May 30, 2006

On "Faustian Deals"

May 30 - The French were so concerned about probable terror attacks on the 1998 World Cup that they contemplated kidnapping Abu Hamza, according to a book by Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory, The Suicide Factory, scheduled for release June 19.

The authors wrote about a portion of the book examining these worries in the Times Online article French plot to kidnap Abu Hamza and save the World Cup and, whatever we may think of the lofty posturing by French politicians, that country's security organizations indicate more accurately the seriousness with which the French regard terror threats and the ruthless steps they are willing to take to thwart them:

Jean Pierre Chevènement, France’s Minister of the Interior, had one worry in particular. It was March 1998. In a few months the football World Cup was to be held in France, and it was a huge security headache. Algerian terrorists of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) had bombed the Paris Métro in 1995, and the architects of that atrocity — regarded in France as a deadly enemy — were still on the loose, living untroubled lives in London. The World Cup offered them an opportunity, and there were whispers in the intelligence world that something was being planned. It might take only a word from their spiritual guide Abu Hamza, an article in his newsletter, or a line in a communiqué pinned to the Finsbury Park mosque noticeboard to set the wheels in motion.


There had been panic in 1997 when a newsletter carried a GIA logo in which the letters were arranged in the shape of a triangle.

Was it a signal that terrorists were going to target the Eiffel Tower? In 1994 four GIA men had hijacked an Air France jet in Algiers and threatened to fly it to Paris and smash into the tower. The plane was stormed by French commandos at Marseilles and the terrorists killed.

France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded co-operation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending teams of agents abroad to gather intelligence on Islamist militants. Hassaine was part of the team in London, recruited by France’s DGSE intelligence service, to be a spy inside Finsbury Park’s Algerian community and its mosque.


As far as the French were concerned, the British had entered into a Faustian pact with the extreme Islamist groups assembled in London. They were free to organise, propagandise and speak, as long as there was no threat and no trouble on British soil. Abu Hamza seemed to enjoy a friendly relationship with MI5 and Scotland Yard’s intelligence wing, the Special Branch. They called him regularly, invited him for meetings and were generally on cordial terms. (Emphasis added)


“But the French believed that this plot to attack the World Cup was real, that it was being drawn up in London and that Finsbury Park mosque was the capital of Londonistan. The names of many suspects were passed to the British – veteran terrorists arriving from around the world – but the British did nothing. They did not take it seriously, even when the French said that if anything were to happen they would declare publicly that they held the British responsible.”

In the event, France thwarted the threat to attack the tournament. The process of unravelling it began with the arrest of an Algerian terrorist in Belgium in March 1998. The man had been convicted in absentia by a French court in connection with the Paris Métro bombs in 1995, and was subsequently jailed by the Belgian courts for nine years for attempted murder, criminal association, sedition and forgery. In the three months before the World Cup began, more than a hundred North Africans were arrested in France, Switzerland, Italy, Britain, Belgium and Germany as suspected terrorists.

The intent of this post is not to criticize the British; just as I've long regarded it as useless to issue solemn pronouncements of blame over U.S. (in)actions prior to Sept. 11, it seems that too many countries, even staunch U.S. allies in the war on terror, don't take Islamic terror threats seriously until there's blood on their homesoil (e.g., the Theo van Gogh murder) and others, like Indonesia, don't believe there's even a terror threat until it happens (e.g., Bali.)

Of course those lessons we can learn from the many failures are valuable, but endless blame games tend to distract instead of focus us. One glaring case in point: how, exactly, did Farenheit 911 serve to secure the nation from terror attacks?

One thing this article does highlight is the urgent need for security agencies from different countries to work together. There is an interesting Cancon aspect to this because French security agencies had tried in vain to alert Canadian authorities about al Qaeda operative and Millennium Bomber (and Canadian refugee-applicant!) Ahmed Ressam, but those warnings were ignored -- and then he was caught by a U.S. border guard trying to enter the USA with a trunkload of explosives with the intent of bombing LAX.

Despite the well-earned reputation of French intelligence agencies, domestic security in that country remains troubled: the kids are at it again because, it is claimed, the French haven't addressed the root causes of last November's riots.

The French Parliament recently tried to relax labour laws in an effort to reduce the high unemployment of the nation's young -- especially the disproportionately higher numbers among the children of immigrants -- but the the labour unions and students forced a retreat. (Is it really so surprising that, when it comes to protecting their own comfortable incomes and job security, the French left-wing turns downright reactionary? /obligatory French bashing)

The French seem caught in their own Faustian deal, a state which, to larger and lesser extents, afflicts us all -- including the USA, where an irate American electorate demands border security but is only getting platitudes.

(A goal and an assist to Newsbeat1 because the latter link led me to the first link. How about them Oilers?)

Posted by Debbye at 07:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 22, 2005

U.N. allegedly doctored report on Hariri assassination (Updated)

Oct. 22 - It is becoming increasingly evident why corrupt governments (like that under the Liberals in Canada) are so comfortable with the workings of the U.N. They have so much in common: lack of transparency, lack of proper accounting controls over expenditures, no whistle-blower protection, a patronage system that rewards corruption, and a brazen willingness to cling to power no matter what the cost - even when it means tampering with their own reports. But covering up a murder? That may be a new low even for the U.N. (as we don't actually know that there is a Rwandan flight recorder in Kofi's safe.)

I wrote yesterday about shame and cited the CNN article that alleged that members of Bashar al-Assad's family were involved in the assassination of Lebanese statesman Hafrik Hariri, but it has now emerged that those allegations were supposed to be suppressed by the office of the U.N. which is yet one more indication of how very unworthy the U.N. is of the esteem many hold for it - unless of course they're thieves or thugs.

Those who doubt the allegations of tampering with the Volcker Report on the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program have another fine mess to rationalize away. From the [London] Times Online: UN office doctored report on murder of Hariri:

THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.

The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.


But the furore over the doctoring of the report threatened to overshadow its damaging findings. It raised questions about political interference by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary- General, who had promised not to make any changes in the report.

One crucial change, apparently made after the report was submitted to the UN chief, removed the name of President al-Assad’s brother, Maher, his brother-in-law, Assef al-Shawkat, and other high-ranking Syrian officials.

The final, edited version quoted a witness as saying that the plot to kill Mr Hariri was hatched by unnamed “senior Lebanese and Syrian officials”. But the undoctored version named those officials as “Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamal al-Sayyed”. (Emphasis added)

It should be noted that the author of the report, Detlev Mehlis, denied that anyone "outside of the report team influenced these changes and no changes whatsoever were suggested by the Secretary-General.” But then he would say that, wouldn't he, and it doesn't explain the changes that were reportedly made after the report was delivered Annan but before the report was presented to the U.N.S.C.

