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April 11, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
France Appears to Change Mind About War
With Saddam's Ouster, France Appears to Change Its Mind About War in Iraq

The Associated Press


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PARIS April 11

With Saddam Hussein vanquished, the French appear to have undergone an attitude adjustment about the U.S.-led war.

No one is cheering the U.S. government, but there's support for the fall of Saddam and the swift manner in which it was accomplished.

"The Americans have won the war in only three weeks," Le Figaro newspaper wrote in an editorial. "It is a victory for George Bush."

Absent now is the criticism that prevailed during France's bitter pre-war arguments with the United States and Britain. French leaders said Thursday they "rejoiced" in the collapse of Saddam's regime, and political analysts said the French people now wonder whether their country was right to oppose the war so staunchly.

"The French are discovering the truth that the coalition was efficient," said Francois Gere, director of the Paris-based Diplomatic and Defense Institute.

Before the fighting began last month, newspapers and politicians portrayed the United States and Britain as "invaders" opposed by the Iraqi people, Gere said.

"Instead we see pictures of Iraqi people celebrating not only the arrival of British and U.S. forces, but celebrating the end of a regime," Gere said.

His words were echoed by Philippe Moreau Defarges of the French Institute of International Relations.

"We're seeing a subtle shift," Defarges said. "We are starting to hear a more dissonant voice in France. The U.S. victory has made the debate more complex."

French newspaper editorials still retained a healthy dose of skepticism, questioning the whereabouts of Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction and focusing on the challenge of postwar reconstruction.

But in the war's first two weeks, French media went heavy with coverage of Iraqi civilian casualties and scenes of suffering.

The weekly news magazine Le Point featured an American soldier on its cover under the headline, "The Tragedy." Le Figaro magazine showed an American soldier trudging through the mud beneath the question: "Iraq A New Vietnam?"

On Thursday, media criticism was aimed squarely at the fallen Saddam. Several newspapers and TV news magazines ran lengthy features on the cruelty of his regime.

"The dictator who terrorized Iraq," was the title of a two-page spread in Le Monde newspaper.

At Paris bus stops and cafes, people enthusiastically welcomed Saddam's ouster, but were mixed about the U.S. role.

"For a long time, the Iraqi people needed to revolt against Saddam Hussein but couldn't do it alone," said Jacques Bidot, waiting for a bus near the Champs-Elysees.

But he dismissed the TV images of exuberant Iraqis as "a lot of propaganda."

While the French government stopped short of saying so, leading politicians insisted Thursday that France was right to oppose the war.

"Two weeks ago, everyone was taking their hats off to France," said former Prime Minister Alain Juppe. "Today they're starting to say we were wrong. We have nothing to regret."


photo credit and caption:
A U.S.-trained Free Iraqi Forces soldier waves their flag from a U.S. Army truck as they pass through the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah Friday, April 11, 2003. Some of the roughly 150 Iraqi soldiers in a column of about 30 vehicles said they were heading to Baghdad to help U.S. troops. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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