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Blame it on America By: Olivier Guitta
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, January 19, 2004

During the debate on the war on Iraq, the American public realized that France was not our ally anymore. In fact, when France’s Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, was asked whom he wanted to win the war, he flatly answered: “I don’t know”, and 33% of his countrymen wanted Iraq to win… Now, supposedly, the relationship between our two countries is warming up. But, nothing has changed: France’s anti-Americanism just keeps on reaching new highs.

A month ago, “The Man who ruined 2003” was the title on the cover of the conservative, popular French newsmagazine L’Express. The picture on the cover was not that of Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden or Yasir Arafat, but that of George W. Bush. We would expect that from a communist newspaper or an Islamist one but not from a right wing French weekly. In this appalling article, we learn that President Bush did not succeed in the war in Iraq or for that matter in the War on Terror or in the Middle East in general. But that he was very successful in creating a worldwide chaos where violent acts are only increasing by the day: they blame Bush policies for triggering the terrorist attacks in Riyadh, Casablanca and Istanbul. Finally, our “messianic” President is engaged in an “imperialistic” war, a “crusade” against the “forces of evil.”

The following week, right after Saddam’s capture, the French liberal daily Liberation ran a column calling it “shameful” to show Saddam in this condition-with the long beard and hair- and adding that the US should get the “Oscar for Bad Taste.” The French media is more concerned about the image of the bloody dictator than the fact he was captured! How convenient since it enables them to hijack the real news: a US success.

But, best of all was last week’s issue of the least anti-American weekly, Le Point, which had a special section entitled “France punished by the US.” In one article called “Diktat on Air France,” the journalist seriously argues that the terrorist threats against Air France flights during Christmas were just an excuse for the US to “destabilize Air France.” So for him, the “paranoid” Americans’ only goal was to financially damage the French airline. Diktat is a very strong word referring historically to the Versailles Treaty of 1919 when the victorious countries in WWI forced draconian punishment to the losing Germany. Thus, according to the journalist, now the victor- the US- in the War in Iraq is unjustifiably punishing France for not having sided with them. So, being cautious by canceling flights and probably saving some French lives, is just accessory to the real reason: the US wanted to bankrupt Air France.

France is indeed very good at conspiracy theories. It is not a coincidence that the book, 9/11: The Big Lie, from the French author Thierry Meyssan was a best seller in France for over a year. This book supposedly proves how no plane ever crashed on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. It also states that Bin Laden was a US agent paid by Bush to destroy secret CIA offices in the World Trade Center.

Unfortunately, I am not making this up: this kind of argument is very common in France. To get a sense of this phenomenon, let’s just take a look at a recent French bestseller list: After the Empire, France against the Empire, The Devil’s Footprint, Bush’s Secret World, The New World Disorder, Washington and the World… Of course, the terms, empire and devil, refer to the US.

In this list can also be found some American authors, who are part of the Left anti-US crowd: Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and Norman Mailer. The French media is very happy to find some of our countrymen or residents to denigrate the US. For example, Liberation had an op-ed piece from Patrice Higonnet, a French professor at Harvard, called ”The triumph of the American fundamentalism.” Higonnet thinks America is “schizophrenic,” “more religious, more puritan, more nationalist, more arrogant” than ever before because of President Bush. According to him, America is victim of “a fundamentalist radicalization” and he goes on to compare Bush to the Wahabi imams—the Islamist extremists who inspired Al Qaeda. Are we dreaming? If Mr. Higonnet detests our country so much, why does he stay at Harvard instead of going back to France, where everything is so much better?

Liberation does not stop there: they had another op-ed by Christopher Newfield, professor of American culture at the University of Santa Barbara. This intellectual thinks that France is becoming more American by the day and that they should be very careful not to ever become like America, which would be the worst thing that could happen to it.

Now with all this in mind, how can one expect French people not to be anti-American? Such brainwashing is ubiquitous, from the press to TV networks and books, presenting only one choice: to hate us. When another point of view, favorable to the US, comes along, it is not publicized at all. For example Alain Hertoghe, a journalist from the Christian daily newspaper, La Croix, wrote a book entitled An All-Out War: How the Press Misinformed Us on Iraq. He did not get any press coverage, any publicity. Why? Because his outstanding book shows extensively and statistically how the French press took sides during the war in Iraq. Studying the five major French newspapers, he found out that out of 164 titles about Iraq, 135 were actually against Bush (“the irresponsible, violent, imperialist, fundamentalist” American leader) and only 29 against Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, he proves how the French press lied in reporting the situation on the ground in Iraq just to justify their anti-Americanism. What do you think happened to Hertoghe after the publishing of this book? He was fired, a few weeks ago, by La Croix for obvious reasons: criticizing the French press does not go well; if only he could have done like everybody else and smeared America…

France has a long history of anti-Americanism, which has now turned into an obsession. Everything negative occurring in the planet, or for that matter even in France, is the fault of the USA. Blame it on America has turned into a national sport.

The main origin for that feeling is the media and the intellectual crowd. But, contrary to what is happening in the US, it is not only confined to the Left. Everyone from the Greens to the Center to the Right and the Far Right agree on only one statement: America is EVIL.

Olivier Guitta is a Washington DC based foreign affairs consultant.

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