French Massacre
November 20, 2004 4:20 PM   Subscribe

French Soldiers Machine-gunning Civilians. NOTE: 100Mb video download, very graphic content. So much for the "moral high ground" of the French, as they slaughter civilians in the Ivory Coast.
posted by kablam (97 comments total)
You're beating a straw man. I don't think anyone ever assigned the French "moral high ground" on anything. Even if they were absolutely right on Iraq.
posted by expriest at 4:30 PM on November 20, 2004

This is what the internet is for.

Heartbreaking, awful...but thanks.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:31 PM on November 20, 2004

Indeed. Let us completely ignore that bit of idiot trolling and not make this about the USA.

I hope this is taken to international court, and someone's head rolls for the decision to shoot civvies. It would be very good to see international treaties and agreements being upheld.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:33 PM on November 20, 2004

Oh, christ, this is just awful. I have a horrible feeling these images will stay with me for quite a long time. I'm in tears right now.

BTW, and not that I necessarily have any reason to doubt the characterization offered, but it should be said that it is unclear to me from the video that French troops were responsible.

Again, not that there is necessarily any reason to doubt it either.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:36 PM on November 20, 2004

As Bush would say, "C'est une action preemptive de guerre. Suck it, Cote d'Ivoireans."
posted by AlexReynolds at 4:37 PM on November 20, 2004

> You're beating a straw man. I don't think anyone ever assigned the
> French "moral high ground" on anything.

You mean anyone other than themselves? Just reread Fanon's L’ An V de la révolution algérienne, and I agree, I agree.
posted by jfuller at 4:42 PM on November 20, 2004

Note to self: maybe this isn't the moment to be a stickler.

As much as I hope that Bush and Rumsfeld et al. get theirs, if there's any justice in the world those responsible for this will be held accoutable as well.

I am not, however, holding my breath.

Awful, awful.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:45 PM on November 20, 2004

I have to agree with expriest - I don't think any "liberal" seriously thinks that the French are any more moral than anyone else. Maybe the French themselves, but crap, Americans think they're holy too. Their opposition to go to Iraq was based on oil deals and ties with Saddam as much as any other reason (that doesn't, however, make them wrong).

That being said, it doesn't make this excusable at all. These soldiers and their commanders should all be thrown in jail for the rest of their life at best.
posted by borkingchikapa at 4:45 PM on November 20, 2004

Those interested in the news story behind this video can read the BBC article.

As kablam no doubt intends to argue, this surely wasn't the responsibility of the French government, but merely a few bad apples.
posted by deanc at 4:46 PM on November 20, 2004

Could the poster provide some context for the video? Is this Abidjan, or Bouake? When was the footage taken? Is this footage from the November 9th incident in Cocody?

The video appears to be hosted by the Ivoirian embassy in the US. The Gbagbo government has been working to characterize recent French action in Cote d'Ivoire as a French declaration of war on the Ivory Coast, or in their more inflamatory moments, as a genocide.

I agree that the images are horrific. But I'd like to know more about what happened before concluding that this was a "slaughter of civilians", rather than a tragic overreaction by peacekeeping troops trying to protect French civilians, who are waiting in a number of facilities near Abidjan, waiting for evacuation.
posted by obruni at 4:50 PM on November 20, 2004

I can't click the link right now. I will join the condemnation of any soldier attacking unarmed people though. This is beyond the Pale and any armed force that does this must be held acountable. (How, is another question).

BTW, kablam: what do you think about unarmed wounded combatants in Iraq being shot by GI's?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:50 PM on November 20, 2004

Thanks kablam for posting that. Also, thanks deanc for posting the BBC link. I was surfing their site looking for some background or more on this and you beat me to it.

To be honest, I didn't have a clue about what was going on there. I try to keep up on Iraq and take notice of the deaths there, even if they are not always front page news. I've seen some headlines and knew something was not good in the Ivory Coast, but that was the extent of it. I know things are bad in the Sudan also. Sounds like the typical ignorant American, I know. Funny how both deanc and I went to the BBC first off, I knew I wouldn't find much on this in the American media.

I believe the Ivory Coast has been getting raped by Europeans and Americans for hundreds of years between the slave trade and I assume...ivory.

And, what five fresh fish said.

Thanks for educating me about what's going on beyond my selfish little doorstep.

P.S. Not real clear from the video who exactly was responsible, but I tend not to trust the big-ass countries with armored vehicles.
posted by marxchivist at 4:55 PM on November 20, 2004

The french blew up the fucking rainbow warrior, kablam, they should be your fucking heroes. You should have known they don't exactly have a reputation as being very gentle. And the French people have more of a stomach for colonialism than most americans do, too, so you might fit right in.

Now, I would have serious concerns about someone who would download a 100 mb file just to see people get killed.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2004

Damn the video is far I've seen a few seconds...I hear some gunshot , but can't tell who's shooting who as the camera pan and tilts too fast. We'll see later as we dl.
posted by elpapacito at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2004

The French have a very long history of this sort of thing. Their brutality may have been unmatched during the colonial era.
posted by cell divide at 4:58 PM on November 20, 2004

Industrialized nations with great economic and military power, versus small, distant third world nations makes for some truly horrible war. On each side, soldiers who are little more than children with guns, who have likely never seen the other side's people, culture, and way of life. Dehumanization is easy, and war atrocities are celebrated by the most hawkish of either side.

