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They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet
February 17, 2003 3:59 PM   Subscribe

"They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet." Is it wise for France to make opposition to war against Saddam such a central tenet of their foreign policy? Opposing the war may be politically sound today, but this seems a bit heavy-handed, and perhaps short-sighted. Is "European solidarity" just a code phrase for "France and Germany get to call the shots"?
posted by Mark Doner (76 comments total)

 
Well of course they call the shots, they are the main people paying for it all.
posted by meehawl at 4:08 PM on February 17, 2003


Still, it's rather paternalistic. And it is supposed to be a union not a hegemony.
posted by Mark Doner at 4:15 PM on February 17, 2003


I find it funny that deciding not to have a war with another country is a central tenet of a country's foreign policy. As if not going around attacking others is a deviation from an expected norm.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:24 PM on February 17, 2003


Yeah Mark Doner, take a look at Space Coyote's quote, he's dead on. I think Bush going around and calling the North Koreans part of "the axis of evil" and provoking other nations by branding them as such is short-sighted and stupid in terms of international relations.
posted by banished at 4:38 PM on February 17, 2003


Obviously France is putting pressure on the former Eastern Bloc countries, but then again, the US is putting pressure on France.

It's a statement on the world today when when you have to bribe or threaten other countries to have a shot at getting them to back peace and the rule of law. Still, if you want to join a select club, you have to be prepared to play by their rules.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:39 PM on February 17, 2003


Oh, good -- another reason to dislike the snotty French.

That France would even make this kind of overt threat against other sovereign nations with regard to joining the EU is arrogant and pretentious. France's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, as well as membership in NATO, were based on pity for this often-bitch-slapped nation. France certainly hasn't been a world military or economic power for, oh, 200 years or so.

And the French seem to have a *very* short collective memory when it comes to the propriety of one sovereign nation meddling in the affairs of another, to take such a holier-than-thou attitude. Algeria, Mssr. Chirac?
posted by wdpeck at 4:53 PM on February 17, 2003


Just to play turnabout with a tired, ad-nausium expression:

If it wasn't for France's help in the revolutionary war you'd all be eating crumpets and playing cricket right now.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:59 PM on February 17, 2003


As if not going around attacking others is a deviation from an expected norm.

It would be for us...

The issue is actually a very big one. It boils down to Will the U.N. Do What It Was Designed To Do?

Which was, in the words of the preamble to the U.N. Charter, to:

[S]ave succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind

The Europeans are pressing the point here because they know Bush's position is weak, and now is the chance to set precedent. If they can get the U.N. to work for once, meaning if they can get the U.S. to do heed the U.N. rather than cynically using it and heeding it only when it feels like it, then they stand a chance of making sure the 21st century doesn't outdo the 20th as the bloodiest century in the history of the world. If they can't, then they know the U.N. is fucked and that might still = right, and that we've changed nothing.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:01 PM on February 17, 2003


Space Coyote: The reason I say it's central is because they have been taking the issue to other parts of their policy: clearly they regard the iraq issue as more important than good relations with their eastern neighbors. Does the fact that their neighbors are trying to recover from the effects of decades of communism and need help mean they should not have their own foreign policies, but should just ape what their kind western benefactors do?

And yes, France has been shoved a bit also, but to my knowledge the US hasn't threatened to deny France normal trade relations or anything. Which is as close a parallel to what France is doing, as one could get in this analogy.
posted by Mark Doner at 5:04 PM on February 17, 2003


I strongly suspect that no one on this side of the Atlantic would be too concerned about these Eastern-European nations' foreign policy independence were it not for this whole Iraq thing.

Much like how the poor suffering Iraqi civilians have suddenly become the cause-du-jour among patriotic Americans.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:15 PM on February 17, 2003


Oh, and when I say 'patriotic' it's with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

I personally prefer the Thomas Jefferson / Ben Franklin version of patriotism to the modern popular version.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:24 PM on February 17, 2003


You've got a point there coyote, but don't you think it's a bit ironic for france to denounce american 'imperialism' given their own paternalistic behavior in this and the ivory coast mess?
posted by Mark Doner at 5:25 PM on February 17, 2003


Beyond what I've said on the subject, I recommend that when we go to war against Iraq that France and Germany impose a complete trade embargo against the United States in protest.

Chirac may have been a soda jerk, but now he's just a jerk.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:31 PM on February 17, 2003


Tell you what -- if we're all concerned about the poor suffering Iraqi civilians, why don't we listen to one of them?

Take Raed for example - he is about as pro-western as we can reasonably expect anyone over in Iraq. He doesn't like the screwed up government of his country. He doesn't like having to circumvent the firewall around his internet access -- but he would also tell you that he doesn't want the US to invade Iraq.

