Article copyWARNING: very long post in lame English written while listening to Paul Oakenfold (Live at Creamfields, August 2001) at an unreasonably loud level.
Sorry. Régis Debray in the New York Times really got on my nerves I'm afraid.
Since these famous protests for the peace of the assassins, to which I reacted at first in a purely emotional way with this little clip that received an unexpected success, I've been wondering about the real motivations of those vociferating activists whose apparent attachment to peace hardly hides the violence of their rhetoric, the toxicity of their ideological filiations and the deleterious miasma emanating, despite all their efforts, from their sympathies.
Looking back serenely and considering the eternally repeated mantra "Saddam is an awfully bloody dictator murdering without shame and in the most sordid ways men, women and children, but" I kept asking myself many questions last week on what could be motivating this "butŅ" which incoherence is nothing compared to its irrelevance and, to be frank, its abjection.
Why these fallacious arguments, shamefully reversing the very nature of each belligerent nation, assigning the role of the aggressors to the democracies of the free world? (Yes, 'belligerent'. As we all know, it's a cease fire that's been signed with Iraq 12 years ago, not a peace treaty) Why this quasi hysterical obduracy to defend Saddam Hussein's regime even though the aforementioned defenders are perfectly aware of its fundamentally criminal nature (yes, but) and, at the same time, why this repeated attacks against George W. Bush, his Administration and his allies by the mean of an arsenal of lies as cautiously elaborated against him that it is in favor of his opponent? Why, at least here in France, the inconsistent Left, the amnesic Far Left, dreaming of a new dawn, the French (supposed) Right, prostituted to the former factions and the carpetbaggers of the Far Right are suddenly uniting and taking communion in the sacred union "against the war" while carefully concealing the reasons to do it and brandishing peace just as in other occasion they would brandish freedom, human rights or social justice, that is to say as a moral screen? And why Jacques Chirac exposed himself suddenly to the danger of aneurism rupture and blamed half of Europe in a so incredibly gauche, disastrous and insulting way?
I can easily believe that France is not very keen on having the coalition that will soon free Iraq have a look or two at Saddam's bookkeeping. And the same goes for Germany. As for Russia, I guess all it's asking for, is to keep selling Kalashnikovs three times their price since genocide, in Chechnya just as everywhere else, is quite expensive to fund.
However, I find hard to believe that it justifies such efforts and risks (diplomatic risk at least) for Jacques Chirac and his smarty-pants.
After all, the man is not a rookie in the misdeed department and lives apparently very well with it. I don't need to remind his election gave him a 'legal' way to avoid prosecution on several cases. France's (and partly Europe's) Champion of Peace is indeed a corrupted man but I don't believe that the simple idea of seeing the crimes of his Iraqi Adventures exposed publicly is enough to explain his breakdown last week.
His whiff of heat and squirt of venom against the Young Europe at least convinced me that it's not the fear of the skeletons in the closet that's leading Jacques Chirac, even though I still have to understand the real, underlying reasonsŅ Other than the pure and simple protection of the atypically juicy oil contracts with Saddam and the arms sales to his murderous regime, but that goes without saying.And then Régis arrived. Régis Debray.
Régis the Rebel, part time revolutionary who, one day, could save his buttocks from the Bolivian jails where, to his great misfortune, he followed his torturer and child killer - among others - buddy (yep, "El Che de las Camisetas¹"), thanks to Mummy's relations in the Grand Charles' retinue (yep, "de Gaulle") and fly back to his comfortable Parisian flat he had congenially lent to his terrorists buddies of the Baader-Meinhof gang who were in the need at the time.
Régis cooked up an article for the New York Times and Régis named it, in a carefully bumptious way, "The French Lesson" By Régis (Debray).
And so, from the French Lesson by Régis, the dissident frogman tries to learn.First, one can't fail to observe that there's not much newness in Régis' lesson. Régis scantily dusted off his old rhetoric. Régis is playing the old American Empire trick again; Régis is playing the old American Puritanism trick again; Régis is playing the old American Aggressor trick again and Régis is playing the old Enlightened Europe trick again.
