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Monday, May 30, 2005

Just when you thought you couldn't muster more contempt for the French...

I read an article yesterday about a Japanese security expert being held hostage somewhere in Iraq having (apparently) been killed by his Sunni Muslim captors.

As cumbersome as that sentence may have been to read, it was necessary for me to write it that way so that everyone would be clear about all the roles and responsibilities. 

Not so much?  Here, let me parse it for you:

An article - A news source.  This means the information may or may not be factual, but it sure is fresh.

Yesterday - OK, maybe not so fresh anymore.

Japanese - A citizen of a nation that has a constitutional prohibition against sending it's nationals abroad to participate in a military conflict.  For those of you keeping score, this means he was, by definition, either a soldier serving in a humanitarian capacity, or a civilian.

Security expert... in Iraq - A person who was not only in Iraq by choice, but presumably knew a thing or two about protecting himself.  In short, no babe-in-the-woods... deep, deep in the woods.

Hostage - OK, if the media has taken the unprecedented step of calling the victims hostages, then why do they continue to call the perps 'militants', 'insurgents', 'freedom fighters', 'combatants', etc.?  If the masked guys in the snuff videos were any of these things than the blindfolded folks on their knees would be POWs. Full Stop.  However, when you finally give in and start calling the people kneeling on the shower curtains 'hostages' you sorta, kinda, hafta make a shift in your entire lexicon to reflect reality,  mmmkay?

Iraq - One of the easiest places on the planet to get kidnapped.  So much so, that it boggles the imagination that people who are not under direct military orders to be there continue to go.

Killed - Well, in that part of the world you really do need to define this word because they have so many new and imaginative ways to make someone dead over there.  Go on, tell me with a straight face that you don't read about a death of a hostage in Iraq and wonder to yourself if this time it was a beheading, a hanging, a gunshot to the temple, a knife to the heart, etc.  I thought so.  Just so we're all on the same page here.

Sunni Muslims - This is a surprisingly important distinction for the journalist to have made since most of us watching this little horror show from afar have been led to believe that it was the Shi'ites that are the bloodthirsty ones and the Sunnis who are the moderates.  Hmmm... does anyone have some White Out?® ... I seem to have messed up my score card.

Captors - I hate this word.  As I said before, it conjures mental images of POWs, Geneva Convention protection and International Red Cross inspections.  What's going on in Iraq is actually big game hunting under the guise of political activism.  If these people had a little more class and a lot more money, they'd be bagging endangered species in the rain forests and Jungles of the world instead of taking human hunting trophies out of the desert.  There is no rhyme or reason to who gets taken in Iraq... or who gets executed.   The only hard-and-fast rule seems to be that if a foreign national gets grabbed, the first thing his family needs to do is contact their home country's highest ranking Muslim Cleric because these robed and turbaned goodwill ambassadors won't even have the good graces to put on a show of having no connection to the 'captors'.

OK, so now that we've properly parsed my opening sentence I feel as though I'm still missing something.

Oh right! [slaps forehead]  In the title of today's post I promised you a new reason to heap contempt upon the French. My bad!

For this we need to skip down to the 'oh, by the way' portion of the article where the journalist stashed the details that have nothing whatsoever to do with the story:

"Saito [the dead Japanese hostage] served in the French Foreign Legion for 21 years, but legionnaires said they could not help free him because he was not a French citizen."

I know most of you got that on the first pass, but I feel as though I should go over it again for the wrestling fans in our midst:

We now know from this sentence where this Japanese national earned his bonafides in the security field... he had a 21 year career in the French Foreign Legion!  For those of you whose knowledge of the Foreign Legion comes exclusively from watching films set in the deserts of Algeria on the late, late show... I suggest you take a moment and bring yourselves up to speed on the Légion Étrangère.

The Foreign Legion was created in the early 19th century as a tool to support France's foreign conquest and colonialism (dual charges that France is very quick to level at others), and it has been a respected (or at least feared) part of the French military ever since.  A member of the Foreign Legion can request French citizenship after only 5 years of service... but if you are wounded you can ask for it right away!  Yet here is a retired veteran of 21 years in the Foreign Legion, and the best les imbéciles in Paris could come up with was "He's not a French citizen". 