Hmm, I wonder where does Annan's deputy assistant, Louise Frechette, was at the time? One's second-in-command plays many roles and not all of them are above-board, as anyone who's ever tangled with bureaucracy can attest, and the second-in-command is often deemed expendable when scandal explodes beyond any possible level of containment.

The big question is why would officials at the U.N. tamper with the report? and at who's behest? It's easy to assume that there was a quid-pro-quo at work, but who stood most to gain?

The easy assumption is that, in the name of stability, the U.N. does not wish to see Assad's government fall. That argument was used during the lead up to the Iraq War but, as was later revealed, there were far more persuasive economic reasons (which included billions of dollars collected by the U.N. itself for "administrative fees") to prop up Saddam than a reverence for stability, mass graves and human rights violations notwithstanding. But Assad does not have the same degree of international protection as did Saddam, and even though Arab states may wish to protect him they would surely be wise enough by now to recognize when it's best to leave a sinking ship.

This is only a blog and I'm allowed personal pique, so I vote for France as the ones who stand most to gain by protecting Assad - in part because I really hate those bastards, and in part because I really don't trust them. All the strong words coming out of France about their determination to track down the murderers of Hariri and their support for Lebanon were very nice and made for great press so long as unnamed persons were suspected but now the dots connect all the way to Assad's immediate family (I guess it would be a cheap shot to point out here that France does have a history of collaboration with fascism, so I'll forbear.)

Words really can come back to haunt us. France has been forced into a corner from which all the nuancing in the world cannot extricate them (although I suspect they'll try) so they may now have to actually live up to their promises.

Who says history is dead?

As an aside, the computer "gaffe" itself is very interesting, no?

(Free registration may be required to read the Times Online. I really don't remember at this point which online periodicals required my registration and which were quickly accessible. Sorry about that.)

(Via Neale News.)

Oct. 22 - 01:06: Michael Totten reports from Lebanon on the response there to the Mehlis Report and has some great photos. I find the one of someone scrawling on a wall "And the truth shall set you free" to be particularly apt.

Posted by Debbye at 10:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 04, 2005

EU Referendum and bloggers

June 4 - Thanks to Dave J. for pointing the way to EU Referendum, a site that is discussing the UK referendum on the EU Constitution.

Of course, there are rules ...

The value of blogs for political debate away from the closed circles of the elites is becoming apparent in Europe. Nicholas has a very interesting post about a French blogger, who, in the words of the BBC, made the European elites feel "the sting of these online upstarts, the bloggers" by using the medium to articulate his opposition to the EU Constitution and whose essay was disseminated throughout France. He didn't single-handedly create the "Non" vote, of course, but I suspect that the enthusiastic reception of his writing indicates that in France too, the mainstream media is no longer speaking to or for the people.

Posted by Debbye at 02:25 PM | Comments (2)

May 31, 2005

DeVillepin named French Prime Minister

May 31 - After the French voted "Non" on approving the EU constitution, President Chirac was expected to replace Jean-Pierre Raffarin as Prime Minister yet I must admit when I read this, Chirac named De Villepin prime minister to head new French government, I began to laugh.

Good old de Villepin. What an excellent choice. Despite his hauteur, he seems to have a bit of cowboy in him.

In August, 2003, the news broke that De Villepin had been involved in a botched attempt in July to free his former student, beauty queen and Columbian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who had been kidnapped over a year earlier by FARC guerillistas. It was rumoured that he had offered money and medical treatment - and perhaps weapons - to a rebel leader in exchange for Betancourt's freedom, and that he tried to fly secretly from Brazil into Columbia without advising either the Brazilian or Columbian governments.

The French foreign ministry first denied the story and then apologized to Brazil

Tension between France and Brazil rose on Thursday when Samuel Pinheiro Guimaraes, the Brazilian deputy foreign minister, said M de Villepin had given information which proved false.

One deputy demanded the expulsion of French diplomats, saying they "would do better not to treat us like one of their African colonies".

In a written statement, M de Villepin offered his apology to his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim, who accepted.

Finally, the details came out:
According to leaks from disgruntled officials at the Quai d'Orsay, the French foreign ministry, Mr de Villepin authorised the launch of "L'Operation 14 Juillet", to secure her release. His critics claim that he hoped to score a dazzling diplomatic coup by bringing Betancourt home on Bastille Day. Instead, Mr de Villepin is now carrying the can for a hideously bungled affair that not only seriously embarrassed his boss, President Jacques Chirac, but appears to have damaged the prospects of the hostage walking free in the near future.
Astrid, Betancourt's sister, had contacted de Villepin (but not the Columbian government) after she learned that FARC might be willing to release Ingrid.
Back in Paris, Mr de Villepin had told his senior adviser on Latin America, Pierre-Henri Guignard (who doubles as his deputy chief of staff) to set L'Operation 14 Juillet in motion. Guignard quickly assembled an experienced "protection team" from the Direction Générale de la Securité Exterieure (DGSE), the French equivalent of MI6. An 11-man squad of agents, including pilots, a doctor and communications specialists with jungle navigational equipment, set off with him for Manaus on July 8.

The unheralded arrival of the C-130 the following day, ostensibly to refuel en route for French Guyana, mystified the Brazilian authorities. Why would the aircraft make a 620-mile detour when it could more easily have flown directly to its destination?

When airport police requested a routine check of the Hercules, the entire French team produced official passports and claimed diplomatic immunity to prevent any such inspection. Most of them then set off for the palatial Hotel Tropical, bearing large metal cases. By the time Guignard and his three rugged colleagues left on their chartered flight to Sao Paulo de Olivena - directly across the river from the town where Astrid Betancourt was waiting - the Brazilian federal police were hard on their trail.

According to the flight plan that de Abreu [the pilot they hired] filed, the Caraja was to remain at the landing strip until four other passengers arrived the following afternoon, July 10. As soon as they arrived, the French team took a water taxi to the Flamingo hotel. Guignard [a priest who was Astrid's contact] then set off to contact another priest, Father Pedro, who had been enlisted to help on the Brazilian side. For de Abreu, the situation was becoming alarming: during the flight he had been questioned about his night-flying experience and his plane's ability to land on rough terrain.

Unnoticed by his new companions, he returned to the airstrip and flew to a neighbouring town where a police unit was stationed. "I informed them that I suspected a plot to seize my aircraft in mid-flight and divert it to another destination," he told Le Monde. "They advised me that the Frenchmen were already under surveillance and that I should return to Sao Paulo de Olivena and await developments."

Across the river in Colombia, Astrid was now fretting about the lack of progress in her own role in the mission. Despite making every attempt to be "visible" around town should Farc representatives be present, no contact had occurred. On impulse she made the long river trip back to Leticia to await further news. "I sat looking out over the Amazon watching dolphins leap and dreaming that suddenly I would see Ingrid's face on a boat arriving, and that I would almost die from the emotion of the moment," she says.

