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
"The Americans have won the war in only three weeks," Le Figaro
newspaper wrote in an editorial. "It is a victory for George
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
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
While the French government stopped short of saying so, leading
politicians insisted Thursday that France was right to oppose the
"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."
|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
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