Monday, March 5, 2007

The Reminder

Tip o’the hat to SimiL for this little story:

An elderly gentleman of 83 arrived in Paris by plane. At the French customs desk, the man took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag. “You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked, sarcastically. The elderly gentleman admitted he had been to France previously. “Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.” The American said, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.” “Impossible. Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!” The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained. “Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find any Frenchmen to show it to."

Having visited France a few times on business, I can tell you that the premise of this story — the sneering French official — rings very true. Especially in the big cities, Americans are frequently “treated” to condescension and insult from French citizens. To any American with even the slightest knowledge of history (ok, I know, that’s only 2% or so of Americans) this is galling, to say the least. To someone who was actually there on D-Day, surely it’s much worse…

I’m reminded of an article I read a few days ago concerning the NATO troops in Afghanistan. I’m not sure why this surprised me, but it did… While it is absolutely true that NATO is supplying the foreign armed forces in Afghanistan, and that virtually all NATO members have troops there — it turns out that most members have placed significant conditions on the use of those troops. In fact, with the exception of Britain, the U.S., and a few new NATO members with tiny forces there (because their countries are tiny!), all the NATO “partners” have forbidden their troops from participating in combat! Huh? What, exactly, is their purpose, then? Well, it turns out they’re engaged in logistics, training, and police work.

The French troops are amongst those that are not allowed in combat roles. Thanks a lot, “partners” — which must be French for “cheese-eating surrender monkeys"…

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