The 60th Anniversary Celebrations of Le Monde

As I recently wrote, Le Monde has been celebrating its 60th anniversary. In that context, it has printed 60 articles, one per day (and one for each year) for the past two months. Each of those 60th anniversary pages also included a photo from the respective year, as well as a vintage editorial taken verbatim from one particular day during the 12-month period.

Recently I wrote about the very first of these commemorative articles, which focused on the newspaper itself (i.e, on its birth). Here is a list of the rest, with comments on a dozen and a half of them…

The 60th Anniversary Celebration of Le Monde

Before we start, allow me to point out that the main headline of its very first issue (dated December 19, 1944), reads France and the USSR Have Signed a Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Assistance… It is true that offhand, this means nothing more than simply reflecting the news of that particular day. Still, some might find it fitting… Read through the comments and decide for yourself.

(The three hyperlink-filled paragraphs that follow and that precede the comments are comprehensive lists of the articles, vintage editorials, and photo (caption)s chosen for the 60th anniversary; although they are here mainly for archival sake they are sometimes quite instructive in what was chosen — and what was not — if you are in a hurry, though, scroll down past them…)

The main (in-depth) articles have taken on the following subjects: the first issue of Le Monde, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the Nuremberg trials, the partition of India and Pakistan, the birth of Israel, the death of boxer Marcel Cerdan, the Korean War, the Schuman plan, the coronation of Elizabeth II, the death of "Marshall Stalin", the fiasco at Dien Bien Phu, oddities of the climate, the Malpassat dam disaster, Hungary's revolution put down by Soviet tanks, the Treaty of Rome, the birth of the Fifth Republic, the new franc, the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of JFK, the fall of Krushchev, the Vietnam quagmire, France's departure from NATO, the Six-Day War, May 1968, the rise of Georges Pompidou to the presidency, the death of Charles de Gaulle, Mitterrand grabbing the reins of the Socialist Party, Nixon's trip to China, the coup d'état of Chile, the decriminalization of abortion, Juan Carlos and the advent of democratic Spain, the resignation of Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, the birth of the anti-nuclear movement, the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the failure to free the US Embassy's hostages in Tehran, the election of François Mitterrand, Mexico's banking crisis, the Soviet downing of a Korean Boeing, the Bhopal tragedy, the Rainbow Warrior affair, the onset of la cohabitation, the French right's privatizations, the reelection of Mitterrand, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first Gulf War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, France's yes in the Maastricht referendum, the suicide of former Prime Minister Bérégovoy, the Rwanda genocide, ethnic purification in Kosovo, the expulsion of the band of illegal immigrants occupying a Paris church, the cloning of Dolly, the condemnation of Maurice Papon for his WWII crimes against humanity, the antiglobalization movement's undermining of the WTO summit in Seattle, the damning videotape that accused Chirac and his ruling RPR party of fraud, the 911 attacks, Le Pen's victory in the French elections' first round, the dead in France's heat wave, and the Madrid attacks.

These in-depth articles are accompanied by reprints of vintage editorials from the respective year, with no context provided, which is important, as we will see further down. They concerned the ancestors of Le Monde, the Yalta conference, the birth of the Fourth Republic, the new communist international, the progress of communist forces in China, the Soviet acquisition of the atomic bomb, Einstein's warning about the H-bomb, the assassination of Jordan's King Abdallah, gold and public loans, the execution of the Rosenbergs, the death of Matisse, natural disasters, the optimism of Krushchev, trouble in Little Rock, the return to power of General De Gaulle, Fidel Castro's "adventure without precedent", the price of independence of the African states, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, the march of blacks for equality, the victory of Cassius Clay, De Gaulle's election win, China's cultural revolution, the military coup d'état in Greece, the Prague Spring, the race to send a man to the moon, Salvador Allende chosen president of Chile, the end of the dollar-gold conversion, the massacre at the Munich Olympics, the oil crisis, the election of Giscard d'Estaing, the 30-year war of Vietnam, the death of Mao, the fate of Germany's Baader terrorist group, the advent of John Paul II, the peace agreement between Sadat and Begin, the Polish crisis, the imposition of martial law in Poland, the Sabra and Chatilla tragedy, the Klaus Barbie trial, the birth of Canal +, the Heysel soccer stadium tragedy, ruminations on who might be the beneficiaries of terrorism against France, the anger of the Palestinian youth, the attack on the Ouvéa stronghold of New Caledonia's separatists and hostage-takers, Beijing's repression of the students on Tien An Mien square, the problem of violence in the cités, Bill Clinton's election, the case against Andreotti, the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the massive demonstrations against Alain Juppé's economic plans, science and politics, the 35-hour work-week, the assassination of Corsica's prefect, the lessons of the Kosovo conflict, the loss of the Kursk submarine, French TV's first reality show, Lula's election in Brazil, the Iraq war, and the enlargement of the European Union.