He doesn't trust us. He doesn't trust our motives. He doesn't look forward to living under foriegn martial law. He doesn't want his country bombed and innocent people killed. He'll tell you about how the US bombed a civilian bomb shelter during the Gulf War, wiping out a whole neighborhood. About how the water tanks burst when the bomb hit and how people were boiled alive...

Yes, he realizes that the countries leaders are fucked up, but that could apply to a lot of other countries too. Some would argue that it applies to the US as well, and that's a shame...

Saddam isn't a permanent situation. He'll die or be overthrown, and sooner or later the people of Iraq will get better leadership, but if and when they do, wouldn't it be better for them to get it themselves, rather than having it be a bunch of foriegners ruling by gunpoint?


Would the people of the USSR have welcomed American soldiers as liberators if we had invaded in 1950? Not likely...
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:42 PM on February 17, 2003


Oh, hell. Can we please keep this from being a needless rehashing of the tired war debate? I had hoped this might be an interesting side issue to discuss, but maybe that was a bit optimistic.
posted by Mark Doner at 5:49 PM on February 17, 2003


When you're in the family you have more rights than when you're knocking on the door
__ Donald Rumsfeld
__ Tony Soprano
__ Jacques Chirac
posted by dchase at 5:51 PM on February 17, 2003


Does France have some unusual sway on the entry of the candidate coutnries? I can't find any information on the admission process on the EU's website. But considering that numerically, there seem to be more European contries supporting the US than opposing it, I'd think that the eastern european candidate countries Chirac was addressing were actually improving their odds of admittance to the EU by supporting the US.
posted by gsteff at 6:04 PM on February 17, 2003


I think it's interesting to speculate on the possibility of a backlash against Chirac and Schroeder. These little nations that have so recently been freed from Soviet oppression probably aren't eager to become the bitches of the Franco-German Axis.

Perhaps a Union of Democratic Nations is afoot, with membership going to those who support a free Iraq.
posted by BubbaDude at 6:07 PM on February 17, 2003


gsteff: I just looked it up: The Treaty of the European Union (pdf) says in article 49 that a country seeking to join has to get unamimous approval from 'the Council' and a majority vote from the European Parliament; then there's some sort of ratification process, which I guess has to be unanimous also.
posted by Mark Doner at 6:24 PM on February 17, 2003


Perhaps a Union of Democratic Nations is afoot, with membership going to those who support a free Iraq.

Might want to work on popular support for such a war in one's own country first. Or any country, for that matter. (Israel maybe? I don't think even the iraqis themselves are looking forward to being killed quite as much as we think they are)
posted by Space Coyote at 6:36 PM on February 17, 2003


By now, they're used to it.
posted by BubbaDude at 6:43 PM on February 17, 2003


probably aren't eager to become the bitches of the Franco-German Axis.

But they're dying to become the bitches of American imperialism...
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:45 PM on February 17, 2003


"Romania and Bulgaria were particularly irresponsible to (sign the letter) when their position is really delicate," Chirac said. "If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining Europe they could not have found a better way".

My God, and the French think the US is arrogant. They need to look in the mirror.
posted by Beholder at 6:49 PM on February 17, 2003


Perhaps a Union of Democratic Nations is afoot, with membership going to those who support a free Iraq.

You're thinking of the Union of Obvious Strawmen; card's in the mail.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:49 PM on February 17, 2003


Can anybody confirm if the phrase 'franco-german axis' was uttered on AM talk radio in the last day or so? Seems a little too clever for the likes of your run-of-the-mill political troll.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:49 PM on February 17, 2003


Now that's just plain nasty, young fellow.
posted by BubbaDude at 6:53 PM on February 17, 2003


Here's one for the conspiracy theory crowd. Israel Ilan Ramon killed in the Shuttle Columbia tragedy was the pilot who dropped a bomb that destroyed the French-built nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.
posted by treywhit at 6:58 PM on February 17, 2003


You've got a point there coyote, but don't you think it's a bit ironic for france to denounce american 'imperialism' given their own paternalistic behavior in this and the ivory coast mess?

It's not irony, it’s hypocrisy. I don't support the war, but I don't support France calling out the U.S. for France is doing right now and has done for several hundred years. But then again, that's pretty typical of the European double standard: shit on the U.S. then turn around and do exactly what the U.S. has done. And Europeans wonder why Americans scratch their heads at European criticism of U.S. foreign policy.
posted by Bag Man at 6:58 PM on February 17, 2003


It's difficult to take a discussion seriously once a phrase like "the bitches of the franco-german axis" has been used.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:00 PM on February 17, 2003


"Here's one for the conspiracy theory crowd. Israel Ilan Ramon killed in the Shuttle Columbia tragedy was the pilot who dropped a bomb that destroyed the French-built nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981."

and it broke up over Palestine, TX.

