Bill Moyers Commentary on the Ties that 0aBind
NOW with Bill Moyers
Thursday 18 September 2003
We were in France last week. Seven old friends. One more reunion 0awhile there's time. We had a lot of catching up to do - grandkids and all that.
On our last day drove a couple of hours out of Paris to visit for 0athe first time some places we had heard about, long ago, from WWI veterans who 0awere still around when we were growing up. The Marne River, Chateau-Thierry. 0aBelleau Woods - it was at these places, in the summer of l9l8, that young 0aAmericans fresh from the United States were thrown into battle during the German 0aArmy's last great drive of the war, aimed at Paris itself. So fierce was the 0afighting that it took American Marines a month, at the loss of over half their 0amen, to capture a single square mile - the crucial strongpoint at Belleau Wood, 0adefended by seasoned German troops who were astounded at how fiercely the 0aAmericans fought. By summer's end the Kaiser's army had been thrown back, Paris 0awas spared, and the war would soon be over. Of the 3l0,000 Americans who took 0apart in the action that summer, 67,000 were casualties...including the poet 0aJoyce Kilmer and Quentin Roosevelt, the son of a president. Nothing was ever 0afound of 1060 of the missing, their blood and bone mingled now in the fertile 0asoil of the Marne Valley vineyards.
High above that valley, on a hill once marked by trenches and 0ashell holes, stands a monument of 24 mighty columns and two heroic-size figures. 0aTheir hands are clasped - a tribute, reads the inscription, to the French and 0aAmerican troops who fought here, and a lasting symbol of "the friendship and 0acooperation" between the two countries. A short drive away, we stopped at the 0aAmerican Protestant Church and studied the stained glass window showing General 0aBlackjack Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France, 0abeing greeted by General Lafayette. It's only the artist's fancy, of course. 0aLaFayette was from another era - the French nobleman who persuaded the French 0aking to send 6000 troops to the aid of George Washington and who then led the 0aarmy that cornered and whipped the British at Yorktown, securing the American 0arevolution. Legend has it that when General Pershing set foot on French soil he 0ahad America's debt to France on his mind, and reputedly said: "Lafayette, we are 0ahere."
France and America have been allies for a long time now. The 0asentiment runs deep, despite differences over Iraq today.
Our taxi driver in Paris was listening to American jazz when he 0astopped for us. The owner of the little restaurant in the old bohemian district 0aof Montmarte wore an American T-shirt and played American ballads while we had 0aour lunch. A young Swedish woman, working in France, invited us to join with her 0aFrench friends in a moment of silence on the anniversary of 9/ll.
So the French were perplexed when a picture of President Bush 0aappeared in newspapers last week. They didn't understand America's bellicosity, 0aor why the President turns a deaf ear to others. They also think we're fighting 0athe war against terrorism in the wrong way - alone - and in the wrong place - 0aIraq.
In his column this week, The New York Times columnist Tom 0aFriedman was tough on the French. He says France is becoming our enemy - trying 0ato foil our policy in the Middle East. But the French aren't alone in thinking 0aAmerica has become the lone ranger of the world.
Last week, even the Financial Times of London - pro-American, 0apro-business, conservative to the bone - threw up its hands in despair at Bush, 0aCheney, Rumsfeld and Rice. This is, said the lead editorial, a team whose "instinctive and ideological tendency" from the start has been "to regard 0ainternational consultation and cooperation as a burdensome bore or intolerable 0aconstraint." Don't they know, the paper asked, that "alone the U.S. is far more 0avulnerable than it likes to believe, while in concert with free nations, it is 0afar more powerful than even it can imagine."
This is something to think about on the battlefields of France. 0aYou think about the times we've helped each other, and how we still need each 0aother to confront global terrorism. So you want to celebrate our ties, and 0anurture them. And that's what we did. We found an outdoor restaurant in a small 0avillage .and ordered the specialty of the house. French fries. The real thing. 0aFrench fries. As American as apple pie.
NOW with Bill 0aMoyers
Friday, September 18, 2003, 9pm ET on 0aPBS
(Check local listings at http://www.pbs.org/now/sched.html)
Jump to TO Features for Saturday 20 September 0a2003