Each year's in-depth article and verbatim editorial are also accompanied by a photo; the latter show scenes from the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Buchenwald, Jewish violence in Palestine, the creation of the Avignon theater festival, the French miners' strike, Mao's proclaiming the Popular Republic of China, Maurice Herzog's ascension of Mount Annapurna (why this Frenchman's feat is more important than Edmund Hillary's conquering Mount Everest, I cannot say), the wedding of Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, Nassar's coup in Egypt, the discovery of DNA, the plan for a European Defense Community, Citroën's ultra-modern DS car model, the Suez Canal crisis, the Nobel Prize to Albert Camus, the election of Pope John XXIII, the exile of the Dalai Lama, France's atomic bomb, the Paris demonstration against a curfew for Algerians, the burial of Edith Piaf, Jean Moulin's entombment in the Pantheon, the miniskirt, floods in Florence, the dead body of Che Guevara, the new society of Chaban-Delmas, Sihanouk's ouster from Cambodia, the independence of Bangladesh, the Biafra tragedy, the first women to graduate from the Polytechnique engineering college, the Lip factory takeover, Nixon and Watergate, the violence in Corsica, Soweto's anti-apartheid march, the case leading to the end of France's death penalty, Vietnam's boat people, Iran's Islamic revolution, the murder of John Lennon, the coup attempt in the Madrid Cortes, the birth of France's first test-tube baby (why this is more important than the world's first test-tube baby [four years earlier] I am not sure), the discovery of the AIDS virus, the mass demonstrations against the Mitterrand government's plans to abolish France's private school system, Coluche's Restos du Cœur, the Chernobyl disaster, the landing of a Cesna plane on Red Square, mob violence in Algiers, the sabotage of a French DC-10 over Africa, the desecration of Jewish tombs in Carpentras, the contaminated blood scandal, the 10th Frenchman to win a Nobel Prize in physics, the inferno at the David Koresh sect's ranch in Waco, the chunnel, the shooting of French terrorist Khaled Kelkal, the Talibans' seizure of Kabul, the meeting of Europe's new socialist prime ministers (Tony Blair and Lionel Jospin), the French soccer team's victory in the World Cup, the storm of the century, the crash of a Concorde taking off from Roissy airport, violence at the Genoa summit, the first Paris Plage, the Sars epidemic scare, and the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Needless to say, a strong anti-American flavor is present throughout the series. Going backwards in time:

Starting with Facts and Stealthily
Evolving Towards Partisan Viewpoints

In the article on Le Pen's win in the first round of France's 2002 presidential election, Hervé Gattegno shows the French aptitude to put things into perspective as he compares the "shock" of April 21 to that, in America, of… September 11 (something Plantu's cartoon did as early as the following day).