Coincidence?

probably.

File that!
posted by RobbieFal at 7:12 PM on February 17, 2003


From the BBC, Conflict with Iraq? Where Europe stands
posted by X-00 at 7:12 PM on February 17, 2003


Colonialism.. slavery.. slavery.. colonialism..

OK, surveying the general landscape of the international community looking for a nation without sin...

This is harder than I thought.

Australia? Good history of promoting democracy in Papua New Guinnea.. but the whole wiping out the natives thing hurts their chances at being the moral authority for the world...

who else?

Switzerland were a little too cozy to the wrong folks in WWII, so they're out.

I'm never going to forgive Christmas Island for that certain website.. can't have them dictating right and wrong..

Anybody have any ideas? Or should we forget this line of thinking and actually try the whole 'rational discussion' thing?
posted by Space Coyote at 7:13 PM on February 17, 2003


Bag Man - I'd have to say that most nations do that to some extent. It's a question of degree. France has committed plenty of evil in the last 2 centuries, as has the US. Some good too, as has the US.

One relevant question here is - why is France picking this fight in the first place? Certainly France is proud - and perhaps jealous over the US push for a "Pax Americana" - but could it be that the French suspect that a US invasion of Iraq might threaten world stability?

Mark Doner - re: "to my knowledge the US hasn't threatened to deny France normal trade relations or anything" - In fact, the US Congress is considering imposing trade sanctions against French products ( Wine, for example ) in response to the rift over Iraq.
posted by troutfishing at 7:19 PM on February 17, 2003


But they're dying to become the bitches of American imperialism...

It was largely the US that kept the pressure up, and finally lead to the collapse of Soviet communism - not the French (that had, and indeed, still have, folks that think communism is a good thing). And those countries know it. They also know that the US is likely to provide quite a bit more financial assistance than France. And they also understand - with far more clarity than Chirac seems to - what it means to live under a regime like Hussain's.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:22 PM on February 17, 2003


One relevant question here is - why is France picking this fight in the first place? Certainly France is proud - and perhaps jealous over the US push for a "Pax Americana" - but could it be that the French suspect that a US invasion of Iraq might threaten world stability?

Oil. Oil, oil, oil, oil. Saddam offered significant financial incentives to Russia, China, and France (among others). Contracts that become meaningless should Saddam be removed from power.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:45 PM on February 17, 2003


It was largely the US that kept the pressure up, and finally lead to the collapse of Soviet communism

Bull. It was the hard work of the people who lived in those nations, the work of people like the members of the Worker's Defense Committee and the Solidarity movement that arose in the 1980s, and of leaders like Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik. Soivet communism collapsed because it didn't work, and because it was totalitarian, and because the people took it on themselves to do something about it, not because of the U.S.
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:47 PM on February 17, 2003


Perhaps a Union of Democratic Nations is afoot, with membership going to those who support a free Iraq.

Pity that the US wouldn't pass the membership criteria given its current plans.

It was largely the US that kept the pressure up, and finally lead to the collapse of Soviet communism - not the French (that had, and indeed, still have, folks that think communism is a good thing). And those countries know it.

Well, their leaders certainly know it, because most of them are - ta-da! - ex-communists. It's a little ironic, to say the least, that most of the Eastern European nations that are rah-rah-rahing the US position (in the hope of NATO money, mainly) are led by former apparatchiks and spies, now rebranded as democratic socialists, rather than the pro-democracy leaders from the 1980s. That sort of expediency would give most neocons a run for their money.

Saddam offered significant financial incentives to Russia, China, and France (among others).

And Spanish PM and war cheerleader Aznar offered significant financial incentives to Iraq in exchange for oil rights in 1997, in the midst of the last inspections crisis. If you can find a Western leader that doesn't have skeletons from that time, you'll probably have dug up the Chief Minister of San Marino.
posted by riviera at 8:19 PM on February 17, 2003


Both aspects were needed, eustacescrub. Or so I think.

True, Soviet communism wasn't a viable long-term item due to it's totalitarian nature, but if it hadn't been for the glaring example of a prosperous US that made the folks you mentioned certain that there COULD be an alternative, communism might still be hanging on in those countries, probably at the point of a bayonette.

And truthfully - without the impetus to outspend the US on military issues and space, IMO the USSR style of communism might well have tottered on for a futher century or so before it collapsed under a bureaucratic overload. With the money to perform a good amount of internal repression, and a cult of personality 'theocratic' government, dissent becomes deadly.... until the sheer pressure causes the entire society to explode.

