France the bully

Posted: Feb 19, 2003 12:00 AM
Many Americans have mischaracterized the French recently. We have accused them of being overly sophisticated, of using subtle, clever and high-sounding language to undercut us in the United Nations. We have accused them of being weak and appeasers by instinct. But this Monday, in the European Union meeting, M. Jacque Chirac, the well-tailored 70-year-old French president, proved us all wrong. He revealed himself to be a vulgar, unsubtle, bullying thug. According to the Associated Press, M. Chirac "launched a withering attack ... on eastern European nations who signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq ... " He accused them of acting irresponsibly by expressing their opinions. France, which can't stop talking herself, would silence others who speak but rarely. Dropping the normal French circumlocutions, M. Chirac simply threatened Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and others who had been invited to become -- but had not yet been formally confirmed as -- members of the European Union (E.U.), that their words in opposition to France's wishes were "dangerous" and risked their membership being blocked. Romania and Bulgaria, who had expected to be invited to join the E.U. were told straight out that they were "particularly irresponsible to sign the letter when their position is really delicate. If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining Europe, they could not have found a better way." Adding hypocrisy to thuggery, the French president lectured Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary that they should have "a minimum of understanding for the others (in an organization to which they would belong)." This from a country that perversely measures her own glory by her capacity to betray a friend and ally. Adding cowardice to hypocrisy, President Chirac insisted on hurling his threats without his target nations being present. According to the Associated Press report, Britain, Spain and other EU nations had suggested that the candidate nations attend the Monday emergency summit on Iraq, but France and Germany refused to let them in. Then, with the representatives of Poland, Hungary and the other countries safely barred from the conference, the heroic French president unsheathed his verbal sword and smote his absent allies with economic blackmail threats. The list of countries under the French whip is ironic: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria. All these countries were on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain during the Age of Communism. They were unlucky enough to be occupied by the Soviet Red Army in the closing months of WWII and thus lived in enforced slavery for half a century. But geography was destiny. France was occupied by American, British, Canadian and other British Empire troops, and was thus saved from such a fate by their English-speaking liberators. It is worth recalling that while French soldiers were throwing down their rifles in 1940 as the Germans advanced, the flower of Polish manhood charged into the invading Nazi tanks on horseback in the last and most gallant cavalry charge in history. Of course, they were killed to the last man. While the Poles were dying with their boots on, the French were living on their knee-pads (during which, they cheerfully ferreted out and shipped their French Jews off to the German death camps). How dare the French attempt to blackmail the Poles -- of all people (and the Czechs and Slovaks, who they helped to sell out at Munich). If President Bush publicly threatened economic sanctions against countries that didn't endorsed our Iraqi policy, there would be thousands of Frenchmen in the streets condemning such blackmail -- and rightly so. But when the president of France does so, not only are there no demonstrators, there are barely any news accounts. This outrage should be given much broader coverage. But perhaps the Frenchman who talks big but carries a small stick may be overplaying his little hand. If France doesn't want to do business with the Eastern Europeans, we should invite them to join our free trade union. It would be an honor for us to trade freely with people who know the value of freedom. And should, in time, any of the current EU nations feel tainted by doing commerce with the French blackmailer and coward, our trade door should be open to them, too. If and when the French people throw out their current government and elect one that respects its neighbors and friends, we should certainly attempt to have useful and cordial relations with that government. Until then, we should not only not seek their support on Iraq, we should deny them the honor of joining in our cause. No blackmailers should rally under freedom's banner.