But most of all, Régis is playing the old Ideologist Whose Been Living In An Alternate Dimension Over The Last Decades And Is Teleporting Himself In Ours The Least Required Time To Teach Us A French Lesson trick again.
Régis, suffering probably from the white page anxiety, fires up the lesson with difficulty yet the engine can start thank to the good old American (of course) Imperialism reflex, as Régis doubtlessly considers that a vulgate that's as old as the Bolshevik calends can still illustrate a valid argument for anybody else than Régis and his friends.
Régis then asserts arbitrarily that 8 Europeans out of 10 agree with the Masters of Régis' position and, not deigning to precise the origin of these Magisterial Proportions of Régis, claims that the other Western Europe heads of states, mainly those of Great Britain, Spain and Italy, are disconnected from their respective public opinions.
Régis therefore protests that, despite this situation, the United States Empire of America chose poor little France as their scapegoat. Régis isn't aware that the United States aren't deprived of common sense up to the point that they would grapple with the nations on their side but, contrariwise, would tend to choose "scapegoats" (whatever that could mean in Régis' mind) within the ranks of those who oppose them, sorry Régis.
It's amazing that an intellectual such as Régis does not perceive the distinction.
In any case, Régis is not afraid to formulate such grievance from the very European country that's been establishing anti Americanism as a rule of conduct for the ordinary and extraordinary political, social and cultural affairs.Régis grovels in moral relativism and third-worldism to teach us that we, Europeans, are very aware that our Civilization is not since we're much more accustomed with foreign cultures - most notably, according to Régis, Islam - than this primal America and its famous melting pot.
Here, Régis would like to persuade us that every civilizations and cultures have the same unbiased value and consequently, ours are not worth defending against those, more aggressive, attempting to annihilate them.
Consequently, according to Régis' logic, stoning your adulterous wife to death right after having her raped by a bunch of good old village boys on the order of the village's council wouldn't be worse than getting a divorce and paying alimony to the bitch.
It's an example. Unlike Régis, I don't really mean the "bitch" word. Régis must have been very unfortunate in love.
Still, Régis estimates that this is a victory of the European Civilization and its integration model to conclude, in a surge of angelism totally disconnected from reality, congratulating himself over the fact that our suburbs - were Régis never sets a foot - pray to Allah, after all.
Régis apparently prefers to ignore that he probably feels more accustomed with the aforementioned suburbs than the suburbs are with Régis' European model of Civilization. Régis also prefers to ignore that anti-Semite attacks are on the rise and that there are more French Jews everyday who make sure they have the required passports and visas available and ready to leave the country.
Just in case Allah's crackpots would suddenly cease to pray and grab the Kalashnikovs that are piling up in the suburbs where Régis never sets a foot.
But of course, it's also very likely that Régis is secretly rejoicing, in intimate dithyrambs nostalgic of his fellow French President François (yep, Mitterrand) and his feverish imprecations about an hypothetical "Jewish lobby", while his son was dealing illegal arm sales with exotic African dictators, under the loving regard of Mom. French Presidents, you knowRégis accuses, as soon as the second paragraph, the White House for not treating its European allied (namely, The Masters of Régis) as independent states, just to jump on and make fun with, not later than the third paragraph, those "countries of Eastern Europe" and their "training" as "satellite states" denying in fact their legitimacy to be treated as independent states too and therefore justifying the recent Chiraqi adrenalin thrust.
In the case in point, Régis' cynicism - carefully covering over the fact that the "training" of those "satellite countries" was rammed down their throat by the murderous icons of Régis' youth and their tanks - can't hide his gripe for these countries' unanimous disavowal, since they rejected unequivocally the political model Régis has been consecrating all of his life to espouse the one Régis always fought.
Notably with his torturer and child killer buddy, "El Che de las Camisetas¹".