In fact, the rescue plan was rapidly unravelling. On July 11, after waiting in vain for Ingrid's expected passage into Brazil - the French team believed that if Ingrid was to be freed her captors would deliver her to the Brazilian border town Sao Paulo de Olivena - Guignard and his team flew back to Manaus, leaving a note at the Flamingo hotel asking Astrid to contact them at the Tropical hotel.

When they arrived, federal police detained them for questioning in the presence of the French honorary consul. All four invoked diplomatic immunity, providing only a work address in Paris: Boulevard Mortier, the headquarters of the DGSE. Soon after midday on July 13, the Hercules took off on the return flight to France where a political scandal was developing fast.

Unknown to the French authorities, a photographer for the respected Brazilian newspaper Carta Capital had been tipped off about the story and had taken a picture of the French plane on the runway at Manaus. The Brazilian media, quoting senior officials, then reported that it may have been carrying weapons destined for Farc as the ransom for Betancourt.

Both Mr Chirac and the French prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, were abroad when the first reports about the rescue mission appeared in the French media. Each immediately issued stringent denials, Mr Chirac insisting that "this kind of operation would not have happened without me being informed, and I was not informed". When he saw the photographs from Manaus airport last weekend, officials confided, he exploded in fury.

As more embarrassing details about L'Operation 14 Juillet began to leak out, the French government abruptly changed tack, flatly denying that any "direct negotiations" had taken place with Farc.

Last week, Farc intensified the debate by announcing that it had never considered liberating Betancourt or any other of its several hundred captives - among them three American CIA men - without direct negotiations with the Colombian authorities about the release of its own members being held by the military.

Chirac has "charged de Villepin with writing bad poetry and getting caught in Brazil the task of forming a new government" and getting a haircut.
Raffarin, in a short address after the president accepted his resignation, promised that his successor would work to bring a significant drop in unemployment in the last two years of Chirac's second term - which could be his last.

"I confirm this commitment, even if the drop in the dollar and the rise in oil prices delay it for a few months," he said.

Raffarin defended his three-year record as prime minister, saying he acted to protect the future of the pension system and state health care, among other programs.

"I have always been aware that what is healthy for the nation does not go unblamed by public opinion," said Raffarin. Polls showed that he was one of the most unpopular prime ministers of the French Fifth Republic that was founded in 1958.

One of the most unpopular prime ministers in less than 50 years? How many unpopular prime ministers have there been?

By the way, Nicholas Sarkozy will return to his former position as Interior Minister.

Posted by Debbye at 07:19 AM | Comments (5)

May 29, 2005

The Librano family business

May 29 - Ben Macintyre writes tongue in cheek for the London Times on the Canadian-American and French-British rivalries in Everybody needs bad neighbours:

In our thoroughly globalised world, the US and Canada, France and Britain, cling anachronistically to their singular, ancient rivalries. Australia and New Zealand look further afield than each other for economic comparisons; Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan do not expend energy anxiously surveying their respective sex lives. But the English Channel and the US border with Canada remain the distorting, two-way mirrors through which these neighbours perceive themselves.
He emphasizes his point that the British-French rivalry is of the sibling order by a quote from columnist Claude Imbert in Le Point "To those French who still believe that Britain is a former Norman colony that went wrong ..." Ouch. We credit the Normans with doubling the English language and introducing chimneys but tend to believe the invaders were, in due time, anglicized, and can always view Shakespeare's account of the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V with some pride so long as we can gather our coats and file out of the theatre thus missing the final lines on the failure of the next generation to retain what Henry V won.

Americans and Canadians will, at the drop of a hat, bring up the War of 1812 and work backward to 1776 to present our list of grievances, but that list seems downright contemporary compared to two countries who can begin theirs in 1066.

Macintyre is looking at a bigger picture set in European terms and his conclusions are interesting but he doesn't address (or perhaps even know about) the impact of Adscam on Canadian thinking and sensibilities.

The family nature of U.S. and Canadian relations is one that we tend to rush past and it has been made easier by the wholesale re-write of history which de-emphasizes British rule and influence up here in order to side-step the end of French rule at the Plains of Abraham (Canada's Culloden, if you will) which brought a reluctant step-brother into the family.

The current scandel proves the point that we can re-write history but we can't undo it. Adscam is directly related to (if only because it formed the pretext for) anglo- and franco-Canadian relations, and many of us are re-examining our former attitudes to the cause of Quebec sovereignty and recognizing that the exposure of how basely that issue was manipulated by the Liberal Party in their pursuit of one-party rule justifies Quebec outrage and, further, may have irreparably damaged prospects for a truly united Canada.

The divide-and-conquer strategy of the Libranos is being exposed, and some are beginning to realize that the implications go far beyond Quebec and permeate the very weave of today's Canada.

Every time Bombardier is granted a contract there are grumblings in Ontario, but which profit most when the contracts are awarded to Quebec: Quebeckers or those who own Bombardier? It's past time to get deeply suspicious of the quasi-Socialist pretentions of the Libranos and look closer at who gains from these contracts. If it is done in the name of national, or family, unity, then why are the kids bickering?

Once the Libranos decided that they were the natural governing party of Canada and set about to do whatever they could to assert their rule they forgot the danger that the kids might get together and compare notes. Some are noticing that one family analogy which may fit is that of a parent who purposefully incites quarrels between the adult children in order keep them bitterly divided and, in the case of a wealthy family with sizeable assets, ensures they will continue to pander to the parent in order to get what they perceive to be their rightful shares.

But Quebec and the West have had enough and, within their own families, are seriously thinking of getting out of the family business and setting up their own. Ontario is the "good eldest child" -- compliant and obediently determined to uphold the patriarch's dominance (although it privately feels that it should get more for its loyalty than the parent is alloting) and is so invested in the family business that it tends to dismiss the mutterings of those who wonder if the price of unity is worth the cost of their dignity.

Like many parents, the Libranos shrug aside the signs of rebellion, thinking that "kids will be kids," and forgetting that the blind love of children for the parent is replaced by a more critical view once the kids grow up. Should the judgement be that the parental unit makes decisions more for its own benefit than that of the family as a whole then the justification for maintaining family unity is lost.

They played a good hand when they projected Paul Martin in the role of the sympathetic "other" parent and, by seeming to overthrew Chretien's iron rule, he gained some traction by apologizing to the kids for taking them and their contributions for granted and promising to address their concerns and to treat them with more respect, fix the democratic deficit, and distribute more of the profits from the family business.

But then the family quarrel was aired in the Commons, and the Libranos retained power by marrying both the NDP and Belinda Stronach and pre-emptively gave a larger share of the profits to the kids. Martin thus, to all appearances, retained control as this placated some of them, but there is a limit to how often that strategy can be successfully employed.

He will likely take the opportunity at the next family gathering (which would be the next election) to praise the children profusely and humbly, and this will work only to the extent that the kids are denied a thorough understanding of the business accounts for the family in part because foundations which receive federal money are not accountable for how they spend that money.

