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If France does it...
Articles on France before 2013


  • (february 2013) If France does it....
    When Bush and Blair decided to invade Iraq, it was difficult to find one European willing to accept their good faith: it was obviously for the oil not for the weapons of mass destruction or to liberate the Iraqi people. Millions of Europacifists marched in the streets in opposition to what they saw as an imperialist invasion of a sovereign country. Millions of Muslims burned the flag of the USA and chanted "Death to America!" Intellectuals, pundits and commentators are still pointing at the indirect damage caused by the Iraqi invasion: an unfriendly democratically-elected government, Iranian dominance in the region, a resurgence of Al Qaeda.
    Fast forward to 2013, only ten years later: France has just bombed Libya and killed its dictator, and now it invades Mali to expel the Islamists that have conquered the north of the country, and is about to send weapons to the opposition in Syria so that they can overthrow Assad. It is a fact that France imports oil from Libya and uranium from Mali just like the USA imports oil from the Middle East, and that Syria is a highly strategic country as it has been since Assyrian times. Most Europeans will agree that oil and uranium may have played a role in France's decision to intervene in those two countries, but very few seem to be truly upset by the notion. When it serves the European economies, especially after a tough recession, it seems to be perfectly ok to "steal" the resources of other countries. Even more striking is the number of Europacifists marching in the streets against French aggression: zero. While it is a fact that Mali was occupied by Tuareg forces that used to be hired by Qaddafi, i.e. the Mali crisis is a direct consequence of France's intervention in Libya, very few pundits accuse France of blundering in northern Africa the way they accused the USA of blundering in the Middle East.
    There are certainly differences. France did not deploy soldiers in Libya like Bush and Blair did in Iraq. It simply bombed, like Clinton did in Kosovo. And Mali was not a case of regime change but a case of regime support: France helped the regime stay in place by repelling those who wanted to overthrow it. And neither Mali nor Libya compare with Iraq in size or strategic relevance.
    But the biggest difference is obviously the way the two countries behaved: Bush's USA tried in all possible ways to get a green light from the United Nations, i.e. international approval, before invading Iraq, whereas France simply decided to invade Mali and did it, without asking for anybody's permission.
    One major difference is of course Chirac. It was largely Chirac who created an anti-USA public opinion in Europe (at times even angrier than in the Muslim world). Now it's the exact opposite: both Sarkozy in Libya and Hollande in Mali were the leaders of the military intervention. Perhaps Bush's biggest mistake was not to invite Chirac to lead the attack on Iraq.
    Another difference is the role played by the media. Like it or not, the media in France are directly subsidized by the government. They can be largely independent and vocal on social issues but they tend to be on the side of the president when it comes to foreign policy. This is not true in the USA where media are completely independent of government. While certainly under pressure to accept the government's version of the facts and to be perceived as patriotic in general, the New York Times, CNN and so forth at least enjoy a financial independence that removes that conditioning factor. Furthermore, the French media have limited resources: even if they wanted to, and even if the government allowed them to, they don't have as many reporters to deploy in foreign countries as the New York Times and CNN.
    An important actor in the whole Iraqi mess was Al Jazeera. It was really Al Jazeera that turned gangsters, Islamic terrorists and Saddam Hussein thugs into "resistance". Al Jazeera created the narrative that the USA wanted to invade, enslave, terrorize and pillage Iraq. The USA underestimated Al Jazeera's power to spread information as well as dis-information and was powerless to fight against Al Jazeera's machinations. Later Al Jazeera also engineered the narrative that turned Al Qaeda into freedom fighters which, coupled with Muqtada al-Sadr's Shiite assassination squads, eventually led to the current civil war between Shiites and Sunnis.
    Al Jazeera has, instead, remained relatively quiet about French intervention in Libya and Mali. The times have changed: the Arab Spring has shifted the mood of the streets from Islamic nationalism to "put food on the table". The very fact that the Western powers allowed the Arab Spring to remove Western-friendly dictators like Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (a friend of many French politicians) and Mubarak (a friend of both Israel and the USA) has defanged the conspiracy theories that placed Western powers and the Israeli secret services at the center of all local events.
    One has to give France credit for being incredibily smarter than the USA. France got away with killing half a million Algerians in 1954-62 and later supporting the totalitarian regime that annulled the 1992 elections won by the Islamist party. France prohibits the Islamic veil, whereas the USA allows it. France has scores of vehemently anti-Islamic intellectuals, but none of them ever got in trouble with the Muslim masses the way a Florida priest did by burning the Quran. The USA can complain that it is a double standard, but ultimately one has to recognize that France knows how to do it and the USA doesn't.

    (For the record, i approve of France's intervention in Libya and Mali and of its support for the Syrian opposition; but then i also approved of Bush's intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. I did not march in the streets to protest against those wars. Millions of Europacifists did).

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Articles on France before 2013

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