Sunday, September 14, 2003

Journalistic Bias on Display

Here's what a New York Times journalist has to say about the differences between America and France over the proper pace at which authority ought to be handed over:

U.S.-French Rift Reopened as Powell Arrives for Talks

GENEVA, Saturday, Sept. 13 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, reopening the trans-Atlantic rift over Iraq — this time about expanding the authority of the United Nations there — said today that a French proposal to cut back the role of the American-led occupation was unacceptable.

Arriving in Geneva after midnight for intensive talks on Saturday about what role the United Nations should play, Mr. Powell also labeled as "totally unrealistic" a French suggestion that Iraq establish a provisional government in a month, write a constitution by the end of this year and hold elections next spring, all under United Nations auspices.


American officials say they are hopeful that another confrontation can be avoided, in part because this time Germany and Russia seem to be trying hard to bridge the differences between France and the United States. But they say they do not expect any breakthroughs this weekend.

A sign of the difficulty came in today's Le Monde, the leading French newspaper, in which the foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, wrote that it was "urgent to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people themselves." The transfer, he said, must be carried out under United Nations and not American auspices.

France has said several times that the United States must move beyond "the logic of occupation" if it is to win support from the international community for a multinational troop presence and, even more, for the billions of dollars that Washington seeks for Iraq's reconstruction.

Such talk is clearly exasperating to Mr. Powell and other American officials. Before leaving for Europe on this trip, Mr. Powell gave interviews to French, Russian and German media in which he all but ridiculed the idea that somehow the United States was wedded to being an occupier.

"Nobody wants to turn sovereignty back to the Iraqi people as fast as the United States does, President Bush does and I do," Mr. Powell told France 2, a television network. But he said that the American occupation under "can't suddenly just step aside and turn it over — to whom?"


American officials said that they remained hopeful that they could avoid a nasty dispute that would lead to a veto by France or any other of the permanent members of the Security Council. In addition, Mr. Powell said the United States could probably get at least nine countries on the Council to support its basic approach, enough to have the resolution approved if there is no veto.

"If there is anything that worried me, it would be a veto," Mr. Powell said.

"We need to get out of some of the rhetorical arguments we're having," he told French television. "One I hear is that the United States believes in the logic of occupation. Nonsense. Every European should know that the United States of America has always believed in the logic of liberation." (emphasis added)

Well, isn't that curious? France makes a clearly absurd proposal, but in Steven Weisman's eyes, it is Colin Powell who is "reopening the trans-Atlantic rift"! Why doesn't he pin the blame on the party that insists on talking about a "logic of occupation" (whatever that means, given the French love affair with nebulous but fine-sounding phrases)?

Let us inject a little logic into the discussion here, and ask ourselves why a nation that is incurring billions of dollars in costs each month its' soldiers remain in Iraq, should wish to endorse a "logic of occupation", especially in light of the gigantic budget deficit it needs to address, and an upcoming presidential election in which expenditures in Iraq are bound to be a big issue. Does any of that make the slightest bit of sense? And yet, by French logic, it must all be true. The New York Times' take on the issue indicates that its' editorial staff has no problem with this peculiar take on the whole business.