Just my opinion - your mileage may vary.

JB
posted by JB71 at 8:26 PM on February 17, 2003


Midas - So it IS about oil then?
posted by troutfishing at 8:58 PM on February 17, 2003


If leaders of France and Germany are acting and speaking (a tough combination, as we well know) in concert with the beliefs and convictions of the people they represent--and they certainly seem to be--who are we to criticize them for it?
posted by troybob at 9:06 PM on February 17, 2003


eustacescrubb credits the fall of Soviet communism to:leaders like Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik.

and riviera claims these leaders are pro-Saddam: ...most of the Eastern European nations that are rah-rah-rahing the US position (in the hope of NATO money, mainly) are led by former apparatchiks and spies, now rebranded as democratic socialists, rather than the pro-democracy leaders from the 1980s.

Judging by this, one would expect that Vaclav Havel wouldn't be in support of the US-lead invasion to liberate Iraq, but, alas, he's one of the Wall St. Eight who signed on to support it.

Riv, I read this in the newspaper, so I know it's true. You'd best try again.

It's also interesting the the lead organizer of London's recent pro-Saddam rally is Lindsay Germany, Central Committee Member of England's Trotskyite Socialist Workers' Party. What does that tell you about the tendency of totalitarians to stick together?
posted by BubbaDude at 10:58 PM on February 17, 2003


My father was a member of the Solidarity movement in Poland before my family had to flee the country due to the imposition of martial law, and I've had the chance to talk to him a lot about that time, and subsequent political developments in Poland.

Credit for the fall of Communism certainly goes to the various resistance movements, and also to the ex-communists who allowed the transition to take place peacefully. But the USA also deserves a share of the credit for it's long-standing policy of opposition to the Soviets.

Recall that when Hungary tried to overthrow communist rule in the 50s, the Soviet tanks rolled in and crushed the uprising. By the late 80s, the will of the Soviets for this kind of thing had been broken. The arms race contributed to their collapsing economy, the US set a moral example of something better to aspire to, and the threat of direct military opposition was real.

Had it not been for firm US opposition, then perhaps Communism would have collapsed eventually, but I am convinced it would have lasted a lot longer.
posted by maciej at 1:21 AM on February 18, 2003


I think it's not by chance that the idea of confronting evil may have found more support in those countries that have had a recent experience with totalitarian systems compared with other European countries that haven't had the same sort of recent experience....The Czech experience with Munich, with appeasement, with yielding to evil, with demanding more and more evidence that Hitler was truly evil—that may be one reason that we look at things differently than some others....It's a matter of the functioning of the world's immune system, whether the world can deal with such a case of extreme evil before it is too late. -- Vaclav Havel
posted by BubbaDude at 2:49 AM on February 18, 2003


The point troybob raises is the most pertinent in this discussion. It seems that "evil" Chirac and Schroder are the ones that are in step with the citizens of the countries they lead, while, Blair, Aznar, Berlusconi, Havel etc. are misrepresenting them. See for yourselves. Notice that even in the Easten countries large majorities are against the war. In Turkey 87% is against the war.
In the Czech Rebublic:
A poll by the publicly-funded CVVM agency in the Czech Republic on Thursday showed 67 percent were against a war with Iraq and 24 percent of respondents were in favour. The support total falls to 13 percent without a second U.N. resolution while the percentage against the war rises to 76 percent.
So I guess it isn't France and Germany who are strongarming the other countries but rather the US government.
This BBC article also states that:

... Yet public opinion in eastern Europe is even more hostile to war than in the west.
A Gallup International poll of a few days ago found low support in the region for war, even if sanctioned by the UN - just 38% in Romania, 28% in Bulgaria and 20% in Estonia.
The figure for Russia was 23%...


So, unless democracy is just a pretext all around, what are talking about?
posted by talos at 3:06 AM on February 18, 2003


Leadership.
posted by BubbaDude at 5:03 AM on February 18, 2003


eustacescrubb said: Soivet communism collapsed because it didn't work, and because it was totalitarian, and because the people took it on themselves to do something about it, not because of the U.S.

Correct. The whole cold war boils down to that short sentiment, and the part that the US played during the period (starting with helping to rescue Austria and a large part of Germany from Russia's greedy hands) was completely insignificant.

/sarcasm
posted by syzygy at 5:03 AM on February 18, 2003


BubbaDude: So Leadership is showing contempt for the opinions of those who elected you to office? Taking them to war against their will? You know, like Saddam did when he attacked Iran? Sounds suspiciously like fascism to me.
posted by talos at 5:15 AM on February 18, 2003


So the US was able to help free much of Eastern Europe from tyrany... all without dropping a single bomb?

