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2004/10/06

La perte d'influence de la France au sein de l'Europe

J'ai lu les réactions devant l'échec relatif de la France (et de l'Allemagne) d'avoir une influence majeure dans la nouvelle Commission européenne. En tant qu'étranger à Paris, ce développement ne m'étonne aucunement.

Depuis de Gaulle au moins, et certainement depuis le début de la crise en Irak, le langage des Français est uniformément méprisant pour tous ceux qui ne suivent pas la politique française. Parmi les 25 pays de l'Union européenne, douze (soit la moitié) ont des troupes en Irak. Est-il vraiment inconcevable que les gouvernements de ces pays aient tout simplement pu juger que la décision de l'administration Bush de faire tomber le boucher de Bagdad puisse être sinon juste, du moins la meilleure des options possibles? Est-il inimaginable qu'ils puissent avoir jugé que, dans ce cas-ci du moins, la politique de Paris, du "moteur franco-allemand", et du "camp de la paix" puisse être, sinon malicieuse, du moins erronée?

Mais quoi! La coalition des volontaires est composée d'alliés "inutiles" qui "ne pèsent pas lourd", les Anglais sont des caniches, les Espagnols (sous Aznar) sont les petits télégraphistes de Bush, les Européens de l'Est sont des gens mal élévés qui feraient mieux de se taire, et le reste sont les acteurs timides qui s'inclinent lâchement devant Washington.

La réserve vis-à-vis de la France vient du fait que toute l'intelligentsia politique, les médias, et bon nombre de citoyens dans le pays qui prétend aimer le débat, prennent ces "opinions" pour parole d'évangile (ces opinions que d'aucuns, faut-il vous le rappeler, pourraient qualifier d'auto-congratulatoires).

En effet, pendant qu'on fustige ses voisins, la même opinion, comme par hasard, attribue aux Français, ainsi qu'à ceux qui se seraient ralliés de leur côté, le beau rôle — celui des êtres raisonnables, tolérants, lucides, solidaires, humanistes, amoureux de la paix, et attachés aux vraies valeurs de l'humanité. C'est d'un héroïsme !

Quant à la construction de l'Europe, et à son unité, le pays qui dénonce l'unilatéralisme (américain) les ignore quand bon lui semble, en faisant l'éloge avant tout lorsqu'elle veut se faire le chantre de l'opposition à Washington.

Le Monde 2: Issues # 1 to # 20

In January 2004, Le Monde launched a weekly magazine that serves as a supplement for the daily's weekend edition.

The 60th Anniversary Celebration of Le Monde

Le Monde 2 is 90 pages long, filled with a mixture of text and photo reportages. Perennials include Edwy Plenel's editorial, Pierre Assouline's column, a one-page feature called "Lunch with…" a given celebrity (which always features two photos, one of the celebrity and one of the bill), and at the very end, a large dossier on a subject (person and/or event) taken from a number of articles in the Le Monde archives.

Other perennials include a double spread featuring a given job's equipment (newsstand seller, fireman, rugby player, Formula 1 race driver, a Victorian-era detective, samurai (!), etc) and map in hand (supposed to explain things like regions with drinkable water, the British Commonwealth, the moon, the countries that practice "state homophobia", the location of the top 500 companies in the world, the countries where GMO (and what types and in what amounts) are grown legally, the countries with golfers participating in the Ryder Cup and the number of golf courses in each, the location of the latest UNESCO patrimony sites, the places of theft of the most valuable artifacts, "the Caucasion Inferno", "the [Israeli] Wall Goes to Court", "Iran's Nuclear Ambiguties", and "Is Iraq sovereign?"

Some issues are devoted entirely to one subject or one country; issue 12 (April 4) was devoted to Britain (celebrating the 100 years of the entente cordiale), issue 32 (September 25) was devoted to Italy, and issue 21 (June 6) to D-Day. (As far as links are concerned, I have not found a website for the magazine or for any of the articles that can be found inside it. Readers are welcome to help me update these posts when and if links become available.)

Whereas the independent newspaper tries hard to retain (and present itself as a conveyer of) an independent voice, Le Monde 2, like Le Monde diplomatique, shows its true colors much more clearly…

To celebrate the 100th post on Le Monde Watch, I have decided to write an in-depth overview of Le Monde 2 since the magazine began.



Issue 1 (January 25, 2004) seems pretty tame at first sight. The archives section concerns the Macintosh revolution. There is James Nachtwey's photos of "A GI's Life" in Iraq ("Boredom, fear, nostalgia: Baghdad on a daily basis"), where we learn, in typical fashion, that "a number of them are very young and … many don't understand why it was necessary to go to war in Iraq."

It's when we come to the story on the arrest of Saddam Hussein that we realize that France's newspaper of reference has lost nothing of its usual habits: Michel Guerrin feels compelled to say that the aim of the arrest was "to transform an arrogant and tyrannical head of state into a homeless man with a hirsute face and a degraded body." The broadcasting of the images of an army doctor examining him, he points out, "may have shocked but did not provoke a debate concerning the Geneva conventions." Then Guerrin heads into familiar the-American-authorities-are-nothing-if-not-treacherous-liars mode. "But the exact moments of the arrest are missing in the official version. They are said to have been photographed by an unknown soldier with a throwaway camera. … On certain reproductions, the face seems swollen. Molested? In any case, less 'presentable' than on the previous images."

