What a terrifyingly narrow escape for the long-tailed vermin of Europe’s liberal media: Last Friday, just when it appeared the Americans and their allies had won the war in Iraq, 10,000 Muslims — all “resolutely hostile” to the U.S., as Liberation helpfully pointed out — appeared on the streets carrying banners telling the Americans to go home. For the French, German, and Left-wing British media, such as the BBC, it was a miracle — and a reminder that from the moment Chirac told the U.N. “no way,” the war in Iraq was never over whether or not Saddam lost. That couldn’t be prevented. It was about whether or not America could win. That war’s just getting started.
Of course, if you’re a cleric jockeying for power in post-Saddam Baghdad, every Friday’s payday. So it wasn’t surprising to see the faithful crowds pour out of mosques and into the streets following prayers that Allah would please, er, send crowds into the streets to make sure that powerful government jobs went to guys who run mosques. Allah also carefully directed them past the representatives of the Infidel Media, including Die Welt
, and gave them banners
on which the creative spirit of Jesse Jackson had been mysteriously written: “No Bush! No Saddam! Yes! Yes! To Islam!” Sloppy scansion, maybe — but music to the ears of the Press Sinister.
For months, since long before a shot was fired in Iraq (not counting those noisy firing-squad volleys, of course), the BBC World Service — especially its Arabic service — has been reflecting much of what has appeared in the leftwing press, broadcasting first, accounts of Arab anger toward the U.S., of mullahs calling for jihad, and of French, German, and Russian efforts to save Saddam’s regime. Then came reports of angry Iraqis glaring at passing tanks, of looters gone wild, of Information Ministry-aided interviews, of unprovoked American atrocities, including a steady diet of interviews with anybody who claimed to have lost a loved one to a misdirected bullet, no matter who may have fired it. Like the Iraqi clerics, the BBC and its ilk have been waiting for their ship to come in. Their apparent hope is that now the long defeat of America can begin. It may cost more lives than have been lost in the entire military portion of this war, but with luck, the American victory in Baghdad can be turned into a defeat in the Middle East.
Now that the smoke has cleared, it’s a little easier for the Euro-press to see the three things that are needed in order to grant America a real win in Iraq. Here they are:
• First, the infrastructure France built in Iraq must be rebuilt, preferably by France. That’s already a loss, because, as Le Figaro adroitly reports, the Americans gave the job to Bechtel, and everybody knows that Bechtel is not French, because recent financial audits have shown that it actually makes a profit. So even as the lights in Iraq go back on, the curtain comes down on this one. The Americans have already lost here.
• Second, the weapons of mass destruction have to be found by U.N. inspectors. To newspapers like the Indy, WMDs are the beef. So? The paper gently asks. Where are they? But warning: even if they are found, says, among many others, Suddeutsche Zeitung, they will have to be Blix-discovered and Blix-certified to be genuine. If Hans doesn’t find them, they’re props. Odds are 5-1 the Americans lose this one.
• Third, Iraq must be turned into an anti-American rogue state before a political solution can be claimed by the U.S. As the Observer notes, the key to success here is getting radical Shiites into positions of power. America is sure to win this one!
But even as Iraq has slowly started to become the kind of U.S. headache the Europeans have hoped for, this week in the Euro-press showed they’re also dealing with the hangover produced by their own anti-American excesses. Even after the well-publicized phone conversation between Chirac and Bush — touted in France as friendly, but described in America as, uh, “professional” — the last few days have seen more French concern, including an uncharacteristic contemplation in Le Monde. After polls in France, as reported in the Guardian, showed a decline in support for Chirac’s position, and after the EU summit in Athens last week, as reported in the Times, failed to produce comfort, there seems to be a growing anxiety here of what France might look like once the U.S. finishes stuffing French foreign policy back inside the snail shell it crawled out of.
By now, you know the French must really miss Bill Clinton, sort of the same way they miss Jerry Lewis. Yet, France has a long history of seeking the truth in the works and thoughts of those who reflect the French affection for deep and complicated philosophies. “Intellectuals R Us!” the French seem to say. So to convince themselves that, really, de Villepin’s grotesque ambush of American policy was just a friendly argument between friends, today the French turned to that great philosophizer Jack Valenti, who, in a Figaro Q&A headline shouted, “The Americans and the French must continue to get along!” Like frogs and legs, Jack.
— Denis Boyles is a journalist based in Europe.