By Jean Daniel– Le Nouvel Observateur Translated by Truthout 9/26/07

I don’t have the reputation of being peremptory or issuing imprecations. But I’ve had enough of our being oppressed with erudite and definitive twaddle about the anti-Americanism of the French, their elite and their media. For finally, although several years ago it was possible to sidestep the disaster in Iraq by accusing the French of hostile feelings towards America, and although one may have, again at that time, succeeded in uncovering anti-Semitic odors in many of the critiques of American policy towards Israel, it’s time to understand that there is now something indecent about taking refuge in such attitudes.

Today, Americans disavow George Bush, who has fallen to five percent popularity rating (1). And it has rarely been possible for us to declare our solidarity with the people of the United States as forcefully as today. However, that’s not something new! When the World Trade Center towers collapsed, we all wrote, along with the “Le Monde” director of the time: “We Are All Americans.” And it was deeply, intensely true. The first trip by a head of state to the United States, to New York, to visit “Ground Zero,” was that of French President Jacques Chirac. And when the American government decided to go after those it believed to be the instigators of the September 11 attacks in Afghanistan and to punish their partisans, there was only approval in France.

And then, there went the United States president, simply because he was the head of a superpower transformed into a hyperpower, deciding on his own and dragging Tony Blair behind him, to intervene in Iraq. And to do so in the name of a series of lies – alas, frightening and credible ones – according to which Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was getting ready to use them against Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The unbelievable campaign of fake revelations and alarming rumors was supposed to brainwash a public opinion already overheated by a patriotism that September 11 brought to incandescence. The Israelis, according to Bush, were threatened with being wiped off the map. In short, everything we’re told today about the Iranian danger – even if it exists – is no longer trustworthy quite simply because it is, word for word, what they were saying to justify the Iraq war.

On the other hand, it is time to decipher the monumental university theses (sometimes admirable, by the way) on the anti-Semitism of the French when they forget to analyze the links of solidarity that the Likud Israeli Right has known how to maintain with certain self-proclaimed guardians of the memory of the Shoah, who constitute a common lobby with Evangelical Christians. We other friends of Israel have a hero: he was called Yitzhak Rabin. And we have always been closer to the American Jewish Committee of New York than to Washington’s powerful AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). Consequently, we have judged post-1967 Israeli policy with severity. But today, the denunciations of that policy in Israel itself are even more accusatory than any we have ever dared write or even think.

In any case, so far as what concerns both the United States and Israel, we have lionized the America of Nixon and Kissinger, of Carter and Brzezinski, and above all, of Clinton and Madeleine Albright. No one has done more for the cause of a Palestinian state and for that of Israel’s security than Bill Clinton. And we were all pro-American then.

Today, Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner should understand clearly that if they were forced to forswear themselves after Kouchner’s alarmist statements about Iran, it’s not necessarily because those statements were groundless. It’s because they were rendered in a country almost as traumatized by the war in Iraq as by September 11. This Iraq war – that Sarkozy approved in principle and Kouchner disapproved only for its means because of his interest in the cause of the Kurds – has shattered US institutions and public opinion. It’s the first time, an expert on American institutions assures me, that an American president has been allowed to lie without succeeding. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and bin Laden has never been found.

George W. Bush and his team, his general staff and his advisers are consequently no longer deemed fit to drag the country into a new martial adventure. They are no longer believed, no matter what they assert. And that’s an immense danger to the extent that they could happen to say something right.

So, as far as the French president and his foreign affairs minister are concerned, I, for my part, am giving them notice of the details they were forced to supply to attenuate their statements and specifically the use of the word “war.” It was obvious Bernard Kouchner meant to say that, to avoid a war, negotiations had to be paired with credible threats in the case of failure. That, moreover, is the very definition of a serious negotiation between adversaries or potential belligerents. He simply forgot that the weight of the Iraqi disaster from which no one knows how to exit obstructs the Iranian perspective. Now it’s up to Europe to take the initiative for a global negotiation with Iran.

1) The latest New York Times and CBS News poll September 18, 2007, reveals that only five percent of Americans trust the president to conduct the war properly.
Jean Daniel is co-founder of the Nouvel Observateur.

Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.