Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On Sunday morning I made a short visit to the university library. While I was sitting in the basement, in one of the university's cafeterias, I saw Lila, a fellow blogger. As you can read on her blog, she sat down and we talked as if the last time that we ( and our families ) met had not been half a year or longer ago. Right after Lila went to her office I finished the book that she mentions in her posting, and I started reading Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride. I really enjoyed reading Jonathan Fenby's loving but also highly critical portrait of France, its politics, the contradictions that characterize the country and its history, and the problems that it faces. One of the most interesting chapters, aptly titled A French Life, deals with Francois Mitterand's life and career. Fenby writes about Mitterand's friendship with one of France's worst war criminals, Rene Bousquet, and his protection of Maurice Papon, who was eventually convicted for crimes against humanity for his role in the arrest and deportation of Jews: "The fact that Mitterand felt so little compunction about befriending Bousquet and protecting Papon was both a reminder of the extent of his own self-centred amorality and [...] a sign of how accurately he reflected the inner feelings of so many of his compatriots." The chapter also contains a joke that was told after Mitterand's death. The President arrives at the gates of heaven. He is not allowed entrance because he is an adulterer and, even worse, he thinks that he is God "and in this kingdom there is only one God. To which Mitterand replies: 'When's the next election?' ". Oriana Fallaci's sermon, as she calls is, is very emotional, and sometimes her reasoning is a bit wry. Her vision and perception appear to have been blurred - understandably - by her anger after 9/11, and her love for the US is almost as blind as the hatred that Islamists and others feel for that country, but because of her personal history her perspective remains interesting. While I have my doubts about the Americans ( or Israel, for that matter ) knowing how to deal with Islamist terror, and although sometimes her choice of words is slightly or highly embarrassing, I largely agree with her opinion regarding the weak, ambivalent or even anti-American responses by many Europeans to the terrorists' actions and threats. It is also difficult not to agree with what she wrote in the days after September 11th 2001 about Yasser Arafat, whom she interviewed decades before: "This liar who has a flash of sincerity only when ( in private ) he denies Israel's right to exist. This hypocrite who cannot be trusted even when he's asked what time it is. [...] This phony warrior who always wears a uniform like Fidel Castro and Pinochet yet delegates the fighting to his poor subjects... [...]. This eternal terrorist who is only capable of raising terrorists, of keeping his people in the shit, of sending them to die. To kill and to die...".

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