�Non, rien de rien, je ne regrette rien!� (As sung by Edith Piaf
from the Eiffel Tower to celebrate the end of World War II)
PARIS -- After the slaughter of World War II, the cry of
�Never Again War� echoed across Europe. That war had cost over 70 million
lives, half of whom civilians, and -- lest one forgets -- nearly half of them
were Russians. So intense was the anti-war spirit then that the new Republic of
Italy born from the ashes of Fascism, a nation which lost nearly 500,000 lives,
wrote into its new Constitution: �Italy repudiates war.� That article is more
than a political consideration. Modern Italy�s Constitution put the anti-war
position in an ethical-moral framework. One reason for the anti-war spirit on
the Continent was that the chain of wars and colonial adventures had injected
into the veins of Europe a poison that led also inevitably to Auschwitz.
In later times that path led also from Hiroshima to Baghdad,
a degradation and an atmosphere that civilized man must reject and abhor. Yet
the president-elect of the failing US empire is already
hemming and hawing. Preventive war is apparently still OK, certainly not repudiated.
Someday -- not within the promised sixteen months of �change and hope� -- someday
US troops just might leave Iraq. Moreover, the unending war in Afghanistan must
be won, and that, Washington insists, with Europe�s help.
Yet every civilized man recognizes that war in modern times
is nothing less than state terrorism. War-terrorism started in WWII with the
indiscriminate bombings of civilian populations with the purpose of
intimidation of the peoples of Germany and Japan and Great Britain and Russia.
Nazi bombing of Guernica and Warsaw, Allied bombing of Dresden. Such bombing of
unseen victims raised to uncivilized proportions the rate of military to
civilian deaths. That is, war introduced state murder and genocide. Slaughter
of the innocent. State mayhem. The escalation of technological war since
Vietnam and Cambodia and Laos and the Gulf wars whereby the killing of the
innocent becomes part of the normal and quotidian condition of modern life.
Forever and ever. Amen.
While American presidents do not bother even hesitating to
use war for terror, the proposed European Constitution�s weak promise �to
promote peace and security� is a far cry from the �repudiation of war� in
general which is the other side of the moon from claims of the �right to make war�
of the likes of neocon Robert Kagan and the explicit adoption of pre-emptive,
preventive permanent war by the US administration under George Bush and now
part of his legacy to President-elect Barack Hussein Obama.
Thus far we see no signs of discontinuity in Washington! War
remains on the agenda. On both sides of the Atlantic.
Let�s take a look at the stance of France to war. Despite
Voltaire, despite the Enlightenment and the birth of human rights, France has
never been averse to war. From the ancient Gauls to the Norman conquerors, from
Napoleon to French colonialists, from Algeria, Africa and the Middle East to
Southeast Asia, France has always been bellicose and guerrier. No less than the
USA, France has relied on war to build its empire and wealth, to make its
history and feed its self-proclaimed grandeur.
That is not to say that individual French people love war
anymore than the average American. What we cavalierly call �ordinary people�
seldom share the warlike spirit of their political leaders who send them to
war. Yet, there is the matter of French national pride, the grandeur
-- in my mind comparable to America�s sense of exceptionalism -- that
thrives on the nation�s military exploits and its past triumphs.
Wandering through Paris and reading the names of streets and
squares is to pass in review European military history. Place names echo the
battles and the wars and the warriors of France. From Ulm to Austerlitz, from
Solferino to Wagram to Marne, Somme, Champagne and even the ridiculous pathetic
Maginot Line. My district of Paris around the Ecole Militaire (the military
academy) abounds in the names of the nation�s military heroes: from Vercintorix
to Charles Martel, from William the Conqueror and Jean d�Arc to Vauban and Lafayette.
They are ubiquitous, the names of the pantheon of French grandeur. Joffre and
Foch and Charles de Gaulle. Those men and the times behind them created the
grandeur of la douce France!
The France of President Nicolas Sarkozy is no exception.
Even though for nationalistic reasons his predecessor Jacques Chirac refused to
join America�s preemptive aggression against Iraq, both French presidents have
supported the US-led NATO war against Afghanistan.
A country of 60 million people, France has a standing army
of 500,000 troops. Proportionately double that of armed-to-the-teeth America!
Its international positions are based on power, real or historic, military or
economic. Its incredible anti-humanistic position during the Rwandan genocide
of assistance to those who committed the genocide was based on France�s
national interests. War for profit. As always. Wars with super weapons to
complement France�s cultural and language programs under the aegis of Alliance
Today, President Sarkozy endorses war against Iran. He
supports the US anti-Iran position, I believe, for France�s grandeur and
personal gain. His un-French-like, pro-American sentiments induce him also to
imitation of and aspirations for the personal power of American presidents. Oh,
how Sarkozy will miss hanging out around Texas ranches! Today, until he gets a
handle on Obama, Sarko will have to be content with aping American ways in New
The latter may not be an easy task. I can�t help but wonder
what he makes of -- if anything -- of Russian extreme nationalist leader
Vladimir Zhirinovsky�s far-fetched affirmation that Obama will be the Gorbachev
of America! An ironic fringe judgment, however, for Obama is already
back-tracking. And Sarkozy is arriving late to join in the international spoils
system that once reigned in America. For Sarkozy it�s like getting to the party
when most of the guests are going out the side door. For the reality is his
model America is on the wane.