This is sad.
posted by Saydur at 4:58 PM on November 20, 2004

Wow... just repulsive. What kind of person fires into an unarmed crowd? Truly disgusting.
posted by TetrisKid at 5:08 PM on November 20, 2004

So much for the "moral high ground" of the French

What are you, dense? Or do you really believe everything Rush says?
posted by meehawl at 5:10 PM on November 20, 2004

Their brutality may have been unmatched during the colonial era.
posted by cell divide at 12:58 AM GMT on November 21

Is that including or excluding the genocide of native Americans?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:10 PM on November 20, 2004

trharlan: what do you think about shooting unarmed wounded combatants,which you fail to take the opportunity to inform us of?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:12 PM on November 20, 2004

I think this situation is a little different since the people in this crowd were not taking up weapons against anyone or fighting out of a holy site.
posted by TetrisKid at 5:14 PM on November 20, 2004

Damn you guys sure have fast links , I'm still dling.
posted by elpapacito at 5:15 PM on November 20, 2004

As someone that tries to keep up on international news beyond the stories that directly affect the US, I feel a bit ashamed that I wasn't even aware of what was happening in the Ivory Coast. Especially since this happened almost 2 weeks ago!

I had to go to the CIA World Factbook because it suddenly dawned on me as I read the BBC story that I really didn't know that much about Republic of Cote d'Ivoire (aka - the ivory Coast). And yeah, I'm also still waiting for the video to load (57% after about 10 minutes).
posted by HifiToaster at 5:25 PM on November 20, 2004

It is uncontroversial to say that european powers in colonial times were brutal. I do not feel responsible for that (my own ancestors were brutalised by the Brits for centuries, but I am unapologetically british today). I am not asking for Americans to apologise for old crimes, but pointing out some hypocrisies. One is - the American fiction of being a 'moral' country beyond criticism, and that some of those criticisms apply today.

kablam makes an easy point against the french (lets face it, they ain't on his christmas list) but - as far as I can see, has not made a comment decrying US abuses in Iraq and elsewhere.

Is that not a valid comparison?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:29 PM on November 20, 2004

Perhaps the French are trying to get on the good side of America by proving that they are just as violent and brutal and love war as much as we do.

Moral High Ground of the French? I don't know if that's a joke or not, but I don't think that any rational thinking person would ever think that France was acting solely on high morals in their opposition to the Iraq War. They were acting as much in their self interest as everyone else. And you know what, despite them just acting in their self interest, by chance they were proven right by what has occurred in Iraq since then.

Kablam, why don't you come down off your high chair in get into this discussion instead of posting some half-witted troll rant and ducking out of the conversation.
posted by Arch Stanton at 5:31 PM on November 20, 2004

Kablam, good link though. Seriously. :)
posted by Arch Stanton at 5:31 PM on November 20, 2004

And you know, shooting blindly into crowds rarely makes you friends. The US almost instantly "lost" Fallujah by firing live rounds into (by most accounts) generally unarmed protest crowds way back in April 28th, 2003, then again on April 30th. 17 were killed in the first incident, and then two days later, during a protest over the shootings, US troops again fired on the crowd, killing several.

Later that night the first grenade attack on US troops in Fallujah occurred. It's been downhill ever since. THis is par for the course for Fallujah, which was a centre of resistance to Saddam's rule during his regime, a centre of resistance to the British during their occupation, and has been restive for centuries.

Human Rights Watch says the US used "excessive" force in Fallujah that made an ugly situation worse.

I think in all these "peacekeeping" efforts, the use of non-lethal agents makes better sense from a strategic point of view. Killing people only turns dilly dalliers into resistance fighters. It's amazing to me that armies of occupation keep forgetting this simple truth over and over and following the occupation script, creating resistance fighters almost on-demand.
posted by meehawl at 5:32 PM on November 20, 2004

This kind of shit has been going on since the beginning of time. Not that we shouldn't be digusted and saddened by it, but it should hardly be surprising. Did everyone think that so-called modern day atrocities ended with the capitulation of Nazi Germany?

From French atrocities in Algeria and the Cote d'Ivoire, to British atrocities in South Africa and India, to Belgian atrocities in the Congo, to American atrocities in the Philippines and Vietnam and Iraq, the fact the folks on this thread are incredulous about this (while I share their outrage about this incident and all those others), and trying to make political points with it is patently fucking ridiculous. Wake up, people. All you need to do is read a fucking book to know that's going on. No one has the moral high ground on this kind of thing. As westerners we're all guilty for not trying to stop any of it.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 5:36 PM on November 20, 2004

Btw, I'm really not trying to spew recrimination on all of you and considering myself blameless. Just saying that, as rich westerners, we're all responsible for this shit every time it happens. Even when we say that we're making "surgical strikes" or "doing our best to minimize civilian casualties", or "teaching the locals a lesson", innocent people still die in horrible ways as a result of "our interests", and we still drink Grey Goose martinis and get a cab ride home. The fact that we don't overthrow the powers that be every time it does happen makes us all complicit in the whole sordid fucking deal.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 5:43 PM on November 20, 2004

Good, sobering points, Tommy.

And, now sobered, I must seek out Grey Goose.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 5:48 PM on November 20, 2004

Not to defend France's actions, but just in the interest of accuracy, the death toll is more likely around 7.*

France also says that the demonstrators were firing on them, which is possible since the two are practically at war with all of the rioting and the military attacks.
posted by destro at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2004

Now that I thnk about it some more, this sounds like it's recrimination for the Ivory Coast government's bombing of a French peacekeeping group the week before killing 9.

Still fucking awful.
posted by destro at 5:56 PM on November 20, 2004

" I hope this is taken to international court, and someone's head rolls for the decision to shoot civvies. It would be very good to see international treaties and agreements being upheld."

Of course this will not happen. A member of the Axis of Weasel, France is immune from such prosecutions.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2004

Video finally loaded. Looks like a lot more than 7.
posted by destro at 6:04 PM on November 20, 2004

put bush, blair and chirac on trial for crimes against humanity ... alongside their buddy saddam.
posted by specialk420 at 6:08 PM on November 20, 2004

Some background here.
Apparently there are Byelorussian mercenaries operating for the Ivorian side.

