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June 6, 2004: The Anniversary of D-Day Sixty Years Ago

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The Anniversary of D-Day Sixty Years Ago



George Bush is in France for the anniversary celebrations.

And the times they are a changin’ – as the man says.

From l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) by way of The Tocqueville Connection see BUSH TELLS FRENCH READERS: CHIRAC'S MY FRIEND
Received Wednesday, 2 June 2004 19:24:00 GMT

Say what? 


PARIS, June 2 (AFP) - US President George W.  Bush has reached out to France in an interview in which he calls President Jacques Chirac his "friend" and seeks to downplay the bitter divide over his decision to invade Iraq as an amicable debate. 

The comments, to be published Thursday in the French magazine Paris Match, come just ahead of Bush's in France this weekend for commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, where Chirac will host an array of world leaders. 

"I have never been angry with the French.  France has long been an ally," Bush said in the interview, translated into French and made available to AFP ahead of publication. 

On Iraq, he said, "I made a tough decision and not everybody agreed with that decision ...  (but) friends don't always have to agree.  Jacques told me clearly.  He didn't believe that the use of force was necessary.  We argued as friends."

When asked whether he would invite the French president to his ranch in his home state of Texas -- a privilege accorded to few foreign leaders -- Bush told Paris Match with a laugh: "If he wants to come to see some cows, he's welcome.  He can come and see the cows."


Yeah, right. 

See U.S. bitter about French stance on war
Harsh words lead to strained relationship with France
Warren P.  Strobel , Knight Ridder, Published: Thursday, April 24, 2003

A little over a year ago? 


WASHINGTON - The Bush administration has warned France that it will pay a price for having led the effort to thwart the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the latest sign that hard feelings generated in the run-up to the war won't dissipate quickly. 

The warnings came after a White House review this week of U.S.  policy toward France, and they continue a trend by President Bush of punishing nations that cross him, even allies such as Canada and Germany. 

American officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to provide many specifics of how relations with France, an ally of the United States since the Revolutionary War, will change. 

They said Wednesday that no final decisions had been made and that much would depend on whether French President Jacques Chirac proved cooperative in the rebuilding of postwar Iraq. 

Washington and Paris are in the middle of another tussle over the United Nations' role in Iraq, including how quickly to revoke sanctions, whether to readmit U.N.  weapons inspectors and the world body's role in forming a post-Saddam Hussein government. 

On Tuesday, France moved partway toward the U.S.  position that sanctions on Iraq should be lifted immediately, proposing that most sanctions be suspended for now. 

Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed appreciation for the change in a telephone call Wednesday with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, according to French news reports. 

But in a television interview Tuesday night on "The Charlie Rose Show" on PBS, Powell responded simply "yes" when asked if there were consequences for France for opposing the United States. 

"We have to look at all aspects of our relationship with France in light of this," Powell said.


And this from those days:


American anger at France over its refusal to support war in Iraq reached new heights yesterday when President George Bush took a direct swipe at President Chirac. 

"I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon," was Mr Bush's tart comment in an interview with NBC News, when asked about Jacques Chirac – a reference to the informal summits Mr Bush likes to hold with favored foreign leaders at his cherished retreat in Crawford, Texas.  Many in his administration – by implication, himself among them – had the impression "that the French position was anti-American", the President said. 

...  In Paris, one French official was told by a White House official that "I have instructions to tell you our relations have been degraded", while senior Bush aides met on Monday to decide on the nature of the punishment. 

The likely sanctions will include steps to marginalize France within Nato, and efforts to downgrade or even bar French participation in US- sponsored international meetings.


What happened? 

And now this from the AFP? 


Bush's wife, Laura, contributed to the US charm offensive on France by giving an interview to state television network France 2 in which she also stressed that the two countries were "friends". 

"Yes, we had our differences over the war in Iraq.  But we have also worked together, we have worked together in Afghanistan.  I think France will be with us in the reconstruction of Iraq, to help the Iraqis build democracy, to free themselves from the oppression of Saddam Hussein," she said, according to the channel's dubbed French translation of her remarks. 

"I believe, I think that we will always remain friends, that our two countries will always be allies.  I hope so."

The First Lady added that she thought that French animosity towards her husband came from not knowing him well enough. 

"He deeply believes that freedom for all is important.  I hope people see that in him.  It's a hidden aspect in his character.  He has a character that Americans are proud of: a strong personality, he's tough, independent, with a love of freedom.  Those are American characteristics and my husband has them.  I think the French have them, too."


Perhaps.  Or perhaps the animosity towards her husband come from understanding just who he really is. 

Well, who is to say? 

Our friend Ric in Paris offers these comments in an email just received here, under the heading Les Vaches:


Bush: 'Not all French presidents are wimps' …. 

