George, we have your soldiers. Come to Normandy on June 6 or else.

Steven Den Beste at the USS Clueless notes that French President Jacques Chirac will almost certainly use the occasion of President Bush’s visit to the site of D-Day to denounce American policy and preach the values of international cooperation. Den Beste has written a speech that he fantasizes Bush giving, and it goes like this:

Sixty years ago, American soldiers fought on this ground to save it from fascism. They went overseas to a strange land, full of people speaking a strange and incomprehensible language, and they fought to save those people from brutal tyranny, and to prevent that tyranny from reaching the shores of their American homeland to threaten the loved ones they left behind. They liberated that nation, and then most of them went home. They fought not to create an empire, but to prevent creation of one.

Most of them went home afterwards, but some of them, too many of them, remained behind. Some of them, too many of them, never saw their loved ones again. They died here, and they were buried here, far from home. They rest forever among those they freed. They sacrificed everything to save people they did not know who were unable to save themselves. These men deserve to be honored for what they did, for what they believed, and for the price they paid.

They should rest among friends, among those who understand and are grateful for the sacrifice they made. They cannot know what we do, or what we say, but we still owe it to them to live up to the example they set for us. We owe it to them to not waste their sacrifice; we owe it to them to refuse to lightly discard the precious gift of liberty they gave everything to preserve. They should rest among friends who understand that no price is too steep for us to pay to preserve our liberty.

Den Beste then goes on to fantasize that Bush will point out that no such friends are in Normandy, and that he will lobby the US Congress to bring the bodies of our fallen soldiers back to the United States.

I, too, would like to see Bush call a few spades for what they are. I don’t know that I agree with the suggestion of bringing our war dead back home, but if Chirac is going to pontificate (as he almost surely will) I would like to see Bush do more than deliver a standard memorial speech. I would almost prefer something along these lines:

Mr. President and other members of the French government, ladies and gentlemen of France. Today we note that great and terrible day sixty years ago. The loss and the ruin of that morning still echo today. We recall the tragic loss, the glorious victory. We memorialize the fallen. We remember the young men and women who stormed the beaches, who parachuted into the night, who resisted the overlords, who planned, supported, and dared to carry out what may be the most magnificent operation in all of human history.

You’re welcome.

Bush then turns and leaves. Not returns to his seat. Leaves.

UPDATE: Greetings to readers from the “pompous” Den Beste. (Well, that’s what one of my commenters called him, anyway.)

Also, I’d like to clarify my position on the whole French thing. The commenters here are hitting the extreme edges of the situation as I see it.

Frist off, I do not believe that the French are currently on our side. I do not believe that they have actively been on our side for many years. I do not really consider them “traditional allies” as so many critics of our unilateral invasion of Iraq claim. Any debt owed to France by America from the American Revolutionary days has long since been paid in full with outrageous interest, and that’s even ignoring the fact that the French government that assisted us in our struggle for freedom ceased to exist two hundred years ago. (Think back to that war. The other principal party was, of course, Great Britain. If we had to decide who our “traditional” ally was, and we could only pick between France and Britain, who would we choose? And we were AT WAR with Britain when France was right there for us.) If anything, we owe France mostly for that cheap land deal in 1803.

That being said, I continue to hope that we can work out our differences with France. In the end, I think, it is going to take more than the English-speaking nations to win the struggle against the extreme Islamists. Although I’m not as optimistic about France as I am about Canada, for instance, I do honestly believe that there is some hope.

I only know one French person very well. He worked for me a few years ago before returning to his homeland. He is very proud of his heritage and the many good things that France has given the world over the years. He is very proud of his people and of France’s place on the Continent. He’s proud to be a European. And although I don’t think he’s what Americans would consider to be a hawk, he seems to realize that the answer isn’t to sit back and let the bad guys have the run of the place. I hope, for his sake and for the sake of the free world, that the leaders of his nation choose the right side before it’s too late.

I realize that Bush calling for the return of American war dead to the US or making a coarse comment on French attitudes and then stalking out of a D-Day memorial service wouldn’t exactly help reopen the channels of communication. And that’s probably a large part of why Bush will do nothing of the sort. Still, something has to change, and it isn’t going to happen by doing what we’ve always done.

UPDATE: Expat Yank writes about this subject far more skillfully than I did. Go read it.


  1. Obviously neither you, nor the pompous Den Beste have seen the care and devotion lavished on the American cemetaries across France, or the annual commemorations in which the Star-Spangled Banner is sung by generations that remember, and generations who only know from memories passed down. And that ‘you’re welcome’ line is oh so old. And by the way, there were other nationalities that landed on those beaches, too. So to presume that AWOL Bush has the right to ‘you’re welcome’ on behalf of the majority of those who took part in the Allied invasion is just a little pathetic and ignorant.

  2. Just a little pathetic and ignorant’? I’m improving, then. I do happen to believe that a very large chunk of France’s population is grateful for D-Day. I’m not talking about France’s population. I’m talking about the leadership they’ve chosen for the past several decades. I’m well aware that there were other nationalities landing in France on D-Day. The US had the most troops. Britain had the next most. The US and the UK accounted for around 85% of the manpower. Who is also leading the way in the current war? Coincidence? In any event, if Chirac is calm, grateful, and genuinely friendly, I will post a change of mind about my personal choice for Bush’s words. And that ‘AWOL’ line is oh so old…

  3. Hey Murdoc, remember last year when the ‘care and devotion’ lavished on the cemeteries was expressed by knocking over tombstones and spraypainting graffiti in – FRENCH?