Although I haven't been able to watch the video yet, it's worth bearing in mind that President Gbagbo has the Young Patriot Millitias, which don't have uniforms, and is using them, so that might be a possible explanation. That they are unarmed civllians is equally plausible however; colonialism is a repugnant business and frankly, the practice of using former colonial powers as peacekeepers is stupid.
posted by comraderaoul at 6:11 PM on November 20, 2004

put bush, blair and chirac on trial for crimes against humanity

And Thatcher and Reagan and Giscard d'Estaing and Mitterrand and Nixon and Carter and Ford and Major and Bush and Clinton and ... getting the point yet?
posted by besotted at 6:11 PM on November 20, 2004

So let's see, what is the score now....

Pro-Iraq-war types: France does things that are even worse than the US!!!! And it isn't just a few bad apples, It's the french government!!!

Anti-Iraq-War Types: What the heck is your point? This is bad, The iraq war was bad. Just because France also does bad things and france was against the war means absolutely nothing.

Prediction: ParisParamus will gloat for about 8 months about this particular incident. United States will do nothing about it. The UN will be chastised both for being powerless, useless, and immoral institution as well as for it's inaction in the particular humanitarian tragedy by the country most capable of creating a functional, useful and powerful UN.

Who Wins? Certainly not the Cote D'Ivoire. Nor the anti-Iraq War types. Nor the French, Nor the UN, Nor the Pro-Iraq War Types. No one.

The question is, Should France remain in the Ivory Coast? If your answer is yes (as i am sure some french people's is...) You must accept all of the consequences. However unthinkable they may be.

Great link Kablam, Piss poor editorialism.
posted by Freen at 6:12 PM on November 20, 2004

Have not seen the video, yet. The download is very slow.

Anyway, here's a couple of links folks might find interesting. The first is about the major commodity and its farming. The second is a comprehensive review of the ongoing situation.

I wonder if this kind of graphic footage shows how the bar has been raised on the outrage meter. There's been a lot of crap going on out there, for some time...
posted by gsb at 6:18 PM on November 20, 2004

Oops, sorry for the screw up on the first link -- it's late over here.
posted by gsb at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2004

Looks like a lot more than 7.
I'm with destro. Though, from the video, we can't really tell dead from passed out or injured.

Disregarding the moral high ground debate, it's really hard to feel anything but hate for well armed soldiers sitting atop armored vehicles after firing into an unarmed crowd.

For those still downloading, you see nothing of how the shooting started, and I couldn't make anything out during the firing. Most of the video is the aftermath and it really is graphic.
posted by SAC at 6:23 PM on November 20, 2004

it is unclear to me from the video that French troops were responsible

The troop carriers appear to be flying French flags.

My inexperienced ear hears a number of small caliber automatic weapons, also pistol fire, and at least one explosion that might be a flash bang (?).

It would be interesting to hear from someone experienced in such matters who could tell us whether these are the solely the reports of French weapons. Are non-French weapons being fired?

As previously stated, you cannot see any of the shooting in the video so it's not clear, at least from what you see, that the entire crowd is unarmed.
posted by event at 6:30 PM on November 20, 2004

*click click*

Hey, Seinfeld's on!
posted by squirrel at 6:30 PM on November 20, 2004

So it finally loaded. I don't recommended it to people with very sensible stomach.

The first scene we see a lot of locals, probably a few hundreds (?) very close (hard to to tell, I'd say 5 to 10 meters) to what appears to be a french military convoy (I guess one of the vehicles was an AMX APC) , but I can't see any insignia..guess I saw a french flag on a vehicles. The lot doesn't seem to be armed, the soldiers are guarding the vehicles (still not on top of them) keeping people at a distance.

Second scene we hear gunfire , but it's impossible to tell who fired first at what and why, as apparently whoever shot the video runned away.

In the next scenes I see one badly injuried person, another with an apparently serious wound and some more that apparently passed out or are in shock, but no apparent wound.

The most graphic scene is that of a man (?) whose head apparently exploded.

In the next scene we see the convoy leaving the area, soldiers on top of the vehicles guarding them, evidently outnumbered by people around them, who are now keeping more distance between them and the vehicles.
posted by elpapacito at 6:37 PM on November 20, 2004

Some context for this video:

Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) has been extremely unstable since 1999, when Robert Guei took power from Henrie Bedie in a coup. Guei alienated many people from northern Cote d'Ivoire - primarily Muslims, many who had immigrated from Burkina Faso - by banning Alassane Ouattara from the 2000 presidential elections, because Ouattara had been born in Burkina Faso.

Guei lost power in an uprising in 2000, to Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo continued anti-northern rhetoric and kept Ouattara out of the political process. (Ouattara spent most of 2001 in exile, in France and Gabon.) In September 2002, Northerners in the army rebelled, plunging the country into civil war. These rebels ended up controlling the north of the country, and base themselves in Bouake, the largest northern city. Gbagbo's government controls the south, including Abidjan, the largest city and Yamousoukro, the capital.

Civil war continues, off and on, into 2004. There are a number of ceasefires, an attempt at a power-sharing government, and, as recently as a few months ago, real hope that the situation could be resolved. As of March 2004, there's a large contingent of UN peacekeepers - some African (largely Ghanaian), some French - maintaining a buffer zone between rebel and government held areas. (More info available from BBC, a timeline, and a country profile.)

On Saturday, November 6th, 2004, at least one Ivorian bomber attacked a detachment of French peacekeepers, stationed in Bouake. Eight Frenchman and one American aid worker were killed. The Ivorian government claimed that it had not been targeting the French - they'd been targeting rebels and had miscalculated. The French responded by ordering their troops to destroy the Ivoirian airforce - two fighters, two bombers and three helicopters - which they did, on November 7th. (BBC story here.

