Monday, June 14, 2004

Les Revisionistes

Irwin M. Stelzer has some interesting observations about Chirac's celebration of D-Day:

This being Chirac's home turf, he got to set the stage, using $54 million of his taxpayers' money to make certain that the backdrop showed him to advantage. And an ahistorical stage it was. The flags of nations that had nothing to do with the landings were represented, to the surprise of those of us who do not remember Sweden as supporting the Allied cause during World War II. Even the E.U. flag was on parade, although it did not exist on June 6, 1944.

Then, too, watching the weight accorded in the ceremonies to the French contribution on that historic and bloody day, one could easily get the impression that the French self-liberated. Never mind that de Gaulle was not told about the invasion until June 4, or that only 500 of the 156,000 troops involved in the invasion were Free French fighters (who fought very well), far fewer than were then in the service of the Nazis in Vichy France.

Chirac's inflation of the role of France in the D-Day invasion might be chalked up to national pride. But his insistence on including German chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the celebration, despite the fact that German troops were on the hills shooting down at the beaches on which the Allied troops landed, is another matter. The French president was eager to put on display a Franco-German alliance that is forged in steel, and is prepared to be the core of a united Europe that will counter the American hyperpower. Chirac made it clear that the invitation to the German chancellor was designed not only to trumpet the reconciliation between these historic enemies. It was also aimed at giving further impetus to the creation of a European superstate, populated by what Schröder in his remarks called "Citizens of Europe." This new superstate, France believes, will have the population, economic muscle, and geopolitical reach to rival the United States. And when the new European constitution is signed in a few days, the E.U. will become a legal entity, with its own supranational police, court system, foreign policy, and national song. No more unipolar world, say the French, even though the Europeans will continue to direct the bulk of their resources to their welfare states rather than to their militaries.

By way of reciprocation, Schröder thanked "France and its allies" and "Russia" for--in the words of CNN's Christiane Amanpour--"liberating" Germany from the Nazis. No mention of America. The implication that some foreign body had imposed Hitler on an unwilling German populace, and that France had "liberated" Germany probably came as no surprise to experienced CNN and Amanpour fans.