Sounds good to me, let's keep it up.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:24 AM on February 18, 2003


and this is the anti-war movement in a nutshell.

It's not about being opposed to war, but taking a stand in direct contrast with the United States.
posted by Mick at 7:36 AM on February 18, 2003


"...for the gap between how people actually behave and how they ought to behave is so great that anyone who ignores everday reality in order to live up to an ideal will soon discover he has been taught how to destroy himself, not how to preserve himself. For anyone who wants to act the part of a good man in all circumstances will bring about his own ruin, for those he has to deal with will not all be good." - Machiavelli, The Prince, Chap XV

"...there are some ways of behaving that are supposed to be virtuous but would lead to your downfall, and others that are supposed to be wicked, but will lead to your welfare and peace of mind." - Ibid.

I'm just saying.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2003


????!!!!

Mick, that has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've read on MeFi. Which is saying something ;-)
posted by i_cola at 8:11 AM on February 18, 2003


"The Czech experience with Munich, with appeasement, with yielding to evil, with demanding more and more evidence that Hitler was truly evil—But that doesn't mean automatically that a green light is to be given to preventive strikes. I always believed that every case has to be judged individually. The Euro-American world cannot simply declare preëmptive war on all the regimes that it doesn't like."
Vaclav Havel

Memo to BubbaDude:

Havel describes dissent not as an alternative political ideology but, rather, as an individual's insistence on his own humanity, on thinking and doing things, even the smallest things, honestly.
posted by y2karl at 8:29 AM on February 18, 2003


When... replaces —But that doesn't mean automatically that a green light is to be given to preventive strikes. I always believed that every case has to be judged individually. The Euro-American world cannot simply declare preëmptive war on all the regimes that it doesn't like.

When you edit Vaclav Havel to fit an argument with which he doesn't necessarily agree, you are putting words in Vaclav Havel's mouth while claiming him for a moral authority and backup. The working definition for this is hypocrisy. If you want to cite Havel as backing you up, I suggest you find us a quote where he expilictly endorses the invasion of Iraq instead of twisting his words..
posted by y2karl at 8:39 AM on February 18, 2003


Since even Tony Blair wants Security Council endorsement before any invasion, I suspect the same holds for Havel, which qualifies his support for Bush and explains the omitted portion of the quote above. Funny thing some people have about rule of international law.
posted by y2karl at 9:17 AM on February 18, 2003


[a French story]
BubbaDude is pro Saddam.
He's really a spy from France.
I saw him drinking French wine and eating French cheese by the light of a single candle whilst keeping an evil smirk on his face.
He hates the US and spits upon the flag regularly. He even has a flag of a vanquished foe of the US on his bumper sticker (stars and bars.)
BubbaDude hates everything our unelected fraud stands for and is insidiously trying to discredit him by pretending to be an ignorant and illiterate Freepr here on MetaFilter.
He waxes his long mustache and twists the ends as he plots hin next nefarious post.
[/a French story]

Feel free to complete the story!
posted by nofundy at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2003


Judging by this, one would expect that Vaclav Havel wouldn't be in support of the US-lead invasion to liberate Iraq, but, alas, he's one of the Wall St. Eight who signed on to support it.

It's 'US-led', literacy-boy. Strange that the Czech government itself distanced itself from Havel's signature, saying it was a strictly personal decision from the outgoing leader. (I read that in The Prague Post, actually: you should try widening your perspective, Bub.)

Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla was asked to sign the letter but refused, saying Parliament had already spoken when it passed a Jan. 17 resolution to use troops if the UN backed war or if Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction. Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said Havel's decision was personal and did not reflect the official foreign policy of the Czech Republic. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra gave Havel the letter to sign without Svoboda's knowledge, according to a Feb. 1 report in the daily newspaper Pravo.

This doesn't, of course, challenge the fact that the Hungarian and Polish signatures come from ex-Commies, who are proving themselves experts at political expediency when it comes to whoring themselves to their new political masters. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
posted by riviera at 10:20 AM on February 18, 2003


As to why the beknighted European populace so violently disagree with invasion, here's a take:

At least compared with their foreign counterparts, the "liberal" U.S. media are strikingly conservative — and in this case hawkish.

I'm not mainly talking about the print media. There are differences, but the major national newspapers in the U.S. and the U.K. at least seem to be describing the same reality.

Most people, though, get their news from TV — and there the difference is immense. The coverage of Saturday's antiwar rallies was a reminder of the extent to which U.S. cable news, in particular, seems to be reporting about a different planet than the one covered by foreign media.

What would someone watching cable news have seen? On Saturday, news anchors on Fox described the demonstrators in New York as "the usual protesters" or "serial protesters." CNN wasn't quite so dismissive, but on Sunday morning the headline on the network's Web site read "Antiwar rallies delight Iraq," and the accompanying picture showed marchers in Baghdad, not London or New York.

This wasn't at all the way the rest of the world's media reported Saturday's events, but it wasn't out of character. For months both major U.S. cable news networks have acted as if the decision to invade Iraq has already been made, and have in effect seen it as their job to prepare the American public for the coming war.

So it's not surprising that the target audience is a bit blurry about the distinction between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda.

Surveys show that a majority of Americans think that some or all of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi, while many believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11, a claim even the Bush administration has never made.

And since many Americans think that the need for a war against Saddam is obvious, they think that Europeans who won't go along are cowards.

Europeans, who don't see the same things on TV, are far more inclined to wonder why Iraq — rather than North Korea, or for that matter Al Qaeda — has become the focus of U.S. policy. That's why so many of them question American motives, suspecting that it's all about oil or that the administration is simply picking on a convenient enemy it knows it can defeat. They don't see opposition to an Iraq war as cowardice; they see it as courage, a matter of standing up to the bullying Bush administration.

There are two possible explanations for the great trans-Atlantic media divide. One is that European media have a pervasive anti-American bias that leads them to distort the news, even in countries like the U.K. where the leaders of both major parties are pro-Bush and support an attack on Iraq. The other is that some U.S. media outlets — operating in an environment in which anyone who questions the administration's foreign policy is accused of being unpatriotic* — have taken it as their assignment to sell the war, not to present a mix of information that might call the justification for war into question.

So which is it? I've reported, you decide.


Paul Krugman
New York Times

* or pro-Saddam, against Iraqi democracy and human rights or similar sleazy rhetorical tricks to tar your opponents
posted by y2karl at 10:39 AM on February 18, 2003


Let the boycott of America begin!
posted by ParisParamus at 11:06 AM on February 18, 2003


Chiracs outburst came at the end of a long day. Here's an interesting account of the confrontation(s) that have been hinted at in other sources.

... It was suggested that, at this point, the most dramatic moment of the evening occurred. Silvio Berlusconi, the diminutive Italian premier, eyeballed Mr Chirac and insisted: "I'm just as concerned about life and death as you are." ...

Seems like the meeting did not go his way. Personally I believe the whole thing is some personal problem he has with Tony Blair.
posted by grahamwell at 11:44 AM on February 18, 2003


Let the boycott of America begin!



Didn't know you were a culture-jammer, ParisParamus...
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2003


Riviera, you seem confused. First you claimed that Vaclav Havel would not support the liberation of Iraq, but when I pointed out to you that he personally took it on himself to sign the letter to the Wall St. Journal supporting it, you played misdirection and spelling flame.

Are you on any medications?
posted by BubbaDude at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2003


Silvio Berlusconi, the diminutive Italian premier, eyeballed Mr Chirac and insisted: "I'm just as concerned about life and death as you are." ...

Berlusconi? The one European leader who makes Chirac look like a model of personal ethical probity?


Oh, and Bubbalicious is back:

Riviera, you seem confused. First you claimed that Vaclav Havel would not support the liberation of Iraq

Strange, I can't find that claim (or even anything barely similar to it) in what I actually said. I pointed out that most of of the eastern European leaders to sign the rah-rah-USA letter (which doesn't 'support the liberation of Iraq' unequivocally) were ex-commies -- knowing, as I wrote it, that Havel had gone out on a limb when he added his name to the list.

(But am I allowed to play this game, where you're allowed to lie about things said by other people further up the thread? Such as your predilection for licking whipped cream from the breasts of teenage prostitutes?)

but when I pointed out to you that he personally took it on himself to sign the letter to the Wall St. Journal supporting it, you played misdirection and spelling flame.

Misdirection? Havel signs up during his last week in office, knowing that he doesn't have to deal with the consequences, and that the Czech government doesn't take the same line. And you weren't aware of that? Amazing.

Are you on any medications?

No: I don't think they make pills to treat 'dealing with fuckwits', sadly. Though you might try snorting a line of anthrax, and I'll let you know if it clears up, okay?
posted by riviera at 1:10 PM on February 18, 2003


Here's what you said, riviera: "It's a little ironic, to say the least, that most of the Eastern European nations that are rah-rah-rahing the US position (in the hope of NATO money, mainly) are led by former apparatchiks and spies, now rebranded as democratic socialists, rather than the pro-democracy leaders from the 1980s."

