Our Oct. 6 coverage of the Franco-American split divided readers as well. Wrote one, “I love America.” Said another, “The perceived rift is with Bush.” A third insisted, “It’s all about politics and money.”
THE FEUD WITH FRANCE
One has to be naive to believe that French intentions toward Iraq were (and are) very different from America’s (“The Great Divide,” Oct. 6). In fact, France’s attempt to stop the British-American invasion was not aimed at obstructing it or offering another approach to the matter. Rather, it’s that France is not militarily powerful like the United States, and so it was forced to insist on a diplomatic solution. Unfortunately, Americans—who usually favor negotiations—did not want to risk their plans by submitting them to the United Nations for the Security Council’s approval. Now that the war is “over,” however, and the predictable problems have arisen, France sounds like a reasonable nation, a country with a vision. But that’s a false impression. Let’s not fool ourselves; it’s all about politics and money. As usual.
Roberto Oleiro Soares
The people who are the most critical of and have the greatest disdain for France are the French themselves. There is no nation with a greater capacity for self-criticism than the French. American criticism of that country is amateurish compared with that of the French. I speak their language and am in France once a week for my work. The current perceived rift with America is no more than a rift with the Bush administration, which the French consider corrupt and illegitimate. Apart from that, the French still like and admire America. It is a remarkable feat to unite French opinion on anything, but they are close to united in their dislike of the Bush administration. In this, they are in perfect agreement with most of Europe, not to mention many Americans. So I think a bit much is being made of any perceived animosity between the two peoples.
I don’t think that by picking isolated historical incidents of opposition to America—and those, too, only from intellectuals—you can say that all French people are opposed to the United States. It’s not right to even surmise that because the French are hostile to George W. Bush’s foreign policy, they are opposed to America. Just because you hate an actor in a film does not mean you hate the film itself. I’m 18 and I love America. I listen to American music; I watch American movies; I eat popcorn, chips and hamburgers, and I drink Coca-Cola. I enjoy lunch at McDonald’s, I read NEWSWEEK, watch CNN, read American books, use a Macintosh computer, study English at university and I have American friends. How can you say I’m opposed to America? I’m not. But I am opposed to Bush’s foreign policy. Is that so incompatible?
I’ve been following with great concern your various reports on the ongoing French-American diplomatic feud over Iraq. Imagine France’s—or rather, President Chirac’s—postulation of returning sovereignty immediately to Iraqis. Giving absolute responsibility of running Iraq to Iraqis is good as an idea. What I’d quarrel with is the immediacy with which Chirac wants it done. Yes, when nationalistic fervors heighten, even the best-intentioned occupiers are hated by the occupied. But does this mean Iraq should be rushed? Should it be sacrificed to waiting Baathists still operating covertly inside Iraq? Chirac needs to look dispassionately at the actual issues on the ground in Iraq: restoring law and order, moving forward toward a democratic, unified Iraq and, above all, preventing Saddam Hussein from returning to power. By ignoring the internationalization of the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, President Bush may have committed an irreparable blunder. But imagine the consequences of rushing Iraq: most Iraqis will be branded traitors by resurgent Saddamists; think of the wailings in torture chambers, of crude executions... need I go on?
Freetown, Sierra Leone
A LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP
In “Two Visions” (Oct. 6), Tony Judt, an Anglo-Saxon Francophile, regrets the current U.S.-French antagonism and would revive an older alliance based on the two nations’ shared, if dubious, claim to have invented the Rights of Man in 1789. (If the American Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man are similar in tone and purpose, couldn’t it be because both copied the English Bill of Rights of 1689?) In asserting that “France is the leading power in the European Union,” Judt overlooks the fact that French pretensions to such a role have produced discord and antagonism within Europe, equivalent to that created worldwide by U.S. assumptions of global hegemony.
Conveniently, Judt leaves out France’s policy of backing Third World dictators. It did so throughout sub-Saharan Africa; then, most glaringly, it backed Saddam Hussein’s bloody regime with billions in loans and arms shipments along with a French-designed and French-financed nuclear power plant. If the French “vision” of the Middle East is one with Saddam still in power, backed by a French-funded nuclear arsenal, I’ll take the U.S. way, any day.
Judt hit the nail on the head. He deserves praise for his deeply perceptive analysis, but let’s show a little compassion for La Belle France in its hour of need. The Anglo-American alliance is the last straw in France’s steady decline; it has never forgiven Brits for the Battle of Agincourt, it easily forgets that it was rescued from Hitler by the Allies and it deplores the fact that English is now Europe’s dominant language. It was also terrified of losing the megamillions owed it by Iraq for vast amounts of military hardware supplied on credit. When France accepts the fact that its greatest days are long gone and its dream of leading a federalist Europe won’t happen, it can regain its entente cordiale.
THE GENERAL IS IN
As a member of the early grass-roots Draft Wesley Clark campaign, I’m excited about Clark’s announcement that he’s running for president. Your Sept. 29 articles “General With a Purpose” and “The Water Walker” describe Clark as being bold, confident, driven and brilliant, with a desire to make himself understood and respected. He is criticized for being unpopular and an outsider, but, as you point out, some of the “resentment against [him] is just plain jealousy.” The election of the president is not a popularity contest. I’m fed up with the good-ole-boy network that has the interests of friends above the well-being of America. When it’s time to vote for our next president, I’ll choose the intense, independent-minded candidate who believes in diplomacy first. Clark will help America regain respect from its allies, who have been insulted and alienated by the Bush administration. With Clark as our next president, I’ll feel proud to be American again.
