“Freedom fries” may be the order of the day in House of Representatives’ restaurants, but there is a corner of my plate that will be forever French.
Never mind that French fries originated in Belgium, Republican Representatives, led by Republican chairman of the House Administration Committee and Ohio Representative Bob Ney, expressed their anti-French sentiment by expunging the word “French” from the menus of all House restaurants.
With diplomatic relations between France and the United States already at breaking point, the last thing President Bush needed was to further antagonize U. S.-French relations. Unfortunately for the president, he neglected to muzzle House Republicans who broke out in an apoplectic rage at France’s emphatic “non” to war in Iraq.
And what fun they’ve had. In addition to “Freedom fries,” Representatives and their staff can now breakfast on “Freedom Toast” or French yogurt with a patriotic red, white and blue sticker obscuring the French red, white and blue tricolor. It is reassuring to know that there is always a place in the House of Representatives for small mindedness.
But lest one dismiss this display of pique as merely symbolic, consider legislation proposed by New Jersey Republican Jim Saxton to prevent French companies from receiving U.S. funding or financing in the reconstruction of Iraq and ban Pentagon participation in this year’s Paris Air Show.
Even more alarming is legislation introduced by Floridian Representative Ginny Brown-Waite to allow the remains of World War II servicemen buried in France to be brought home. The veterans, Brown-Waite claimed, should be buried in patriotic soil and not in a country that has turned its back on the United States.
The House’s fries may cry freedom, but, at best, they smell of coercion. The freedom paid for with the lives of hundreds of thousands of Allied servicemen during two World Wars includes the freedom to disagree with American foreign policy. Gratitude and slavish obedience do not go hand in hand.
The French have been accused of disloyalty, ingratitude, complicity with Saddam Hussein and even of repeating their 1930s’ appeasement of Nazi Germany. Such claims, as well as the proposed anti-French legislation, will further alienate the country that donated the Statue of Liberty to America and add to anti-American sentiment elsewhere.
The unpalatable truth is that less than two years after the French newspaper Le Monde responded to the Sept. 11 attacks by proclaiming, “We are all Americans!,” the United States’ bumbling diplomacy and stated intent to go to war with or without U.N. sanction has alienated not just the French but numerous other countries. Monday’s abandonment of a second U.N. resolution is being blamed on French intransigence, but in truth, the hawks knew they were well short of achieving the nine votes required for a Security Council majority. The United States’ efforts were hardly helped by the publication of a recently leaked memo in The Observer newspaper in Britain that suggested the U.S. National Security Agency was engaged in spying on the United Nations delegates of undecided nations on the Security Council.
Francophobes have claimed the French have refused to support any war resolution, but as recently as January, President Jacque Chirac informed the French people that he had instructed his military to prepare themselves for conflict if the weapons inspection process ultimately fails. The United States could have led France into Iraq, but not by the nose.
Before U.S.- French relations turn as cold as a half-eaten plate of Freedom fries, the United States would be wise to repair its relationship with France. A true friend, after all, is one who is not afraid to tell you what you don’t want to hear.
Chris O’Donnell is a sophomore majoring in mass firstname.lastname@example.org