Is Havel a "pro-democracy leader from the 1980s" or a "former apparatchik and/or spy?" How hard is it to find politicians in former communist countries who can't be tarred with the brush of socialism, that being the only game in town until Reagan freed them and all?
posted by BubbaDude at 2:14 PM on February 18, 2003


Do you really have trouble parsing the phrase 'most of', Bub? There's a reason why I didn't say 'all', because I try, unlike some, to be accurate.

All of this, of course, is a sad attempt to drag attention away from my initial point: the slightly questionable nature of MidasMulligan's assertion that those signatures represented some kind of gratitude for being freed from Communism, when most of the eastern European leaders doing the signing were, coincidentally, precisely the Communists that the people were freed from. (I note MidasMulligan's silence: at least he's smart enough not to continue digging when he finds himself in an ideological hole.)

As for your comments about politicians being 'tarred with the brush of socialism' (Communism, actually): well, there's tarring, and there's rolling around in it like a pig in shit. But if being an apologist for former Communists toadying to the US is your thing, don't let me stop you.

(And I don't remember Reagan 'freeing' anyone, actually. Let me check the tapes of the crowds on the Berlin Wall, and get back to you.)
posted by riviera at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2003


Yes, most of the politicians in Eastern Europe today are former Communist Party members. Now are you bothered by the fact that they were once aligned with your POV, or that they've since broken free?
posted by BubbaDude at 3:07 PM on February 18, 2003


Boy howdy, I didn't know Saint Raygun performed the miracle of freeing the world of totalitarianism!
Geez, BubbaDude, can you back that up?
posted by nofundy at 4:59 AM on February 19, 2003


Now are you bothered by the fact that they were once aligned with your POV or that they've since broken free?

Here, children, we see logical fallacy number 47: false dilemma. What is the aim of false dilemma? To impose false alternatives on the argument. What is the effect of false dilemma? To show the world that you're a weasel.

("Proof: Identify the options given and show (with an example) that there is an additional option." I'm bothered by the fact that their long-honed, unadmirable Politburo skills are proving useful when toadying to a new political master.)

Is BubbaDude bothered by his cheering on of a bunch of former apparatchiks who have replaced the USSR with the US as their capo (and, like the 1980s, are doing so without any popular support for the policies dictated from their paymasters)? Apparently not.
posted by riviera at 5:47 AM on February 19, 2003


Examples:

i. Either you're for me or against me.


Heh, so American foreign policy is a false dilema (or it would be, if we actually meant it.)
posted by homunculus at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2003


Vaclav Havel signed the Wall St. Journal letter just before leaving office, riviera - he has no personal stake in the outcome of Iraqi liberation, but felt that he had to make a statement of principle. There have also been editorials in newspapers in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria in recent days supporting liberation.

On the other side, Europeans supporting Saddam are simply cow-towing to Chirac and Schroder, and that's not at all honorable.

Meanwhile, polls in the UK say that Britons believe by a 2-1 margin that the UN should move to depose the tyrant.

Are you a Marxist, riviera? You sure sound like one.
posted by BubbaDude at 1:47 PM on February 19, 2003


Are you a Marxist, riviera? You sure sound like one.

Paging Senator McCarthy!

I like the image of those Europeans towing cows, though...
posted by languagehat at 3:24 PM on February 19, 2003


Actually, Senator McCarthy was right - there are a lot of communists in Hollywood.
posted by BubbaDude at 7:54 PM on February 19, 2003


Wow, great thread. I have nothing to add. Well...

...Such as your predilection for licking whipped cream from the breasts of teenage prostitutes?)

What the ...?
posted by Witty at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2003


Meanwhile, polls in the UK say that Britons believe by a 2-1 margin that the UN should move to depose the tyrant.

Except that they don't. Lies atop lies, like flies atop a turd.

there are a lot of communists in Hollywood.

You live there? Or is your love of money-grubbing Politburo veterans emanating, noxiously, from a different part of California?

(Witty: my point was that BubbaDude feels compelled to lie about other people as a diversionary 'debating' tactic. And if we were all allowed to play by those rules... well, you see. Oh, and for the record, je suis Marxiste: tendance Groucho.)
posted by riviera at 9:56 PM on February 20, 2003


Hey, we're all Groucho Marxists here, pal... er, comrade in the Crass Struggle.
posted by y2karl at 11:47 PM on February 20, 2003


Only the truly depraved are Marxists in 2003.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:38 AM on February 21, 2003


America to Kurds: Ich bin ein Turkish Delight (Screw You)

Some hundred or so bloggers are sporting logos supporting democracy and human rights in Iraq

Move Along - Nothing To See Here

Turkey Assesses Question of Kurds
Mr. Erdogan provided few details, but he hinted at what Turkish officials here have been saying privately for weeks: that if war comes to Iraq, the overriding Turkish objective would be less helping the Americans topple Saddam Hussein, but rather preventing the Kurds in Iraq from forming their own state.