Of course, the entire issue starts out with an Edwy Plenel editorial saying nothing less than that under the Bush presidency, humor has been criminalized. "For the first time, a democracy declares that one does not laugh with jokes, even if their humor is dubious. In a prison-boat, facing the Bronx, a young Frenchman, Franck Moulet, has a bitter taste in his mouth after responding to an American Airlines flight attendant's question with irony. According to the Quai d'Orsay, it is but one incident among others, just as absurd, since the time that, after the enormous crime of September 11, 2001, the policy of fear has settled at the helm in Washington."

"For the first time, a democracy has proclaimed…", Edwy? The head of the independent newspaper has apparently never heard of the — ubiquitous — saying that free speech does not mean one is allowed to cry "fire" in a theater, and he seems unaware of that although the example, as far as I know, dates from the beginnings of the Republic (i.e., almost 230 years). A "policy of fear", Edwy? It is a policy of common sense, and nothing more.



Issue 3 (February 1) features a bedraggled-looking Michael Jackson on the cover. Samuel Blumenfeld mentions that Jack-o runs the risk of being a victim of racism (should the Santa Maria jury not be representative of the singer's race).

Martine Valo spotlights an article about the new target unifying the humanist militants of France: advertising. Meaning, the "antipub" movements head into the subway to "Free the Métro" (by writing messages over ads such as "Stop", "Fed up with ads", "ads = jail", "capitalism's police", economic "growth is not the solution", and Prisoner-style "I am not a consumer, I am a human being"). Good thing they are aware of the world's dangers and have their priorities straight.

Anne-Line Roccati brings us an article devoted to Batya Gour, the Jerusalem author who "exercises a tenacious citizen vigilance" in Israel, while the archives section is devoted to "the pope of the poor", the Abbé Pierre, and his fight against "exclusion". Pierre Barthélémy has lunch with Garry Kasparov, which naturally leads to a discussion, among other things, about Putin and the Chechnya mess, but Barthélémy manages to not once mention Saddam Hussein or the chess champion's support for the Iraq war.



In issue 5 (February 15), Pierre Barthélémy has lunch with Hubert Reeves, who spouts various attacks on Bush and US policy. Meanwhile, the ever-condescending Pierre Assouline makes fun of Winston Churchill for winning the Nobel Prize in litterature in 1953, between Mauriac (1952) and Hemingway (1954). Calling the publication of the Nobel comittee's archives "compromising", Pierre Assouline adds: "It seems as incongruous today as 50 years ago." "The other prospects were not weighty enough: Graham Greene, Jules Romains, Robert Frost." "One must rub one's eyes [in disbelief]."

"It is true that [the last lion] had also written. Dozens of memoirs … war chronicles, without forgetting the biographies of daddy (Lord Randolph) and tonton (his ancestor Marlborough)." (Tonton and tata are French children's equivalents of daddy, mommy, gramps, etc, for uncle and aunt.) "By remembering his little talent for watercolors, we should be happy that there has never been a Nobel prize for painting." Shocking! Isn't it? Absolutely shocking that a political decision of that magnitude may have intervened in one single instance! One that happened to involve the bloodiest war in the history of mankind. Assouline's condescension fits perfectly into the French press's haughty attitude towards Americans that will accompany the 60th anniversary of D-Day later that year.



The cover of issue number 7 (February 29) screams "JFK", and it features Joe Klein's portrait of John Forbes Kerry. Inside, we find Yann Plougastel's article on Orson Welles' 1982 prediction of a terrorist attack that would "blow out New York"; a column by Pierre Lescure entitled "I Vote for Arlette" (the name commonly used by Arlette Chabot, head of the radical Lutte ouvrière party); and Pierre Jullien's dossier on the miners that inspired Zola's Germinal.

Issue 8 (March 7) features Annick Cojean's article on Desmond Tutu, with the Nobel Peace laureate's "faith in humanity and in God" (although she seems more inclined to focus on the "humanistic" aspect of his faith than in the religious aspect) and his participation in the opposition marches to the Iraq war ("it was so stimulating!") while comparing the "10,000 Iraqi civilians" killed in the war to the 3,000 people killed on 9/11.

Also, Denis Chapouillié and Frédéric Edelmann's articles on the construction of the largest opera in the world (although there is little, if any, debate on how much such a building is needed in Beijing and little or no commentary on the Chinese police state or, unlike any comparable article on an American project of that magnitude, the evoking of the city's poorer classes — then again, the opera is being built by a Frenchman [Paul Andreu]).

The cover article concerns the interviews of seven former prime ministers about how life was for them in the official Matignon palace (lonely). For instance, Pierre Mauroy says that in order "to celebrate [the socialist party's victory in the presidential election of] May 10, 1981, Fidel Castro had sent a marvellous havana cigar. That evening, I was thus smoking the cigar, while watching the TV news. It was one of my rare moments of relaxation." (No word on what gift(s), if any, Saddam Hussein sent, on that or any subsequent election victory.)



