President Jacques Chirac is going to extra lengths to repair the Franco-American relationship and D-Day is the perfect opportunity. I was invited to the Elysee Palace in Paris Friday to talk to Chirac and he was in an expansive mood, saying the final work is almost done on the new United Nations resolution on the terms of Iraqi sovereignty — and he is confident the role of the U.S. military will be worked out to everyone's satisfaction. But mostly, he wanted to talk about the long French relationship with the U.S.
President Chirac wanted to limit the interview to D-Day observations, but he understood that it’s impossible to separate the past from the present.
President Jacques Chirac: Now, as ever, and in every family, there might be difficulties, diverging views but unity is something that has never been called into question by France, and I don’t think it’s been called into question by the U.S. either.
Now of course on specific items, on specific issues we may have different approaches, different understanding. And amongst friends it is only normal we should say it and say it clearly.
This being said, we now share a common goal and that is restoring the security - the stability of Iraq.
Tom Brokaw: Sixty years from now, do you think that we will be celebrating the 120th anniversary of D-Day together — and 60 years of democracy and freedom in Iraq?
President Chirac: Let us hope so. I hope so, but there is one trap we must not fall into. In the distant past there were conditions - a context - in which a confrontation between the Christian west and the Muslim east was established and we must try to avoid that, for that would be the worst situation.
Brokaw: What would you like to hear President Bush say in his speech, in Normandy on the D-Day anniversary?
President Chirac: Of course, I can’t pre-judge what the president might say...
Brokaw: But what would you like to hear from him?
President Chirac: I hope that he will say we’re all part of the same family and as in any families there might be differences, disagreements. So what we have to do is to establish some kind of governance and make sure dialogue will replace confrontation. We must understand that war never leads to a positive settlement of human difficulties. There are always scars that are left after the end of wars. So what I hope we can do is be associated with an endeavor that shows… our whole values are the best values and also show we’re not trying to impose these values.
Brokaw: Thank you, Mr. President.
President Chirac: I just want to say at the end that the only message I would like to remain, or told is the following: the French say, “Thank you,” to the Americans, and they will not forget what they have done 60 years ago. And that is very, very important in our minds and in our hearts.