There is another who wishes to be made head of the family, and some of the siblings use their distrust or dislike of Harper as a pretext for their continued support for the Libranos, but I am genuinely perplexed that, by inference, Joe Clark is somehow be seen as more likeable and charismatic than Harper.

[In contrast, President Bush has many qualities I admire but even I wouldn't call him charismatic. My support for him stems from support for his policies, so his personal appeal is not even a factor. The same can be said for Australian PM Howard.]

I also fail to see how anyone can pretend that Paul Martin has personal appeal, and I am stunned that people still worry about the "hidden agenda" of the Conservative Party when, should the allegations at the Gomery Inquiry be proven, it would seem that it is the Libranos who had the hidden agenda and it was to enrich themselves and their friends at public expense rather than anything that resembled governance.

Oddly enough, it may be the experience of living under Liberal despotism that causes fears about the Conservatives; people may believe that the CPC is as capable of forcing unpopular legislation through Parliament as the Liberals.

I hope the Conservatives use the next period to craft and state their policies. Their failure to do so is probably due more to being a new party and needing to have those kind of discussions among their members but Eastern voters are not likely to buy another pig in a poke.

Canadians are facing a dilemma of another sort though when the media projects the value of personal appeal over policies. Is it possible to maintain illusions once the blinkers are off? The polls seem to say yes, and that is the challenge for both the Libranos and the opposition parties - everywhere except Quebec, that is. They, at least, had the grace to feel insulted by the bribery, and rightly wonder how much the rest of the family truly values them when the others don't share in that outrage.

And that's the real pity.

(Links via Neale News.)

Posted by Debbye at 03:46 PM | Comments (6)

May 17, 2005

Europeans dislike the French (too)?

May 17 - At first I thought this was a joke: Europe unites in hatred of French.

Pollsters asked Europeans to list five words that describe the French and the answers were not very complimentary:

Why the French are the worst company on the planet, a wry take on France by two of its citizens, dredges up all the usual evidence against them. They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour.

But it doesn't stop there, boasting a breakdown, nation by nation, of what in the French irritates them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless". ..

For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".

Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".

This probably reflects mostly that other nationalities are not really that fond of other nationalities in Europe, but it begs the question as to why are they trying to submerge the sovereignty of each nation by ratifying the EU Constitution. The minimum requirement ought to be mutual respect and trust, no?

The French were also asked about other people:

Another section of the study deals with how the French see the rest of Europe.

"Believe it or not, the English and the French use almost exactly the same adjectives to describe each other - bar the word 'insular'," Mr Coldong said. "So the feelings are mutual."

12:48 Looks like Warwick got to the story first. Nice shots (heh.)

Posted by Debbye at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

May 15, 2005

Saddam's plans to put friends in high places

May 15 - Isn't he special? U.S. Congressional investigations into the U.N. Oil-for-Food Progam are getting our money's worth: Saddam spies 'offered to help Chirac get re-elected':

Saddam Hussein's spies planned a wide-ranging scheme to bribe members of the French political elite in the run-up to the Anglo-American invasion, including an offer to help fund President Jacques Chirac's 2002 re-election campaign.

That bid failed, according to Iraqi secret service papers seen by The Daily Telegraph, when Mr Chirac's aides allegedly said they did not need the cash.


A memo from the head of the 2nd Department of the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence service, purported to report on conversations between its representative in Paris and Roselyne Bachelot, then a member of the National Assembly and the spokesman for Mr Chirac's re-election campaign. The Mukhabarat described Mrs Bachelot as "a friend of Iraq".

The spies claimed that Mrs Bachelot offered an assurance that France would veto any American proposal to invade Iraq at the UN Security Council and would work to have UN-approved sanctions against Saddam lifted.

Mrs Bachelot denies ever having such conversations.

Others deemed sympathetic to Iraq's cause are named in the Mukhabarat papers for consideration as to who might be approached, but although the papers detail the plans they don't confirm that any of these people were ever actually approached.

(Via Neale News.)

Posted by Debbye at 08:47 AM | Comments (2)

April 21, 2005

Penciled in for August. Check.

Apr. 21 - We are taking time out from our regularly scheduled coverage of Liberal Party Corruption to relay an urgent message to France from the axis of countries that don't suck.

Posted by Debbye at 08:35 PM | Comments (13)

October 20, 2004

Schoolgirls expelled in France over scarves

Oct. 20 - The controversial ban of conspicuous religious symbols in public institutions has begun to produce questionable results: four girls have been expelled over their refusal to remove their headscarves and 3 boys (Sikhs) have been kept out of classes over refusal to remove their turbans.

Over 600 cases of "defiance of the law" have been reported since the beginning of the school year in France.

I still don't really understand the ban, as it seems to confuse "tolerance" with "pretending differences don't exist," but then I'm an American and we tend to frown upon the government prohibiting freedom of religious expression anyway.

Nevertheless, I was somewhat curious to see if the French government would back down after the two French reporters were kidnapped, and thus far they have been firm on upholding the ban.

Posted by Debbye at 06:41 PM | Comments (4)

October 14, 2004

Martin and Chirac

Oct. 14 - This is such a surprise: PM not sending troops to Iraq.

Canadian PM Paul Martin is in France after meeting with Russian Putin earlier this week. The headline may be an eye-catcher but hardly constitutes the bulk of the article.

During his meeting with Chirac, Martin described French-Canadian relations as "exemplary," according to presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont.

"We are hand in hand on most international questions and our bilateral relations are excellent," Bonnafont quoted him as saying.

Martin and Chirac reviewed international issues, including Afghanistan, where both Canada and France have troops, Congo and Iraq. However, the broad discussions also included issues like commercial fishing.

Martin voiced his "concern" over exploitation of fish resources, a position supported by France, Bonnafont said.

Chirac "suggested that Canada and France, with other interested countries, work out a common initiative," the spokesman said. However, he would not specify what such an initiative might entail.

Just a nondescript, friendly chat? Maybe so, but then there is this:
Asked about Quebec Premier Jean Charest's planned November trip to Mexico, Martin played down the significance. French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is to accompany Charest there.

"The prime minister of Canada speaks for Canada," Martin replied. "There is but one voice on the international scene and that is the prime minister of Canada."

The Mexican trip, he said, is a "commercial mission."

Some provinces, particularly Quebec and Alberta, have indicated the desire to conduct their own international dealings, thus by-passing Ottawa.

Oct. 18 - 00:12: be sure to read Andrew Coyne's National Post column, Forty Years of Federalist Backpedalling, posted at his website.

Posted by Debbye at 07:52 PM | Comments (1)

July 05, 2004

French immigration to Israel rising

July 5 - From the Sunday Times - Israel Sees a Surge in Immigration by French Jews, but Why?:

JERUSALEM, July 1 - More French Jews have been immigrating to Israel or buying properties here as potential havens, and the Israelis and the French are debating whether the trend is a result of a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in France or just a cyclical oddity.

