Monday 5 May 2003

The French won't fight?

Hundreds of thousands of war dead expose the lie

by Eric Margolis

Something keeps drawing me back to this most evil and sinister battlefield on Earth, a mere 18 x 10 km, where during 10 hellish months of 1916, 1.4 million French and German soldiers were killed or gravely wounded.

Each year, it is my custom to greet spring in France's exquisite countryside, exploring battlefields and forts of the two world wars. But this, my sixth journey to Verdun, holds particular personal meaning.

Decades of travel, covering many wars, reading the history of man's folly, have made me a cosmopolitan who detests borders and earnestly believes mankind's worst evils are nationalism and religious fanaticism. Still, there are four countries I hold particularly dear and to which I feel respectful (as opposed to hormonal) patriotism, respect, and loyalty - Canada, France, Switzerland and the United States (in alphabetical, not emotional order).

Quixotic as it may sound, while at Verdun, as a U.S. Army veteran, I apologized to France's fallen soldiers for the slander and disgraceful lies hurled at their memory by American know-nothings and pro-Israel neo-con pundits who poured venom on the French for not agreeing to President George Bush's imperial oil war against Iraq.

Insults such as "defeat monkeys" ... "surrender specialists" ... "never won a war" ... "always saved by Americans"... "in war, like an accordion, useless and noisy" ... "cowards ..." were hurled at France by American commentators. The Internet overflowed with anti-French jokes and lists of French military defeats.

I invite all those flag-waving, fire-breathing American couch patriots who called the French cowards to visit Verdun. The air here still stinks of death and only deformed, stunted bushes grow on its poisoned soil. In the towering grey stone ossuary repose bone pieces of 135,000 men.

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