YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

A Fine French Whine

May 16, 2003

Novelist Gore Vidal once remarked that a little something dies in him whenever a friend has a big success.

In the aftermath of the war against Iraq, France seems to be suffering the same problem.

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte this week accused Bush administration officials of conducting a disinformation campaign to besmirch his country's reputation. White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan denied the allegation.

Still, could there be something to it? Have the French stumbled onto une grande right-wing conspiracy?

Freedom fries and phrases like "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" are one thing. But a series of newspaper reports is surely driving the last stake into Franco-American relations. Or was that about Spaghetti-Os?

Most recently, on May 6, the Washington Times, relying on an anonymous intelligence source, said France had provided Iraqi leaders with passports.

In November, the Washington Post reported that France possessed prohibited strains of the human smallpox virus. Left unstated, bien sur, was that perhaps some stocks were being kept in reserve for a new, killer cheese whose odor alone would incapacitate American tourists.

Next thing we know, someone halfway up the Pentagon/neocon ladder will be leaking that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are sunning themselves on the Riviera.

The problem is not that Pentagon hawks are ruining France's image, but that it's already as full of holes as good Swiss cheese.

Of course Paris should fight for the rights of French fries. Defend Champagne's honor. Make sure that no one releases a song called "Who Let the Frogs Out?"

But compiling a hit list of media stories and complaining that the administration isn't punishing the culprits? This, monsieur ambassador, doesn't sound like Dirty Harry, but Inspector Clouseau.

Los Angeles Times Articles