For years, this vision has haunted Turkish officials, who fear that Kurdish autonomy in Iraq could revive similar dreams among the 12 million Kurds living in Turkey.

To make sure it does not happen, the Turks are planning to send thousands of their own troops into northern Iraq behind an advancing American army. The reason offered in public is to control the flow of Kurdish refugees, thousands of whom poured into Turkey following the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

Publicly, at least, the other two protagonists in the operation, the Americans and the Kurds, say they are willing to go along. In private, though, the Turkish plans appear to be causing deep unease among both the Americans and the Kurds, who fear that Turkey's aggressive designs threaten to ignite deep-seated ethnic feuds in the region, complicate America's own war plans and lay the groundwork for Turkey to dominate the Kurdish region in a post-Hussein Iraq.

The Turkish fear of Kurdish independence is so intense that some analysts here have put forward another possibility: if the Americans get bogged down fighting the Iraqi Army in the north, Turkish troops may try to seize the oil fields near Kirkuk and Mosul, to ensure that they stay out of Kurdish hands.

"The bottom line is that the Turks will do whatever they can to hinder the development of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq," said Mensur Akgun, director of foreign policy at the Turkish Social and Economic Studies Foundation. "If worse comes to worse, Turkey would be willing to occupy those areas, at least temporarily."


Well, so much for the pro-Al Queda Campaign for Democracy and Human Rights in Iraq! warbloggers--the US and Turkey have cut a deal and both Kurd parties are mad:

Sami Abdul-Rahman, a top official in the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, issued this blunt warning to Washington and Ankara.

Mr. Sami Abdul-Rahman (Kurdistan Democratic Party): First of all, we refuse it. We refuse it. There is no rationale whatsoever for Turkish forces or any regional forces to enter our region.

Watson: For months, Turkey has been preparing to establish a military buffer zone inside northern Iraq for the construction of refugee camps. Ankara says this would prevent a repeat of the mass exodus that followed the Gulf War, when hundreds of thousands of Kurds poured across the border to escape Saddam Hussein's forces. Top Kurdish diplomat Hoshar Zebari says his administration can handle the refugee crisis on its own. He warned that a Turkish incursion could spark a new conflict in the middle of America's impending attack against Baghdad.

Mr. Hoshar Zebari (Kurdish Diplomat): If Turkish troops will come in, other countries may send their troops, too. The people may resist. So instead of having a smooth beginning for this conflict, it will be very messy.

Watson That warning was echoed by Kanan Makiya, an Arab-Iraqi exile who is helping organize a conference of Iraqi opposition groups.

Mr. Kana Makiya (Arab-Iraqi Exile): The response to the Turkish presence is going to be very negative. Turks are not liked in this part of the world, and it was not wise at all to agree to a plan which involved large numbers of Turkish troops.


Profile: Kurdish Leaders Warn That The Presence Of Turkish Troops Could Spark Clashes And Complicate U.S. Efforts To Oust Saddam Hussein In Iraq
All Things Considered: February 18, 2003

Iraqi Opposition Is Uneasy Over Delays and War Plans

In meetings last week in Ankara, Turkey, with American and Turkish officials, Kurdish groups were told that Turkish soldiers would enter Iraq on humanitarian missions during any war. Moreover, in testimony this week before Congress, senior officials from the Pentagon and State Department said the United States was considering a military occupation in Baghdad for as long as two years.

Both proposals face resistance here.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the parties governing northern Iraq since 1991, want the United States to remove Mr. Hussein. But both bitterly oppose allowing Turkish soldiers into areas under their control.

There is also unease over the nature and extent of an American administration of Iraq.

Kurdish groups said they would welcome an American occupation, which they said would maintain order and allow the United States to remove weapons of mass destruction. Dr. Barham Salih, prime minister for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, said an American presence could ultimately provide stability for the reconstruction of Iraq.

But he and Hoshyar Zebari, who handles foreign relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, also said a central concern for opposition leaders was how much participation they would be allowed during an occupation to choose and shape the government.

There were signs this week that the opposition, which has spent years fighting Mr. Hussein and calling attention to his abuses, worried that the United States might restrict their role. "Has the Iraqi opposition any role to play or not?" Mr. Zebari said.

posted by y2karl at 5:08 AM on February 21, 2003


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