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David's Mental Meanderings
2 April 2003

I have been working on a Meandering for a few days and assumed it would be the next out of the pipeline. I have tried to focus my attention away from matters in Iraq, to assure readers that there is plenty else going on worthy of comment. There is and I will deliver my exposition thereon in short order. However, a few developments over the last day or so have prompted me to issue forth with another full Meandering on matters bellicose.

As my editor has already retired for the night, you may have to suffer through any number of typos. A corrected version will be available on the website.

I have generally refrained from the French bashing until now. I've had no particular love for them, and I've laughed at all the jokes, but never really lashed out. Now the gloves come off.

A poll release by the newspaper Le Monde and reported in The Times has shown that "only a third of the French felt that they were on the same side as the Americans and British, and that another third desired outright Iraqi victory over 'les anglo-saxons'." It sounds like there is more support for the Coalition in Iraq than there is in France. But then again, France has more to lose with no market for its weapons and chemicals than the Iraqi people who have had the same used upon them by their own government.

As if that wasn't enough, it gets worse. Most of the French these days must feel that the rows of white tombstones in war cemeteries dotted around the north of their country are at best a historical curiosity. After all, they have been there since before most of the population was born. Some have even been there more than 75 years. The cemetery at Etaples is evidence that Americans and Brits have saved the French in not just one, but two, world wars. This does not mean that the French have to support their erstwhile saviours in current matters of foreign policy or even in war efforts elsewhere. It does mean that you don't take red paint to military cemeteries and memorial obelisks with "May Saddam prevail and spill your blood," or referring to the bodily remains of those who paid the ultimate price for French freedom, "They are soiling our land." They also painted "Rosbeefs go home," which is apparently some sort of French insult, though the idiom escapes me.

Then, in an attempt to distance the government from the acts of vandals, the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said: "The Americans are not the enemy; just because we are against this war, it does not mean that we want the victory of dictatorship over democracy." John-Peter, you don't have to lie about your foreign policy just to prove you didn't actually hold the brush or the spray can.

In this country we don't have to cross the Channel to find support for Saddam. Labour MP George Galloway has long been a supporter of the present Iraqi regime. Long before war was ever on the cards, he was always flying off to Baghdad for tea with Saddam and coming back to the Commons with accusations of how bad the Iraqis were being treated by the UN sanctions. Now he has gone completely over the top.

When it comes to treasonous behaviour I wish we had Peter Arnett. Oh, wait, we do now. But I would take Arnett and his errors in judgment any day compared to what Galloway has done. In an interview with Abu Dhabi television, he said the Americans and British were attacking Iraq like wolves. Further he said, "The war will continue. I don't believe these wolves will be able to enter Baghdad and occupy Iraq. They must know this is the beginning of a long war of liberation to be staged by the Iraqis against the occupying forces. They must understand they are in the Iraqi quagmire and it will not be easy for them to get out." Calling on other Arab states to cut off oil to the US and UK, "Even if it is not realistic to ask a non-Iraqi army to come to defend Iraq, we see Arab regimes pumping oil for the countries who are attacking it. We wonder when the Arab leaders will wake up. When are they going to stand by the Iraqi people?"

Today on BBC radio, he claimed that troops who obeyed their commanders' orders were war criminals. Since the troops are ultimately under the command of the Prime Minster and the Secretary of State for Defence, he has in essence called the British Government war criminals. Stating an opinion, regardless of how outlandish, is a free speech issue. But it doesn't excuse a complete lack of decency. He chose to say these things in rebuttal to a woman whose son and nephew are serving on the front lines in Iraq. This is the same man who, in 1994 speech in Iraq, addressed Saddam saying, "Sir, allow me to salute your courage, your strength and your indefatigability."

We can only hope that Mr Galloway's outraged constituents have a long enough memory to oust him at the next election, or that the local Labour party will de-select him as a candidate. One of the people he was sent to Westminster to represent, interviewed by The Times, offered to buy him a one-way airline ticket to Iraq.

For those of you who have been calling Peter Arnett a traitor, now you know what a traitor really looks like. Arnett may have spoken imprudently. His comments may have even raised the morale of the pro-Saddam Iraqis. But he didn't call upon the other Arab states to rise up against his own country. He never praised Saddam or his regime. He never called the soldiers authorised by the Parliament of which he is a member war criminals.

The Iraqis need Arnett reporting out of Baghdad. It would appear that things are getting so bad they have kicked out Al-Jazeera. They have barred an Iraqi reporter for the network and tossed a visiting correspondent out of the country. If they can't trust fellow Muslims, who have always slanted their reporting in favour of Saddam's regime, who can they trust? In fact, since Arnett says all he wants to do is unbiased journalism, the Iraqis better see if they can find a camera and microphone for George Galloway. I hear they won't even have to pay to get him there.

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