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Enough International Gratitude to Go Around

March 01, 2003

In the controversy about what my country owes to the United States, I would like to speak for France. I do not mean to say that the French have no debt toward the U.S. Without the landing of American troops in Normandy, plus the even more massive intervention of the Russian army in Eastern Europe, our "liberation" would not have been possible. Anyone who has visited Omaha Beach and the American cemetery nearby, and has cried there, knows that.

Yes, we do have a debt. But it does not ensue that we ought to blindly and forever applaud whatever the U.S. government decides. Gratitude is no synonym for automatic conformity or subservience. To disagree on an issue, however important, is neither to betray nor to act ungratefully. To which I will add that, without the political, diplomatic, financial, military and naval assistance of the French during the War of Independence, the U.S. might still be a British possession or protectorate. It should, in particular, be remembered that at the final and decisive battle of Yorktown, Va., there were more French than American troops. In the allied forces besieging the British army and Gen. Charles Cornwallis, there were 10,000 American soldiers, 9,000 French infantrymen and several thousand French soldiers and sailors aboard the French fleet then blocking the Chesapeake Bay in order to prevent the British naval forces from approaching the scene of battle.

It is a good thing to appeal to the past when debating the current political and strategic differences between our two countries, but the issue of gratitude should certainly not be resorted to as a one-way argument.

Bernard Vincent

Professor Emeritus

of American History

University of Orleans

Paris

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To all those planning to boycott French imports: Will you be returning the Statue of Liberty anytime soon?

Neil Fletcher

Santa Monica

*

Re Michael Ramirez's cartoon on how "The French Deploy Troops" to guard Iraqi oil contracts (Commentary, Feb. 25): Would the U.S. be going to war if those contracts were with American companies instead of French companies? Maybe Saddam Hussein's best defense would be to transfer these contracts to Exxon and Chevron as the Saudis have done.

Charles Finch

Huntington Beach

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