17. The French Cultural exception

17.6 Xenophobia

The foreign and domestic policies conducted by France during centuries had fostered distrust for foreigners, and the hatred of these for France. Vauban, in a letter to Racine written on 13 September 1696 stated: “What reputation will we have by the foreign countries, and to what despise will we be exposed….We will become an object of despise for our neighbors, as we are that of their aversion“. The hatred of Frenchmen for foreigners manifested itself fully during the Revolution, hatred for a beheaded Austrian queen (fig. 17.8) but also the carnage of the “cent-suisses” on August 10, 1792. The 900 men of the company were stripped, impaled and roasted.

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Figure 17.8. David. Marie Antoinette on her way to execution, 1793. Pen and ink, Louvre, Paris.

David voted Louis XVI’s, his former patron, death. During the Terror installed by Robespierre, David abandoned personal friends to the executioner with expedient callousness, wondering on a given morning that only eighty people had been beheaded that day. He used to sit outside a Café, sketching the prisoners on their way to the scaffold. He did an heartrending sketch of Marie Antoinette, bound hand and foot as he saw her, bedraggled, emaciated, prematurely aged by her frightful imprisonment, with a dignity she had never managed to achieve as queen. David barely escaped the guillotine himself after the beheading of his protector Robespierre.

Hatred for Great Britain and the USA was expressed at the highest level of the State during the sixties (A. Peyrefitte: C’était de Gaulle (“it was de Gaulle”), tome II, De Fallois-Fayard, 1997). De Gaulle had been well received in 1940 in Great Britain, but Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower could soon stand no more his arrogance, intransigence and stupidity, and De Gaulle himself made no effort to hide his distaste and distrust for the “Anglo-Saxons”. This aversion may have been strengthened by a personal wound. In 1939, the British officer of liaison Brig. Gen. E.L. Spears wrote in “Prelude to Victory” edited by Cape, his doubts about the professional aptitudes of the French Upper Command, and his skepticism on the value of an alliance with France in the looming conflict. In the preface of this work, Churchill mentioned the French offensive organized in 1917 by Gen. Nivelle (figure 17.9) which ended in disaster. He underlined the immense assurance of the cretins displayed by Nivelle and the stupid cruelty of his two orders, one given to the artillery commanders to bombard their own front lines in order to force the infantry men forward toward the enemy, and the second given in agreement with the politicians to the French gendarmerie, to shoot down all French soldiers fleeing the front under a deluge of bullets, this to avoid a contagion of desertions and demoralizations.

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The artillery commanders refused to obey but the gendarmerie executed the order. The debacle of 1940 justified the fears of Spears and Churchill. A French historian, Marc Ferro, in a TV interview diffused in 2004, pointed out that the French army did not demerit in 1940: it fought gallantly with an armament that was, contrary to the contemporary claims of the French elites, of equal or superior quality and similar quantity to those of the enemy but, according to Ferro, they were badly used, in particular the tanks. De Gaulle had written a treatise on the proper use of tanks and was in command of tanks in 1940.

France knew it lost the war in 1917 (fig.17.10) and knew it did not win it in 1918.

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Figure 17.10. Territory occupied by German armies in 1917. The map was drawn by the Stanford Geological Establishment, London and captions are in French, English, German and Dutch. It found its place in the book written in German by A. Toynbee : “Der Deutsche Anmarsch in Belgien”, which he signed in June 1917. Brilliant German maneuvers endangered Paris and the war appeared lost to the West.

The French Upper-Command, essentially general Pétain after the military debacle of 1917, had hoped for the entry of the USA into the conflict, on their side. Pétain renewed that wish in 1942, while he attempted to save what remained of France from civil war and annihilation, after the new political and military debacle suffered in 1940.

The sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915 by the U-boot 20 was no good reason for the USA to enter the conflict, despite the death of 124 Americans, since the liner was British and loaded with ammunition. The Kaiser initiated the integral naval blocus of Great Britain by submarines on 31 January 1917 and was in the process of ending the war on the East front and winning the war on the West front. The USA feared that the defeated allies would never reimburse their loans. The Congress of the USA voted entrance in war on the side of the allies on April 6, 1917 when it was discovered that the German diplomacy had offered to Mexico the restitution of Texas and Arizona if it joined the German empire into the war. The American Navy that won with great difficulty the Battle of the Atlantic against the 148 U boots of the Kriegsmarine, allowing the transfer of one million American soldiers on the battlefront, specified the favorable issue. French general Foch attempted in vain to hold command over this force. General Pershing, assisted by MacArthur, Marshall and Patton, engaged his army in September 1918 in the battle of the Meuse, which Pershing expected to win within a week. It lasted a month and cost 120.000 American casualties and 80.000 German lives. About 880.000 men remained to Pershing to pursue the war, but no replacement was available on the German side, forcing the German Upper-Command into surrender.

It was during these last 60 years politically correct and becoming in France to express disgust and despise for the “Anglo-Saxons”, meaning therewith Great Britain, English speaking Canada and the USA, to whom one probably reproached to have succored France twice within twenty years. Expressions as “perfidious Albion”, “the cowboy Bush”, “the McShit”, “the lousy American fodder” (in French: la malbouffe américaine), “the poodle Blair” were with complacency cited on TV at prime time. This anti-Americanism, in this obscene aspect unique in Europe, betrays a sad moral ignominy and a regrettable intellectual degeneracy that find an explanation only in the image that the country had shaped of itself during centuries. The actual French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was born in France but is of Hungarian origin and has married an Italian citizen. Let us hope that his attempt to bring France to her senses and have her accept the reality of her condition be met with success.

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