The article on 911 itself starts out in a surprisingly benign manner, with about half of the story devoted to UA flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane whose passengers decided to "roll" when they knew what fate lay in store for them. It's not unusual for a benign beginning to turn out to be a sort of "trick" to stealthily "evolve" towards more partial (read condescending) viewpoints, and Patrick Jarreau's piece is no exception: the United States discovers "its vulnerability", "the mightiest country on Earth has been shown to be at the mercy of a 'private' organization", and, of course, "the Americans have become conscious of their unpopularity" and "the United States have paid the price of their egotism and the support they bring to the oppression of Palestinians by Israel." (In the context that the latter sentence is written, it is true that it is only presented as one viewpoint — the opposing viewpoint to the Bush administration's that "the United States was attacked because it defends liberty and justice" — but reading through the article, one can hardly escape the conclusion that the former viewpoint is the only correct one.) More follows on "the disproportion of the Washington leaders' means and will to limit losses among their soldiers [in Afghanistan] brought about 'collateral' damage that provoked [mass] indignation. This reached its apex by the transfer of the prisoners captured in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo Bay base … outside of all legal processes." (Opponents of (the) war continue showing their ignorance of military strategy when they suggest it should be treated like a football game, with fairness all around.) Jarreau continues with "the measures taken by the Bush administration have given the image, to part of the American people and abroad, of a government implementing a régime of exception." In case you hadn't realized that all the pain and sorrow on Earth are America's fault, Jarreau ends as follows: "The invasion of Iraq … made the division of the world complete between a minority which approves the American president's policy and a majority which condemns it."

Grands Donneurs de Leçons

So there we have it: the French, in their legendary fame for lucidity, are experts at mass indignation, at the use of the legal process (and the respect that such deserves), and at condemning the people (or administrations or countries) who deserve such condemnations. In that perspective, the article on the videotape that accused Chirac of fraud teaches us that a television producer had tried to get several TV stations interested in the tape damning Jacques Chirac and his ruling party (France 2, France 3, Canal +, and M6 — you know, the TV stations that regularly embark on crusades against Uncle Sam (or Bush) when scandals such as the Abu Ghraib affair break out), but all declined to do so. What's more, Hervé Gattegno tells us, the law would "concentrate much more on the conditions of the taping [of the late Jean-Claude Méry's posthumous confessions] and the use of his testimony than on its compromising contents." When Judge Eric Halphen tries to summon Chirac before the court, the case is taken from him and before long, all the accusations against the president are dropped. The article ends with this sentence: "To this day, the Méry videotape has produced but one judicial consequence: the former lawyer of Mr Méry was sentenced, on January 15, 2003, to a four-month suspended sentence along with a fine for 'violation of professional secrets'."

Meanwhile, the verbatim editorial from June 1999 explains how, regarding the Kosovo conflict, Chirac declared proudly that "we did not follow the Americans" and how Rambouillet and Kléber demonstrate "successes of French diplomacy." "Our vision of a multipolar world has been strengthened" by "a complete integration of Russia", beamed Chirac, and by Europe's capacity to hold its own before… Uncle Sam. ("It is only Bush we have something against, vous devez comprendre, it is not all Americans, like Bill Clinton and such…")

The Vultures and Their Disgraceful
Perfidy in Causing the Collapse of the USSR

The article on the end of the Soviet Union is seen almost entirely through the (disapproving) eyes (and autobiography) of Mikhail Gorbachev. We thus witness examples of Boris Yeltsin's "perfidy" throughout Natalie Nougayrède's article, hear of how the latter sought "alibis" in order not to allow the USSR to continue its existence, and are scandalized to learn how the Russian president, in conjunction with his Ukrainian and Belorussian counterparts, informed George H W Bush of their decision (to scuttle the USSR) before they did Gorbachev, which in turn caused the Soviet leader to react thus on the telephone: "What you did behind my back, with the nod of the president of the United States, is a disgrace, an infamy!" The article ends with Gorbachev's words: "It was a triumph of vultures, I can't find other words." I can: in other words, there is no guilt-casting, no castigation, no mockery, no criticism, and no perpetual seeking of mistakes among the leaders, élite, and idealists of the USSR. (You know who that is reserved for, right?)