Gbagbo took to the airwaves and - accurately or not - announced that the French were supporting the northern rebels and attempting to overthrow his government to install a neo-colonial state. Mobs took to the streets in Abidjan, destroying French-owned businesses and burning French schools. The French began evacuating citizens - there were over 20,000 French citizens living in Cote d'Ivoire five months ago; there are estimated to be fewer than 3,000 today. (Article in Christian Science Monitor about Europeans evacuating from Cote d'Ivoire.)

On November 9th, a confusing set of events happened at the Hotel Ivoire. Peacekeepers were protecting a number of French citizens who had taken refuge at the luxury hotel. A large group of anti-French demonstrators had assembled outside. A rumor was spread that the troops protecting the civilians within the hotel planned to march on the presidential palace and overthrow the government. Violence broke out. It is unclear whether peacekeepers, Ivoirian troops or armed protesters fired first. It is also unclear how many people were killed. The Gbagbo government claims that peacekeepers fired into the crowd and that at least sixty civilians were killed. The French claim that Gbagbo loyalists fired first and that Ivoirian security forces returned fire, and that seven were killed. (Reports from the Boston Globe, the New York Times and the BBC.)

It is my best guess that the video we're seeing here is from the incident on November 9th. It is not at all clear who is firing shots, nor is it clear whether it's a single party, or a gun battle. Clearly civilians were injured and killed - which is tragic - but the video does not present evidence, to my eyes, that French peacekeepers (rather than Ivoirian security forces or loyalist citizens) fired the shots.

It is worth pointing out that the Gbagbo government has been working hard to portray the recent conflict as a French "invasion" of Cote d'Ivoire. Reporters Sans Frontiere (yes, they're French, but they're also one of the most respected journalist rights organizations in the world) argues that the Gbagbo government is using the TV and radio to incite people to riot, quite possibly with this footage, as the footage is hosted by the Ivoirian embassy in the US. Human Rights Watch is calling on Abidjan to rein in militias and ensure that the current anti-French violence doesn't escalate into anti-Northern violence.

My point is simply this: the situation in Cote d'Ivoire is extremely complicated right now. It's grossly unfair to accuse French peacekeepers of committing atrocities without clear evidence. It's quite possible that this tragic footage is the result of shots fired by people other than French peacekeepers. The Gbagbo government very much hopes that people will draw that conclusion - it's extremely unclear to me that that is the correct conclusion to draw.

I am disappointed, though not entirely surprised, that the discussion of this incident on MeFi should turn into a discussion of Iraq. Kablam invites as much, slamming the French for their alleged "moral high ground". It would be far more respectful of the people involved in the incident if we discussed it in terms of the history of Cote d'Ivoire, rather than as a deeply imperfect mirror of American involvement in Iraq.
posted by obruni at 6:38 PM on November 20, 2004

obruni: Here here. Well said.
posted by Freen at 6:39 PM on November 20, 2004

Freen, you mean "Hear, hear." I think.

"Hear, hear" means "hurray for what you just said"--"here, here" means "here now, that's enough of that."

I, too, think obruni's summary is extraordinarily helpful, and I wouldn't be surprised if some young French soldiers were so freaked out that they shot some civilians in front of a video camera, just as we've seen young US soldiers so freaked out that they've shot some civilians in front of a video camera. War is all hell. Nobody has a "moral high ground" in the field.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:45 PM on November 20, 2004

Thank you, obruni. Hear hear, indeed. (*flicks Freen's ear*)
posted by squirrel at 6:48 PM on November 20, 2004

posted by squirrel at 6:48 PM on November 20, 2004

All War is hell. Nobody has a "moral high ground" in the field.

Sidhedevil: hear, hear.
posted by besotted at 6:50 PM on November 20, 2004

Right, I've watched the whole thing through and the initial gunfight twice and there is nothing here from which you can draw the conclusion that this is some potemkin-stairway style massacre, as the (loaded as hell) FPP implies.

Here's what happens:

1. We see a crowd of people that seem to be civiliians. However, we can only see a small area around the cameraman.
2. The shooting starts; we can't see where and concievably it could 100s of metres away. The camera blurs and we see absolutley nothing.
3. After that, we see the aftermath with some closeups on people who appear (and most likely are) civillians.

Nowhere in this is there evidence to draw the conclusion that this was a 'massacre', which to me implies a deliberate, cold-blooded attempt at wiping a group out. There is no way to know whether there was an armed Ivorian group or not. There is no way to know who shot first. The film shows us a selection of civillian casualties from a firefight, and thats all it shows.

Calling it a 'massacre' is frankly sensationalist. I'm a sorry as anybody that civillians were killed, and I don't belive france should even be in the country, but this FPP is francophobic point-scoring and, as was said above Piss poor editorialism.

On preview: great summary obruni.
posted by comraderaoul at 6:55 PM on November 20, 2004

I think it is well worth reading this thread from the start. It is quite interesting the number and names of the people who just had to make it about the USA.

Ivory Coast = chocolate slavery.

Please support the Ivory Coast by not purchasing chocolate. At the very top of the list are chocolates from Hershey, Nestlé, Cadbury, etc. They are slavery chocolate.

You actually can still buy chocolate bars; they'll be of higher quality chocolate and a bit more expensive, but they'll be Fair Trade, Organic, and have a lot more actual chocolate in them.

posted by five fresh fish at 7:01 PM on November 20, 2004

Just watched the video. Truly shocking. I think perhaps someone in control of those French forces (who should be there protecting others) has made a big, big mistake.

Possibly though, someone in the crowd made a shot at the French and they responded as one might imagine young, scared soldiers would.
posted by rekka at 7:04 PM on November 20, 2004

it's extremely unclear to me that that is the correct conclusion to draw.

