Who Will Begrudge the French Their Dead?

I lived for a year in France, and I have many French friends both there and here in New York City. I find them to be intelligent, right-thinking, thoughtful people who make no decision lightly. In the same way I still feel in my lungs the dust of the three thousand who died in the World Trade Center, the French remember their countrymen and their allies who died in the two wars. Those vast battlefields and graves are on their soil, keeping the horror in their minds always. The French are constantly aware of the useless deaths, the chaos and the inhumanity. And how we forget as we accuse others of forgetting! —The Marquis de Lafayette was a Frenchman who not only led American troops against the British and secured French aid in the American Revolution, but was given honorary American citizenship by Congress. The role of the French was so great that Paris was the site of peace negotiations at the end of the war. So enamored of America was he that when he returned to France for the last time, he took with him American soil, within which he was buried. —Europe and France fought World War II without America for two and half years, the time it took the United States to join the Allies, even though during that time the Nazis over-ran Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, parts of Russia, bombed the United Kingdom, and the Italians invaded Egypt and east Africa. —Europe and France fought World War I for two and a half years without America, the time it took the United States to declare war, even though during that time Germany attacked Russia, France and Britain. —American soldiers were only one part of the victory of the two wars, and only part of the liberation of France. Depending upon your source, in World War II, America lost 292,000 soldiers world-wide and few civilians. France, with a much smaller population, lost 210,600 soldiers and 108,000 civilians. In World War I, France lost 1,400,000 men; America 116,000. Who among you will claim that France has not always done its part? Who among you will begrudge them our dead? Or their dead? Those men gave their lives so that you and I could live, not so that we could borrow their glory for our own little jokes to pass around the Internet. Whether you are for the coming war or against it, you cannot reasonably claim that France has shirked in its duties. It has held up its end, as we have held up ours. That one of our long-standing allies disagrees with us now should give us reason to reconsider our own decisions, not reason to belittle theirs.

Posted March 15, 2003

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