Bush Was Right, Indeed, France Is Your Best Ally
Bush Was Right, Indeed, France Is Your Best Ally
Speech of Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France, Boston,
October 29, 2004.
Source: Embassy of France, Washington D.C.
Mr. Herman, thank you so much for your very kind introduction.
I am delighted to be with you tonight on the eve of a historic event, the Red
I think today, with you, we have a good opportunity to think about what I
would call a French paradox. As you just said, I have been in Washington for
nearly 2 years now. When I arrived, somebody told me: « You see, I consider
France as our best ally ». It was President Bush, on the 9th of December,
2002. He was thinking of the war against terror. I think he was right, and he is
still right, I do consider that France is your best ally in this war against
terrorism. And for one good reason: we learnt the hard way.
It started in the 1980’s with the consequences in Paris, in Lyon, in
Marseille of explosions in our streets, of the war in Lebanon, where we both had
troops. We had ten hostages in Lebanon, we had explosions in our streets, and we
reacted by putting together a comprehensive strategy to deal with terrorism.
Then, in the 1990’s, we had the consequences of the war in Algeria, again in
Paris, Lyon, Marseille, with explosions, and thus, over these last 25 years we
have had a lot of experiences where we put together a comprehensive strategy
with police, justice, military and intelligence agencies. We share all our
intelligence with the CIA and your different agencies fighting terrorism. So yes,
I do think that we are your best ally in what is your number one focus, the
fight against terrorism.
But we are also, I do think, your best ally in Afghanistan. You have to know
that on 9/11, I was the French Ambassador to the United Nations and I saw the
destruction of the Twin Towers from the windows of my office, and I reacted. I
was, during this month of September, the President of the UN Security Council. I
could not join Paris because the telephone communications were out of order, the
Verizon Center had been destroyed. But we knew what we had to do. And we
proposed to change the international law to decide that such an act of terrorism
should be considered an act of war. And we said that we should target not only
the terrorists as individuals, but also the states that offer hospitality,
training, equipment, financing to the terrorists. And what is amazing is that
this resolution, proposed by France on the morning of the 12th, the day after,
was unanimously adopted in 1 hour. At that moment, we knew what we had to do and
everybody was involved.
Perhaps you remember the title of Le Monde « Nous sommes tous Américains
». And France did participate right from the beginning in the war in
Afghanistan. We sent troops and today we still maintain troops in Kabul, to the
point that a French general is in charge, is leading the NATO operations in
Afghanistan. There are only 2 countries training the new Afghan army: the United
States and France. And there are only 2 countries trying to get Bin Laden; maybe
we’ll get him, the sooner the better. And the 2 countries which are staying
closer to the borders with Pakistan, trying to get the last elements of Al Qaeda
are, again, the United States and France. So yes, I do think that we are your
best ally in Afghanistan.
In the Balkans, in Bosnia and in Kosovo, our troops are side by side. In
Kosovo, you have the second NATO operation, and again a French General is in
charge of this second NATO operation in Kosovo, simply because we provide a
number of troops. But we also have troops side by side in Africa. We intervened
together in Haiti, and so on.
So yes I think that president Bush was right, indeed, France is your best
But, that’s not what I hear when I look at Fox News.
It started the day President Bush came to the United Nations’ General
Assembly on 12 September, 2002, to propose to the world to disarm Iraq, if
possible not by the use of force, and we said yes, and everybody applauded.
And we negotiated resolution 1441 to have a clear road map on how to disarm
So far so good.
The problem started when you deployed troops around Iraq. At that time, I was
transferred to Washington DC and I thought it was a good idea, because it was
the best way to tell Saddam Hussein that this time, it was serious, either he
would have to cooperate or he would have to pay the consequences, i.e. the use
of force. But the problem started when you deployed not only 15.000 troops, but
300.000 troops and it was clear at this time that the pressure to use these
troops was difficult to resist. But the mood in New York at the same moment was
not at all the same because the more you had troops, the more Saddam Hussein was
cooperative. And you remember maybe, the destruction by the Iraqi army of the
missiles Al Samoud 2 at the request of the United Nations’ inspection. This was
a real disarmament. So why stop a successful programme of UN inspection, we had
to continue and that was the point of view of the 15 members of the Security
And, yes, France did oppose the use of force, for good reasons. First, we did
not see any weapons of mass destruction which would constitute a threat to the
security of the United States. We did know that there were some, but we were
unsure that they were a threat, an immediate threat, an urgent threat to the
United States because you had 300.000 troops around Iraq, and thousand of
inspectors inside Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was in his box with inspectors in the
And we did not see any link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, nor between
Saddam Hussein and the attacks of 9/11.
But we were very anxious about the consequences, because Iraq is a mosaic of
different religions, ethnicities, tribes, and it has never been a democracy. And
it is a great ambition to decide that Iraq will become a democracy. So for all
these reasons, we said clearly that this war was not necessary at this time. At
present the fact has been established, and it is time to turn the page, because
together we have to make Iraq a safe and healthy system, together, for many
reasons. The first is the future of the Iraqi people. It will be very difficult,
but if we fail either you have a type of religion of the kind of the Taliban
regime that Al Qaeda has formed in Iraq. That option is not good at all. Or even
worse, a civil war, and if you have a civil war in Iraq it means that the Kurds
will proclaim independence. Then Turkey will immediately intervene, as they
cannot accept a Kurdish state because of their important Kurdish minority.
