Baiting the French. (Comment)

By Ireland, Doug | The Nation, June 23, 2003 | Go to article overview

Baiting the French. (Comment)


Ireland, Doug, The Nation


George W. Bush may have intoned "Vive la France" to a reporter from Le Figaro and other foreign journalists just before he took off for his dismissively quick drop-in at the G-8 meeting in Evian--but it's unlikely that will be taken as a signal by his cohorts to cease peddling anti-French stories to journalists with a skepticism deficit.

A month after Colin Powell, in April, solemnly affirmed that France would be "punished" for its opposition to Bush's war, the New York Times reported that "a midlevel meeting in the White House was called to discuss ways to do so." Just by happenstance, of course, that meeting coincided with a marked ratcheting-up of nasty media stories accusing Jacques Chirac's government of being in bed with Saddam Hussein.

In an unprecedented May 15 letter to the United States, Jean-David Levitte, France's US Ambassador, denounced a "disinformation campaign aimed at sullying France's image and misleading the public." Levitte cited and refuted eight stories he called "false," all of which "rely on information from 'anonymous administration officials.'" Examples: The New York Times published a story saying high-precision switches used in nukes had been sold by France to Iraq; it turned out the sale by a private company of the switches, which were dual-use and had been requested as medical equipment, was barred by the French government when it figured out the deception. Newsweek published a blind item suggesting French Roland 2 missiles made in 2002 had been found in Iraq; it turned out that no Roland 2s were manufactured after 1993, and that France had sold no weaponry to Iraq since 1990.

But no story proved as incendiary as a May 6 report by Bill Gertz in the ultraconservative, Moonie-owned Washington Times--based on "anonymous intelligence sources"--alleging that France had provided passports to "an unknown number" of Saddam's henchmen to help them escape to Europe as the Baath regime collapsed. The frogbaiting frothers on Fox News and other nets railed about this no-names report for weeks; it became a staple of right-wing talk-radio's virulently anti-French spewing and fodder for late-night TV comics. Dennis Miller, chez Jay Leno, launched into a five-minute riff using the passport story for a broadside against the French, "who never take baths." About the only TV talking head who came to France's defense was Bill Press, who said on CNBC that the passport story and similar tales "are coming out of the same little intelligence cell at the Pentagon that told us that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and that there were tons and tons of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

The passport story sparked a call for an investigation by House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner--to which the Department of Homeland Security responded two weeks later that according to US intelligence, there was "no indication that France supplied passports to Iraqis." The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung reported May 15 that the White House, the State Department and the CIA all said they were "aware of no such intelligence information." And the story was categorically denounced as false by Dominique de Villepin, France's foreign minister.

But that didn't stop the Pentagon's leakers, who, speaking "on the condition of anonymity," fed the Washington Times a May 24 story saying that "a U.S. military intelligence team" in Iraq had "uncovered" a dozen blank French passports--where and when was never specified. In this story, Gertz went to great lengths to suggest that the passports could not have been stolen, because the "French Embassy was protected by armed guards and barbed wire...after the fall of Baghdad." (France has no formal embassy in Iraq, only an "interest section." However, a French spokesman in Washington says passports were burgled from a prefecture in France some months ago; the culprits remain unidentified.)

When I asked Gertz about his story, which was written from Washington, he admitted that no one he'd talked to had actually seen the "uncovered" blank passports, and that he was relying entirely on a Pentagon-leaked "field report," which he hadn't seen either. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Baiting the French. (Comment)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.