Friday 25 April 2003

America's Goofy plan

This week another dangerous dictatorship has been added to the axis of evil. Forget Syria, North Korea and Iran, the next rogue state on the United States' hit list appears to be France. Colin Powell declared on Wednesday that France will have to "face the consequences" of failing to back the United States on the UN security council and all-out war can now only be a matter of time.

A few weeks back, French fries were renamed "freedom fries" - which is clearly a far more sensible choice than our awkward word "chips". Since then, American makers of French polish and French horns have gone bankrupt and teenage boys have been walking into pharmacies and plucking up courage to ask for "freedom letters". As Gallic food products are boycotted, exports of British cheeses to the US are up with the finest Roquefort and Camembert being replaced by Asda's own-brand microwavable cheese strings. No one can now say that the Americans haven't suffered as well. "May I order the Chateauneuf du Papes?" "I'm afraid not sir, but we can offer you this British gooseberry Riesling as an alternative."

Now an extensive UN dossier has been published giving detailed accounts of French abuses of human rights. There are disturbing reports of nonchalant shrugging by French waiters. CNN has broadcast astonishing footage of French bureaucrats actually being rude and obstructive to foreigners, though surely this must have been faked. American mothers have been appalled by photographs of French women having a glass of wine when pregnant, though there is also a certain amount of pity for a population forced to watch all those intellectual films that won the oeuf d'or at the Bruges film festival. But what's really annoyed the Americans is the provocative way they eat all this fancy rich food and just don't seem to get fat. The French must fall into line with western levels of obesity or face the consequences. George Bush is now drawing up a list of the most wanted Frenchmen, which so far only names Gerard Depardieu and Barbar the Elephant.

Hostility between the United States and France goes back quite a few years. A lot of bad feeling was created by the Louisiana purchase, when Napoleon's estate agent managed to hike the price up by claiming there was another couple who were also interested.

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