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Americans mistaken by depicting France as enemy of the U.S.

March 7, 2003

By Pauline Roux and Helene Massart

Beware before committing yourself to reading this article: it requires open-mindedness. Want to hear about the French position about Iraq, from French people? George W. Bush is a bigger threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein. This statement may look really aggressive, but we took it from an English newspaper, The Times.

Examine first that France is not the only country opposed to war. Actually, in the U.N. Security Council, three countries (France, China and Russia) out of five with veto powers are against war. So here is our question: why did Americans choose the French as your scapegoat? We do not understand.

Following the fashion of French President Jacques Chirac, when we hear that we stand against war just because we want to diminish American leadership, or because we do not like Americans, we are sad. We are not angry, we are just sad.

France is not jealous of the United States. Actually, it has developed the concept of the 'French Cultural Exception.' Contrary to the United States, France tries to widen its views, and the fact that France thinks about using its veto does not mean that France sees the United States as an enemy. For us, the enemy is not America; it is the problem we have to solve. We are not trying to create a climate of deficiency; we just want to avoid a useless, expensive war, probably heavier in consequences than most Americans want to admit.

Our views are broader than what Bush thinks: 'Either you are with us, or you are against us.' We can have divergences and still like each other. Americans may have a problem with the French, but we do not have any problem with you. We always will welcome you warmly in Normandy, where we remember that Canadians, Britons and Americans have fought together for peace. Since then, we learned humility and are trying to protect others from the trauma it took us ages to overcome.

Nevertheless, as Chirac mentioned last week, 'France is not a pacific country,' but unlike the United States, France already has experienced two world wars on its own territory. We remember the past, and we have not forgotten the lessons of history. We do not aim to divide the world in two, and as is usual in diplomatic relations, this issue is more complicated than some untapped oil reserves or some misplaced pride.

From a historical point of view, America was founded by religiously persecuted people who had to run away from European intolerance in the 17th century. It is amazing to see that today, the intolerance has moved to America, while Europe tries to find a compromise. The question here is not whether France is for or against Iraq. The French view it as a matter of common sense.

Moreover, America should stop thinking that it is the unique thinker and decision maker on the international stage. When countries agree with America, everything is fine, so why can't it be the same when some countries don't? When America disagrees with us, we do not question the long friendly relationship both our countries used to have. France was the first country ever to recognize equal rights to any of its citizen in 1789.

We also recognize the rights of the nations to self-determination and sovereignty. It is not France's fault if in democratic countries some people are good enough to be re-elected, while in other dictatorial countries, some people stay in power, leading to the ruin of their country. It is up to the Iraqis to decide which leader they want for their country, not the United States.

To conclude, France never will hesitate to use its veto if we feel it is legitimate to do so. Even though America gets mad, we do not think we are hurting either the NATO or the United Nations. A right is not a right if it can only be used when America thinks it is in congruence with its selfish will.