Sunday, January 30, 2005

French fried journalism

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:01 AM |  

Okay -- there are plenty of places to read about media bias on the international scene and lots of places to read the French bash de jour. The Associated Press has plenty of detractors, and the walls of my glass house somewhat preclude casting stones at "balanced" journalism. But here’s my “Golden Globe” nomination for “Most Ridiculous Presentation in a Serious News Article.”

French forces play role in tsunami aid
One of dozen nations helping relief operation
By Michael Casey
Associated Press

He begins --

ABOARD JEANNE D'ARC — The naval ship's pantry is stocked with wines, baguettes and pate, and its casual dress code is shorts and sandals. There's even an artist — a painter to keep an illustrated record of the trip.

With a panache all its own, France's military is delivering aid to tsunami-battered Indonesia — and showing how a small force can make a difference.

A month after killer waves struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the French are part of an international relief operation that includes forces from more than a dozen nations, including Japan, Russia and Switzerland.
No mention of the United States. Oh, ya. This is an “international” relief operation. The United States is engaged in “unilateral” relief aid.

Casey then describes some very good things the French are doing -- clearing debris, rebuilding schools, treating the sick, putting out fires, and then notes --

Although media attention has focused on the U.S. contribution, particularly by the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and its battle group, aid officials say the French and other forces are playing an equally important role.

"(The French) increase our capacity to move loads into some areas where roads have yet to be reconstructed. Trucks cannot reach these areas," said Daniel Augstburger, head of the U.N.'s relief work on Sumatra's western coast.

That responsibility likely will increase once the Americans leave with their three dozen helicopters.

Just grin and bear it -- a UN endorsement and the implication that the United States will be pulling out its ostentatious fleet of helicopters before the relief effort is complete. Of course, the French are above such comparisons.
The French, who also are conducting relief operations in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, object to comparisons with the Americans.

"The feeling we had in France was that, as usual, the Americans were rushing in force to Indonesia and boasting about it," said flotilla spokeswoman Cmdr. Anne Cullerre. "For some people, it seemed outrageous.

"How can you really boast of doing something from this tragedy? People were saying, 'They are doing it again. They are showing off.' " Vice Adm. Rolin Xavier, who heads the French military effort, dubbed Operation Beryx, said, "We are not in the shadow of the Americans, but we work alongside them."
A good journalist always makes sure that readers are clear about the point of an article, and lest any readers might think this article is about French generosity, reporter Casey elucidates --
Critics of the U.S. military's work in Indonesia say Washington has seized on the disaster as a pretext for advancing its strategic interests in the archipelago and improving ties with the Indonesian military.

Those ties effectively were cut in 1999 after Indonesian troops and their proxy militias killed 1,500 East Timorese after the half-island territory voted for independence in a U.N.-sponsored independence referendum.

During her recent Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the tsunami provided a "wonderful opportunity" for the United States to reap "great dividends" in the region.

The dispatch of the USS Abraham Lincoln's strike force has been viewed in some quarters as an effort not only to help survivors, but also to burnish America's image among Islamic communities worldwide by delivering aid to the largest Muslim country in the world.

Whoever the “critics” are just what the hell do they expect? Perhaps the United States should have ignored this whole tsunami thing to avoid any apparent conflict of motives. After all, we did have the audacity to cut ties with the Indonesian military after they slaughtered 1,500 East Timorese. Just curious -- did the UN ever take responsibility for those deaths, which followed its sponsored referendum? [Insert a split quote, cheap shot at Condoleezza Rice here.]

And what better sign could there be that a partisan God loves Christians more than Muslums than the "twofor" he provided to the Bush administration as payback for promoting His interests -- He sent them a tsunami and provided the United States with the opportunity to coerce them into loving us.

The last line of the article, however does ring true --

The French maintain they do not have strategic interests in the region.
The French gave up on any kind of strategy with the fall of the Maginot Line. They now specialize in whine.