In issue 10 (March 21), we find Jan Krauze's article on the billionnaire campaigning against Bush. "Soros wants to save America", the title informs us. Patrick Jarreau treats us to lunch with Joseph Wilson, the former State Department employee whose wife was ousted as a CIA spy. Of course, Wilson lends credence to the peace camp's "endless war" credo, with his "After Iraq, it will be Syria, Iran… They want to implant our power in the Middle East." (I wonder how many Syrians and Iranians would be devastated about such developments.) Patrick Jarreau ends his article by saying that in Wilson's eyes, "resorting to war 'to disarm Saddam Hussein' would have been justified. What isn't [justified] is the fact of launching the conflict, unilaterally, while the UN inspections were proceeding without mishap" (sic, emphasis mine).

No se puede combatir el terrorismo con guerras, starts Plenel's editorial (in bold letters), waxing wisely on the wise, wise words of the wise, wise José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who, unexpectedly, had won Spain's election the previous week. As for Geneviève Brisac, she joins in the chorus with El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido. (What I'll never understand is why Bush's declarations are supposed to be simplistic and the "peace camp's" are not. But never mind: Le Monde 2 isn't finished with Spain yet.)

Pierre Lescure quotes (albeit in French) the founder of El País, Juan Luís Cebrian: "do not lose sight of the fact that the young Aznar grew up as a phalangist." Pierre fires broadside after broadside, on "the reaction of Aznar and of what one wants to call his clique, aping the 'methods' of yesterday's dictators, Franco foremost among them." "No way is there any question that betting on reality and on national solidarity, emotion, and responsibility will be stronger than the rejection of the pro-Bush policy. And so, they lie. Totally." "The authoritarian and pretentious blindness of José Maria Aznar", "the small phalangist [who] played the small messenger boy to the hilt." ("The small messenger boy", meaning poodle, is what one French politician called Aznar when his government supported Bush and Blair.) Thank you, Pierre, for providing us with this stunning example of French journalism at its most charming and its most sophisticated: unless you oppose Uncle Sam, you are a poodle and a fascist.

So much for the columns. With the help of El País, Nicolas Bourcier and Olivier Schmitt give us a full-blown article of the minutes (literally speaking), minute by minute, of the "state lie". When you hear "state lie" or "original lie" in the French press, you know they're speaking about Uncle Sam or a Bush ally. Here, we are talking of Spain's José Maria Aznar, and the article goes from the bombings in Madrid on Thursday March 11 at 7:14 am to the José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's election victory on Sunday March 14 at 11:13 pm.

Thus, we learn not only of the demonstrations at which several million Spaniards gathered, we also learn of the demonstration in which several dozens of Spaniards gathered (the wise individuals — within 48 hours, they already understood that nothing but the government's machiavellian lies could be behind this); we learn not only of the exact hours that the various demonstrations against the Aznar government start but also when they continue (!) ("Sunday March 14, 7:49 am ["7.49"?!]: several dozens of people continue to demonstrate in Madrid before the PP's headquarters shouting slogans that accuse the government of having lied" — emphasis mine). We are also informed of such fascinating details as the fact that at 5:53 am on Sunday, a president publicly accuses Aznar's government "of having lied for electoral reasons". Who is the president? Cuba's Fidel Castro. Well, if el Líder Maximo accuses anyone of lying, who is to counter him?



In issue 11 (March 28), Pierre Assouline writes about how France's humanists consider Mel Gibson's Passion a scandal, with one of them calling it a "fascist" film (in that it erects violence, barabarism, and hatred into spectacle to the detriment of the Word). He goes on to say that the film is to be considered as "a political machine manipulated by the nebulous integrists who gravitate around Bush" (!)

In issue 15 (April 25), Geneviève Brisac has an article called "Smith, Wesson, and myself" where she castigates simplistic Americans for allowing the gun culture to exist, mocking their love affair (especially that of the Texans) with the gun. (Nowhere do we hear abut how the Gestapo's work was made easier by the fact that nonviolent, sophisticated Europeans were supposed to trust in their governments' capacity to protect the citizenry. Nor, to use a more recent example, does Brisac speak about Slobodan Milosevic's decision to have Yugoslavia's police force disarm the citizens of Bosnia and Kosovo before going ahead with the ethnic killing…)

In issue 16 (May 2), Edwy Plenel intones that "the Iraqi people has gladly let the United States rid it of the dictatorship. But that doesn't mean that it intends to let itself be occupied, humiliated, and put into submission, communtarized, and lebanized … In Bush's Iraqi faux pas, there is lots of scorn and ignorance." There is especially a lot of scorn and ignorance in speaking of "the people" in the usual fashion that forgets about, and ignores, the individual, and which castigates anybody who does not agree with the speaker's opinions of what the bulk of the people should think and what it should do.

Then it's over to Frédéric Joignot's cover article with Salman Rushdie, who intones that "it is time for [America] to stop making enemies and to seek to make friends", for instance by ceasing to make war against the impoverished populations of Sudan [make war against Sudan?!], Iraq, and Afghanistan in "retaliation for their tyrants". Then it's Raphaëlle Bacqué's elegy to the founders of the terrorist group Action Directe, whom she introduces by quoting them as "[we are] the oldest political prisoners in France".

The issue ends with the archives section devoted to the leftist-inspired coup d'état that ended 46 years of Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. Whereas the archives section devoted to the creation of Red China in issue 33 made no mention of Beijing's latter blunders (not to call them outright crimes on a massive scale), Former President Mario Soares is quoted as complaining that "the rightist government's alignment with the Bush administration and the framework of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq have created difficulties with the French-German axis and with the European Union." (Difficulties with what European Union, Senhor Soares, when 12 members out of 25 (13 before Spain pulled out) are engaged in the coalition of the willing?)



Issue 17 (May 9) has Michael Moore
on the cover, lighting a stick of dynamite while a black-and-white photo covering the wall behind him shows Dubya in his National Guard days. Inside, Frédéric Joignot has a story on Toni Morrison while Dominique Le Guilledoux has an article on São Paulo mayor Marta Suplicy, a Worker's Party woman "detertimined to eradicate poverty" who is "the idol of the favelas".

Issue 18 (May 16) starts out, as usual, with Christian Colombani one-liners, the first one of which, as noted before, is the following jewel:

The consequence of a faltering health system, one third of Americans soothe their illnesses by more prayer and less medicine.
(I thought the Americans were supposed to be the ones making constant simplified statements?) Okay, let's see… what have we learned here? Or, rather, what is confirmed here, for the French?! It's not only that America's health system is run down, no, we must read between the lines. Because, contrary to the French…
  • Americans have blind faith in their capitalist society, and therefore don't think of revolting (or making a full-fledged revolution) in order to provoke the advent of an egalitarian society of the French type;
  • Americans are backwards folks and superstitious beings;
  • Americans, when they are not feeling well (physically or otherwise), display the grave tendency of not turning towards the state for help;
  • Americans are egotistical beings who do not help each other (that is, by turning to the authorities);
  • Their health system is KO — whereas the French system does work and is not failing (the proof being the fact that the French take more mediciine than Yankees do).
What is ignored:
  • Prayer or no prayer, it has been well established that a positive attitude has a positive effect on one's health. A study recommended the use of cassettes and DVDs of comedies in hospital rooms (in addition to the medical treatment);
  • the French not only take more medicine than Americans do, they take more medicine than the rest of Europe. They must therefore be the most humanist people of the European Union as well! Unless, of course, it is the French health system that encourages people to turn towards free or cheap medicine.
As an American woman who has lived in France for over 20 years said to me: "When the French start feeling the slightest touch of sickness, they rush to a pharmacy. I myself go the supermarket to buy some orange juice, but it is true that that option is not reimbursed by the state's health system…"

On the following page, Pierre Assouline helpfully informs us that, "as the debate concerning the abuse and the torture by the American army [sic] in Iraq intensifies", an ad in the magazine L'Histoire reads as follows: "We are seeking testimonials on rapes committed by American soldiers in France, England, or Germany during the Second World War. This research is based on the university work of Robert Lilly and is done for a historical TV documentary."

Samuel Blumenfeld follows this with an article showing how Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers has found a following among military planners in the Pentagon. Following that, we are treated to two articles by Michel Guerrin on Robert Capa, and his beautiful photos, on 18 pages.



In issue # 19 (May 23), Christian Colombani begins his collection of one-liners with the soldier Dionicio Arevalo, who, after returning home to San Francisco after serving as an Abu Ghraib MP, "hits his wife in his sleep, claws her face, and pulls her ears believing himself to be pulling the pins out of handgrenades". This is followed by an item on the director of Child Victims of War, Jo Baker, claiming that "depleted uranium weapons, used by the Americans in Iraq, are leading to the births of babies with missing limbs or eyes".

On the next page, Pierre Lescure proceeds to tell us that the Abu Ghraib scandal is "a harder blow, and a more tragic one, for Bush than Watergate was for Nixon."

This segues nicely into the cover story, concerning "Bring Home Our Kids: The Fight of the Soldiers' Mothers Against Bush". "The Revolt of the GIs' mothers" merits a posting all by itself, and it gets one.

The other interesting article of the issue
is Samuel Blumenfeld's piece on the Duke, based on Michael Munn's John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. The title of the article? "Hollywood paranoid" (of course). The main revelation concerns the question whether Stalin was trying to have John Wayne assassinated, but in this, a typically judgmental article, we also hear of the movie star's "obsesson" ("the hunt for communists, a national sport in the McCarthyite United States of the 1950s") and of "the good John Wayne … co-habiting with the bad John Wayne, impassioned defender of the witchhunt and co-director of The Green Berets, a propaganda film in favor of keeping American forces in Vietnam."

The smug article manages to dis other movies of the Duke's with sneering irony, notably Big Jim McLain and Blood Alley (in William Wellman's movie, "poor Chinese villagers are suffering the horror of communism. Thank God, John Wayne and his boat are in the neighborhood. The villagers will be able to leave the inferno and settle in Hong Kong"), but the ever-wise Blumenfeld is not finished with "the feature conceived as a western where the vicious Vietcong take on the role of the Indians". He climbs to new heights of America- (or neocon-) caricaturing with his final picture caption: "In The Green Berets, the most overt propaganda film of the history of the Vietnam war [really? has Blumenfeld seen any pro-North Vietnamese pictures made in the 1960s, not to speak of North Korean movies themselves?], John Wayne does everything: director, star, producer, messiah."

In issue 20 (May 30), Edwy Plenel gives a demonstration that shows that when Americans aren't being compared to fascists, they are being compared to Stalinists!

Go read about issues # 21 to 28 and # 29 and following

Le Monde 2: Issues # 21 to # 28

On the 60th anniversary of D-Day, issue 21 (June 6, 2004) is naturally devoted to the "Liberators". "Le Monde 2 commemorates the event by paying homage to all the liberators, anonymous or little-known, French and foreign, heroic and modest, who restored democracy" in France. The cover features a huge portrait of an anonymous French resistant, along with five tiny photos, one of an anti-Hitler German, another of a GI landing at Omaha Beach, one (modern one) of the Bussy-Varache viaduct which the French resistance blew up, and two (!) of the communist leader who gave the order to set the dynamite.

Inside, Edwy Plenel helpfully reminds us that "on the Eastern front, from Stalingrad to Kursk, the Germans lost a total of 6 million soldiers versus only 250,000 in Normandy. History does not moralize. American or Soviet, there is no hierarchy in sacrifice. But the memory of one cannot wipe away the other, on the pretext that American democracy won over Russian communism." Uh-huh. Good thing to know…

On the following page, Geneviève Brisac speaks of the "absurdity of war" and calls for more restraint in her Operation Overlord article entitled… "Operation Overdose". Next, Raphaëlle Bacqué does lunch with Admiral Philippe de Gaulle, who remembers how his father told him on June 5, 1944, "Ça y est … The French will be the first to land in France."

An interview of Jean-Pierre Azéma has the historian explain France's role in Operation Overlord to Michel Lefebvre (remember now, the enemies are the Germans!): "De Gaulle will not restrain his anger. He refuses to participate in this travesty. He will not caution an Americanized France. Voices are raised. Eisenhower, furious, tells him to go to hell. As for Churchill, he is said to have commented "Send him back to Algiers, in a cage if needed." But de Gaulle keeps resisting. He lets it be known that he will address the French people himself. and, on June 6, he pronounces one of his most beautiful speeches, asking the French to obey noone but a French administraion, launching a vibrant call for war, 'France will once again become France'." (Note that de Gaulle's "resistance" — nice choice of words — is to… the perfidious Anglo-Saxons.)

Then comes Francis Marmande's glorious article to the memory of the communist party's "Georges Guingouin, the liberator of Limoges". Ten pages devoted to the "mythical resistant" known as "The Madman of the Woods". (The interview with Azéma on D-Day itself lasted five.)

Then it's Georges Marion's four pages devoted to "the Germans of the Shadows", a resistance organization that infiltrated the Nazi military machine ("Most often they were young communist Jews relocated in France before the war, their families having fled the Nazi oppression") followed by Eric Leser's four pages (nice balance) devoted to two GIs who are the subjects of two famous photos (one of Robert Capa's blurry Omaha Beach pictures and another of a unit holding a captured Nazi flag).

We then have Dominique Frétard's three pages of paintings of medical personnel which appeared in 1945's Men Without Guns (always good, in today's Europe, to present a more pacific side to the conflict), before going to Jean-Michel Normand's text accompanying 12 pages of full-page portraits of resistants (including the young face that graces the cover), all of them anonymous.

The archive section finally gives us some meat to sink our teeth into: D-Day hour by hour, with various comments, 19 pages in all (although there is nothing uncommon about such, since Le Monde 2's archive section are typically long and weighty). Invariably, a veteran is made to opine that, unlike World War II, in no case does the Iraq intervention represent "a just and beautiful cause". (Strangely, no other veteran is quoted on the Iraq war, almost as if when encountering people and soldiers who do support the war (or Bush), the French press does not make much of that).

But we skipped one piece: Emmanuel de Roux's article on the local collectioners of D-Day memorabilia, "from the gaiter button to the assault tank", which I wanted to keep until the end. Those fervent amateurs "have sometimes gathered stockpiles so important as to form the basic collections of museums, large and small, private and public."

Here is what is interesting in the reflection of today's European sophisticated, humanistic, visionary (and fashionable) thinking: One 57-year-old dentist from Bayeux spent his nights collecting, and by the 1970s Jean-Pierre Benamou had assembled all kinds of matériel, from resistance tracts and military berets to the wreck of a British Spitfire. And in 1981, the township of Bayeux agreed to build a museum to house the entire collection. "A convention links Jean-Pierre Benamou to the city until 2020. Thereafter, Bayeux will become the owner of the collections."

This is where the problems start. Remember what Brisac said in her column? Remember the subject of the paintings from Men Without Guns? Remember the number of pages in this Le Monde 2 issue devoted to pacifists (or so-called pacifists) and to members, armed or not, of France's visionary society of humanism and solidarity? Remember the (relatively) few pages devoted to the American and British soldiers who stormed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches and made D-Day what it was? Listen to this: "Sparks have been flying between the collector and the new town hall which wants to dispose of the belligerant side of the establisment in order to transform it into a sort of pacific memorial, modeled after that in Caen."

Now, ain't that nice? It's peace, folks. Peace!

In another time and another place, speaking of "the brave men, living and dead, who struggled here" and of the "poor power" of politicians to "add or detract" in subsequent speechifying, one man said that

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
In modern Europe, the balance between the "honored dead" who "gave the last full measure of devotion" and self-important politicians who utter smug platitudes has been inverted. Please note that for today's verbose Europeans, self-declared pacifists or not, a declaration of principles would read more like this:
The world can little note what the brave men did here, but it must never forget what we say here.
For the benefit of Bayeux's vain and conceited politicians and citizens, I will provide a translation of the above Abraham Lincoln sentence in French:
Le monde remarquera peu ce que nous disons ici et il ne s'en souviendra guère, mais il n'oubliera jamais ce que des braves ont fait en ce lieu.



Surprize! In issue 23 (June 20), we have a token article, the kind of rare jewel that is supposed to convince everybody that everybody's opinions are equally represented: of course, Nicolas Bourcier's article is only one page long, he describes Noam Chomsky as a "committed leftist intellectual", and he mentions www.punkvoter.com without mentioning the Punkvoter Lies website, but still it's refreshing to read about "Bush's punks and fans". Nick Rizzuto and Michale Graves oppose "leftist propaganda" and say as much on their websites and in the songs they sing. "Take Johnny Ramone, he fully supported Ronald Reagan", says Rizzuto, the founder of the ConservativePunk.com website (I'll bet Douglas didn't know that! ;o) ), while former Misfits singer Graves protests: "But the establishment is them [those who sympathize with Mike Burkett's anti-Bush movement]! While everybody agrees to hold progressive ideas, the real rebels today are the conservatives."

Otherwise, issue 23 shows us the Iraq wrestlers preparing for the Olympic Games in Colorado Springs. One might have thought that a journalist might have made a story out of the incredible chance Ali Salman and Muhammed Mohammed got, which is indeed how the two men feel. (Not to mention the fact that they will not be tortured for not winning medals.) Needless to say, Paul Miquel had to make much out of the fact that trainer Jamal Hasson happened to comment nonchalantly that half the population "think we have gone into exile in the occupier's country".

We are also treated to Samuel Blumenfeld's lunch with Paul Verhoeven, who compares Che Guevara to Jesus and who says, unbelievingly, that the inspiration for 1997's Starship Troopers came from… the state of Texas, then headed by a governor by the name of George W Bush (!)



Issue 24 (June 27) presents "Apocalypse Food", a story of Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me. "As, through fast food, it's a whole way of life that America exports," weeps Samuel Blumenfeld, "the whole world should soon fall ill." Then it's over to an interview Nicolas Bourcier conducted with the musician Moby, who is MOBYlized against Bush. Tour de France oblige, the Monde archives present Jacques Anquetil (along with the five-time champ's daughter dismissing of doping as "banal"), while the archives of the subsequent issue (# 25, July 4) gives us a portrait of the father of today's Turkey, "Atatürk the Modern Man".

In issue 27 (July 18), Peter Turnley compares two military funerals in America (Oklahoma and South Carolina) with funerals in Baghdad and Bassorah, including those of "Iraqi combatants". War, war itself, is the culprit.

That seems to be the message, too, of Jan Krauze's "The Forgotten Insurrection", in which a Pole, then 23, says that "the Soviets played a hideous, cynical role" in the Warsaw uprising of 1944. Fortunately for Le Monde 2's readers (and for the French campaign to paint the Allies in a less-than-bright light throughout 2004), Witold Zaleski "seems to be just as resentful towards the Western allies, who could have done much more to help the insurrectionists".

Samuel Blumenfeld gives us a biography of "the richest producer in the world", underlining the supposed "binary diagram at the basis of all of [Jerry Bruckheimer's] films: good against evil, civilization against barbarism, America surrounded by a hostile world." Blumenfeld, who unleashed a broadside againt Black Hawk Down for not showing the racism of ordinary American soldiers (!?), has another article on Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, in which, without further ado, he castigates Cecil B DeMille for his "soap crusades" which "defies any historical plausibility" (not historical truth, historical plausibility). "In [Scott's] celestial Jerusalem, open to all, the goal is not so much to rewrite the past as to consider the future in a different way, without crasades, and in peace."

In that perspective, we head for the Le Monde archives, which is devoted to the "fighter for the Palestinian cause". "Arafat the Survivor", we are told, "has incarnated for almost half a century the hopes of the Palestinian people for the building of an independent state." "'The head of the PLO has lived through a thousand hardships" writes Simon Roger. "But he remains an interlocutor on the path to peace in the Middle East who can't be ignored."



In issue 28 (July 25), we have another token article. Frédéric Joignot's "The Anti-Ecologist Ecologist" is about Bjørn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. Of course, it goes heavily into "Lomborg's strongest distortions and weakest analyses", it uses sentences like "after a while, a sense of malaise arises", and it gives the Danish author the kiss of death by linking him to the devil incarnate: "American ecologists have noted that an unofficial text drawn up by the White House uses most of Lomborg's arguments, in order to justify their refusal to sign the Kyoto agreements." (Well, if the arguments happen to be true, or mostly true, or even only partly true, why shouldn't the Bush administration use them; why, indeed, shouldn't everybody be using them?!) "They accuse the 'skeptical environmentalist' of being supported by oil and anti-environmentalist lobbies." Well, if you can't, or won't, enter into debate, better to dismiss the messenger through character assassination by calling him a fiend in the pay of the enemy, n'est-ce pas?

Oh, this is good: in its Le Monde archives section, issue 28 gives us a portrait of "The Soul of Barcelona". Who might that be? A poet and best-selling author who fought against Franco. Oh, and of course, Manuel Vazquez Montalban was also a communist with a "political commitment without fault". A good person, needless to say. And to show how human(istic) he was, we are informed that cooking was his passion. Of course, what the militant fought against was American foreign policy and what he refused to do was live on

a planet of resigned and guilty monkeys covered, apparently, by dried seas of blood spilled by the liberal-capitalist society busy with covering the Earth with hamburgers and Kentucky fried chicken served by deliverymen wearing the UN's blue helmets.
(Oh yes, didn't you know? it is only when the UN opposes, or seems to oppose, Washington that the international institution is praised; when it happens to seem to be acting in lockstep with Uncle Sam, it is — as usual — denigrated and dismissed as a stooge — like everybody else.) Yes, says Raphaëlle Rérolle, the Catalan author … was not only a cook, but the hero of his detective novels refrains from eating "banal globalist food"; non, Pepe Carvalho "tastes with an incredible talent meals with a well-marked identity". How much more lucid can an author get? Oh, and, by the way, did the militant author ever do, or say, anything about Stalin's gulags and Mao's millions of victims? A "communist until the day he died, Montalban never stopped wondering about the [Stalinist] ideology." Wow! Quite an impressive display of activism. Bueno to have your priorities straight, Señor Montalban

Go read about issues # 1 to 20 and # 29 and following

Le Monde 2: Issues # 29 to # 40

After an interruption in August for the summer vacation, Le Monde 2 returns in a slightly different format. (The most visible change is that the magazine is no longer bound by glue but with staples.) Edwy Plenel starts his editorial in issue 29 (September 4) with an (indirect) appeal to terrorists' intelligence, concerning the kidnapping of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbruno (the journalists "who tried to tell the story of the Iraqi inferno, with humanity and curiosity"): "to threaten France, which was the only diplomatic obstacle the United States ran into on the road to Baghdad… there have been instances of logic, even be they of the criminal kind, that have made more sense. But maybe therein is the meaning of those crimes: that there be no more meaning, precisely, that it be the war of everybody against everybody, that in turn, we let outselves give into violence and hate. That we respond to fear with fear. That is the trap."

And you know who, consciously or (criminally) unconsciously, set the trap, don'tcha? "'Be afraid!' says the American imperial eagle" shouts Plenel, echoing the bird in Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers. "'Be afraid!' hastened to shout the administration's liege man in Baghdad, the former Saddam Hussein vassal recycled by the CIA, Ayad Allawi, taking as a pretext the double kidnapping to invite France to enter into a crusade against the 'forces of evil', a religious war without quarter or pity of which Iraq will be the inevitable battlefield."

Edwy Plenel forgot a couple, so I'll add them for him: "Be afraid! " cried Edwy Plenel, pointing to Uncle Sam and the forces of capitalism. "Be afraid!" cried the intellectuals, pointing at McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Hollywood, and a mouse named Mickey."Be afraid!" cried the French people, pointing at Bush, the devil incarnate. (If any of this blog's readers have the original (English-language) Spiegelman book, can they confirm that my retranslation from French into English ("Be afraid") is correct? D'avance, merci…)

Then, we have Jacques Buob and Alain Frachon's interview with Spiegelman, who is (conveniently) "revolted against the nationalism of the American media and against all religious fanaticism". The artist with a sense of humor which "remains a weapon of mass reflection" condemns Bush's "politics of fear", erupts in fury at "all those stupid flags that have appeared everywhere", and says he is "terrorized as much by Al Qaeda as by his government". My heart goes out to you, Art. Oh, and when will you make a Maus version of the killing fields in Saddam Hussein's Iraq?

In addition, Véronique Mortaigne presents an article on Oscar Niemeyer, the "aesthetic and militant architect" who built the main buildings of Brasília, the UN building in New York, and the Paris headquarters of France's Communist Party. "Communist for one day, communist always", she writes admiringly of the Brazilian icon. And on the final page there is another Jacques Buob interview, with Virginie Despentes, a writer-director who voted for the Parti Communiste in the last elections…



Issue 30 (September 11) brings us Josyane Savigneau's interview with Philip Roth ("compared to his son, the father was a George Washington") and Pierre Assouline's condescending dismissal of Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard-Henri Lévy. (Why? Because neither is a Frenchman comme il faut, i.e., one who hates America.) As the archives story, we are served the history of the McDonald's corporation which is celebrating the quarter century birthday of the opening of its first restaurant in France.

Then we have Edwy Plenel with the tiresome pacifist slogan "endless war" (aren't simplistic thoughts supposed to be anathema to sophisticated, deep-thinking Frenchmen?) along with his condescending attitude towards Dubya, Putin, and Sharon ("all united against evil, to use Bush's religious vulgar speech"), as well as Ronald Reagan (for his "evil empire" discourse). "Everything is happening as if, from Washington to Moscow, our post-Cold War world was impatient to invent a world war and find a global enemy." Of course, just about exactly the same thing was said about the Americans (Reagan among them) when they opposed the Kremlin during the Cold War: those simplistic, war-mongering Americans need an enemy at any price, people sneered. Today, the Eastern European members of the former Soviet block, stand with, and behind, Washington as one. Don't you wonder why? This is not something that a member of the French press like Plenel will ponder.

Claudine Mulard's story on "the Man who Dares Attack Bush-Television", i.e., on Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker behind Outfoxed and Uncovered, who fights what Le Monde 2 calls "radical conservativism" and "the message of a Republican Party leaning more and more to the right: heightened patriotism, defense of so-called family values, etc, the whole packaged in an information-spectacle fashion." Mulard then proceeds to recount how John Moody's "scandalous" memos determine what Fox News will show.

What is funny, or sickening, is how much worse this is in France. Take the following sickening memo:

The images of Abu Ghraib are perturbing and scandalizing. Today, we have images, broadcast by Al Arabiya, of an American hostage, blindfolded, clearly against his will. Who will be scandalized for him?
The memo is not sickening in itself, or for what it purportedly shows about the Fox corporation, it is sickening precisely because of the fact that Europeans find it shocking. It is sickening in that that is shows exactly how the French media reacted, albeit in the reverse fashion. What is sickening here are the double standards. All the men who were kidnapped, and who had their heads severed, were down-played. All any one person has to ask him- or herself is, what is worse, forcing a prisoner to wear a dogleash or chopping off a prisoner's head. Which prisoner suffered more? The family of which prisoner bears the deeper wounds? When you have answered those questions, you can go complain about Fox News all you want.


Issue 31 (September 18) features "Americans" on the cover. It is surprizingly balanced, with verbatim quotes from 15 Americans, accompanied by beautiful portraits by Guillaume Serina and Matthias Braschler, and without (too much) commentary from Alain Frachon. Among the Americans quoted (some of them famous, some unknown), there are five each in the Bush camp (Ed Koch, Ashley Meyer, Jeff Politis, Robert Lee, and Christine Iverson) and in the Kerry camp (Eric Williams, Gavin Newsom, Sharon Furman, and the lesbian couple Emily Whiting and Christa Torrens), along with an equivalent number of Americans who don't really say whom they support (James Lipton, Allen Soong, Bianca Ortiz, Sonia Cordella, and Charity MacDonald) — although with some it can be guessed. Maybe some journalists, editors, and VIPs are starting to see that, with the likelihood of a Bush victory, they ought to be more balanced in their presentation of the news.

The final page is devoted to Jacques Buob's interview with a HIV positive homosexual who is a leading member of the Jacques Chirac's UMP. Jean-Luc Romero is complaining: "Take the magazine [for gays and lesbians,] Têtu. Before, it said: 'It's a disgrace that he does not admit to being HIV positive.' And the day I do announce it, they say that I am using it to further my career! They will not accept that one can be a conservative and be gay" at the same time. Cheer up, Jean-Luc. In some countries (and editorial rooms), they do not accept (not very graciously, at least) that you can be a rational, open-minded American and be for Bush at the same time.



Michèle Champenois's article, "Aux arts citoyen", in issue 33 (October 2) shows us a number of Maurizio Cattelan's pieces of art, including the sculpture meant to show "how, suddenly, after September 11, life became militarized, highly controlled." Pierre Barthélémy, meanwhile, interviews Sir Martin Rees, "one of the most respected figures in Bristish science", who predicts various types of catastrophes for our planet, from ecological to bio-terror. (Naturally, he gets twice as many pages as 28's Bjørn Lomborg as well as an interview, in which he is quoted verbatim without comment from the journalist.)

As for Annick Cojean, she interviews "women in an Afghan Garden", and her story about how the women will vote in Afghanistan's first election in history is presented as if the election had happened like that, without mention of the, uh, contributions of the United States Army, Air Force, and Marines. In fact, whereas the words France, Germany, and NGOs (or their grammatical derivatives) are mentioned several times, the word America is not mentioned once.

This pleasant issue of Le Monde 2 ends with the archive section devoted to "China's Turning Red". It is true that October 1 marks the anniversary of Mao's founding of "the People's Republic". With a photo of the founding speech of Mao Zedong, Listen to how poetic and laudatory the introduction reads: "Fity-five years ago, the communists headed by Mao Zedong installed in the most peopled nation in the world a system still in place today. The birth of the People's Republic marked the end of a quarter century of civil war with the nationalists."

It's peace, folks! Peace! Peace like in Iraq before the ouster of Saddam Hussein brought chaos, insecurity, and confusion! Peace, that thing that modern, visionary Europeans like to put the emphasis on in their history museums. Now, ain't that somethin' to celebrate?! Let's read some more headlines: "'Martians' in Shanghai: the Reds Capture China's Manhattan"; "The Legend of the Long March", "A United Front Against the Japanese Invasion", "And the Party Created the Nation: China Reunited under the Red Flag". No. No, there aren't any pictures of political prisoners in Mao's gulags. No, there aren't any photos of prisoners getting shot with a bullet in the neck. No, there aren't any images of China's invasion of Tibet. Why do you ask?

As for issue 40, it has an article giving an entirely partisan view of weblogs and the "blogosphere" (InstaPundit is against Bush and the war in Iraq?!)

Go read about issues # 1 to 20 and # 21 to 28