But of course, just as the suburbs that pray to Allah, Régis never had to live all a Régis' life under the yoke from which these now independent states freed themselves with the help of the American Enemy of Régis.Régis is very reluctant to admit the totalitarian nature of the Butcher of Baghdad and minimize his dangerousness with great haste. And so, in Régis' words, Saddam Hussein is belittled from his status of dictator and international menace to the rank of a vague local potentate, thank to a terminology way older than the origin of Iraq albeit culturally issued from its antiquity. Apart from proving that Régis deserves his rank of French Intellectual by demonstrating the extent of his education, the goal is to dismiss the Iraqi tyrant's threat since this little "satrap" although "cadaverous" is fairly innocuous, after all.
Curiously, Régis fails to notice that on one hand, his subtle Persian reference ("satrap", ooooh you're such a smart ass Régis) is sending a weird echo back to the Saddamite Conqueror's historic-expansionist reverie and, on the other hand, the old trick of the tiny innocuous despot with expansionist views and dreams of past glory is bringing up reminiscence of some disastrous chapters of the XXth century, including those related to the capillary aspects of despotism.
Clearly, even if history does not repeat itself we just can't fail to notice its infelicitous tendency to inspire mustachioed totalitarians with a hard on the "Jewish question" and expansionism, one after the other.
However, Régis advises us not to fear. Régis claims that the innocuous although "cadaverous" satrap is "kept under close surveillance" - like when he's evicting every kind of inspectors for several years - and that there's no way he can importune America and Mr. Bush's family even if, in their incredible duplicity and lack of confidence in the word of the principled Saddam and the claims of the learned Régis, they persuaded themselves he would.
Therefore, twisting reality a bit more for the sake of his rhetoric, Régis doesn't hesitate just a split second to tell us that, no matter the recurrent arrests of Allah's psychos and the seizure of their ricine and explosives stocks by police forces around the world and no matter the strenuous daily struggle of Israel, fundamentalism, that Régis takes great care not to qualify as Islamic, is ebbing.
Consequently, the repeated efforts and the successive blows the American administration delivered to fundamentalism and its troops since the beginning of the war against terrorism will, to the contrary, set it back while pleasing bin Laden's mummy at the same time.
Thus Régis is explaining that in times of conflict, when you confront an enemy and defeat him, it is in fact the enemy who wins and progress. This Theory of Régis being curiously not confirmed by the History of France such as we can read since De Bello Gallico. But Regis won't restrain to point at the fact that the Pentagon itself is not aware of this Universal Rule of Régis and carry on advising us not to indispose the enemy for it provokes his resentment instead of his gratitude and after all, at the risk of being killed, it's better to be killed by some flourished and life enjoying lad.
Régis then winds up with another portion of "Empire", offering himself the enjoyment of mentioning its "decline" since after all, senescence shall not deprive us from the ecstatic pleasure of phantasm.Régis won't forget to demonstrate the Wisdom of Old Europe when it comes to international politics going back as early as the Crusades (a very "fashionable" example among the new friends of Régis who pray to Allah in the suburbs where Régis never sets a foot) and the Grand Charles (yep, "de Gaulle") of the post Indo-Chinese rout, dubbed Old Champion of the Old Europe of Régis (being "El Libertador del Régis²", let's not forget about that) loyal to America, according to Régis, when he warned those "impulsive" and "shortsighted" cow-boys their B-52's would not be able to do anything against Vietnamese nationalism, considering that La Grande France had her ass kicked graciously just to prove it.
Thus Régis estimates that Europe's Wisdom, from the Crusades to Algiers, is the brilliant result of its successive failures in the fields of diplomacy as well as military power, which casts a most necessary light on Régis' position pertaining to the reasons and means to confront Saddam Hussein.
What's more, Regis still has a fair amount of cynicism available when he's lecturing America with the Grand Charles as the middleman, forgetting to detail that the Vietnamese snare was indeed the conjoint result of the inaptitude of the French pole of Old Europe to manage the remnants of its colonial empire - despite its Crusade old Régissian Wisdom - and the terrorist push of Régis' political idols, including among others, the Cuban Régis Friendship, sunbathing on the Ho Chi Minh trail.
