Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Tue Nov 21st, 2006 at 09:08:31 AM EST
Norwegian Chef asked some tough questions in a diary about Ségolène Royal's attitude to the appallingly stupid, murderous attack on the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior carried out by French Special Ops (Dirty Tricks) in 1985, and in which her brother Gérard Royal was involved as a frogman (need I say sic?). It seems clear from what Norwegian Chef says that there is considerable ill-feeling in the southern hemisphere in general, not just (understandably) about the attack, but because Ségolène Royal is perceived as
- having been involved in the attack at the time, since she was then working at the Elysée Palace and because her brother was on active duty in the attack;
- having pretty much flipped off complaints or requests for information.
Let me say this is not a knee-jerk defend-Ségolène response on my part, but I was surprised by Norwegian Chef's vehemence and the somewhat distorted view it revealed. See the comments in that diary for a discussion of some of the points at issue. Norwegian Chef pointed out the apparent absence of a clear statement from Royal. It seemed to me she had been fairly clear, so I did some checking and found she'd gone into the question in some detail on 4th October on the Evening News on TF1, France's biggest TV channel. (Video here (in French)).
Below the fold, my full transcript and translation of that interview.
As I pointed out to Norwegian Chef, the 8 pm news on TF1 is the top exposure slot in French politics, so this was a high-profile announcement. Royal is interviewed by Number One newscaster Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (PPDA). PPDA is urbane but practised in the art of courteous curveballs and politely-dropped banana skins. He works for a channel that is run by conservatives and owned by Martin Bouygues, close friend of Nicolas Sarkozy. Royal is therefore here in Sarkozyland.
Before getting on to the subject of the Rainbow Warrior (from about 32:30 mins in the video), PPDA starts a chapter on the trip-ups and low blows of the campaign. How does she manage, will she be strong enough to face them down (subtext, she a weak woman)? He quotes former Education Minister [and patented idiot, note by afew] Claude Allègre, who declared she didn't have what it took to be a president. On which Royal calmly takes the high road and says it's up to the French people to decide if she's got what it takes. Then PPDA chucks out the next banana skin:
|PPDA: Do you situate among these personal attacks the polemic that arose from your brother Antoine's account about your other brother Gérard who, according to him, placed the bomb that killed in the Rainbow Warrior affair?||PPDA: Est-ce que vous mettez au niveau de ces attaques personnelles la polémique qui est né de la relation de votre frère Antoine concernant votre autre frère Gérard qui selon lui aurait posé la bombe qui aurait tué dans l'affaire du Rainbow Warrior?|
|Royal: It's true I was astonished by the new outbreak, or the re-appearance of this piece of information, this polemic... I have a brother who, twenty years ago, was a soldier, a frogman, whom I admire a lot, who was in fact involved in a detestable act, but he had received orders to do it... and today... fortunately the nuclear tests have stopped...|
PPDA (interrupts): But did he speak to you about it at the time?
Royal (continues): in spite of... evidently, unfortunately, someone died...
(answers question) No, no, of course not, because in the departments involved, secrets are kept. It's a major public service that has rules, and those rules were abided by.
|Royal: C'est vrai que j'étais étonnée par la recrudescence ou de la ressortie de cette information, cette polémique... J'ai un frère qui, il y a 20 ans, était un soldat, un nageur de combat, pour lequel j'ai beaucoup d'admiration, qui a été en effet engagé dans une action détestable, mais il avait reçu des ordres pour cela... et aujourd'hui... heureusement que les essais nucléaires sont arrêtés ...|
PPDA (interrompant Royal): mais il vous en a parlé sur le moment?
Royal (poursuit): malgré que manifestement, malheureusement il y a eu mort d'homme...
(répond à la question): Non non bien sûr parce que dans les services concernés , on garde le secret. C'est un grand service public avec des règles et ces règles ont été respectées...
|PPDA (interrupts): And afterwards, did he tell you about it?|
Royal (continues): The irony of the story [or of history, translator's note] is that I was in favour of Greenpeace's campaign against the nuclear tests, and, what's more, history has shown they were right. So there are sometimes, when the State misfunctions, disproportionate orders, and when these orders end up involving a person's death, and putting soldiers in danger, it is in fact entirely regrettable, and it mustn't happen again in the future.
|PPDA (interrompant Royal): Et après il vous en avait parlé?|
Royal (poursuit): L'ironie de l'histoire c'est que j'étais favorable à l'action de Greenpeace contre les essais nucléaires et d'ailleurs l'histoire leur a donné raison. Et donc il y a parfois, quand l'Etat fonctionne mal, des ordres disproportionnés, et lorsque ces ordres aboutissent à mort d'homme et à mettre des soldats en danger, c'est tout à fait en effet regrettable, et il ne faudra pas que ça se reproduise.
|PPDA: And he never told you anything about his assignment... He never told you what he did?|
Royal: No, because he stood by the rules of his (military) service.
|PPDA: Et il ne vous a jamais rien confié sur sa mission -- il ne vous a jamais dit ce qu'il a fait?|
Royal: Non parce qu'il respectait les lois de son service.
|PPDA: And is that the reason for which you turned down a trip to the South Pacific, precisely to protest against those nuclear tests?|
Royal: Ah no, not at all. That too belongs to the...
PPDA: A legend? [meaning false story, translator's note]
Royal: A legend. There are plenty of legends, you know, in electoral campaigns. So you have to, at one and the same time, keep a sense of humour but also set the record straight.
|PPDA : Et est-ce la raison pour laquelle vous avez renoncé à un voyage dans la Pacifique Sud, justement pour protester contre ces essais nucléaires?|
Royal : Ah non, pas du tout. Ca, ça fait partie aussi des... des...
PPDA: D'une légende?
Royal : D'une légende. Il y a beaucoup de légendes, vous savez, dans les campagnes. Donc il faut à la fois garder le sens de l'humour mais savoir aussi rétablir la vérité.
So -- I hope this will be of some use in, precisely, setting the record straight. OK, she still says she admires her brother. I don't think that's unreasonable. She's standing by him personally while saying the policy, the politics, the "statecraft" involved in the Rainbow Warrior episode were all wrong.
This episode seems to me yet again symptomatic of a certain misrepresentation of France -- not necessarily a lack of interest for what goes on there, as Norwegian Chef's comments show -- but cavalier treatment by the English-language media. If something's wrong about France, count on it, it will be prominently discussed. So, it would seem, a lot of people are aware of Royal's brother being involved in the attack. On the other hand, her point of view doesn't seem to have been transmitted.
Does this have anything to do with the international media being English-language dominated, conservative-capitalist owned, and often Murdoch-inspired?
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