David Calling

A Demoralizing Conversation with a French Ambassador

I have just returned from a pretty grand party in France. And there I was, fork in hand, when I am introduced to a French ambassador. Pronounced with a French accent, my name is a mouthful and I do not think the ambassador identified me. But I identified him. I had attacked him in Betrayal, a book I published recently to spell out the damage France has done in the Middle East. The French foreign ministry, known as the Quai d’Orsay, has a long record of trying to obtain Arab favors. In this view, first the Zionists and then the Israelis have made the great mistake of wanting to stay alive, and that will never do. Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat were only the latest in the list of murderers whom the Quai d’Orsay befriended and protected.

The ambassador couldn’t have been more charming. We got on the Middle East as though by accident. It so happens that he thought President Chirac had been right to oppose George W. Bush over the invasion of Iraq. The then–foreign minister Villepin had made a brilliant speech for the same purpose. We moved on to the subject of the French Orientalist Louis Massignon (1883–1963) who in his day convinced the Quai d’Orsay that France and the world of Islam share a common destiny. “Ignominy” is the word Massignon reserved for Zionists. The passage of time has made no difference: The ambassador has the highest esteem for Massignon.

Perhaps it was mischievous of me, but I suggested that we should sing the old French colonial song “Partons pour la Syrie,” and France should save Syria from its terrible fate by reoccupying the country, and dividing it as before with an enclave reserved for the Alawites. The ambassador was strongly of the opinion that intervention by any outside power would be disastrous. Look at Afghanistan, he said, where the people we had come to save now kill us. It’s too demoralizing. We have to get out as soon as possible. But, I said, there will then be massacres on a large scale. “It will be atrocious,” the ambassador agreed.

Nobody could have put the case for defeatism and surrender more convincingly than this eloquent and civilized man. The world that he foresees will have no room in it for someone with his qualities. That’s what we are up against.


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