Monday, November 22, 2004

French shooting update

From the Guardian:

Security forces opened fire Tuesday as thousands of angry government loyalists massed outside a French evacuation post for foreigners, reportedly killing seven people and wounding 200 in violence pitting France against its former prize colony.

France's military denied responsibility, saying it was loyalist demonstrators who opened fire as a French convoy left the post, and Ivorian security forces who returned fire.
But the video of the incident (in a compressed mpeg format here—click “continue reading” at the bottom of the post, and again, be warned: it is EXTREMELY graphic) seems to show that French troops were involved, although, to be fair, it isn’t apparent from the obviously edited video whether the crowd may have provoked the response. But from what the video does show, it would seem that crowd was unarmed and doing no more than yelling and mooning, and that French soldiers were responsible.

The NY Times buries the story in a larger article defending their French comrades, entitled, “France Is Cast as the Villain in Ivory Coast.” I guess we know which side the objective NY Times is on. The alleged massacre merits this brief, skeptical mention:

That anti-French sentiment was bolstered by what government supporters say was the excessive force used by French troops during a demonstration last week outside the Hôtel Ivoire, once one of the shining symbols of this country's affluence and sophistication. The Ivoirian government said French troops fired into the crowd, killing more than 60 people. [The French defense minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, said any deaths resulted from firefights between the Ivory Coast military and armed gangs loyal to Mr. Gbagbo, Agence France-Presse reported.]
I don’t know much (read: anything) about Ivoirian history or politics, so I can't say whether France is justified in it’s actions, but Aaron at Freewill blog (who is just generally on top of this story, so check back in for updates if interested) says (and forgive the long excerpting):

What the French have essentially done is declared war on the Ivory Coast, and called it "peacekeeping" to set up an adorable little fief. Issues of "international law" aside, the fact is that whether or not they're technically able to do this or not, they're on the wrong side. Common sense can tell any observer that a popular government has not just a right but an obligation to resist violent overthrow. The French instead came there to aid overthrow. The rebel-typse have staged one failed coup or assassination attempt after another, and having no luck there, turned to the French. This appears to be making progress, since in light of the chaos the French have brought to the country, there are now calls from Senegal to suspend elections and replace the government with a "non-political" transitional government that would rule for 3-5 years. I think we know what that government would look like.

Meanwhile, the Paris-based International Herald Tribune says Gbagbo is "tearing the country apart" by opposing the French.

What did the French think the Ivorians would do when they summarilly obliterated their air force? Buy them hookers? Do a Rodgers & Hammerstein number in the street? Of course they're angry.

It's worth noting, too, that France isn't "just now" causing problems. Their mission to Ivory Coast is an undiluted failure. Even a year ago, the UN already reported that disease was skyrocketing, 600,000 people had been displaced, and that 50,000 Ivorians (along with 300,000 immigrant workers) had fled the country. Indeed, it appears that another 19,000 have fled to Liberia, and the UN is shipped 20 tons of food to the border town of Butuo in the hopes they won't starve to death.

Exactly how many people have fled Iraq and Afghanistan for their lives in recent years? Hint: Of those displaced by Saddam and the Taliban, refugees are moving back to Iraq and Afghanistan by the millions. Everybody, on all sides of the debate, can agree that a situation that the locals quantifiably consider worse than their Iraqi counterparts is not, as the French claim, a "remarkable success". (Indeed, if we were half as bungling in Iraq as the left paints us to be, wouldn't that make France's mission "a remarkable failure"? If I wanted to take this to it's extreme conclusion, I could say that this may mean French "peacekeeping" is about as desirable as rule by the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. I could, but I won't.)

Random observations (really now, do I give any other kind?).

1. Well, the French are starring in this little drama, so we pretty much expected Hypocrisy to make an appearance. We just didn't know she would get all shooty and stuff. I mean, to put it politely, its not like the French are known for their martial skills.

2. Related: isn't this story ridiculous on its face? I mean, the bullets actually hit people, so could it possibly be the French army that was involved? Maybe they were just trying to fire warning shots.

3. If the French really are as trigger happy as this makes them seem, would we really want there help winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people?


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