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.
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.