I think many European leaders are making the same mistake of
timing. European people seem to know what is happening across the Atlantic. But
their leaders don�t seem to have a clue.
Nonetheless, Sarkozy�s war policies are ambiguous. He visits
the Middle East and North Africa regularly while he dreams of the creation of a
union of Mediterranean nations. His antagonism is directed against Iran -- non-Arabic
and far from the Mediterranean -- not against Palestine.
France, like the USA, Great Britain and no few other nations,
has relied historically on war as a boon to the national economy. And more
recently a boon to globalization and the way it filters advantages back down to
the �exporters of democracy.�
Like Howard Zinn, I admit that I was somewhat tempted by the
Barack Obama phenomenon in my native land. It lasted a very short time. Now I
have only misgivings. Obama�s cavalier attitude to the question of war has
helped me overcome any illusions and hope I harbored. No political leader who opts
for war in the first instance should ever get the support of the people. By now
we should know. Many of us do know that war is failure. Any war. It is failure.
It is the weapon of the arrogant, of the muscular street bully.
Irresponsible leaders on the western shores of the Atlantic
continue to project the message of the �good war.� War is for real men.
Anti-war is sissy. As if the well-adjusted citizen should accept war as part of
life, like adolescence or educational travel. Anti-war attitudes have become
dissidence. Cowardice and traitorous. But thank God that anti-war spirit is
contagious. And it is international, universal.
My Italian nephew, 6� 6� of bone and muscle is in
Afghanistan. He wanted it. For the money, for travel and adventure. The idea of
killing children was not part of the deal. His elite, super-trained,
super-armed and well-paid special troops feel sorry for the sad sack and often
terrified American soldiers, exploited by the US war party. (Read: the Demo-Rep
war party of police state America), many of whom are destined to die there as
their brothers are doing in Iraq. Now the President-elect wants to send those
troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
A historical look back: though the Roosevelt presidencies
staved off Socialist revolution in America, only World War II overcame the
Great Depression, at the cost of those 70 million lives. We face a similar
situation today. To the incoming Washington administration war must seem like a
trusty well-honed, well-oiled mechanism.
�Unless working people are able to advance their own
socialist alternative to capitalism, the �solution� to the present crisis will
be found along similar lines of a re-division of the world market through mass
slaughter. (This is what makes the politics of the Nation and
similar political tendencies so pernicious. The struggle against war and
deepening attacks on social conditions can be advanced only through a decisive
break with the Democratic Party and the political illusions promoted by
tendencies such as the Nation.
Not by mere protest and pressure, but only by building its own political party,
armed with a socialist program aimed at uniting workers in a common
international struggle against capitalism, can the working class advance its
own progressive solution to the catastrophe that the unfolding capitalist
crisis threatens to unleash upon humanity.� (Bill Van Auken on the World
Socialist Web Site)
From my Paris outpost (to label Paris an outpost is a
journalistic euphemism to say outside the continental USA) I have followed
�Mister President-elect� Obama�s press conferences. With each my heart has sunk
lower. Sometimes I imagine myself in the role of one of his foreign policy
advisors. There I am somewhere at the long table, raising my hand to protest
and to propose alternatives. Then in desperation, during sleepless nights, I
decide I will write a letter to the �President-elect� to list my grievances . .
. and counsel. But then, in the end, I do not waste my time.
However what I heard in his press conference transmitted
here on Sky News, CNN and NBC and in bits and pieces on Bloomberg, was just too
much: his praise for that valiant state servant Robert Gates (ex-CIA boss) and
the President-elect�s �decision� to keep him on as Secretary of War. Despite
Gates� role in the Iraqi slaughter that at first Obama promised to end, despite
Gates� stupid commitment to winning the unwinnable war in Afghanistan, despite
Gates� stubborn insistence on missiles in Poland underlining America�s
traditional anti-Russian policies, he will remain on the new neocon chief
Obama�s team allegedly committed to �hope and change.� And now Hillary Clinton
as Secretary of State (What in God�s name does Hillary know about foreign
affairs?) is there to back up the neo-neocons and belie these empty promises of
discontinuity. Despite the slogans and �hope and change,� we see only
continuity opening before us. More of the same of the last eight years, of the
last twenty years. Never has the aphorism rung more appropriate: plus �a
change, plus c�est la meme chose.
Stewart, Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano�s Journal/tantmieux, is a
novelist and journalist based in Italy, now on a three-month stay in Paris. His
stories, essays and dispatches are read widely throughout the Internet on many
leading venues. His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes.