The French first entered my consciousness by way of Pepe Le Pew on Bugs Bunny. As young as I was, I realized that through Pepe- a not-so-flattering point was being made about the French both in the portrayal of a Frenchman as a skunk—and by Pepe’s so obviously insincere and self-serving behavior.
My next encounter with the French was also while I was a child. On TV, I watched the movie Gigi. From this movie, I concluded that the French were a frivolous people who spent much of their time either going to fancy restaurants or taking vacations at the seaside with women who were not their wives.
When I was a young adult, my friends dragged me to a theatre specializing in “arty” movies where I was subjected to Swann in Love, starring Jeremy Irons, and based on a few of the chapters of the Frenchman Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. The protagonist, Swann, is a portrait of French ennui mixed with something indefinably weirder (though recently familiar). At one point, when Swann is sitting up in bed surrounded by servants shaving, manicuring and dressing him he narrates a passage of the book he is writing full of bored self-pity. To the chagrin of my artier friends, I found myself loudly addressing the screen with the statement: “This guy needs to get a job!” Needless to say, my impression of the French was not improved by this movie, nor, was it improved by later trying to actually read “Remembrance of Things Past.’
To this point, the French seemed irrelevant and inconsequential to me. That they had been allies in WWII, I knew because of Cpl. Louis LeBeau in Hogan’s Heroes. I remembered learning in elementary school about Lafayette’s role in the American War of Independence. Conceding all that, I was unaware of any recent contribution the French had made during the decades since my birth sufficient enough to earn them the role of World Power. So, I simply thought of the French as an amalgam of Pepe, Louis Jordan, Swan and Cpl. LeBeau—and not much else.
Later in life, I discovered a book titled Leftist Revisited; From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot written by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. From that book, I learned of the barbaric savagery of the French Terror and the Jacobins—which was not only directed against royalty and aristocracy, but also against the common people of Vendee. I discovered the motivating impact of Rousseau (a man who repeatedly dumped his newborn children on the steps of an orphanage consigning them to certain death) on Pol Pot who, in an ironic twist, motivated the children of his country to murder their parents.
From Resistance and Betrayal, The Death and Life of the Greatest Hero of the French Resistance by Patrick Marnham, I learned that not only did the Communists of the French Resistance repeatedly betray their non-communist compatriots to the Nazis—they also embarked on a wholesale slaughter of them after the war in order to prevent them from gaining power and to also effect the sinister plans of their Soviet masters.
Even knowing all this- until I read Our Oldest Enemy, A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France by John J. Miller and Mark Molesky, I was naïve of the terrible impact France has had on America.
I read different books in different ways. If a book is merely good, I graze periodically, dividing my time between other books. If a book is excellent, I read it over a few days—ripping through it quickly with no regard for anything other than getting to the point.
When a book is truly outstanding, I not only have to fight myself to put it down to go to work or do chores, I re-read sentences in order to savor their particularly pleasing and memorable phrasing. This is one of those books. I consider this book to be a necessary antidote to the sentimentality about the French that has been thoughtlessly fed to those of us who were victims of government schools. And-unlike dry school lessons on history-it is a true pleasure to read.
From this book, we see a foreshadowing of the savagery of which the French proved capable during their Revolution terrifyingly exhibited by them during America’s pre-revolutionary history. In the midst of the French-Indian wars, the French, cynically and without Christian conscience, employed the most terrifying Weapon of Mass Destruction of that time and place. This WMD was the savagery of American Indian tribes, who like Islamic terrorists, made no distinction between fighting-men and infants.
During the American Revolution, France-though our ostensible ally- engaged in double-dealing designed both to retaliate against its ancient enemy Britain and to prevent an emerging American Republic from gaining sufficient power to pose an obstruction to France’s own designs on the American continent. After the American victory, France’s interference threatened our nascent Republic’s very survival through the Civil War and beyond.
A real eye-opener to me was the revelation that during WWII, French soldiers, under the command of Vichy, viciously fought us during the Allied invasion of French Morocco, killing American boys who were working toward the liberation of France. Likewise, after the liberation, France did not behave like a friend and ally. Instead, it thwarted us at every turn during the Cold War even as we were committing American dollars and men to protect it. Our money and men, in fact, permitted France the security to indulge in petty vindictiveness against us. The book shows many more instances of French backstabbing, finally bringing us up to present times and the perfidy of the French during U.N. negotiations over Iraq.
The book makes it apparent that France is wholly incapable of committing itself to any cause or principle other than its narrow and immediate self-interest. Yes the French gave us invaluable help during the American Revolution—but that was out of greed and acquisitiveness not out of any moral principle. Its accusations of American unilateralism with regard to Iraq are nothing more than projection of its own unilateral foray into a scheme of bribery with the monstrous regime of Saddam Hussein.
Our Oldest Enemy proves to me that France is not and never has been our friend. France’s agenda toward us is the same that it has always been: to knock us back and then keep us in the place it believes appropriate – subordinate to it. This has been demonstrated time and time again. Negotiating with France is like negotiating with a street harlot. The attractive appearance might be reassuring—but behind the harlot lurks a pimp prepared to roll you.