However, and unless I'm mistaking, despite the loyal Grand Charles' advices, the B-52 did succeed against the
For if this war was partially lost for America, and totally for the Vietnamese people, it was indeed on the political scene, thanks to the propaganda and the "peace" protests of the old Internationalist Friendship of Régis.
Howsoever when it comes to that Vietnamese nationalism subject, I lean to trust History's lessons, Soviet archives and secondarily the poignant tales of this former boat people family who once lived in the house next to mine a tad more than Régis, his Old Champion and his Internationalist Friendship.Régis also asserts that Europe is defending a secular vision of the World of Régis so he can dart in a virulent diatribe against one of the old demons of Régis, the American Puritanism and the supposed theological underpinning of its policy.
Since Régis was apparently rejoicing about his suburbs' practices in the fourth paragraph, we can then deduce it is more respectable to pray to Allah in the suburbs than to God in Washington.
Consequently, and unless one can really and totally deny the influence of religious practices over the pursue of secular affairs either in Washington, in the French suburbs and in Baghdad, Régis appears more favorable to the god of the suburbs than to the one of Washington, which gives rise to a certain doubt when it comes to the objectivity and unshakable secularity of the vision defended by the Europe of Régis.
The Secular Régis therefore point at what everybody noticed already when he asserts that, unlike Puritan America, Régis' Europe is not the hostage of a 'sacred' morality and that it is not resorting to grunt's schemes such as ultimatums and protectorates, this being the exact point where the sympathetic regime of North Korea, although Socialist and secular like Régis, seems to disagree with him, leastwise in the facts, and therefore just stopped to take Régis' lesson to get back to ultimatums.
This glitch won't impede Régis to pursue and indicate that Europe is beyond the 'monotheistic binary logic' of the Puritan America and is now on the higher grounds of political politics, much more adequate according to Régis to perceive the subtle levels of Evil but also of Good, of Hostility but also of warm Friendship that are to be found in the hijacking of airliners, slitting of some stewardess' throat with cardboard cutters and crashing of the aforementioned airliners into various buildings crowded with thousands of people, leaving them the subtly varied choices of dying scorched alive, crushed on the asphalt after a dizzy tumble or partly scorched alive and crushed on the asphalt after a dizzy tumble which illustrate perfectly, as Régis says, that Washington should finally accept to count to three because the Europe of Régis knows now that the planet is too complex and plural to suffer insertion into a boorish monotheistic binary logic.
Régis therefore advise all of us who are at risk to die scorched alive in a building or an airliner, crushed on the asphalt after a dizzy tumble, in the explosion of a night club or that of a suicide bomber, or just thrown out of a train in the French suburbs because of their religion, culture or civilization that's not worth defending, as well as to those who would fight to spare them that fate, to soberly weight the threats, without emotional obfuscation, this attitude being more attuned to our current world.
At that point, I must honestly confess to my reader that I failed to follow Régis lesson and unfortunately let myself obfuscate by emotion. I know I am, therefore, illustrating the limits of Régis' axiom. However, for the sake of debate, I'd be glad to help Régis make his point if I can. It will therefore be my honor to kick Régis' face repeatedly just to see if he can empirically and soberly weight the threat I would represent for him without emotional obfuscation or if his axiom holds nothing but a theoretical value to sermon America in the New York Times.
Nonetheless, Régis having himself convinced of the contemporaneity of his Vision of the World, resort to a last cliché to conclude his article in a pirouette we're familiar with since all the Régis of the world first had to start concealing Communist crimes in the name of human rights using any means of rhetoric - including the most acrobatic ones - and, capitalizing one last time on his old Puritan America demon, allows himself the luxury to revert the situation calling America "fundamentalist" and "archaic".Hence Régis is lecturing America but Régis himself didn't learn much. Régis is still convinced that the Vietcong, Castro (even if Castro betrayed Régis' vision of Castro's revolution when he sacrificed it to tourism and dollars) and Mao are (or were) courageous rebels, indomitable adversaries of American Imperialism, inspired as they were by the radiance of the Great Jacobine Revolution. In the dimension where Régis comes from, the Vietcong won against the B-52s and the American Empire is declining.