So now we have to make Iraq a safe and healthy system. But not only because
of the future of the Iraqi people, also because of the future of the Middle East,
as I said because a crisis in Iraq will have consequences in the entire Middle
East. And even more important, what is at stake in Iraq today is the future of a
religion, between the Muslim world and the West. That is what is at stake.
That’s why we were so cautious. But now we have no option than to succeed, and
we have to succeed together. We will not send French troops to Iraq for one
reason, because we don’t think that anymore French troops will solve the problem.
We know from the experience of the Algerian independency that we should never
underestimate Arab nationalism. Never. Probably the Iraqi had a feeling of
liberation when you saved them from a bloody dictator. But then the feeling of
liberation was transformed into a feeling of occupation. That is the situation
today. So what is important is to restore security by training more and more and
more Iraqi policemen, Iraqi soldiers and officers. France has proposed to train
Iraqi gendarmerie that is a kind of military police that France is famous for. I
think that after the Presidential elections, after discussion with all of us,
that’s what we will do, in the coming week, that’s my hope. Now all the
procedures need to help to rebuild the state of Iraq, to prepare free and fair
elections. And we will participate.
First the Middle East peace process. We cannot stay without doing anything
with such situation. We support the proposals by Prime Minister Sharon to
evacuate Gaza. It must be well organized, it must be a success, and it should
not be only in Gaza first and in Gaza last, it must be followed in the West Bank.
Let’s do it together.
So my hope is that after the elections the United States will be ready to
take a new look and a fresh start to our common ambitions, to make Iraq a
success story, to give a boost to the peace process in the Middle East, and to
have a real dialogue with Iran to resolve the nuclear issues but also to inspire
Iran to be a positive force in the Middle East, and not a negative force in
Afghanistan. That is what we have to do in the Middle East. Let’s do it together.
Now a few words about the European ambitions, because again, many newspapers
report wrong statements. Not in the Boston Globe or in The Christian Science
Monitor, but in other papers, that Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder want to
build the European Union as a kind of counterweight to American dominance. That
is not true. We have started building the European Union 50 years ago, simply
because we wanted to make war impossible. We suffered from centuries of wars,
especially between Germany and France, we invaded Germany, Italy, Spain, we were
invaded time and again, and it was time to stop. That is our real purpose, our
And we started by putting together our coal and steel industries because guns
are made of coal and steel. We continued with nuclear industry, because you can
build bombs through nuclear power, and then we established a common market. And
we discovered that when you have a common market, you need a common currency.
Think about what would be your situation in the United States if you had one
currency for New England, one for Texas, one for California. It would not work.
We needed a common currency not to compete against the dollar but simply because
we had a common market. And then, the EU was expanded to 9, 10, 12, 15 countries
and this spring 2 miracles happened. The first one was a new enlargement, the
most ambitious one. We went from 15 to 25 members and those 10 newcomers, most
of them over 15 years ago were members of the soviet block and 3 of them, the 3
Balkan states, were part of the Soviet Union. So for us it is a dream to see
Balkans and Poland now part of our EU, of our democratic country, peacefully.
We are not where you were in Philadelphia in 1787. You started from scratch,
you wanted to build a new country, with one philosophy, a philosophy of
enlightment, with one language, English, and with one goal. We have 25
countries, 2000 years of history. We speak 31 different languages, we have
different cultures, different legal traditions, the common German Law, from
Germany, from France, from most of the continents, the common law in the UK,
some countries have no written constitution, like the UK, some have several
constitutions, France, and for peace we have to adopt one constitution. We made
it and we are very proud of it.
Now we have to ratify this Constitution. If we succeed, I think it will be
very good news for both our countries, not only for the EU. First because you
will better understand how it works. We are simplifying our institutions. You
will have a President instead of a rotation of the Presidency every 6 months.
You will be able to locate contact numbers much easier!
Today, I think it’s time to turn the page and to remember what we represent
for each other. And maybe a good basis is to think of our economic policy. You
have to know that France is the second country of foreign direct investment of
the United States. It represents 170 billion dollars. And each day, there is 1
million dollars exchanged between the United States and France. That is very
important. And we will continue to invest, first because we have great
confidence in the United States economy, and second, because thanks to the rise
of the euro we are in a position to do so. But there are negative effects too,
namely on our French exports.
On the cultural side, when I visit your museums, I’m always amazed to see all
the impressionists paintings, but we are also in love with American culture, and
it is amazing to see the number of novels which are translated into French. This
is as important as our economy.
We should always remember that we were together right from the beginning.
Last week we commemorated the victory of Yorktown. And as you know, with George
Washington you had Lafayette, Colonel Rochambeau, and Admiral de Grasse, there
were as many French soldiers as American soldiers on your side. And in turn, you
saved France twice last century.
At the end of the first World War, with two hundred thousand American troops
behind General Pershing shouting « La Fayette Nous Voici ! » and of course at
the end of the second World War. I was with President Bush and president Chirac
on the beaches of Normandy on 6/6/2004 for the commemoration of the 60th
anniversary of D-day. And we were with one hundred American veterans who landed
on D-Day. And it was a very intense and emotional experience.
And let me say one word for the 60 millions of French people that were
liberated that day.
We will never forget. And if we are a free country, it is thanks to you. And
as a free country, we express our opinions when we agree, which is most of the
time, but also when we don’t agree.
So my hope for after your elections is that if we disagree, let’s disagree
without being disagreeable.