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
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
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
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.