Sarkozy Updates Armistice Day
Nicolas Sarkozy never misses an opportunity to kick his country in the teeth. Now that all the poilus (WWI vets) are gone he is free to turn the November 11 memorial into some kind of pro-desertion festival. An article in Le Figaro starts with a rundown of illustrious guests: Charles and Camilla, the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, the president of the German Bundesrat Peter Müller, the president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, and the president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering.
Then the heart of the matter:
Nicolas Sarkozy paid homage to all the combatants in the conflict, and took a step towards the exoneration of the mutineers of 1917, those soldiers executed for refusing to go to the front.
"I will think of these men of whom too much had been asked, who had been too exposed, who had been sent to be slaughtered through errors of the commanders, who no longer had the strength to fight," proclaimed the president. And then denounced "this total war" that "left no place for mercy or weakness."
"But 90 years after the end of the war, I want to say on behalf of our Nation that many of those executed had not dishonored themselves, had not been cowards, but had quite simply found themselves at the extreme limits of their strength. Let us remember that they were men just as we are, with their strengths and their weaknesses," continued Sarkozy.
"Let us remember that they could have been our children. Let us remember that they too were victims of a fate that devoured so many men who were not prepared for such an ordeal."
Note: The question is not whether we should trample on the memory of these men, who may well have been too weak to fight. The issue is the appropriateness of honoring them on November 11.
Earlier, Nicolas Sarkozy had broken with another custom, that of lighting the flame at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. Instead he placed a wreath at the foot of the statue of Georges Clémenceau, on the Champs-Elysées. (...)
So Sarkozy, having denounced the "total war", places a wreath in honor of the man who supported "total war" wholeheartedly, and breaks with a long-established tradition.
“We present ourselves before you with the single thought of total war”. (Clémenceau)
French conservative bloggers are critical of Sarkozy's positions. Here are some thoughts from Le Conservateur:
We mustn't go too far... That we acknowledge that the deserters of WWI benefit from extenuating circumstances is one thing. Because the conditions were atrocious. Because the command was often unaware, incompetent or frankly inhuman. Because the soldiers were often considered as mere "human material", in the famous words of the German Crown Prince, words that perfectly match the philosophy of the Republic, according to which people are purely and simply the property of the State (which brings to mind the words of a torturer in 1789: "these men have been eradicated from the book of the Republic").
But to turn into heros people who abandoned their comrades, dumped their brothers in arms, and placed the lives of those who were subjected to the same conditions in jeopardy! This is quite a reversal of values. As for watching the French Republic that sacrificed millions of men on the altar of respect for the law applaud once again, in the person of Nicolas Sarkozy, those who question the authority of the State - what a delicious and atrocious irony. The Republic certainly is not what it used to be...
Note: I realize that many readers are completely against the Republic, and long for a restoration of the monarchy. But Le Conservateur has a point: as bad as the Republic has been in decades past, Sarkozy has taken things to a new dimension of what can only be called Machivellian intent, where any degree of self-loathing, self-reproach, reversal of values, where any degree of brain-washing and re-programming of the minds of Frenchmen, become valid means to achieve the end he has in his sights: France métissée, France without a heritage, France that has broken completely with her past.
Le Conservateur says in a subsequent post:
It has become systematic. Not an event, not a commemoration, that is not in the service of Official Thought. I don't doubt that in most districts of France, the commemoration was a routine affair, with its parade of kids, its off-key national anthem, before a crowd of indifferent retirees and passers-by concerned only about finding a bakery still open.
But the media's treatment (...) showed a very different November 11. The insignificant poilu is told to put his old rags back on and go back to his boneyard, without breaking anything. Now it is time to make room for the "modern" ones, those who were executed for example, or "black power" (an obsession of France 3 TV), etc...
As icing on the cake, Nicolas Sarkozy used the occasion to remind us of the need to "fight extremism." I rather thought that WWI derived from the obsession of the Republic to confirm its legitimacy by any and all means, by focusing attention on a common enemy, Germany. A legitimacy that it constructed in violence, cleansing, cultural vandalism, and the persecution of practicing Catholics serving as public servants.
Note: He is referring to the period between between 1890 and 1914 (approx.) when Catholics were subjected to ostracism and exile. It became especially severe in the wake of the Dreyfus Affair, for which the secular Republic held Catholics largely responsible. It was the Dreyfus Affair too that afforded the Left an opportunity to pass the 1905 law on separation of Church and State. The following is from a webpage devoted to this period:
- The persecution of the Catholic Church:
In 1901 each religious order had to apply for legal authorisation and no member of an unauthorised order was allowed teach (Waldeck-Rousseau government). The Assumptionist Order was dissolved. The elections of 1902 saw a victory for the anti-clerical coalition.
The new administration of Emil Combes applied the 1901 law ruthlessly and religious orders found it very difficult to gain legal authorisation. 81 congregations of women and 54 of men were dissolved. By 1903 over 14,000 schools run by unauthorised orders were closed.
In 1904 members of religious orders were forbidden to teach. Almost all religious orders were banned. Their property was sold often at well below its real value.
Between 30,000 and 60,000 priests and nuns were exiled. Some went to Ireland, Britain, Italy, Spain and Canada. Catholics regarded this period as one of intense persecution. The rest of Europe was appalled at what it saw as French extremism. The same year France withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican after a papal protest against the visit of the president of France to his Italian counterpart.
By the time WWI broke out Catholics had been effectively removed from all major government positions. Clémenceau himself had helped push through the 1905 law.