Castigation, Mockery, and Criticism
Are Reserved Entirely for Uncle Sam

The article on the first Gulf War is subtitled the coalition's triumph opens the road of Al Qaeda. Véronique Maurus's piece is replete with examples of how Americans were/are blind, arrogant, and greedy ("American companies rubbed their hands in face of the promise of juicy reconstruction contracts"), and of all their mistakes, all their supposed misreadings of the Arab street, their negligeance of "the psychological impact of that deployment of forces on a frustrated Arab opinion", "to what extent the first Gulf War was [an indirect] preparation for the second one", and how "the American takeover of his native country" revolted "a young, still unknown Saudi, a transfuge from Afghanistan" by the name of Osama Bin Laden. (I thought the common wisdom was that the CIA's support for the Afghan resistance to the Soviet Union was what created Al Qaeda — And what about the cancellation of the Algerian elections that very year, an undermining of the winning Islamist party that was supported, if by any Western nation, by France, and an event completely ignored by Le Monde in its 60th anniversary series? I guess it doesn't matter what historical example one chooses, as long as one can mix it into the charge that Uncle Sam, in the last resort [directly or not], is responsible for all the tragedies in the world.) In addition, we are told, "the war aggravated the situation" up North. "The Palestinians … lost the financial support of the Gulf's rich monarchies and, everywhere, are chased away." The reason for this, of course, is that the Palestinians chose the side of Saddam Hussein, but, needless to say, although Véronique Maurus does mention the reason, she refrains from adding, in any way, that in life, choices and actions lead to consequences and she makes the comment without changing, in any way, the usual depiction of Palestinians (and of the Iraqi victims of the war, for that matter) as mere innocent and totally hapless victims. No — guilt-casting, castigation, mockery, criticism, and the perpetual seeking of mistakes is a domain reserved entirely for Uncle Sam, of course. Indeed, the article ends thus: "the first Gulf War creates the foundation for Al Qaeda and thus a dramatic escalation of terror: anti-American attacks will multiply in Sudan, in Kenya, in 1998, in Yemen, in 2000, until the attack on New York, on September 11, 2001…" Folks, you knew it all along: it's all America's fault…

The Sadness of Germany Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall
and the Perfidy of Capitalist Companies

In the article on the fall of the Berlin Wall, we read little about the context (failed policies, tyrannical government, repressive society, etc), just like the article on the fall of the Soviet Union, and likewise, we hear words of wisdom from (former) communists: there is barely a word on the former East German régime (and its policies, financial, repressive, and other), but the opus is put on the fact that in the aftermath of reunification, the country has been on two different speeds. This allows Georges Marion to look for a quote of wisdom from the leader of… the (reformed) communists (!), Gregor Gysi, who says "It was not a reunification, but an Anschluss!" And Le Monde's journalist to note that the "harsh" judgment cannot be but true and regretting that no account was taken of what the GDR society used to be.

In contrast, Babette Stern's article on the antiglobalization movements manages to skewer "savage globalization" through and through, something Hervé Kempf's full-page story on the Bhopal tragedy manages to do just as well with American-style capitalism ("the imperative of profitability remained"; "548,000 survivors ended up touching an indemnity, in conditions in which corruption, the intermediaries, and bureaucracy swallowed a large part of the initial sum"; "justice must be rendered to the martyrs of Bhopal, a justice which has always been denied them"); while the Chernobyl disaster deserves merely a photo along with its caption, including a comment (indirectly) praising the Russians — "it is also a lesson for the West: involuntarily, the Soviets demonstrated that an ecological disaster has no borders".