Exactly. Admittedly, I didn't watch the entire film. But, based on what I did see I was never clear on who was actually firing shots. There was a lot of emphasis on the results (which was horrible enough in and of itself) and the footage of the troops seemingly uninterested in what was going on was very damning. I could see this video being extremely effective for what obruni mentioned regarding the Gbagbo government's tactic to incite a riot. It is the same kind of footage used by any number of corrupt governments to convince the populace that peacekeepers are the ones to blame and not the government itself (diversion tactics).

I'm not saying that I know this for sure, and there is no question that the French involvement in the affairs of the Ivory Coast are a little questionable, but given the history of the area it is not surprising that any level of understanding of the entire situation is nearly impossible.
posted by purephase at 7:09 PM on November 20, 2004

obruni wins.

Oh wait, this wasn't a snarkfest? I meant, thanks obruni.
posted by DaShiv at 7:17 PM on November 20, 2004

There is much rich irony in the condemnation of "politically-loaded" posts about alleged military impropriety. Idiot trolling? Piss poor editorialism? Are you new to Metafilter? You think Kablam was trying to score easy points of the French? I wonder where he could have possibly learned that. I also find the rush to objectivity in a thread that doesn't involve Americans very refreshing. Who's really playing politics?
posted by loquax at 7:19 PM on November 20, 2004

This video is fairly confusing to me. If there was a "massacre," where 60 people were killed, then, um, where is the blood? The ground seems remarkably free of blood, as do most of the victims (with the exception of the 2-3 who are quite obviously dead or maimed). In truth, one sees one person whose head is gone, one person who appears to have had a foot shot off, and a whole group of people who seem to have what appear at first glance to be superficial bullet wounds (as in bullets creased their flesh). The women who appear to be in distress have obviously not been shot (no blood pools, no entrance or exit wounds showing).

Also, how many crowds would stick around in firing range of a group of soldiers that have just opened fire on them? There are literally hundreds of people milling around even after we are shown the footage of the "shot" victims--how many folks do you know that would wander around after having been shot at--with machine guns?

Also, check out the other "French Soldiers fire on unarmed civilians" video on the website. In it you will see that (if this is the same incident, which it appears to be) there were clearly Ivorian soldiers in the crowd (unless of course, the French have started to carrying AK-47s with collapsible stocks)....
posted by Chrischris at 7:25 PM on November 20, 2004

I'd have to agree with comraderaul here. I too was foolish enough to download the whole bloody video and watch all 10 minutes of it expecting to see at some point a french soldier actually firing into a crowd of unarmed Africans. What I got was very gory footage of dead, near dead, and wounded people, a lot of gunshot sounds and a lot of Africans screaming in french. If the French soldiers were responsible for this they should definitely be brought to justice. But if they're brought to justice on account of this inconclusive video, I'd have to say they're the victims of a millitary witch hunt. This was sad indeed, but definitely sensationalist. Darn! I was looking forward to have something on those Croissant eating bastards too!
posted by yossarian1 at 7:27 PM on November 20, 2004

five fresh fish, very true about chocolate. What do you recommend to look for when buying chocolate? Perhaps if we had country of origin food labeling it would be easier to make choices on how we, the worlds most powerful consumers, vote with our dollars. Not that corporations want us to vote.
posted by stbalbach at 7:30 PM on November 20, 2004

Please support the Ivory Coast by not purchasing chocolate. At the very top of the list are chocolates from Hershey, Nestlé, Cadbury, etc. They are slavery chocolate.

I've heard this other places as well (I think CBS may have even done a story on it last year for 60 Minutes). Will not purchasing chocolate actually make a positive difference or just cost the locals their jobs?
posted by TetrisKid at 7:33 PM on November 20, 2004


If I'm not mistaken, of the US and France, only one of them is a member of the International Criminal Court. So which one would be more immune to war crimes prosecutions again?
posted by chundo at 7:45 PM on November 20, 2004

I'm always amazed at this particular aspect of human creatures: We each have the ability within us to perform the most heinous atrocities, and yet most people like to pretend that they and "their kind" could never do such a thing. It's the same thing that leads Muslims to think that 9/11 was committed by Jews; or Vietnam vets to think John Kerry was just making that shit up; or Americans to think that our soldiers' main jobs are rebuilding Iraqi schools.

I'm glad to see most of MeFi doesn't fall into that trap.
posted by fungible at 7:45 PM on November 20, 2004

obruni, thanks for that history. I don't have the words.
posted by deliquescent at 7:53 PM on November 20, 2004

The world, the whole damn thing, scares me a lot sometimes.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:54 PM on November 20, 2004


So we're talking about the morality of slaughtering "civilians"?

Hypocrisy never fails to amuse.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 9:25 PM on November 20, 2004

I share craven_morhead's fears. I couldn't watch the whole clip. It had something about me not wanting to lose my naive faith in humanity.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 9:35 PM on November 20, 2004

I saw a reference to other videos on the Ivory Coast's website; where? I don't read French, for one thing. I can say that so far I've only been able to watch the first three minutes of this video, whatever situation it records; I hope I don't have to watch people get shot in real life.

Anyway, let's see: the French troops are supposed to be "backing", but not apparently part of, a UN "keep-'em-apart" force. But now it seems the French are out to overthrow the government of the "host" country, having already pretty much eliminated its Air Force and seized effective control of its big airports; French military vehicles also seem able to roll down the streets of Ivorian cities unchallenged and/or unescorted by the national army. There are interesting parallels here.

Regardless of who did what to who when and why, it's time for the French to pull their citizens -- and apparently the rest of the Ivory Coast's white residents and visitors, who can be mistaken for French -- out of the country, and then evacuate every last French soldier too. The alternative seems to be to flat-out recolonize the place outright, which seems like too far to go. At this point who's right or wrong in anybody's opinion is beside the point: the French ought to bug out. (Like the U.S./U.K. alliance and its "partners" ought to bug out of Iraq.) Post haste, chop chop. When you've outworn your welcome it's not right to not go home.