The Jewish Agency, the quasi-governmental body responsible for settling immigrants, reported a doubling in the number of French Jews who arrived last year and in 2002, to more than 2,000 each year, compared with about 1,000 a year in the previous three years. By contrast, worldwide immigration to Israel has sharply declined during the Arab-Israeli violence.

Michael Jankelowitz, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency, said that as a result of attacks against Jews in France in the past three years, many Jews, particularly those whose religion is evident from their clothes, were feeling increasingly uneasy. Much of the tension has centered in working-class suburbs of Paris where Jews and Muslims mingle.

Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to Israel, played down the influx, suggesting in an interview that emigration is cyclical. He noted that during the "golden years" of quiet after the Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians, there were years when the number of French Jews who immigrated to Israel was quite high, once hitting 1,800. "It's a flow, not a flight," he said.

He also contended that there had been as many anti-Semitic incidents per capita in Italy and Belgium, but that France got the most attention because of its larger Jewish population.

You ever notice how some people just don't know when to shut up? I guess he couldn't help himself:
He also noted that most recent attacks had been by North African Muslims angered over Israeli treatment of Palestinians ...
The French Ambassador to Israel says that it's Israel's fault that French Jews are being attacked by not really French North African Muslims. Isn't French diplomacy amazing?
... and therefore could not be linked to historical incidents of French anti-Semitism like the Dreyfus affair or the Vichy government's collaboration with the Nazis.
More cynical types might think that the failure of the real French to stand solidly beside their Jewish compatriots today is extremely reminiscent of the Vichy government's collaboration with the Nazis ...

Thank you, M Araud, for making the case as to why Jews feel a compelling need for a defensible homeland.

Posted by Debbye at 02:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

France expels radical imams

May 3 - France targets radical imams in bid to keep terrorism at bay.

Posted by Debbye at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2003

French headscarf ban

Dec. 26 - Boycott French products, says cleric:

A Shiite cleric called Friday for an Iraqi boycott of French products in protest at France's decision to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious insignia from schools.

"We condemn the French government's decision prohibiting the Islamic veil and we demand the liberty that France says it embodies," Sayyed Amer al-Husseini told some 10,000 worshippers in the Shiite-populated Baghdad Sadr City district.

"We encourage a boycott of French products and call on Muslims in France to continue wearing the veil," he said in a sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers.


Posted by Debbye at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2003

French headscarf ban

Dec. 18 - Interesting take in the Telegraph (UK) on Chirac's proposal to ban Islamic scarves in schools and other overt symbols of religion, the reaction from French Muslims and teachers, and Chirac's reasoning for the ban:

Even the most moderate Islamic leaders said the proposal was likely to exacerbate tensions and showed a marked misunderstanding of France's immigration problems.

Dalil Boubakeur, the president of the Council of French Muslims, set up by the government last year to mediate with France's diverse Muslim communities, said: "The breakdown of integration is giving rise to a law that does not tackle the reasons for this breakdown."

He said the proposed law would "stigmatise" French Muslims.

The Council of Imams called the proposal "anti-constitutional" and said it would lead to street protests.

In a speech broadcast live from the Elysee, M Chirac acknowledged the need to "shatter the wall of silence and indifference which surrounds the reality of discrimination" against immigrants seeking jobs, houses, bank loans, even membership of sports clubs.

Announcing the creation of France's first independent anti-discrimination authority, he said that he knew "the feeling of incomprehension, despair and even revolt" among young French immigrants.

He feels their pain! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) He admits that they are victims of racism (in a nuanced way, of course, because he doesn't come right out and say it.)

So the ban seems to be following the "get 'em while they're young" strategy: get them used to going to school without religious identifiers (which it is reasoned will lead to ending religious identification) and they'll will find it easier to forgo those things when they leave school and enter the social mainstream and workforce. Soon they'll give up on attending church, synagogues and mosques, and the problem will be solved because nobody will discriminate against them because they'll be secularly French.

Or, youth being rebellious, it could make them cling all the harder to those things that identify them when they're away from the schools. Did the commission or Chirac consider that possibility? Forbidden fruit, so to speak, with irony.

Politicians across the spectrum are suddenly engaged in a lively debate about the merits of positive discrimination and the means by which the government can stop the rise of radical Islam.
"Postive discrminination" on this continent would mean affirmative action, but I'm cautious as to what it means to the French.
M Chirac's speech followed the publication last week of the Stasi report, commissioned to examine the need for a new law on secularism.
Would passing a new law on secularism infringe upon the rights of the people? Do any French lawmakers or the French courts ponder that question? This article has the objections of Muslim groups on record, but what have been the responses from Jewish and Christian leaders?
The report concluded that the dramatic rise of religions such as Islam required a new approach as they were threatening the strictly secular identity of the French state.
I still don't get how the report reasons that having people in the country who practice a religion - any religion - threatens the strictly secular identity of the French state. The state can be secular without requiring the people to be so.

Millions of French schoolchildren exhibited Christian and Jewish symbols before the immigration of Muslims and somehow the secularism of the French state survived. Is their concern based on the fact that Muslims aren't abandoning mosques in the same numbers as Christians are abandoning churches? Or is the real problem that Muslims have values and beliefs that challenge the acceptance of different religions which is the historical basis for secularism?

That was admittedly rhetorical because French Jews can identify a specific intolerance in France aimed at them and acted upon mostly by Muslims, and even though the EU shelved the report Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the European Union, it should worry everyone. Does Chirac and his brain team think attacks will disappear if Jewish boys and Muslim girls are not recognizable as such? What about synagogues? Should they remove identifying religious symbols?

[Chirac] rejected a suggestion that the Jewish and Muslim celebrations of Yom Kippur and Eid should become school holidays, but said no child should be prevented from taking these days off on religious grounds.

He also supported the teaching of religious facts and history in schools, which the leading teachers' unions argue would pollute the Republican ideal of secular education.

Dwell for a moment on the use of the word pollute. Not enhance, not educate with an aim to foster respect and tolerance, but pollute. However do they teach European history without factoring in religion? Or French history and literature? Explaining the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre could be somewhat tricky, not to mention that it leaves Meyerbeer's opera Les Huguenots and Dumas' The Three Musketeers without historical grounding. Sheesh, whatever do they make of Voltaire's Candide? (Pop culture preferrists may substitute Bernstein's Candide.) Seriously: do teachers in France refuse to teach Voltaire? One can't appreciate satire if one doesn't know what something is satirizing.
Immigrant groups in France have argued for many years that the fabled principle of equality was rarely applied in practice. M Chirac conceded this yesterday, saying: "It's by our ability to make equality of opportunity a reality that we will revive our sense of national unity."
Aha, Jacques Crow segregation and bigotry are the real culprits.
But he added that secularism was also a "crucial element in social peace and national unity" and that "glorifying particular identities", such as Islam, would lead to the break-up of France.
So lack of equality is not about skin colour, it's about religion. And if Muslim girls, Jewish boys and Christian children of both genders would hide their religious identities, everyone would be secularly unified.

Don't ask, don't tell French-style.

The French don't plan to confront and deal with the growing anti-Semitism in France.

The French don't plan to confront and deal with racism toward North Africans.

Seems to me that labeling the problem as people being too much religious is affirmation that France's failure to accept, integrate and assimilate its Muslim population is going to remain a failure, and teaching tolerance and respect for others is going to remain a failure, but the French government is determined that it will be a secular failure.

I always write under the assumption that people read the articles I reference and that will draw their own conclusions, so I didn't explore the crime rates because it seems self-evident that being excluded from jobs and opportunities for self-advancement would lead to crime, and banning head scarve is unlikely to impact on that.

What interests me about this is that the problems the French are having are similar is some respects to ones some fear may happen in North America (although I personally don't agree with that fear.) The fact that I think the French are dealing with the problem poorly is admittedly rooted in my views on the First Amendment and my belief in inherent freedoms as well as my distrust of passing regulations as an automatic reaction to any problem, but it will be interesting to see how this progresses (assuming it is implemented.)

Until we see concrete plans by the government which outline how they propose to end the segregtion of Muslim immigrants it will be hard to assess how the problems in France will play out and how attacking religion as the problem will interplay with those plans. If we don't see any real efforts to end discrimination and segregation, I think we can be pretty confident in declaring the school ban a total failure.

No brain cells were harmed in the making of this post, mostly because I only have a few left after my work marathon. I wanted to get some of these ideas out of my head and the process was painless (even with a liberal application of the delete key) but some transitions remain rough and instances of inadequately explained logic will probably strike me when I read this tomorrow or Saturday.

UPDATE: I'll have to write 100 times on the blackboard Don't publish until you've read Paul. He actually attended school in France, (CORRECTION: a French owned school in Spain) and has some comments about the proposed policy that shed a different light on things here, here which informs us that religious symbols have long been banned in French schools, and here which details the immigration patterns from Morocco and Algeria. Darren provides this link in Paul's comments from a Singapore source which tells of a similar situation there in which wearing headscarves not allowed because it is not in keeping with the "common uniform standard."

Ain't the blogosphere grand?

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon has just returned from a visit to France and reports some rather chilling observations from Behind Enemy Lines. I hadn't imagined that a Jewish school would be unidentifiable as such. I could say it was due to my naivete, but probably it was just dumbness.

I do regard anti-Semitism as a cover for anti-Westernism as it plays out in the Mid-East and other predominantly Muslim nations. (I saw the metaphor "Jews are the canaries in the mine" somewhere and I think it fits what we are seeing.) The Turkish reaction to terrorist attacks carried out against synagogues gives me hope, although, as usual, we don't know what the people who stayed at home think.

So I accept that one ruler for measuring the health of a democratic nation is the confidence Jewish citizens feel about their own safety. (I wouldn't regard Israel as an exception because most attacks emanate from without.)

American Digest links to a post from EuroPundits that makes some sharp points out of the recent conflict between Germany and Poland at the EU Constitution talks and closes with a grimmer point about Plan B. (I'm not going to paraphrase it because the clarity of that post is too elegant and concise, so read the whole thing.) I mention it here because it adds to Rumsfeld's designations of Old Europe and New Europe which have increasingly more layers than appear on the surface.

It seems even clearer that France may be an international concern for much different reasons than their obstructionism at the UN and their desire to reclaim their former place as a world power. It's not about flaunting their power any more, it's about their approaching doom from forces within. I'm too awestruck to try to make some sense of what impact it might have on Canada given the recent Weasel/Pissy alliance with France and some major business linkages between the leaders of the two nations, but there is a lot to digest and consider.

To think this all started with the question of whether Muslim girls should be allowed to wear headscarves.

Posted by Debbye at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2003

Headscarf ban and former Western views of modesty

Dec. 12 - The French Presidential commission recommendation yesterday that religious symbols be banned in public schools initially brought home to me one of the underlying differences in how I understand religious tolerance as an American and how the French view it.

My immediate reaction was that the French federal government was prohibiting the "free expression" of religion. My immediate reaction was that it is highly desirable that members of different faiths realize that they can co-exist peacefully and tolerantly with one another. (This is not an attack on the French, but simply a comment on the difference in how the two countries view freedom of religion.)

But it's not that simple. IIRC, one of the reasons the commission looked at this issue - particularly the wearing of head scarves - was because of reports that Muslim girls who didn't want to wear head scarves were pressured to do so by members of their communities, so they are looking at tolerance within religions more than between religions.

But the article cites another reason:

Commission head Bernard Stasi said the proposed law was aimed at keeping France's strict secular underpinnings intact and at countering "forces that are trying to destabilize the country," a reference to Islamic fundamentalists.

Stasi said the panel was not discriminating against the Muslim community but sought to give all religions a more equal footing.

The panel recommended a ban from classrooms of all "obvious" political and religious symbols, including Islamic head scarves, Jewish skullcap and large crucifixes. More discreet symbols such as small crosses would be acceptable, it said.

My inner historian yearns to speak! Until the 20th century, "decent" women in Western countries always covered their heads when they were out. In fact, the failure to cover her head was a clear signal that the woman was a prostitute. Unfortunately, none of my history books chronicles how that came to change, although I have to think that as hemlines grew shorter, culminating in the 20's, mandatory head coverings were also dropped.

When I was growing up, hats and scarves were worn as a matter of course, and even as wearing hats outdoors began to fade, no woman would ever enter a church with her head uncovered (that went for Protestants as well as Catholics.) Hair was considered a woman's chief vanity, and covering the hair was a sign of modesty before God (a concept better in theory than in practice, as witnessed by the flamboyance of many hats.)

I've always considered it a sign of God's wisdom and mercy that I only had boys, and was spared from confrontations that began with the words "You're not leaving the house dressed like that." The increasingly younger ages at which girls dress like sexual beings saddens me (in a none of my business way, admittedly) mostly because they left childhood so early and are physically pretending to be that which they are not emotionally.

Where are the lines to be drawn between the parents' right to protect and control their children, a young girl's desire to be very modest or less than modest, restrictions on religious symbols in publicly funded institutions, and banning traditional dress codes that might "destabilize the country?"

I doubt the answer lies in regulation, but the French experiment will be interesting.

Posted by Debbye at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

Tony Blankley

Dec. 4 - Tony Blankley has some fun at the expense of the French and the strike by French diplomats purporting to protest the lack of paper: A diplomatic strike which he describes as the AFL-CIO meets Monty Python.

