What with all of the bold and brave speechifying in New York City this week to re-nominate President George W. Bush, it's not surprising that the real news of the day -- at least for Ye Olde Europeans -- has escaped notice. Sacre bleu: Franco-Iraqi relations are at an all-time low.
At about the same time John McCain was standing before the Republican convention to dub our mission in Iraq "necessary, achievable and noble"; and Rudy Giuliani was thanking God for Bush's wartime leadership; and Ah-nuld was praising the president for understanding "you don't reason with terrorists, you defeat them," new Iraq and old France were trading targeted barbs and cold sniffs. I won't say which was doing which.
It all started when Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said, "I told you so," sort of, after two French journalists were kidnapped in Iraq by a Muslim terrorist group that has threatened them with death if France doesn't rescind its state-school ban on Muslim headscarves. Neutrality on Iraq is not possible, Allawi declared, pointing to the kidnapping of the putatively neutral Frenchmen. "We have always said that in the war in Iraq the forces of evil confront the Iraqi people and civilized nations," Allawi told Le Monde. "It's a primitive war. You can't get away with half-measures. France will not be spared."
Of course, a French hostage crisis in Iraq was never supposed to happen -- or so thought the French. Wasn't France, as head, if not headscarf, of the emerging Eurabian bloc, the Arab-Muslim world's best friend? From dictators, including Saddam Hussein, to terror kingpins, France has long been the good ol' European to count on. Not that dictators and -- even more revealingly -- terror kingpins haven't come through for France in this, her darkish hour. From Hezbollah's Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, to the Palestinian Authority's Yasser Arafat, to henchmen of Najaf renegade Moqtada al-Sadr, a roster of what passes for character witnesses in the best terrorist circles has signed on to attest to the bona fides of France and its kidnapped journalists.