War of the worlds

And All of France Finds Itself Stuck in a War

Fausto Giudice – Tlaxcala

Translated from the French for Cubadebate, Rebelión and Tlaxcala by Manuel Talens, and from the Spanish by Scott Campbell and Machetera

This past August 20th, in the middle of the summer holidays, while the good people of France meandered worry-free between replete beaches and TV screens to follow the heroic deeds of the athletes in Beijing, making it possible to forget the stress of the impending return to the routine of “working more and earning less”, the news burst like a thunderclap in a serene sky: ten young and brave French soldiers just died in remote Afghanistan, in an ambush by the horrible Taliban 50 kilometers outside of Kabul, raising the figures for French military deaths to 22, since 2002, minutiae against the hundred British who’ve lost their lives and still less when compared to the thousands of murdered Afghans. And when I say Afghans, I refer to armed men, unarmed men, women, children, and the aged.

And, unexpectedly, the good people of France discovered that their army was involved in the war in Afghanistan. Six years had to go before the French realized that they were physically engaged in a war.

A world war? No. A local war? Not that either. It is treated more as a “war of the worlds”. Two worlds facing off in the mountains and plains of Afghanistan: on one side, the good guys, the “coalition” that gathers 70,000 soldiers from some 40 countries. Officially, they are not there to make war, but peace, to rebuild the country and, especially, to liberate the women, these poor Afghan women locked in their prison-like veils. On the other side, the “bad guys”, the long-beards, the “terrorists”, the Taliban, al-Qaeda. So those soldiers are also there to fight against terrorism, the fight George Bush calls “the worldwide war against terror”. Except that apparently, the Afghan “terrorists” enjoy the support of a large part of the population.

During the six years that have elapsed since the beginning of the conflict, French public opinion hasn’t cared at all about this war that officially is not one. Neither the soft left nor the extreme left have organized a single demonstration. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Silence on the radio and total consensus. It hasn’t been different in Spain nor in Italy where the institutional left removed their troops from Iraq the better to place them in Afghanistan. There was more agitation in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and in Canada, although without great impact on events: “We’re here to stay”, is the slogan of the coalition forces, christened with the acronym ISAF*.

In fact, the allies of the US, the invader, were assigned the job of logistical and civil support, at the service to “the boys”, who are supposedly doing the dirty work, that is, the war crimes and bombing of the civilian populations with depleted uranium. For their part, the French and Europeans try to keep their hands clean, dig some wells and help a few women deliver their babies.

But, “What were the French soldiers doing in that mess?”, was the immediate question the average citizen of the French Republic. “Indispensable work,”answered the president, while Jean-Marie Bockel, his “Secretary at War”, called for”national unity” and warned that this was not a good time for criticism.

Because it seems that the soft as well as the extreme left have suddenly woken up: the French Communist Party and the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR, Trotskyites) are demanding withdrawal of the troops, while the Socialist Party is content to say that “the mission of French soldiers in Afghanistan” should be reviewed. For its part, the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen is the most virulent in denouncing this war that conceals its warlike nature.

On August 21, 1968, exactly forty years ago, the tanks of the Warsaw Pact entered Prague and put an end an all too short spring. Young Czechs then wrote the following on the walls of the city, “Lenin, wake up, they’ve gone mad”, and sang for the Soviet soldiers a spontaneously composed song, that went: “Ivan, go home, Natacha is waiting for you”.

The Afghan resisters, in their turn, should write “Jaurès, wake up, they’ve gone mad” on the walls of the French barracks in Kabul.

Jean Jaurès was the French socialist leader that dared to say “NO” to the sacred unity toward war in 1914 and paid for it with his life. Yes, Jean Jaurès, the same whom the presidential candidate Sarkozy cited in his campaign speeches.

As well, the Afghan resisters could sing this song to the French soldiers: “Kevin, return to your home, Jessica is waiting for you”[1].

[1] Kevin and Jessica are amongst the most popular names used by the new French generations. Kevin was the name of one of the ten paratroopers killed and Jessica is the name of the fiancee of the son of Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean.

*International Security Assistance Force

Scott Campbell is the editor of http://angrywhitekid.blogs.com/weblog. Machetera is editor of the blog https://machetera.wordpress.com/. Both are members of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translators are cited.

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