  4. Instead of the US government pulling all of our deceased soldiers out of France at once, I wouldn’t be suprised to start seeing American families bringing their relative’s remains back to the US one at a time.

  5. Guys, I’m up for bashing the French like the next guy. But let’s remember that not ALL Frenchmen oppose the US and that actions like the graffiti on those graves (which I had not forgotten but intentionally didn’t bring up – and weren’t they British tombs, not American?) is the work of a very small, extreme group. Although the small group probably has the sympathies of a larger percentage, those actions no more reflect French values than the prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib reflects American values. That being said, the French basically BEG to be mocked by Americans. I guess I’m calling for a kinder, gentler mocking. In the end, I think, our two nations will be closer than they are today. Or should I say ‘I HOPE our two nations will be closer than they are today.’

  6. The French have never been our allies since 1783. They have joined us out of convenience on occasion, but leave as quickly as they come. I lived in France in the early sixties, at a time when WWII was still a fresh memory. Even then, De Gaulle convinced the population we were to be treated with contempt.

  7. Yes, lets bring home the French soldiers who died fighting for the US in the US’s war of independance back to France too eh? Pathetic. This is why everyone hates America (and by ‘everyone’, I mean every other country in the world besides America). You’re so stupid and gung-ho, ‘Lets dig our the bodies of our soldiers and bring them home to make a political point, fuck the fact that those soldiers are being used as pawns in a political game of chess, what’s important is that America shows how pathetic and weak it is by renaming fries and generally acting the immature idiot’

  8. The government which ‘helped’ the American revolution is no longer the French government. The French govt of today was actively engaged in securing 91 BILLION Euros worth of oil deals with Saddam before/during the Allied invasion of Iraq. There appears to be a distinct conflict of interests here, with France wanting a government which the Allies were actively dethroning and dismantling. Hmmm… And Yes! I want Bush to do it differently, not the sheepish ‘Gee, chIRAQ, thanks for the pie in the face and the huge screw-the-cowboy-Americans speech just now…’

  9. Ah, another ‘the world hates America’ angle. It might interest you to know that a noisy chorus of a few European fools do not constitute the entirety of world opinion. For example, I recently concluded a trip to Viet Nam, which is a country whose government has every reason to be hostile towards the US (given that we fought a 10 year war with them). I was received most cordially along with the rest of my party, both by the man on the street and by government officials and war veterans. The same goes for when I went to Europe- though there were some obnoxious anti-American folks, most people were very nice. Perhaps a broader horizon would help Mr. Relius. It is always good to realize that a few white people on the other side of the atlantic do not constitute world opinion. A bit of self-perspective wouldn’t go amiss, either. Accusing America of being an immature idiot whilst engaging in ridiculous hyperbole and screeching like a child is rather self-defeating. BTW, the Cemetary at Courville-sur-mer (and probably others) and the Pointe-du-hoc are both (technically) American territory. The sign says that they are gifts in perpetuity from the French People. Most in France who I spoke to are still grateful for the American sacrifice on their behalf. In WWII, not all of them collaborated with the Vichy government. It’s much the same now.

  10. I’ll donate $1,000 to any trustworthy fund established to help pay the cost of repatriating our fallen from graves in France. Either war. It’s not personal relius, it’s just looking after our own, but thanks for the thought.

  11. I’m not sure about the American war cemetaries but I believe the other are all built and maintained by the Commonweath War Graves Commision which looks after hundreds of thousands of graves in thousands of cemetaries thoughout the world. The nations of England, Australia, India, Canada, South Africa and until it’s suspension from the Commonweath, Pakistan all contrbute to the Commision relative to their respective casualties. France may have contributed the land but it’s my understanding that the upkeep and employment of gardeners is paid for by the Commision.

  12. The nations of England, Australia, India, Canada, South Africa and until it’s suspension from the Commonweath, Pakistan all contrbute to the Commision relative to their respective casualties.’ England!! The name you are looking for is the United Kingdom, of which England is one of the four constituent parts. Many leading UK politicians are not from England. They include the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Health Secretary, the Transport Secretary, the Lord Chancellor, and indeed the Prime Minister himself – all of these gentlemen are Scottish, not English. The leader of the Conservative Party is Welsh. More importantly, a disproportionate number of dead UK soldiers came from Scotland and Scots soldiers in Iraq are over-represented on a UK population basis.

  13. Angry Scot there. Hey, England is the ‘everything’ behind the United Kingdom, get used to it. And hey, isn’t strange how all you angry Americans suddenly presume I’m European? You guys really are ignorant. It’s a true stereotype which you guys deserve.

  14. relius, I didn’t notice anyone presuming you were European… But, as an ignorant American, skool must not have learned me to read too good… lol… Oh, and as far as anger goes, I’m seeing most of the bile spewing from you… Just your friendly neighborhood reality check… Later…

  15. Now Now Children.Rock on the ANZACS. and all else who died so you could all have a petty bitch. grow up. Honk. Ex Navy diver.