Saturday, July 14, 2007

Showing the Flag

We raised the flag at Town Hall this morning, its red and white and blue fluttering in the cool breeze. Then we sang "The Star-Spangled Banner". Then we sang "La Marseillaise".

Yes, dear reader, it was the French flag we raised. Actually, Col. Serge Gabriel was the prime raiser, assisted by young Martine Correll. And then we celebrated Bastille Day with a traditional continental breakfast with all the fixin's.

The venue for the not-so-petit dejeuner was Meli-Melo, where we were regaled with fresh-squeezed orange juice, cafe au lait, petits pains and baguettes with French butter and confiture aux fraises, and sticky buns (your scribe is sure they have a name for these in France, but was too busy ingesting them to enquire into the matter). The pieces de resistance were the fresh crepes hot off the griddle and dusted with butter and sugar. Talk about melt in the mouth!

"Cuisine minceur," one wag was heard to say, as he started in on his second crepe. Your scribe, who had contented himself with only half a crepe (offering the other half to Col. Gabriel), took that as a signal to draw the line after the third sticky bun. But of course he felt obliged to try a petit pain with the luscious strawberry jam than only the French know how to make; and that turned out to be so yummy that he had to have a second one to be sure his palate was not misleading him. (It wasn't.)

And so here he sits, contentedly full, narrating the experience for those of you who were unable to attend. It was nice to hear a greeting, via the French Consulate in New York City, that quoted the new President of France as saying that America could always count on her French friends to help out in times of genuine need. Clearly the unpleasantness in Iraq did not rise to that level, in their estimation; and it is beginning to appear that they were right. No WMDs were found, the country's infrastructure is in far worse shape than before we came in, the national museum has been pillaged, sectarian violence erupts daily, and today's New York Times has a front-page picture of an America soldier slumped amidst a recently-liberated heap of rubble "while across town his comrades battled Iraqi police officers," according to the caption.

Your scribe had to read that once twice to be sure his eyes were not deceiving him. Then he turned to the Doonesbury comic strip for today to seek confirmation. Both sources agreed that the US is now fighting the very militia we are supposedly training in the war on terrorism. To add insult to injury, the Iraqi Prime Minister is being quoted today as saying that we can leave "any time we want."

So why are we still there? If your scribe were in President Bush's shoes, he would immediately hold a referendum - like, this coming week - and if a majority of the Iraqi people wanted us to go home, home we would go. If it were a very large majority, as one suspects it might be, your scribal c-in-c would order the pull-out to proceed on the double. Why should we stay where we are not wanted, and where the very soldiers we train are now training their guns on us?

Back to our French friends. It would be the easiest thing in the world for them to say to us, "We told you so." But they are far too gentlemanly, and the ties between our great countries are far too old and too deep for such flippancy.

We are lucky to have such friends as the French. Someday, one hopes, our country will look back on this chapter of our national history and say to them, "Thank you for trying to warn us. You were right. We were wrong."

It won't happen during this administration, of course. But maybe someday. Meanwhile, dear reader, please remember that Lord Cornwallis tried to surrender his sword to the French after the Battle of Yorktown, because it was they, not the Americans, who were the real victors that day. But Rochambeau refused the sword, and pointed towards Washington. The British band played "The World Turned Upside Down", and the American Revolution was all but over. Thanks to our friends the French.

Vive la France!


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