Saturday, December 30, 2017


Americans have a stereotypical impression of the French: snooty, aloof, and condescending.

Well, it certainly applies to Parisian diplomats.

Earlier this month—on December 7th of all dates—the French ambassador to the United States reminded millions of Americans why the French are often so thoroughly unpopular Over Here.  Excepting the fabled Foreign Legion, you’ve probably seen the unkind sentiment: “French Army rifle for sale.  Only dropped once.”

However: Monseur Gerard Araud was rude/stupid enough to tweet, “In this Pearl Harbor day, we should remember that the US refused to side with France and UK to confront the fascist powers in the 30s.”

We shall examine the gross hypocrisy of that sentiment, but first, some background:

The fact is that both nations owe a tremendous debt to one another.  France’s aid during our revolution was essential to achieving independence from Britain.  Of course, that largess was not provided entirely from generosity.  France and England had clashed bitterly two decades before, contesting mastery of North America in the French and Indian War.  (I recommend your CD/VCR to rerun the superb 1992 remake Last of the Mohicans.)    

Paris extended diplomatic recognition to the nascent United States in February, 1778.  The alliance thus formed was massively unpopular in London, where King George III’s acolytes declared war on France six weeks later.  The rest, as they say, is history.  Admiral De Grasse pulled one out of the tricorn hat with a rare (nearly unique) French victory over the British Royal Navy off the Virginia coast in October 1781.  That in turn led to Lord Cornwallis’ surrender to General George Washington’s forces surrounding the limeys at Yorktown.  Washington’s staff included the youthfully competent Marquis de Lafayette, who became an icon on both sides of the Atlantic.

Then the alliance jumped the rails for two years, 1798-1800, during the French Revolutionary Wars.  America, perennially destitute at the time, exempted itself from repaying Paris’ loans and support because the royalist government had been cut short (by guillotine) and no longer existed.  The naval Quasi-War was resolved by another treaty in 1800.

Time passed.  In fact, 117 years.  Then in April 1917 Uncle Sam stuck his goatee where it had little justification by joining the Allies against Germany during World War I.  The plain fact is that the much-vilified “merchants of death” were not so much armament producers as bankers and financiers who were heavily invested in loans to Britain and France.  After all, when President Woodrow Wilson (“He kept us out of the war!”) sought a declaration of war, he cited sinking of the British liner Lusitania with 128 Yanks—two years before.  That the ship knowingly entered U-boat water amid a German quarantine was conveniently ignored.

It took time to muster two million doughboys and ship them to Europe, but the job was done with enthusiasm amid the spirit of “Lafayette, we are here!”  (Beyond that, a squadron of Americans was recruited to fight the Germans in the air in gross violation of U.S. neutrality.  But the over-hyped Lafayette Escadrille gained enormous publicity and generated more support for France when the French Army was riddled with mutiny.)

Well, the Yanks were a-coming, with drums tum-tumming, and they made a huge difference.  At Belleau Wood in June 1918 two Marine Corps regiments blunted a hunnish drive some 50 miles from Paris.

In the next war, the Yanks took longer to save France, but the sons of doughboys had to undo four years of Nazi victories and occupation.  The Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 were followed by “D-Day South” along the Riviera in August, with the City of Lights being liberated later that month. 

Nine cemeteries in France contain the graves of 43,404 Americans who lost their lives liberating the ambassador’s homeland in both world wars.  Additional cemeteries are the final resting place of 26,685 more in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.  Those figures do not include thousands of soldiers and airmen still missing in action.

Now, addressing the odious ambassador’s absurd lecture to his nation’s liberators on Pearl Harbor Day:

Before the war America was isolationist with good reason. A main factor in U.S. reluctance to re-engage in Europe during the 30s was France’s (and the Allies’) bungling of the Versailles Treaty that imposed immense burdens on Germany.  That toxic environment spawned the rise of ultra nationalism that produced Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  In 1939 a clear majority of Americans wanted no part of another European war, since “the war to end all wars” (!) only produced a bigger, worse calamity.

Furthermore, France and Britain appeased Hitler when he could have been stopped, first in the Rhineland in 1936 and then in Czechoslovakia in '38. In fact, Hitler had ordered his forces to withdraw if confronted by the Anglo-French.

Meanwhile, the ambassador pointedly omitted U.S. loans and lend lease.  In fact, the American-built Curtis Hawk was France’s most important fighter, scoring one-third of credited aerial victories in 1939-40.  And America’s role in the Battle of the Atlantic, which cost thousands of U.S. merchant sailors, began in September 1939. 

In 1939 the U.S. military counted 335,000 men—less than 3 percent of the total needed to win the war—and the 1940 draft act passed Congress by one vote.  Yet because of our non-neutral aid to the Allies, Hitler was eager to declare war on us after Pearl Harbor. 

From 1936 to 1938 the French government was a Popular Front, led by the Communists who following the Soviet line.  And in 1939-40 the French and Russian Communist parties were still allied with Germany, preferring the Americans to mind their own damn business.  That only changed when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

Following Paris’ capitulation in 1940, half the country was “unoccupied” because the Vichy regime was formally allied with Berlin.  France’s compliance with the Axis extended to the Pacific where French Indochina was jointly occupied by Vichy and Japan.

That odor you detect wafting off the Seine is the stench of hypocrisy.

Yet Aurad, ambassador since 2014, retains his post as of this writing.  Obviously surprised by the outrage his…outrageous…message encountered, he deleted the tweet and tried to backtrack by saying “We are immensely grateful for what the US did for France in 1944…”

Not enough, you puke.  Not nearly enough, and way too late.

“Remember Pearl Harbor.  Oh, and Paris Liberation Day.”