Relativizing French Debacles Toward French Innocence and
Relativizing Soviet Debacles Toward … American Guilt

Similarly, in the Rainbow Warrior story, Fabrice Lhomme uses quite an amount of relativisation:

along with the Rainbow Warrior, it is a large part of the illusions of the "people of the left" that sank to the bottom of Auckland Bay on July 10, 1985. In giving the order to sink the ecologist boat — provoking the death of a passenger — and in the subsequent denying of the act, the Socialist government, which had already been forced to revoke some of its economic promises by decreeing the state of "rigor" of 1983 [in two years in office, the Socialists had handled the economy so badly that they were forced to take drastic measures that year, for example, forbidding French citizens from taking, and spending, anything above a fixed sum (10,000 Francs? I forget) when travelling abroad], sacrificed on the altar of the raison d'état the ideals which had brought François Mitterrand to power in 1981.
No mocking or castigating of Socialist — or French — ideals, here. Only the tragic fact that, (again) almost by accident, and because of individual mistakes, the ideals — unlike American and/or capitalist ideals, always put into question — have suffered a setback in their great advance towards a better world (a world made better by the defeat of capitalist forces).

The subtitle on the Soviet downing of a Korean Boeing reads "the price [to pay] for the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States", thus putting the blame for the "tragic affair" at least partly on Uncle Sam. Partly? Mainly, in fact. "For years, both sides used this tragedy to feed their respective propaganda" and "truth was hardly the preoccupation of that era's leaders" writes Philippe Pons, thus taking moral relativism (and American guilt) to new heights. The rest of the story is, offhand, 'a curse on both their houses' (suggesting that if only the legendary tolerance of European-type pacifism had triumphed instead of "the 'war of nerves'," 269 lives would have been saved), but effectively a blistering attack of the American leadership, "which had 'demonized' the USSR into the 'empire of evil'" (the piece ends with the tongue-in-cheek statement that the Soviets "could only be 'devilish', blood-thirsty assassins"). While speaking of the Americans' "great efforts to publicize" the story and their "selective intelligence", Pons quotes all the Russians' excuses (from another spy plane in the vicinity to the increased espionnage activities in the region), ending his piece with a reference to the Soviets' "tragic but culpable error" — is it me, or is "culpable error" the epitome of contradiction in terms?

In the story on the Tehran Embassy hostage crisis (in which he calls Jimmy Carter's rescue fiasco a "farce turned into drama"), Michel Tatu admits that 39th president, too, had a moral streak linked to religious beliefs but he waxes eloquently on how, contrarily to Dubya, he used them "in a totally different way", i.e., for positive goals (pacifism, human rights, etc). Whether, and how, the human rights situation has improved inside Iran, Tatu does not say…

Vietnam Compared to the Iraq Quagmire;
There, Too, Americans Are Liars of the Worst Type

The Vietnam quagmire is regularly compared to the Iraq conflict, with the article's first sentence stating flatly that "In Vietnam as in Iraq, the war started with a lie". No less, no more. Americans are treacherous liars, and there you have it. (Or if you want to be smart and protest that "only their leaders are liars", then the only conclusion can be that your "American friends" are all, or mostly, doofuses, and doofuses of a criminal type.) Later on, we read that "America … engaged itself without providing for an exit door — another parallel with today's Iraq". But Jean-Claude Pomonti goes further, explaining to the French populace how America has a history of irrational and fear-based politics. "Prefiguring the coming denunciations of the 'empire of evil'— Ronald Reagan on the Soviet Union — and the 'axis of evil' — George Bush about Iraq, Iran, and North Korea — America's intervention in Vietnam was based on fear", he writes (before adding that "this war is a total engagement" of America's, which is exactly the opposite of what many American servicemen felt). And never mind the millions (or hundreds of thousands) of people tortured or killed by Stalin and Saddam Hussein, the repression and the lack of freedom in the communist block or the Middle East, the bloody adventures embarked upon abroad (whether wars or terrorism), and — last but certainly not least — those leaders' very real lies. Pomonti prefers to wax eloquently on the "half million victims" of Indonesia's Communist party, swept aside by Islamist militias and soldiers.