I strongly dispute your portrayal of Gen. Wesley Clark as an obsessive, relentless, driven, practically friendless man “who made more enemies than he defeated.” I have known Wes Clark from the time he and I were teenage roommates at West Point. You quote a “friend” who never saw him relax. Wes and I played pinball in Colorado (he whipped me), tobogganed onto a frozen river in the Finger Lakes, shot eight ball one-on-one in the NATO chateau and played Foxtail catch in front of his dumbfounded bodyguards. Wes roared with laughter when we escaped his military-hospital intensive-care ward in Japan, even as he cried out in pain from nearly ripping open the stitches from his Vietnam wound. Your claim that Wes is a brown-nosing Eddie Haskell is ludicrous. Wes was fired as Supreme Allied Commander for speaking out against his bosses. He has always been an independent thinker. In 1972, I returned from a year at a European university and made an appointment with West Point’s academic dean, a colonel, to review my cadet records. When the colonel saw my sandals and ponytail, he postponed the meeting and culled the records. Wes, a captain, invited me to attend the political-science class he was teaching there, and even asked me to speak. He didn’t give a hoot what the big brass would say. As you report, Wes Clark is indeed intense, brilliant, bold and independent, with extraordinary confidence. But he is also a warm, humorous, charming human being.
Theodore P. Hill
I appreciate the coverage given to the possible impact on the Democratic field by Wesley Clark’s candidacy for president. Your articles, however, left me feeling that he may be politically too untested, temperamentally too reactionary and too late in entering the race. But after hearing him speak at a rally recently, I observed a man of sharp intelligence, clear vision and genuine warmth who appeared confident and comfortable in his own skin. Democrats concerned about Howard Dean’s weakness on the national stage now have at last a credible, exciting and independent-minded alternative.
Concord, New Hampshire
Before we even got bogged down in the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, the Bush administration did a superb job of appropriating the flag and the concepts of patriotism and love of country. To redress this situation, the Democrats have no choice but to select Clark as their presidential candidate for 2004. He will appeal to independents, and he could also have the support of many Republican-leaning veterans who have become disaffected with the Bush policies. As a retired four-star general with 34 years in the Army, a former commander of NATO forces, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient, and an author of two books on war and diplomacy, Clark is an excellent candidate. His appearance on the ballot would also represent symbolic payback for many veterans who have had their loyalty impugned for questioning the motives behind the war in Iraq.
Your otherwise excellent introduction of Wesley Clark nearly buried an important item: his Jewish roots. When both international terrorism and the Arab-Israeli conflict stand near the heart of U.S. foreign policy, that connection (whatever the general’s declared religious preference) is relevant and deserves scrutiny. I’d like to know how those roots might affect Clark’s instincts as he approaches that crucial, long-term foreign entanglement. Howard Dean, to his credit, insists we should be evenhanded. Would Clark be this impartial?
St. Louis, Missouri
With his impressive military credentials and political star fast rising, I consider Clark to be the Democratic Party’s best choice to run for president in 2004. If he has his way, he would try to bring America back on the world map with regard to international commitments and move away from the unilateralist policies of President Bush, which have drawn worldwide criticism.
Jim Victa Hipolito
FOR THE RECORD
In your Sept. 29 piece “Dark Days in Bethlehem,” it is suggested that I am a “Christian militant.” Please note that I am a former Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader and introduced myself to your writer as a political analyst. I have no knowledge of the presence of Christian militants in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Your writer also cited information from different sources and previous incidents (e.g., “Retaliatory shelling by Israel damaged dozens of houses...”) that implied that I had given him this information; I did not.
Khader Abu Abbara
Beit Jala, Israel
CASH WILL BE MISSED
What hurts most when someone like Johnny Cash dies is that a part of us—those who grew up with him and recognized something special about him—gets torn out (“Mourning the Man in Black,” Sept. 22). There are people whom we recognize as part of ourselves in some small way. Cash was one of those. He will be missed.
ERODING FREE-SPEECH RIGHTS
Robert Samuelson is the first writer to comprehend the chilling nature of the Supreme Court majority’s lack of action in the Nike case (“Tax on Free Speech,” July 14). Like Justice Stephen Breyer, he sees this lack of a judgment as the beginning of attacks and consequential injuries to corporations doing business in California—and the vast majority of U.S. companies are in this group. The 20,000-member Public Relations Society of America also foresaw the emergence of this threat and the impact it will have on the way corporations communicate and interact with the public and the media in the future. That is why we entered the Nike case as a friend of the court, asking the Supreme Court to put an end to this suit before it started eroding our free-speech rights. By sending the Nike case back to California and clearing the way for similar lawsuits, America’s highest court abandoned the course set by its predecessors to expand, rather than constrict, First Amendment rights. It is comforting to know that Samuelson understands the chilling implications that decision will have on free speech and our future citizens.
Reed Bolton Byrum
President and CEO
Public Relations Society of America
New York, New York
THE ICON AND THE SHOWBOY
It is insulting to compare David Beckham and Nelson Mandela and to say, as The Guardian did, that Mandela was “lucky” to meet Beckham (“Brand It Like Beckham,” July 7). In fact, the reverse is true. Mandela is an icon whose will did not break or waver for 27 years, under the most trying circumstances. After the end of apartheid, he demonstrated a spirit of forgiveness and love for all. Beckham is a showboy, a brand who will lose his appeal in time. Such slanted comparisons only fuel Africans’ suspicions of racism.
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.