(I think I've just joined MeFi's anti-imperialist contingent.)
posted by davy at 10:19 PM on November 20, 2004

I would have serious concerns about someone who would download a 100 mb file just to see people get killed.

I was hoping to see who did the shooting and maybe why. I didn't. It seems though that the cameraperson was not expecting the French to open fire or s/he'd have picked a better vantage point to film them doing it.
posted by davy at 10:34 PM on November 20, 2004

Well, having now seen it, and reading through this thread, I have to say that the French seem to have really screwed the pooch on this.

As far as analyzing/counting bodies from the video alone, I wouldn't bother. People on the scene can do a more thorough job, I got disoriented as hell. I also wouldn't dismiss the damage done here from a perceived lack of blood.

The French should get some triangulating equipment in place, bringing to bear their rather formidable intelligence force into locating and silencing this Gbagbo.

I've been keeping tabs on this situation since it's deteriorated in The Ivory Coast, and can't conclude anything from this, other than I still hope the French don't cut and run from the situation.

And as far as comparisons to Iraq are concerned, I would only point out to Kablam that Videos of the same graphic nature are being broadcast throughout the middle east, and I doubt many here would deny that the effect of being exposed to it is minor.

OK, I'm off to have some nightmares now...
posted by Busithoth at 10:47 PM on November 20, 2004

Dead civilians. Questions over who shot first. Questions over who killed who. Were they really civilians? Claims of a cover-up on the part of the military. Claims of propaganda on the part of the opposition. Gradual realisation that soldiers (especially soldiers of a perceived occupying, colonial, historically-feared force) are not the best people to handle police functions such as crowd control. Largely inaccurate parallels drawn with other conflicts around the world. Suggestion that the military should just get the hell out. Suggestion that the military should respond with overwhelming force. Gradual realisation that we've passed the point where uncovering the truth will have any affect on the situation. Escalation of violence. More death. For a long, long time.

Sorry. What were we talking about?

Oh. Humanity. Right.
posted by flashboy at 11:06 PM on November 20, 2004

Hypocrisy never fails to amuse.

posted by Krrrlson at 11:12 PM on November 20, 2004

What's pretty clear is that a lot of people that didn't have any means to defend themselves got shot. A bunch died and lots got some nasty wounds.

Whomever is responsible for the shooting should be tried, convicted and executed for war crimes.

This was very hard to watch.
posted by fenriq at 11:28 PM on November 20, 2004

I still hope the French don't cut and run from the situation.

What else is there for France to do? Recolonize the place?
posted by davy at 11:49 PM on November 20, 2004

[M]ost people like to pretend that they and "their kind" could never do such a thing.

My kind has done some pretty awful crap. We should stop.
posted by davy at 11:53 PM on November 20, 2004

...the French ought to bug out. (Like the U.S./U.K. alliance and its "partners" ought to bug out of Iraq.) Post haste, chop chop. When you've outworn your welcome it's not right to not go home.

I still hope the French don't cut and run from the situation.

What else is there for France to do? Recolonize the place?

davy, that's a really good point, but I'm wondering: do occupying forces have some sort of obligation to at least attempt to "fix" things in occupied countries before leaving, or is that just us pretending that the "natives" couldn't possibly fix their own country? I would rather the US get out of Iraq as quickly as possible, and I'm sure many French feel the same way in regards to the Cote d'Ivoire, but do we need to try and improve the situation? Or are we just causing more damage every moment we remain?
What, in your mind, will happen if France pulled out of Cote d'Ivoire now, and/or if the US pulled out of Iraq?
posted by 235w103 at 12:23 AM on November 21, 2004

Let's be clear about this. The French are not in any sense, an "occupying force". They are the main contingent of a UN peacekeeping force. If that UN force were to pull out, the result would probably be bloody civil war.
posted by salmacis at 12:56 AM on November 21, 2004

slamacis: you're right. But I think that some other power than France should at this point be called in to replace the French troops. The problem is, those that can do not want to be involved at this and those who would be involved in this don't have the military means of being effective...

Check out this story for example:
But after months of haggling over the details, Western diplomats privately question whether either side has the will to make peace -- unless outside powers leave them no other choice.

France, at sword's edge with what was once its main African partner, is unlikely to take the lead. The UN, which already has 6 000 peacekeepers manning a buffer zone between the rebel north and government south, has been suggested for a larger role -- but even the international body is accused of bias by Gbagbo's hard-liners.

Gbagbo has asked the United States to intercede, but American officials have made clear they will not take over France's role.
With many Westerners gone, there are fears the heavily Christian, pro-government militias could again turn their anger against the "outsiders" remaining: the northern Ivorians, Muslims and immigrants they accuse of supporting the rebellion.

Already, there are reports of ethnic clashes in the west of the country, causing thousands of Ivorians to stream into neighbouring Liberia.

"We, the people of the north, are targeted just like the whites, but no one comes to protect us," said an Abidjan truck driver, too afraid to give his name. When government forces raided his home in March, looking for opposition supporters, they dragged away seven relatives and shot them, he said.

"The situation is calm now," he said, "But it can explode at any time."
Informative background about the Ivory Coast and its civil war.
posted by talos at 1:59 AM on November 21, 2004

I think a few commenters here saw a different video than I did. I saw one indisputably dead person (exploded head), and one person with a greivous wound (missing foot). I saw a number of people apparently uninjured and passed out, with others fanning them. I didn't see anyone fire a gun at anyone, only the noise of gunshots. There is absolutely no way, based on this video, to lay any blame for anything at anyone's feet, or even to make a good guess at the nature of this event.

