Je Deteste .. La France?

One shame about the "Freedom Fries" fiasco prior to the Iraq war is that it became taboo in liberal circles to criticize French policies at all. The Republicans were going to such absurd lengths in inveighing against Chirac's government that speaking out against France meant aligning oneself ipso facto with the blind contempt of American conservatives.

Such a reflexive correlation may have been understandable at the time, but it has regrettably persisted until today -- and needs to end now.

There are several reasons for why I say that, but at present I'll just stick to two recent AP stories on France's involvement in the Rwanda genocide.

The first concerns a French soldier who has accused the French military of training les genocideurs civils:

A former French soldier said Friday that he saw French troops training Rwandan militias in 1992, two years before those same civilian militias took a leading role in a genocide in the tiny central African country.

...The French government, which had close ties with the extremist government, has denied training Rwandan civilians, and the Defense Ministry refused to comment Friday on the allegations made by Thierry Prungnaud, a former noncommissioned officer in the French Army.

"In 1992, I saw French military members training Rwandan civilian militias to shoot a gun," Prungnaud told France Culture radio. He said he had been sent to Rwanda that year to train the presidential guard.

"I am categorical. I saw it."

The second is about a lawsuit soon to be filed against the French military:

...A civilian investigatory panel, made up of lawyers, historians and leaders of human rights groups, [has] issued a 600-page report alleging that French forces helped the attackers more than the victims.

The U.N. was alleged to have been a "passive" accomplice to the crimes, while France was an "active" participant, said Francois-Xavier Verschave, a panel member from human rights group Survie.

That France was involved in the Rwandan genocide has been known ever since it occurred; what's new is that enough dust has settled that the knowledge of that involvement can now take a more legal form.

Not surprisingly, a few of the more conservative sites out there have picked up on this story. While I disagree with their "I-told-you-so" tone, they're very much in the right to criticise France for this: genocide is obviously a very serious affair, and by all accounts (except the French military's) France has been implicated in one.

So why has the American left remained so noticeably silent? I wish I could give an acceptable answer, but the truth is I can't. No matter how appealing France's liberal politics may be to many in the U.S., there's no excusing genocide -- or merely overlooking it -- simply because it was perpetrated by a friend.