Not surprising.  Mrs Bush was 'interviewed' on France-2 TV news tonight by David P, who was doing the news here, and suddenly he was there - in DC - but 24 hours ago.  Mrs B is looking forward to the state din-din at the Elysee Palace tomorrow or whenever it is. 

Mrs B confirmed that Jacques is George's favorite Frenchperson.  She said she couldn't say so in French, and did not say that she hoped that Madame Jacques can speak English - because they will be spending some time together in the next few days, traipsing off to Normandy, to see some beaches, graves and cows. 

As it is, French TV news announced but did not follow up with story about how many D-Day visitors to Normandy are already in Normandy, trying to beat the rush and the visits by heads of state this coming weekend.  Apparently cows get nervous when there are too many big heads around. 

For any Listers who may be intending the relive the events of Tuesday, 6.  June 1944, please do not forget that the event is on a Sunday this year.  Long-range weather forecasts are shaping up nicely and there may actually be real sunshine this coming Sunday, unlike for the original event. 

D-Day, already in prime time on TV, goes into heavy rotation tomorrow night with the beginning of the full-length movie of the 'Longest Day.' This is not the movie version by the same name, but a film of the actual event - in color! - that will last from 6 June until the Liberation of Paris on 19 August, when the film of this other historic event will take its place.  (Also in color, see it on France-2, France-3, TV5 and Arte.  'Reality' TV shows will continue to be aired as usual on TF1 and M-6.)

Monday night's preview of the 'Longest Day,' called 'Été '44,' contained the startling news that only 0.5 percent of the French were in the Resistance before D-Day.  There were also many residents who were annoyed with D-Day on account of being bombed and killed.  After D-Day, membership in the Resistance swelled suddenly, to one percent. 

It stayed at this level until enough chewing gum, cigarettes and Coca Cola became available and the French became aware of the advantages of abandoning the Vichy regime in favor of the new invaders, who were mainly Americans (the ones who had gum and money), supported by General Monty with the British (the ones without gum or money.)

Somehow, between 6 June and 19 August, everybody in France joined the Resistance, including many former members of the Milice, past-time Gestapo informers, and some Vichy government officials, like Maurice Papon.  The hapless ones were stuck in the Vel d'Hiver and left to rot. 

Parisians, cranky and unpredictable as always, would not listen to reason and went ahead and liberated themselves, using any old material that was lying around.  This was started by the police (who had been arresting Resistance members 24 hours before) when they decided to have a strike.  They took over the Prefecture on the Ile de la Cite and began shooting at the occupiers, who shot back.  Some Parisians were killed, and about 1000 memorial plaques were later pasted up all over the city. 

When General De Gaulle arrived four days later, the city was pretty much liberated, except for some random shooters at the Place de la Concorde and at the Hotel de Ville.  De Gaulle did not once drop his cigarette, but had a duck a couple of times, along with 500,000 other people. 

About a week later he ordered the Resistance and the FFI disbanded.  If they wanted to keep shooting, he said, they had to join the army.  Some did and got killed on an excursion to Berlin. 

Meanwhile, all sorts of camp-followers like Ernest Hemingway arrived.  Old Ernie liberated the Ritz Bar, visited Sylvia Beach, and moved into the Hotel Maurice that had so recently been vacated by the other occupying forces.  The sound of big band jazz was heard for the first time and bottles with drippy candles were set out in basements in the Quartier Latin, to be ready for the existentialists. 

So far, it's been surprising how many French actually do remember all of this.  As far as I know, nobody has said a word about it in the last 27 years.  It turns out that it wasn't forgotten at all.  Some people in Normandy are still complaining about getting bombed.  Everybody accepts Coca Cola and chewing gum now.  The most popular brand is 'Hollywood.' If that isn't a 'thanks,' I don't know what is.  

To further international understanding between France and the United States, I think Mr. Bush should hang around for a week, to witness the European Elections when the French and the Germans, and everybody else except the sodden Swiss, will vote for new representatives to the European parliament.  This is another way of saying 'thank you' for getting liberated, even if many of the Bush crew think that Europe may be getting a bit too big and shows it off by having continental elections. 

To show that Europe isn't all that big, in France alone there are about 25 parties competing on 13 June.  Some of these are anti-European parties.  But May '68 hero 'Dany the Red' is the Euro manager for the Euro-Greens, and is running a trilingual campaign on behalf of candidates from the Atlantic to Russia, from the Mediterranean to the North Cape. 

In France, at least, the big question is whether the Trotskyites will out-score the Communists.  Jacques' conservative UMP party is trying to avoid another severe slap in the face, but really wishes the Euro-elections were happening in Australia, maybe last year.  Jacques' Prime Minister has said that he will ignore any new 'slaps in the face.' It just goes to show that conservatives anywhere have a lot in common. 