We'll leave aside for the moment the value French citizenship held for such distinguished veterans as Captain Alfred Dreyfus, and go right to the big question:

Why say anything at all? 

The French have raised saying nothing to such an art form (think mimes) that I can't imagine why they chose this particular occasion to speak! 

Better they should have said, "It would be more appropriate for you to direct your questions to the commanders of the forces in the region"... or, "Out of respect for the privacy of the family and so as not to endanger any security operations that might be underway, we would prefer not to make a statement at this time". 

One of my kids could have come up with a less offensive excuse for inaction than the French provided!!!

It would seem that the only thing more shameful than the way France has acquitted itself in its many wars is the lack of honor / respect it shows for the people who have served in it's military.

Posted by David Bogner on May 30, 2005 | Permalink

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Ok, you win. I wouldn't have thought it was possible...

Posted by: Tanya | May 30, 2005 4:48:14 PM

Tanya... Never underestimate France's capacity for inviting contempt. :-)

Posted by: David | May 30, 2005 5:04:37 PM

The only thing the French could do that would surprise me would be to act intelligently and/or humanely.

Posted by: AmyS | May 30, 2005 6:15:17 PM

While I agree that their refusal to try to do anything is appalling, I'm still having trouble envisioning what the French would have done to help. Certainly not a cavalry charge or commando raid, unless they subcontracted it. Maybe the foreign legion could have convinced Chirac to personally get down on his knees on television and beg, but I doubt it.

Posted by: AbbaGav | May 31, 2005 12:08:14 AM

Hmmph, probably because the victim was a foreigner, and not French. So much for egalite, etc.

Posted by: Irina | May 31, 2005 1:15:19 AM

You know you'll get no argument from me, or likely from most of your readers.

Their recent vote to reject the EU constitution was amusing. I always love it when two groups I don't like are at odds. Well! It turns out the rest of Europe can't stand the French either. Whatasurprise! Germany should invade them again. Except this time the Jews should leave two weeks earlier and US soldiers stay home.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | May 31, 2005 6:24:01 AM


AmyS... Unfortunately, the French have lost their ability to surprise me.

AbbaGav... I wasn't suggesting they help (G-d forbid). I am irked that they felt the need to say anything at all. Here is a guy who served your country for 21 years as a soldier in one of the elite units of your military. OK, you don't have any resources to help him... OK, so at least try to avoid the appearance of not giving a sh*t about his fate. That's all I'm saying.

Irina... He was a foreigner, but then so are many of the members of the Foreign Legion (thus the name). True, he was no longer serving France, but one would hope that a 21 year stint would at least warrant some sort of sympathetic statement... not action mind you, just a few well chosen words!

Doctor Bean... Schadenfreude much? :-)

There's a great joke going around that goes something like, "Whoever loses the next world war should have to keep France." Sounds fair to me!

Posted by: David | May 31, 2005 9:08:42 AM

I have one thing to say: F*ck the French. Screw them and their twisted little world in which they cannot do a thing to prevent the violence and bloodshed within their country.

Oh excuse me, they do try. They try and sweep it under the rug by saying that you cannot wear any religious items, nothing that could identify you as being a member of a particular group.

Now it just so happens that the former colonialists haven't figured out that they haven't been a real world power since the 19th century and that aside from wine and goat cheese their contributions to the world have been limited to crocodile tears and meaningless platitudes.

I expect this from them, the spineless and shameless cads.

Posted by: Jack | May 31, 2005 9:14:06 AM

Jack... You forgot one other contribution: They extended Jerry Lewis' career by decades! :-)

Posted by: David | May 31, 2005 10:08:15 AM

:)

Posted by: Jack | May 31, 2005 10:17:52 AM

The French language is really strange: if you speak it, the only things you can really talk about are wine, cheese, pastry, and abstractions. Maybe it has to do with the nasality and mouth muscles required for a proper accent?

Posted by: savtadotty | May 31, 2005 3:39:59 PM

I'm not even sure that goat cheese is French contribution. Isn't it Greek?

Posted by: Irina | Jun 1, 2005 1:10:07 AM

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