But beyond the matter of their professional utility, it is odd that a profession whose raison d'etre is talk, not action, would snap quickly into action on its own behalf. Why didn't they negotiate, using all their vaunted diplomatic skills?
Why indeed?

Posted by Debbye at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2003

French bribery gone awry

Nov. 14 - Some things are beyond commentary. Certainly a number of companies have been found guilty of paying bribes in order to get juicy contracts, but for a company to be set up by a government with the bribe-paying apparatus explicitly included in its organizational structure is somewhat unusual: Elf executives are jailed over £210m 'black box' fraud

France's longest-running political and corporate corruption scandal ended yesterday with prison sentences and fines for 23 former executives at the Elf oil company and their associates.

Loik le Floch-Prigent, 57, Elf's chief executive between 1989 and 1993, authorised the embezzlement of £210 million while Elf was state-owned. The money went on bribes for politicians and middlemen and lavish lifestyles for senior Elf executives.

He was jailed for five years and fined £260,000.

Nadhmi Auchi, a British billionaire, was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and fined £1.4 million. Auchi, who fled his native Iraq under Saddam Hussein, was found guilty of accepting illegal commissions from Elf worth £50 million.

He turned himself in to French authorities in May after Britain refused to extradite him for the trial.

In their ruling, the judges said: "At the time, Elf was a public company, owned by all French citizens, who can indirectly consider themselves victims of the offences."

Elf was created by General de Gaulle as a rival to British and US oil companies overseas. He allowed it to have a "black box" of secret funds, enabling the company to pay bribes for contracts.

But political parties came to see the black box as an excellent means of funding.

In the trial, Le Floch-Prigent said he approached President Mitterrand in 1989, anxious about the legality of the £3.5 million paid each year from the black box to political parties. Mitterrand told him: "Let's carry on with what General de Gaulle set up."

When Mitterrand's golfing partner was forced to sell his house near the course where they played each Monday, the president had Elf buy it for its property portfolio and then pay all the bills while his friend continued to live there.

Le-Floch Prigent embezzled £11 million during his tenure, paying for his divorce, with Mitterrand's approval, and buying himself a £6 million flat and a chateau. His ex-wife, Fatima Belaid, received a £700,000 fine and a three-year suspended sentence.

Alfred Sirven, 76, a former number two at Elf, bought a chateau and a villa with Elf money. He was sentenced to five years in prison and fined £700,000. Andre Tarallo, 76, once in charge of Elf's African arm, embezzled £30 million and was jailed for four years.

So the problem wasn't that the company paid bribes, it was that company officials bribed themselves.

Posted by Debbye at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

The ever-nuanced French

Oct. 20 - The ever nuanced French give another lesson in diplomacy as Dominique de Villepin is said to have boasted that the French will sink the Queen:

THE Queen WILL be stripped of her powers as sovereign by the new EU Constitution, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin boasted last night.

De Villepin said the new masterplan demands a EUROPEAN policy on foreign affairs.

So the Queen stands to lose her power over foreign policy and new treaties - which would be agreed in Brussels.

Tony Blair vows to defend our control over foreign policy, defence, tax and social policy.

But during the Dimbleby Lecture on BBC1, de Villepin stated categorically: "Europe must have its own foreign policy and be able to fight for its principles.

"This is what the current draft constitution provides for."

His admission supported fears voiced in The Sun last week. (Their emphasis)

He also said the Euro army deal agreed between Mr Blair and French president Jacques Chirac in 1998 signalled the end of Nato.

But De Villepin's biggest surprise came when he claimed his country shares with Britain - "a refusal to surrender."

He seemed to forget France's surrender to Germany by signing an armistice in June 1940.

De Villepin, 49, also claimed France was a "reliable" ally to the US, despite leading opposition to the Iraq war.

He made no mention of how furious Americans famously branded French president Jacques Chirac and his cronies as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

I love reading the Sun!

Posted by Debbye at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2003

Precision Guided Humour

Oct. 17 - The last precision guided humour assignment with The Alliance was to imagine what I would say if I had the floor at a press conference with Jacques Chirac.

I couldn't come up with anything (which is to say I couldn't come up with anything I'd want my mother to read) but it took me awhile to figure out why I was totally blocked.

Actually, once I stopped fretting about it, it turned out to be very simple: I live in Canada, which too is a member of the Axis of Weasels thanks to the PM here, one Jean Chretien, who has surrendered Canadian sovereignty to the Chirac wing of the UN.

The questions I might pose to Chirac would be nothing compared to the questions I would level at Chretien, yet asking Chretien "How could you betray every value of Western civilization" has already been answered: he is an arrogant, self-serving bastard who is more interested in reminding everyone that he's a French-Canadian with strongs ties to France and family ties to the French conglomerate oil company TotalFinaElf.

Chretien has reduced the military budget in Canada to a point that puts Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in danger because they have inadequate armour on their transports.

He uses the international forums of the UN and G-8 conferences to attack Pres. Bush and the USA, and continues to try his best to enrage the American public.

When the UNSC was contemplating a second resolution, Chretien visited Mexico to persuade them to vote "no" should a second resolution be presented.

Chretien has, as Jay Currie put it in his post French Poodle, reduced Canada to being Chirac's bitch.

What could I possible ask Chirac except "How did you do it?"

Not very scathing or witty, but still fully aware of immense betrayal.

BUT other Alliance members fared a lot better with their responses.

Posted by Debbye at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2003

Americans wake up

Sept. 19 - Americans are beginning to wake up. Far too many of us have accepted the judgement that, unlike other nations, the USA alone pursues policies that are advantageous to her and her people.

Americans are beginning to realize that, although we and our governments are far from perfect, we are certainly not alone in the pursuit of self-interest but may be unique in that we are not only aware of our shortcomings but even discuss them publicly.

We've gone from accepting the scolding of imaginary "international community" and have begun to see the UN for what it is: a bureaucratic organization where the majority of the members don't even pretend to respect human rights yet think they have moral authority to lecture and dictate to us.

This is an organization in which Libya can chair -- without intentional irony -- the UN Human Rights Committee and that committee can strip Reporters Without Borders of observer status because they held a peaceful demonstration which protested the naming of Libya as chair of that committee.

Further, the UN found itself unable to rise to the challenge Saddam posed as expressed in Pres. Bush's speech to the UN in September, 2002, that it assert its mandate and finally confront Saddam:

Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced or cast aside without consequence?

Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?

The French have probably done the most to erode American idealism about the UN. Their threats of exercising their veto not only over pre- and post-war Iraq but also to removing the sanctions on Libya over the Lockerbie bombing unless they received additional money from Libya above their previous settlement for a different bombing raised even more questions about the actual purpose as well as integrity of the UN.

Thanks to The Canukistanian for sending me this WSJ Opinion Journal link Do You Feel Lucky, Paris? by Daniel Henninger.