(As for Vietnam's boat people — a direct result of the Hanoi government's policies following the Vietnamese "victory" in the conflict — all they are allowed in this 60th anniversary compilation is one photo and one caption, a caption which, needless to say, assigns no blame whatsoever but only evokes the "tragedy" of the "massive exodus"… Similarly, Mao and Red China get three contemporary editorials, but all Tibet is awarded is one single photo with its caption.)

Who Lurks in the Shadows When
Soviet Tanks Crush Democracy Movements?

By contrast, the story on the Hungarian revolution is an exercise in relativisation that starts from the first sentence: "In the history of the Communist camp, the year 1956 is that of crises and paradoxes." Daniel Vernet goes on to give a pretty straightforward story of various Warsaw Pact members' attempt at revolution against the Kremlin's oppression in the early 1950s, even using colorful language at times (the East German workers' "revolt was drowned in blood by the Soviet tanks", Hungary's "democratic movement is broken at the price of thousands of victims"), but of course it wouldn't be a European mainstream media article if some ugly anti-Americanism were not allowed to seep in. "During the 'Hungarian October', the Americans played a murky game. On the one hand, the information and propaganda outlets encouraged the anti-communist demonstrators, on the other President Eisenhower ruled out any intervention in their favor." A fact no one will dispute in itself, but one will notice that the vocabulary used always concerns "the Americans" where Washington is concerned, and rarely, not to say ever, "the communists", "the Soviets", or "the Russians" where the Kremlin is used. (Nor did the article on the Rainbow Warrior speak of "the French" or the article on Nuremberg of "the Germans".) There it is all about "Stalin", "Krushchev", "the leaders of the socialist camp"; in other words, while the latters' anti-democratic tenets are almost described as an unfortunate — and incomprehensible — accident, the murky treachery of the double-dealing [lying] "Americans", as well as their "games", are seen as evidence of the dark forces that lurk inside the US of A's very soul. (No language here like that reserved for the Abu Ghraib scandal — "Iraq: the War, the Torture, the Disgrace".)

In Korea, the American-Led Force
Included Soldiers of 15 Nationalities

No, indeed. Nor is there any language of the type reserved for the Pyongyang régime in the article on the Korean War (either before or after the conflict). It is filled with the same type of relativising, starting with its subhead: "the high price of the Cold War". "With its two and a half million deaths, civilian and military, the Korean War will have been the most murderous of the so-called Cold War." Three items of interest: André Fontaine informs us that Kim Il-Sung told him 25 years after the war that the North Korean strongman had talked to Stalin about invading the South as early as March 1949, and that, after first trying to discourage him, Stalin had given him the green light in April 1950. In addition, the article starts with an interesting quote from Stalin to Eden in 1941: "I am not like Hitler. I will always know how to stop in time." Finally, it tells us that "the United Nations [-approved] force, under the command [of Douglas MacArthur], would include soldiers from fifteen nationalities, including a French batallion." In the wake of the strident denunciations that accompanied the Bush administration's decision to take out Saddam Hussein (admittedly, without UN approval), two questions that arise are the following: 1) How does the number of foreign allies in the Far East then compare with that in the Middle East today; and 2) Did all of the contingents in Korea have that many more men on the ground than do some of the allies in Iraq?

No Context, Whatsoever…

On the sidelines, alongside these "in-depth" articles, are editorials of the respective year, verbatim, meaning they appear without the slightest attempt of providing any context whatsoever. There is a 1950 editorial concerning Einstein's warning about the H-bomb and a scathing one from 1953 on the execution of the Rosenbergs (whose treason has been ascertained at least since the CIA's Verona program was declassified in mid-1990s). As for the Cuban missile crisis, in 1963 the newspaper of reference discounted the presence of Soviets nuclear rockets on a "communist base" whose "significance" was "more political than military" while wondering why JFK didn't continue to "stand up" to America's "overexcited public opinion". In 1968, Le Monde seemed to lecture Americans about the Prague Spring, putting seemingly the onus on General Patton for not capturing Czechoslovakia for the West 23 years earlier.

