American foreign policy in general and the Iraq War in particular have -- as they see it -- directly contributed to today’s instability and insecurity.

If Bin Laden is still at large, defiantly cocking a blood-stained snoot at America through his well-publicized videos, if the Taliban fiend is once again rearing his ugly head in Afghanistan, if Iran is provocatively forging ahead with its nuclear weapons program, and if places like Pakistan, Indonesia, and Africa have become highly-inflammable tinderboxes, the blame (by this account) should unequivocally be laid at America’s door.

In Les Echos, on the 6th anniversary of the New York attacks, a regular columnist called Favilla went so far as to suggest that the American response to terrorism so far has generated so much hatred and sympathy for radical Islam among European-born young Muslims that many of them may well now be contemplating the destruction of the political and philosophical foundations of Europe.

The most striking thing about all these comments was their failure, deliberate or not, to even identify the threat coming from radical Islam. Instead, referring to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in particular, all of them insisted on America’s perceived inability to live up to its own democratic and humanitarian ideals and its supposedly ignorant and wrong-headed insistence on seeing the world in terms of good and evil.

Favilla explained that “the gap between [American] rhetoric on human rights and [American] acts at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib has completed the moral decay of the Western World”. The same day, in an editorial called “Of The Vanity of [American] Power”, the coat-turning Le Monde snidely drew attention to what it sees as America’s authoritarian and implicitly xenophobic, if not racist, restrictions on foreigners’ “individual freedoms."

Not coincidentally, the next day, a talk show host on Canal Plus, a popular pay-TV station, devoted a fifteen-minute segment of his prime-time show to a book called “In the Hell of Guantanamo”, written by Murat Kurmaz, a German national of Turkish descent, who was apparently wrongly accused of terrorist wrongdoing and spent four years in Guantanamo. Focusing more specifically on the psychological and physical torture allegedly carried out there, the segment was basically an excuse for indicting America, interdicting whatever sympathy viewers might have had for the country at a time of painful memories for its people.

Finally, in an op-ed published in Le Figaro on this Sept. 11, Nicole Bacharan, a prominent political scientist specializing in American politics, spoke of President Bush’s “obsession," expressed rigorously expert concern that the War in Iraq has been waged so ineptly by the Bush administration that the very foundations of American democracy are being shaken, and generously called for other nations, including France, to help “restore America’s political legitimacy and moral authority."

The most appalling but sadly predictable thing about such self-serving prattle is its lack of courage and logic. Indeed if its authors are so concerned about America’s moral standing, the safety of Europe, and the fate of the Iraqi people, why don’t they deafeningly call President Sarkozy’s bluff and urge him to send French troops to Iraq to help strike down the nihilist threat?

They never will. After all parroting such benighted platitudes as “negotiation” or “appeasement” that were murderously expressed in Munich in 1938 sounds so much more morally civilized, doesn’t it?