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Anti-French sentiment in the United States

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Anti-French sentiment in the United States is a strong opposition to all things French, with a particular focus on the actions and attitudes of the French government.

Anti-French sentiment in the United States returned to the fore in the wake of France's refusal in the UN Security Council to endorse the 2003 US plan to invade Iraq. The sentiment was rooted in French President Jacques Chirac's clear opposition to any new U.N. resolutions regarding the Iraq disarmament crisis.

Before the Iraq crisis France and the United States had long had a troubled relationship. Soon after the end of the Second World War relations first began to sour, the US public and government were overtly critical of France's war in Algeria and in Indochina. The United States pushed for France to end its colonial empire.

American-French relationships became far worse under De Gaulle, who reject the position of France as weaker partner of the US and attemtped to turn France into a rival of the United States. This included demanding equal status in NATO, and then pulling out of the organization when this was refused. France also ended its traditionaly close relations with Israel and began to support the Palestianian[?] cause in the Middle East. De Gaulle's government began to criticize the US's own war in Vietnam. De Gaulle's support for Quebec independence, also, almost certainly, was more a bid to aggravate the States than to actually foster Quebec independence. During De Gaulle's time in office Franco-American relations reached a great low.

They improved somewhat under de Gaulle's successors, but France continues to view itself fundamentaly as a rival to the US rather than a collegue. The French, more than any other nation, see the European Union as a method of counter balancing American power, and thus work towards such ends as having the Euro usurp the American dollars preminent position in global trade. The American people and American governmet remained lukewarm towards France, and pursued much closer relationships with other states such as the United Kingdom.

As to the Iraq conflict there were a variety of reasons why many Americans opposed the actions of the French government on this matter. Some Americans believed that France's opposition to regime change was not motivated solely by altruistic anti-war sentiment, but rather economic concerns. Such American critics pointed out that France had a long history of open and friendly diplomatic relations with the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, including a 1976 state visit to Iraq by then-Prime Minister Chirac. These American critics suggested that any "regime change" in Iraq was likely to disrupt or harm existing French economic contracts with the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation, which they claim would provide sufficient justification for French government for opposing the American-led invasion. France's history of supplying weaponry to Iraq even led to some largely unfounded assertions that France was supplying Iraq with prohibited weapons parts, even as the U.N. Security Council was trying to make decisions about how to resolve the crisis.

Others American critics accused the French government of having a purely knee-jerk anti-American sentiment, and believed Chirac to be eager to show off to the world how his country could still act as a "check" on American ambitions, much like his predecessor Charles de Gaulle had done when he pulled France out of the NATO alliance.

The French were also seen as hypocrites by some Americans; though the French government repeatedly cited the importance of getting a UN mandate for military action, American critics were quick to cite that the French government had invaded other nations without UN backing in the past, such as the Ivory Coast (see [1] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,81573,00), [2] (http://www.marekinc.com/PhotosUnicorn), [3] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2597665.stm)). However this criticism reflects a poor understanding of the issues, as the French intervention was intended to support the legitimate government of the country in question, something that is allowed under the UN charter. A less-mentioned but more appropriate comparison is the French operation in the Central African Empire to dispose self-appointed Emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa [4] (http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20030318-19132168.htm).

Since many other nations were also openly opposed to the plan to invade Iraq, most French people wonder why their country has been singled out for censure. It is unclear to some French people why Russia and China are not being equally criticized. Both of these permanent members of the Security Council were openly opposed (http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/03/11/sprj.irq.main/) on March 11, 2003, to the proposed new U.N. resolution, with France and Russia both promising a veto. Many people (including some French people) feel that France was singled out because they were one of two members of the security council who openly threatened a veto on March 11, while other people claim it possible that the concentration of the U.S. media on France is an example of media manipulation, using France as a scapegoat to avoid mentioning and discussing all the other countries that were opposed to the plan.

On March 11, 2003, the cafeteria menus in the three United States House of Representatives office buildings changed the name of "french fries" to "freedom fries" in a culinary rebuke of France stemming from anger over the country's opposition to the U.S. position on Iraq. (French fries actually come from Belgium.) French toast was also changed to freedom toast (During World War I, in a similar move, attempts were made to replace the word sauerkraut with the term liberty cabbage and frankfurter with hot dog in menus and in popular speech: only the latter was successful. During World War I, French toast replaced German toast as the popular term for that dish.)

Europeans dismissed the changes of March 2003. One Irish newspaper called it "immature gimmickry." The French embassy made no comment, except to note that French fries are Belgian. "We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes," said Nathalie Loisau, an embassy spokeswoman.

According the president of IC&A Inc, a business that imports only French products, demand for these products has fallen in the vicinity of 40% to 50% since February. The Movement of French Enterprises (Medef) has reported that "French enterprises are suffering today from the differences that have arisen among states over the Iraqi question". It must be noted that though aware of the anti-sentiment expressed against them by some Americans, French people are only expressing a mild anti-americanism, and have not been particularly trying to boycott American products.

In the winter of 2002-2003, a derogatory phrase originally used on The Simpsons television program to refer to the French became au courant in Washington, DC circles. That term was "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." National Review contributor Jonah Goldberg[?] claimed credit for making the term known.

On the CBS television program, 60 Minutes, commentator Andy Rooney[?] referred to the French as ungrateful for their stand on Iraq, reminding viewers of the United States' sacrifice to free France from the Nazis, which many Americans believe obliges France to a more co-operative attitude on such issues.

Congressman Billy Tauzin[?], from Louisiana, the only Cajun in the United States House of Representatives, removed the French language section of his official website because of anti-French sentiment.

Reaction to anti-French sentiment in the US was a tenor of the anti-war protest in Montreal, Quebec on March 15, 2003, and may have been responsible for that city's 200,000-strong turn-out, being one of the largest of that day's worldwide protests. Recurring protests in Montreal continue to be the largest in North America.

For many outside the United States, and people in France, it seems rather a strange thing for Americans to condemn the French when at the same time France has soldiers fully deployed and in total support in Afghanistan since the first day of the invasion and who are still there fighting side by side with Americans.

There are many theories as to why Franco-American relations are often so rocky. Some have argued it is friction between the fundamentally Protestant democracy of the anglosphere and the Catholic rooted culture of France and much of the rest of Europe.

For information on the long relationship between the United States and France see:

See also: Anti-Americanism

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