On March 21, 2003, the editorial of the day asked "what is the American project?", adding that "the United States have not explained all of their goals in this affair. The objective is to 'disarm Iraq', 'free its people', and 'defend the world against a grave danger' [the WMD]. Is that really all?" There is nothing wrong in casting doubts on somebody's real motives, of course, whether that somebody is an individual, a citizen, a politician, an administration, or a country. In fact, that is the duty of the press. The danger comes, of course, when a periodical, or the entire media, always puts into doubt the motives and claims of the same politician(s), the same administration(s), and the same country(ies). It is even more perilous when the periodical of the press of a given country always puts into doubt the motives of a foreign country (one in which the press does not apply such double standards!) and never its own. In the Iraq case, Le Monde never asked "what is the French project?" It never went on to state that if Paris's stated objectives was to ensure the peace, defend international law, and protect the United Nations, was that really all? Not a word on the ties between French politicians and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It is an issue that the French media never made much about before the conflict erupted, it is an issue that the French media never made much about during the Iraq war, and that it an issue that the French media has not made much about since Baghdad fell — even as news of food-for-oil have gotten ever more strident.

No, issues that the French media make much about invariably concern Uncle Sam: going 30 years back in time, Sirius's (Hubert Beuve-Méry's) June 1953 editorial on the execution of the Rosenbergs speaks of "a serious defeat of the entire Atlantic coalition", "horrendous blackmail", "the protest of millions of people", "the supplication of the highest moral and religious authorities on this side of the Atlantic", "the height of a symbol, the symbol of essential values that, alone, can be the justification of the West", and "two beings who, according to all appearances, did not deserve" their fate. These expressions are accompanied by the following statement and question: "Free men who can still protest without risk don't feel better or more courageous than others — perhaps only more lucides, because more engagés. They fear to see growing around them the shadow of gigantic idols nourished by lies, terror, and informants." And "How can one explain that the condemnation, on the opposite shore of the ocean, of a young unknown couple has united [Frenchmen] in a unanimity they had not known for a very long time?" (Why is it that these words, expressions, moralizing, and questions somehow remind me of the opposition to Bush's Iraq war?)

Meanwhile, in Marie Jégo's (modern) article devoted to that year, on the death of "Marshall Stalin", i.e., "the man … who made 200 million subjects tremble for 30 years", we learn that a judge (Ryumin) was executed by firing squad a month later. No "Moloch states" to speak of here (neither today nor in the 1950s nor in the intervening decades); no criticizing of the Soviet Union; no emotional editorializing on the massacres and the purges of the Stalin era; no comments, finally, on the ties between the Rosenbergs and the country that Stalin ruled over (the country, that is, that they spied for); only the optimistic (!) words, "The Krushchev thaw had started."

The July 1951 editorial on the assassination of Jordan's King Abdallah ends with a sentence that sounds strangely like all the condescending statements we've heard since the Reagan administration started helping Afghanistan's Mujaheddin battle the Soviet occupiers: "Can one hope that the Americans understand in time the enormity of the price to pay when one encourages fanaticism, even in the name of the defense against communism?"

The February 1950 editorial on Einstein's warning about the H-bomb speaks about "a hysterical character" on both sides, a semi-dictatorship on the rise in America, the scientist's call for a creation of supranational judiciary and executive organisms, and ends thus: "In his opinion, a simple declaration in which all nations promise to collaborate loyally towards the advent of [a] 'world government' would suffice to reduce considerably the danger of war." Right. Like a declaration signed by the likes of Stalin, Kim Il-Sung, Mao, Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. Why is it I prefer Ronald Reagan's famous words: "Trust, but verify"?