Ah, I wish I were there.  The conservatives in power being slapped around by those who actually wish to live in a community...  "Egalite, Fraternite, Liberte" and all that stuff we think is for sissies. 

But yes, Daniel Cohn-Bendit is a far different man now than he was in 1968.  Aren’t we all? 

I do recall on my trips to France seeing “Hollywood” chewing gum.  In a pipe shop in Avignon I had a long talk with the owner about the name.  I told him I actually lived in Hollywood.  He was amused and threw in some free pipe tobacco. 

Ah, crazy Americans.  And crazy French. 

Ah but should you find yourself in Normandy for this D-Day thing? 

Also from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) …

Received Wednesday, 2 June 2004 10:25:00 GMT

In short -


Top-selling items are copies of the famous toy cricket used by members of the US airborne divisions to identify each other after dropping behind German lines.  The metal gadgets, which emit a click when squeezed, sell for between 2.5 and four euros (four to five dollars). 

Other souvenirs -- some in special 60th anniversary packaging -- include model parachutists, car registration plates marked "D-Day 1944" and the whole gamut of camouflage clothes. 

For the more discerning -- and wealthier -- collector, it is possible to buy genuine articles dating from the Normandy campaign, such as a piece of shrapnel for eight euros, a box of British bandages for 14, a US stretcher for 150, and a German grenade for 200. 

"In general German military objects are more in demand than British or American ones," said one saleswoman, Sylvie. 

A German helmet bearing insignia can go for as much as 600 euros, while recently a US helmet found covered with a crust of sea-shells in the mud of the beaches went for 240.


Ah well. 

Sic transit gloria mundi ... 

As for the D-Day festivities and the speeches? 

This could be interesting. 

See Bush warned against comparing D-Day to Iraq
Kim Willsher in Paris, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday June 2, 2004

Bush has been warned:


French officials fear George Bush will inflame anti-American sentiment in France this weekend by linking the D-Day landings with the invasion of Iraq. 

Advisers close to Jacques Chirac have let it be known that any reference to Iraq during the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion of France on Sunday would be ill-advised and unwelcome. 

Both presidents will address second world war veterans and VIPs during a service at the American cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. 

"He'd better not go too far down the road of making a historical comparison because it's likely to backfire on him," said a source close to President Chirac. 

He added that the French would not appreciate any public mention linking the events and said photographs of US soldiers torturing Iraqi prisons did not sit well with the image of D-Day heroes. 

Anti-US feeling has been running high in France since Paris opposed the war on Iraq last year.  Activists have called for a mass demonstration in Paris on Saturday to protest at Mr Bush's arrival. 


Oh yeah, from a guy who probably likes Hollywood chewing gum and thinks Laura Bush has it wrong – the French dislike Bush because they actually know they type. 


Laurent Fabius, head of Mr Chirac's governing UMP party, said of Mr Bush: "He represents the exact opposite of everything we admire about America."


Well, there’s a lot to unpack in what Fabius said right there. 

Ah, but as Ric in Paris points out, Kim Willsher here in The Guardian is at tad confused -


Laurent Fabius, ex-minister, is a leading member of the Socialist Party in France. 

Alain Juppe, another former Prime Minister, is head of the UMP party - but is awaiting court decisions about whether he is a political crook or not.  He is being challenged by Nicolas Sarkozy, now Minister of Finance, for leadership of the UMP party.  There will be a party meet later this year to decide who will lead the party. 

Further news to come as events unfold.


The Brits are having trouble telling one frog from another?  So it would seem.  Kim Willsher seems to have this problem. 

Ah well. 

Be that as it may, the French, it seems, rather like Americans.  The problem is this Bush fellow. 

In my trips to France, with very few exceptions, I have been welcomed with warmth, and good spirits and lively talk by these difficult French folks.  And some of them I now count among my good friends.  But I, and so many others who have had the same experiences I have had, don’t have Bush’s particular charm, I suppose.  I guess we lack his moral clarity or whatever. 

But will there be protests in the streets of Paris?  There all always protests in the streets of Paris.  It is what the French do. 

But this time? 

Paris bans protests ahead of Bush's visit
Robert Graham in Paris, The Financial Times, London (UK)
Published: June 2 2004 19:14


Demonstrations have been banned in central Paris throughout this week to ensure no hostile protests are in evidence to disturb President George W.  Bush's brief presence in the French capital on Saturday, where he will be dining with President Jacques Chirac. 

This blanket ban cannot conceal the groundswell of French hostility to the US president and the unpopularity of his policies on Iraq and the broader Middle East. 


Perhaps Ric will cover what happens in the street with next Monday evening’s MetropoleParis. 


But he sends us his exclusive report, with photos, on the demonstrations in Paris here: June 6, 2004: The Week's Manif of the Day - Exclusive Report for Our Man In Paris .


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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