A recent Gallup poll confirms some of the changes that many of us hoped for: Sept. 11 finally got a lot of Americans to wake up and look a bit closer at the true state of the world, and they have drawn their conclusions. (Follow the link for the statistics; the UN's approval rating has dropped significantly.)

A few excerpts from the Opinion Journal article:

Shortly after the [Iraq] war was over, a high official from France's Parliament visited our offices hoping to let bygones be bygones. He said we were all joined in the war on terror and that our countries' long-term interests coincided. He was visiting American editorial boards and going to Washington to see key members of Congress in the belief that if he could convince these influential people--the U.S. networking equivalent of les grandes ecoles--Franco-American relations would revive.

Whereupon he was told: "Sir, there is really not much that we or the members of Congress can do for you. France's problems now are not with America's policy makers but with America's comedians." [Their emphasis]

Nope, no gag order for Jay Leno. And one has to wonder what on earth the French thought their strategy would accomplish except to provide more material for the comedians.

One result of the list the French circulated purporting to prove that they were being slandered was for journalists to point out those articles (usually by themselves) which had been left off and to write even more in hopes of being included on that list. This was a fairly predictable reaction, but I have to wonder: do the French really understand so little about us?

And then there's this:

Well before Iraq, one of the elite criticisms of the U.S., heard mostly in Europe and in the American academy, has been that the U.S. is compulsively trying to "impose its values" on the rest of the world. . . But from Germany and Japan after World War II and on up to Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Iraq, I am aware of only one "value" America has tried to impose and it's not Mickey Mouse. It is democracy, or at a minimum, liberty.
The one place the US maintained troops against the wishes of the people is South Korea, or at least they objected until we actually began to withdraw. Go figure.

But one thing is clear: Americans are seeing the UN and its institutions as if for the first time, and they are shaking off an undeserved legacy of shame and humiliation. We have chosen the option to continue to work to improve ourselves and our country and yes, even the world, but it will be about the things we care about and in the ways we think will work. That is not going to include enriching the coffers of the renowned tyrants and butchers. Those days are over.

We are also seeing Europe differently and now realize that, contrary to their belief, Belguim and France do not speak for all of Europe. There's some new kids in town, and they are not only newer but stronger in their support of democratic institutions and human rights because they had been deprived of them for so long.

(I'm not going to explain the Dirty Harry reference in the title; read the entire article.)

I think the knock-out punch to the UN could come if a free Iraq were to demand an accounting from those who ran the UN Oil-For-Food program and and an explanation not only for the palace trappings but for the weapons and military equipment that the Russians, French, Chinese and, to a lesser degree, Germany imported as food and medicine. And, less we forget, Kofi Annan signed off on all the invoices in the program.

The UN Security Council lost more credibility when Def. Secy. Rumsfeld confirmed that US military forces had turned off the pipeline that was shipping Iraqi oil illegally to UNSC member Syria. By the way, does Syria occupy Lebanon with UN approval? Of course not. Does the UN care? Riiiight.

Information about the workings of the UN, which had never exactly been concealed, is beginning to achieve a prominence that should make wiser UN members a bit nervous. It may take awhile, but the US electorate does have the power to turn off the money taps to the UN which would pretty much spell the end of that institution because the other members are unwilling to support it financially. Even the prospect of moving it to Toronto was dropped when Toronto Mayor Lastman pointed out that it should be done only if the Canadian government was willing to underwrite all expenses.

TotalFinaElf, the Oil-For-Food program with UN oversight (and a 2.2% commission for the UN for that oversight), pre-war sweetheart contracts with Saddam on untapped oil fields by France, Russia and China, and failure to take action that would have forced Saddam to comply with UN resolutions seem to point to some pretty damning complicity, but the Bush administration has not exploited that information yet (although the information has appeared in both the NY Times (linked above) and Canada's Financial Post in a column by Diane Francis (FP link is dead.)

Canada's credibility has been damaged by its connection to the oil company TotalFinaElf. A sizeable oil exploration contract with Iraq was obtained when Saddam was in power by TotalFinaElf, and the majority shareholder in that company is Montreal's Paul Desmarais, whose youngest son, Andre, is married to Chretien's daughter, France. Desmarais has connections to Paul Martin, former Mulroney cabinet ministers and even former Ontario premier and NDP leader Bob Rae. And Chretien's nephew Raymond is Canada's ambassador to France. (Canadians might be very surprised if they read the linked article about Mr. Desmarais and his associates.)

You see, it wasn't the war in Iraq that was "all about oil", it was the opposition to the war that was about oil. Coming to terms with that is going to further lessen the influence of the UN on the United States.

Posted by Debbye at 07:19 PM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2003

Inside al Qaeda

Sept. 3 -- This book review of Inside al Qaeda The man who got inside al-Qa'eda hammers home a point that is too often overlooked by the liberal intellegentsia and media: the largest numbers of those who suffer terrorist attacks are not Westerners but Muslims. Who, after all, is hurt when bombs go off in Algerian or Phillipine marketplaces? Muslims comprised the greatest number of fatalities in the recent Jakarta and Najaf bombings.

Algerian journalist Mohamed Sifaoui, who has had friends and family who died in terrorist attacks, posed as a terrorist sympathizer to gain insight and information as a way to write this book and protest against the too-often indulgent and romanticized view of terrorists.

Sifaoui's book has sold 60,000 copies in France. It is to be hoped that its readers include President Chirac and his Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, and that the book will have had an educative effect on French thinking, though I wouldn't bet on it. The French book L'Effoyable Imposture (The Dreadful Fraud), which claimed that the 11 September attack was the work of the Jews and the CIA, sold over 100,000.

Sifaoui reminds us that the terrorist attack on the Paris Metro in 1995 was seen by many in France as a plot by the Algerian military government to discredit Islamic exiles. (The "brothers" - the terrorists - resented this attempt to exculpate them, since it detracted from their glory in the operation.) Given the French neurosis about America, one can well imagine where the finger would point should fundamentalists succeed in a new outrage in France. Unless the French authorities take a tougher line with the aiders and abetters of terrorism than they appear to do in this book, sadly - as in Britain - such an atrocity seems only a matter of time.

The author, however, states that Britain is the biggest safe haven for the hard-core fundamentalists. Good review -- and there's a link to Amazon if you want to buy the book.

Posted by Debbye at 04:38 PM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2003

De Villepin's adventure

Aug. 4 - Paul has some posts on the ill-fated French excursion into Brazil with It's funny when it happens to them and Von Villepin Watch although I prefer the sub-title "Bungle in the jungle".)

Watcher of Weasels also has some comments and a link to the French apology in the post "Past the Point of Rescue."

Oddly, Merde in France and Dissident Frogman haven't commented on this yet. I wonder just how much play this is getting in the French press.

May 31, 2005: I've updated some of the links as Paul moved since the cited posts were written.

Posted by Debbye at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)