Expression "Crimes Against Humanity" Used
Only Where Uncle Sam In Concerned

The (2004-written) in-depth article on Hiroshima brings us full circle. Talking of horrors, barbarity, and gratuitiousness, fully ignoring the context, minimizing the extent of Japan's defensive fighting, using cynical viewpoints of Washington and the Pentagon, referring to "the Americans" and "the United States" at every turn, and dusting off comparisons with 9/11. It starts thus: "Time softens wounds. But the atomic bombings of Hirsohima, and Nagasaki, remain thresholds in the horror of the massacre of civilian populations." "In the American rhetoric, the bombings were 'a necessary sacrifice for peace'," Philippe Pons writes, using the quotation marks to mark his (lucid) distance with its content. Just in case anybody believes that, he continues thus: "Hiroshima and Nagasaki do not claim a monopoly of an incredible number of deaths in one single stroke: the incendiary bombs dropped by the United States on Tokyo in March 1945 razed a large part of the capital, creating more victims than the atomic bombings." "[A] tragic page in [Japan's] national history — the most tragic one, probably —" is the occasion for Philippe Pons to quote a Monde correspondant who was allowed to travel to Hiroshima three months after the bombings: "I felt shame for the West, shame for science, shame for humanity." (Strange that a corrrespondant from a daily only eight months in existence should be granted that privilege, before other, better-known, French colleagues — I suppose that, in Charles de Gaulle's words, Robert Guillain could thus represent France abroad, by focusing on the blood-letting of other countries — and give, by indirect comparison, France a positive view of itself.) Thank goodness the authorities have erected, in "the two cities forever united in martyrdom" places of "official memory" — peace parks, museums, and monuments built in the epicenter of the deflagrations. Pons goes on to speak of "a graduation as useless as indecent into horror, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the places of the crystalization of a type of power crushing everything in a haughty indifference of the laws created by men to check barbarism." Uh-oh. Here it comes: the comparison of uncouth Americans of yesterday with uncouth Americans of today, all of them "ignoring the United Nations and the foundations of international laws": While a former mayor of Nagasaki called the bombings "a crime against humanity" and says "Never again", the mayor of Hirshima lashes out at the Bush administration: "The egocentric world view of the United States has reached its limits." From there, it's only a short step to sentences such as "And yet the nuclear bombings took on a new significance after September 11". You can already guess the rest: the barbaric Americans deserved 911.

What Le Monde ignored in all this, of course, were such things as the fact that — in contrast to the war in Europe — as Allied armies (and navies) approached the enemy's homeland, the fighting got tougher, not lighter. (Unless I am mistaken, the costliest battle for the Americans of the Pacific war — if not of the entire war — took place on Okinawa, i.e., after Nazi Germany had surrendered.) In speaking exclusively of civilian populations, Le Monde likewise ignored the term "the important naval base of Hiroshima", which is what …Le Monde itself called the Honshu island city on its front page …on August 8, 1945. Finally: evoking the 80,000 victims of Hiroshima and the 40,000 victims of Nagasaki is far from unimportant, of course, but if Le Monde is so intent on writing about the "haughty indifference of the laws created by men to check barbarism", about "Hiroshima and Nagasaki [not claiming] a monopoly of an incredible number of deaths in one single stroke", about "martyrdom" and "crimes against humanity", and about "thresholds in the horror of the massacre of civilian populations" (i.e., quoting Japanese self-images of itself as a victim), why would it ignore the victims of the rape of Nanjing? I.e., the massacre of some 300,000 Chinese nationals — men, women (some of them pregnant), and children — which the Japanese imperial army embarked enthusiastically upon in late 1937? Maybe that, too, some might say, is "a tragic page in [Japan's] national history"?…

It's like Le Monde's article on the Korean war …

It's like Le Monde's article on the Hungarian revolution…

It's like Le Monde's article on the Vietnam quagmire…

It's like Le Monde's article on the downing of the Korean Boeing…

It's like Le Monde's article on the Bhopal tragedy…

It's like Le Monde's article on the fall of the Berlin Wall…

It's like Le Monde's article on the first Gulf War…

It's like Le Monde's article on 9/11…

…And all the rest…

It's called, Double standards…

60 years of it…


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