Unfortunately when he's visiting ours, Régis has to admit that the heroes of his youth are getting a tad old, or even frankly dead, and that they're not really on the best spots to play the other part of America's binary vision of the world of Régis, considering that even Mao's spiritual sons and daughters are piling up dollars thanks to Nike.
Ergo, Régis is dreaming up, almost vocally, that the Butcher of Baghdad and those who pray to Allah with a Kalashnikov at hand could be the most probable and desirable pretendants to Régis' Idol Throne, left vacant by its previous occupiers.
Régis fails to consider the fact that no Butcher, from Baghdad or anywhere else, would make a difference between Régis and me - according to a surprising monotheistic binary logic that summarizes to "us against the infidels" - if they get to the vacant throne and, according to the same monotheistic binary logic would offer us a simple "white or black, good or evil, friend or enemy" choice: conversion or extermination.
But Régis probably hopes his long experience with French lessons would earn him a more comfortable rank as the Kapo in the camps and ghettos the third totalitarianism will certainly not fail to establish.That being said, it is not the content of Régis' lesson that's important. After all, you can't expect from a Régis Debray the understanding and intellectual courage of a François Furet.
No, it's the very presence or Régis in the arena, alongside his French lesson and his arsenal of old style list of arguments, including those he unfortunately forgot to dust off or hide out under the carpet, that's significant.
Régis and his old style list of arguments are giving away a few hints. Not much, of course but enough to try to outline a theory:
Maybe it's not the fear that the little family would learn he screwed the maid that's leading Jacques Chirac in his domineering old Dad's diatribes.
It could be passion. It could be exaltation of the fight.
For what we're attending here, which could explain this Régis' lesson in the style of a French Walter Duranty or Wilfred Burchett, more than the premise of a new war could be the echoes of an ancient one.
What we're attending here could be one of the last battles of the Cold War. Not against the Evil Empire, hopefully defunct (although Putin..) but against one of its most improbable satellite, France.
After all, despite American efforts and help, maybe the Battle of France of the Cold War was won unexpectedly.
Not by the Communist bloc, dead or dying but by its Fifth Column, the Parisian Useful Idiots, sparing the aforementioned bloc the need to move even a single tank.
As with many battles implying France, maybe this one was won without a shot fired and without anything else but a symbolic resistance. Thus we didn't notice.
Paris, as usual is declared open and our politicians, intellectuals, heads of states, their underlings and their wives hustle to sleep with the enemy.
The current events give me a pretext for a short digression: it looks like yesterday was a wonderful example of these shameful bacchanals. When the whole spectrum of the French political class, from one extreme to the other, shows that it didn't loose its ability to slavishly pledge allegiance to any given despot (even if he's still thousands miles away) as their peers did more than 60 years ago, I'm starting to seriously consider, just like the French Jews do, to get my passport ready before the French administration starts, once again, to fill boxcars with a part of the French citizens.
France won't be worth the resistance. There are other nations standing for other values worth fighting for.
I'll renounce my French nationality without regret.
End of the digression and back to Régis:
What Régis and all the Régis in the world have to loose if another dictatorship, Socialist or not, is ended by America again, it may be the validity and the survival of their authoritarian - or at least interventionist - economical and political model.
Not mentioning the radiance of the Great Jacobine.
And it could very well be the last straw this time. Coup de grâce.
Particularly if others, in the same move, topple from tyranny to a liberal democracy in the "American way".
Like a domino theory that, for once, would go in the right direction of History.
¹ : The Che of the T-Shirts (Che Guevara, in the official dissident frogman's idiom)
² : The liberator of Régis.