For context, we have the source of the video (the Ivorean government) and its well-publicized use of propaganda to stir up anti-French feelings in the local population. We have the French military intervention, which has gotten more serious, though what they hope to accomplish I have no clue. The Ivorean government's position is, basically, "leave us alone so we can slaughter the rest of the rebels." The rebels want to take over and be in power themselves, like rebels everywhere. So there's a distinct lack of a side to sympathize with in this whole mess, except the side of the Ivoreans who just want to get on with their lives and not kill anyone. I don't know what the relative supply of those is right now.

In summary, this video tells us a lot more about what the Ivorean government wants you to believe is happening than it does about what's actually happening. It may be 100% pure documentary truth, or it may be well-edited propaganda. It's easy to tell what you're supposed to conclude, but there's simply no way to tell what actually happened.
posted by rusty at 3:31 AM on November 21, 2004

this is a war crime, of course. one wishes that war criminals -- French, American, whatever -- would be tried at the Hague.
this doesn't seem likely to happen, though.

it's funny how our right-wingers shriek about "civilian casualties" only when said casualties are not slaughtered by Americans. or Israelis.

anyway, enjoy your Iraqi triumph. Saddam's tortures at Abu Ghraib are no more, after all.

posted by matteo at 5:45 AM on November 21, 2004

rusty - I think that your analysis is a little too clearheaded for the preceding discussion. I'm pretty sure many of the above participants were looking for an emotional release, not logical reasoning...
posted by fairmettle at 5:48 AM on November 21, 2004

VERY misleading intro to the video.

90% of it looks like people lying down from heat stroke. I mean people with their shirts off, no visible wounds, and they're seen sitting up a little later in the video. I assume the shirts were off to look for wounds.

I saw two central body mass wounds on people who look like they could walk to the hospital and one deep scratch on someone's head. I don't know much about firearms but the bullet holes look like they are very small caliber... not something a French soldier guarding an armored vehicle would use. Anybody who knows about such things can comment?

Then there were 2 serious wounds - a corpse shot in the head with something big and someone who's hand was badly injured (looked like he was holding a grenade or something, or an unusual gunshot). Awful but who knows what happened.

There's nothing in there to implicate the French.

I wonder if there was a pipe bomb or something that went off since the guy had that hand injury and other people had maybe more shrapnel type injuries?

Awful intro unless the goal was to cause allot of comments.
posted by RemusLupin at 6:15 AM on November 21, 2004

What does kablam think about this, other than 'France:bad'?

BTW, also posted at LGF by Charles "It's hard not to hate the french" Johnson.

Xenophobic, scaremongering and hypocritical. Where's kablam now?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:25 AM on November 21, 2004

Kablam is enjoying a celebratory beer after observing that his troll got 80+ comments.
posted by sotonohito at 7:28 AM on November 21, 2004

So much for the "moral high ground" of the French, as they slaughter civilians in the Ivory Coast.

No people in the world who have a military and are willing to use it for anything other than self-defense or to end an ongoing war are moral.

I trust that our level-headed friends on the political Right will not do as much context-free hyperventilating as much some on the political Left did with the famed AH-64 video.
posted by moonbiter at 8:12 AM on November 21, 2004

I trust that our level-headed friends on the political Right will not do as much context-free hyperventilating as some on the political Left

Wow. Is that sarcasm or are you a non-member of the reality-based community?
posted by Busithoth at 8:28 AM on November 21, 2004

A few notes:

- There's a real fear to see Ivory Coast turn into another Rwanda. In 1998 (last census) 26% of the population was foreign born, and this was used by local politicians and intellectuals to justify and encourage xenophobia for political gain, through the concept of "Ivoirité", actually a born-again nationalism that is used as an excuse for ethnic cleansing (for people who read French, see here and here for an academic viewpoint).
So, while French self-interest and murky franco-african politics are obviously at play, the idea of a "buffer" military force isn't just some hypocritical post-colonial venture.

- The French population in Ivory Coast is thought to be 15-20000 people, and one third of them are also Ivorian citizens (even Gbagbo's first wife was French). Many of them are small business owners who have been living there for decades. Pulling them out of the country is not going to help anyone. The Gbagbo government has been trying to demonize this population for months, with his "Young patriots" using "Everyone gets your Frenchman" as a rallying cry. He's saying he wants the French back now.

- The video itself is just gruesome and adds little to the debate. People died and it's a "she says, he says" situation right now. French troops are trained peacekeepers and there has been few incidents of that sort in previous peacekeeping missions. The French government claims that the victims were killed during clashes between Ivorian troops and demonstrators. Ivorian authorities (in French) maintain that panicked French troops (including special forces, which would explain the decapited person as these troops use heavier weapons than the regular Famas) fired deliberately.

- There are many things (and potentially FPP-worthy ones) to say about French neocolonialism and French involvement in Africa (north and subsaharian), aka "Françafrique". It's an awfully complex topic and a mixture of really bright points and extremely dark ones. Non-partisan, credible information about this is hard to find on the web in English (and even in French), unfortunately.
posted by elgilito at 9:04 AM on November 21, 2004

Metafilter comments as processed by an information parser:

Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Interesting snippet of information
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Interesting snippet of information
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
posted by DirtyCreature at 11:09 AM on November 21, 2004

stbalbach: five fresh fish, very true about chocolate. What do you recommend to look for when buying chocolate?

TetrisKid: Will not purchasing chocolate actually make a positive difference or just cost the locals their jobs?

Jobs? They're slaves, being worked 16-18 hour days with beatings and misery. I don't think making the slavery operations non-viable is going to prove an issue.

There are several ways to ensure you're not supporting slave chocolate.

The best is to seek out fair-trade chocolate. You'll likely find it at the local organic grocer's, health food store, and the like; it's also becoming available through some grocery chains.

The next-best is to seek high cocoa content chocolate. These are the (typically European) bars that tell you the cocoa solids content of the bar. The higher the content the better the chocolate bean. The better the chocolate bean, very likely -- but no guarantee, alas -- that the cocoa was grown by a real farmer. Slavery chocolate isn't likely to have been cared-for in a manner that would produce best beans.

Finally, you can purchase from local chocolatiers. Because they're not purchasing massive amounts of bean, they're likely to have a better idea of the source and quality. Pester them to find out where their beans are from, and push them to supporting fair trade/organic/non-slavery farmers.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:32 AM on November 21, 2004

Well, one of the saddest things about this whole Ivory Coast fiasco is that, for once that the French seemed to be doing the right thing in Africa, they are being blasted for it.
Of course, there was some enlightened self-interest in their actions: for a long time, Ivory Coast was the most pro-French country in sub-Saharan Africa and the economic ties are intense, as demonstrated by the fact that tens of thousands of French citizens had to be evacuated. But still, the French went in with the laudable intention what threatened to turn, either way, into a Rwandan-style genocide. Unfortunately for them, it has landed them into a quagmire, since neither the government nor the rebels want them standing in their way anymore. The French are in an untenable position as a peacekeeping force now, unfortunately they can't leave either. First, because it would possibly open the way to genocide, secondly (and sadly, more relevantly) because it would mean the end of French influence in Africa. There are a lot of African countries, mainly, but not only, former French colonies, whose rulers tend to follow French directives because they very much count on the French Foreign Legion to protect them from insurgents. A retreat from Ivory Coast would mean such a loss of face for the French in Africa that all those rulers would promptly start looking for a different sugar daddy. I just hope that certain people in Washington aren't making just that calculation and that this whole fuckup hasn't anything to do with Condoleeza's "punish France" strategy...

On a different tack, the French authorities are responding to Gbegbo with allegations of rapes of French women by pro-government mobs. Not pretty...
posted by Skeptic at 3:16 PM on November 21, 2004

Metafilter comments as processed by an information parser:

Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Naive diatribe
Interesting snippet of information......

Nice try DirtyCreature but thats been done to death here.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 5:25 PM on November 21, 2004

Wow, this is a long thread. Shows what I get for skipping a few days.

Anyway, the French have a long and sordid history of colonial abuses. That's why they keep the Legion around: So the hands of "french citizens" (who technically can't enlist in the Foreign Legion) won't be sullied by this kind of dirty work. (The last I knew, any peacetime deployment of troops outside of France or current french possessions had to be Foreign Legion. That may have changed.)

As also pointed out above, they have a long history of playing very heavy-handedly with much smaller opponents (e.g., Greenpeace). They are not nice guys, and only very naive people every thought they were.

That said, they happen to have been right about Iraq. But then, so were the Germans, who have a relatively clean colonial record (excluding 1938-1945), and have been quite scrupulous about standing by us over the bulk of the past 40 years or so. So if this has to be a game of "damn the case by its advocate", I'll just pick a different advocate.

Nasty things happen in war, and especially in this kind of war (which is to say, "peacekeeping"). What's cited is really only slightly different in scale from our own problems in Falluja, alluded to above; most of us "know" that our own soldiers weren't acting brutally, and part of the reason we "know" that is that there were lots of media there to record it and a lot of our soldiers were allowed to speak freely on the matter in the aftermath. They looked at a camera, and they said 'we were fired on'. Sad and harsh, but true: That happens in this kind of operation. The only cure is to prevent this kind of action from being necessary. Which is to say, don't get into these situations in the first place.

Now, that's a good lesson we can take from this.....
posted by lodurr at 11:03 AM on November 22, 2004

i was struck by a comment on reasons for watching video:

i can think of any number of good reasons for seeing that for the death. i can think of any number of people i'd like to force watching this upon, for the carnage.

something about how the evolution of violence has allowed us to dispense it more efficiently than ever, yet made something like this - which as any number of folks have pointed out is almost insignificant in context - a most horrible and traumatizing piece of media (for me at least).

not to desensitize but to re-sensitize, dig? action at a distance, right? it changes the feel of the thing. shooting someone with a gun (they say), is a different thing even than pushing a blade into him and holding him down. perfecting action at a distance may require more responsibility to seek out evidence of its consequences, even for those at home that merely vote occasionally and eat food.

if you don't see it that way it's cool, but be aware of the other moral high grounds, a chain of islands of high grounds, with deep water between. all neighbors!
posted by 31d1 at 6:48 PM on November 22, 2004

While viewing the link of the Chernobylmotorcyclist's digging 'round the Russian frontline, unearthing endless memorials of war including bones and personal trinkets, I thought to myself:

Those who have a constant, personal reminder of the atrocity of war must surely have a different view of war, than do we here in privileged North America.

And then I thought that truly, human peace and prosperity would await us all if we could just stop the damn fighting. There is so much abundance: there is no need to fight over it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:45 PM on November 22, 2004

Wow! Great! Look at all the new people just itchin to start a-talking some politics!

Thank go to *that* kabal here on Mefi for bringing out all these new people.

Lord knows we need more people who are interested in telling us what they think about America's foreign policy.
posted by Seth at 1:49 PM on November 23, 2004

Lord knows we need more people who are interested in telling us what they think about America's foreign policy.

Hey Seth, who else's foreign policy would you like me to pontificate about? Besides what I've done already, I can cover contemporary Israel, China/Taiwan, and North Korea off the top of my head, and for history buffs I can do things like 16th century Portugal and the French Directory.

But wouldn't you rather see a jpeg of a dildo molded from a ferret's member instead?
posted by davy at 11:18 PM on November 24, 2004

« Older Xexplorers web   |   Nerdfilter Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments