Our May 26/June 2 story on French-U.S. tension over the Iraq war led readers to defend France. One who found the piece “fair” said, “Both Bush and Chirac were wrong.” Wrote another, “Most of us here supported Chirac’s position.” And, “We didn’t support Saddam’s regime—we opposed the war.”
VIVE LA DIFFERENCE!
I found Christopher Dickey and Tracy McNicoll’s May 26/June 2 article “Irrelevant France?” pretty fair. Unilateralism is a short-term view in international relations. I did not agree with Jacques Chirac’s arrogant position in European foreign relations. But neither did I agree with George W. Bush’s unilateral war. Who was wrong? Bush or Chirac? I would say both of them were wrong. Chirac has weakened the European Union, and Bush international relations. Syria and other Muslim countries are considered dangerous for American tourists? If U.S. foreign policy were right, that would not be the case.
Ronan Le Coz
I supported Jacques Chirac’s stance against the war and do not feel at all “penitential.” It was outrageous to suggest that the French government seemed to side with Saddam Hussein in your provocatively titled article “Irrelevant France?” The Chirac government repeatedly stated that it did not support Saddam’s regime, that it opposed the war for other reasons. The current chaos was predictable; it was known that there was no coherent opposition in Iraq to pick up the reins of power after the war. And where are the weapons of mass destruction? The evidence for the links with Al Qaeda was so weak that even the United States stopped trying to push that point. What America does not seem to grasp is that we French simply did not agree with your view. France has shown its willingness to engage its forces on many past occasions; this time we begged to differ. We did not believe that Iraq was a major threat to world security. If the United States really wants to make a difference in the fight against terrorism, it would do better to influence its so-called friends—Israel and Saudi Arabia.
An overwhelming majority—not only of French people but of the world at large—opposed this war and remains highly skeptical of U.S. foreign policy. The hypocrisy that helps create and support nondemocratic regimes all over the world (including Saddam Hussein’s) if they are pro-American, and then feigns moral outrage when they turn against the United States, is not lost on people outside the U.S. propaganda zone. Everyone is relieved that the war is over and pleased to see Saddam’s back. But American actions were tainted by the profit motives of the oil industry and U.S. big businesses that wield so much influence in this White House. Now the Bush administration has a chance to undo some of the damage already done. It can press ahead with genuine democratic nation-building in Iraq under U.N. supervision, and pursue the Roadmap peace plan in Israel and Palestine. If these initiatives succeed, America may exert a moral authority to match its military prowess.
Why should France apologize for its political stance during the Iraq crisis? When I last checked, the Army’s 75th Exploitation Task Force had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the links between Al Qaeda and Saddam’s regime were still unclear. Besides, I do not think it is “shameful” not to wage war. In 2014, it will have been 200 years since Sweden last fought a war. Would you say the Swedes have been sheer “cowards” all that time? I think former U.N. secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold was far more courageous than Dominique de Villepin is.
You seemed not to have under-stood France’s point of view at all. First, although I admit the French may be a bit anti-American, we don’t hate Americans. Most of us considered Bill Clinton a talented representative of the United States; we do not think George W. Bush a good president, but he is your choice and we respect that. As for U.S.-France relations, I firmly believe that a friendly relationship cannot be based on power. France and the United States cannot have a friendship based on fear; our relationship must be based on mutual respect. And surely you know that friends—even if they are powerful countries—sometimes disagree. So a friendship should not be broken as soon as opinions diverge.
NEWSWEEK, I would like your readers to know that most of us here in France, whether we are on the left or on the right, fully supported our government’s position on this war. Your article seemed to argue in favor of the war based on economic and power considerations. I find that shameful. You forget that the main reason most of us rejected this war was simply a question of ethics and values. Overall, we thought there was no clear justification for war and that other options should be carefully explored before risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Now, thousands of people are dead, and millions of Iraqis do not have clean water, sanitation or basic health care. Ancient cultural treasures have been pillaged. The environment is threatened by depleted uranium spread by the Coalition’s arms. Religious tensions between Shiites and Sunnis have flared up and culminated in killings. Worst of all, the United Nations has been allowed extremely little presence in Iraq, and the United States now says that it will have to delay putting an Iraqi government into place. Finally, the war did not deter terrorism; on the contrary, it just increased it.
That America is the one dominant superpower is the new reality, undisputed by allies and adversaries alike. The question is whether it has conducted itself as a leader of nations. France, like any other nation, is entitled to express policy disagreement, to act according to its political convictions and to represent the conscience of its peace-loving citizens. Using a carrot-and-stick approach toward rogue nations and allies alike only serves to polarize an already divided and distressed world. Pouring scorn over those with the temerity to stand up to the might of an all-powerful America underscores the brash and blustering bully image that the United States under George W. Bush exemplifies. Whether France has the ability to provide the balance in a multipolar world is irrelevant. What is significant is how supposedly democratic America responds to dissent in the international arena. The freedom of expression promised under the U.S. Constitution is undermined by its lack of tolerance toward an alternative opinion coming from its European allies.
Tan Choo Hwee
France considers itself a proud nation with long memories of empire. But not many Europeans share this view. It is not that France is a “has-been”; it is more a question of “was-it-ever”? A few of its memories are truly glorious: Crecy, Agincourt, Waterloo and Dien Bien Phu. But ever since the days of Charles de Gaulle, the French just rub me the wrong way. Living in a small country that is trying to stay out of the Fourth Reich, I consider the Paris-Brussels-Berlin axis as a far greater threat than Washington.
BUNGLING IN BAGHDAD
InsertArt(1948796)Thanks, NEWSWEEK, for your May 26/ June 2 interview with Kenny Gluck of Medecins sans Frontieres (“A Simmering Health Crisis”). I was profoundly shocked by its revelation of the crass incompetence of the Coalition’s efforts to restore basic human requirements like drinkable water and its inability to provide essential medical supplies in Basra. At the same time, I see Bush and Blair on TV, swaggering around Europe, making their sanctimonious speeches. I guess they have half forgotten Iraq—and Afghanistan—already.
THE RETURN OF ROMAN POLANSKI
It made me sick to see pictures of filmmaker Roman Polanski celebrating his Oscar win in “Tale of a Dark Horse” (April 7). The only pictures of him that I’d like to see would be of him behind bars. He raped a 13-year-old girl. Who cares if he makes good movies? How do you have “consensual” sex with a 13-year-old virgin? She says she did not fight back because she was afraid. How can we celebrate this man? He has damaged her life beyond anything anyone can ever understand.
Your story is not about the film itself, but the sensation around it. Polanski is charged with sexual harassment, but he is only human. Besides, I doubt if American directors are crystal-clean characters. You say the best recipe for winning an Oscar is to make a film about Jews, but “The Pianist” describes war in general. Its hero Wladyslaw Szpilman’s fate was shared by millions of people (not only Jews, but political exiles as well) during the war and after it, in communist times.
Your writer is wrong to claim that Roman Polanski “had been a child in the Warsaw Ghetto.” Polanski’s autobiography says that he’s a survivor of the Cracow ghetto. This is also one of reasons why he found “Schindler’s List” a stimulus for returning to his painful childhood memories.
In the story on Polanski you write, “If you want an Oscar, make a movie about the Holocaust.” But why does Hollywood not place equal emphasis on Stalin’s holocaust that killed nearly 30 million people in the Gulag, or the many millions who died under Mao in China? Those genocides were far more massive than Hitler’s. How about Rwanda’s slaughter of Tutsi tribal people just because of their ethnicity? Why just one movie, “The Killing Fields,” about Cambodia’s genocide? Is a Slav or Chinese or African or Asian life lost any less valuable than that of a European Jew’s? “The Piano” hits the same note too many other movies have already hit. Let’s have an attempt at wholeness, balance and telling more parts of the human story.
A HALLMARK OF QUALITY
It’s disturbing to see how colorful or unusual decisions about social, economic or cultural events grab the headlines and are reported ironically. In “Italy’s New Patriotism” (March 17), you talk about the Italian government’s decision to mark all Italian goods with a symbol of genuine quality and origin recognizable worldwide. What you failed to mention is that that marketing campaign is the result of countless fake products—copies of Italian goods—that are flooding the marketplace. It is also a result of the implementation of dubious European laws regulating the working process and ingredients of several foreign goods. If not regulated, these fakes would cause a loss in economic revenue and credibility in the Italian manufacturing system.
Your article “Italy’s new patriotism” is a mockery of how Italians try to preserve their identity and culture. Why is it so bad to protect a nation’s specialties—its tradition, language, music, food? Globalization or economic and financial union shouldn’t entail cultural unification. My country is facing a referendum about joining the European Union, but whatever happens, my nationality will not change into “European.” I want to remain a Hungarian—who lives in Central Europe.
Your article is not at all representative of Italian people, their culture or way of living. A large part of the population doesn’t feel represented by the government or its pathetic attempt to make a better impression on the world’s opinion, let alone the attempt to label Italian export items with a cartoon. The truth is there is no other country that can bring together so much beauty, art and quality products as Italy. And yes, we are proud to be from Italy—the most copied country in the world.
WHERE ARE THE SOLDIERS?
Where is the United States hiding its soldiers in Sweden? According to “America’s Global Reach” (March 24), Sweden has more than 30 U.S. troops on its territory and Denmark (a NATO nation) has none. Someone goofed!
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.