The Bastille Day festivities apparently went off very well, thanks to beautiful weather, the presence of Ingrid Betancourt who received the Legion of Honor, flawless performances by the parachutists, and reassurances from both the Joint Chief of Staff and the government that the rift between Sarkozy and his military had been mended. Here are some of the events and comments that I found of interest:
First, some unpleasant news: 297 cars were torched during the night of July 13-14. This is standard now in France on holidays, and is only news to the hapless owners of those vehicles, possibly not even to them.
On the eve of Bastille Day, Le Figaro announced that the Elysée (the French presidential palace) had declared Damascus innocent of any implication in the attack on the French post known as Drakkar in Lebanon in 1983, an attack that cost 58 French parachutists their lives (and 239 American Marines whose barracks had exploded three minutes earlier). The Elysée claimed it was correcting an "historical error", and named Iran and Hezbollah as the guilty parties.
However, this did not go down well with Jean-Luc Hemar, president of the Association of Veterans of Idron Camp: "We sense a malaise. The shadow of Drakkar will hover over the July 14 celebration. Yes, we must turn a page, but it isn't easy. It's too soon. For our comrades who died there, we cannot say that all is well."
The graduates of the Military School of Coëtquidan, who had adopted Lieutenant Antoine de la Batie, one of those killed at Drakkar, as their symbol, were to parade before the Syrian president. Independent candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan remarked:
Out of pure show-biz megalomania President Sarkozy decided to organize a meeting, on July 14, between the 27 leaders of the EU and those of the Mediterranean Basin. It would have been preferable not to mix everything. It's fine for a headline in Paris-Match; unfortunately it is stained with blood.
How can we accept the fact that, before the box of dignitaries at Place de la Concorde, the French Army had to salute the president of a country – Syria – implicated in the terrible attack on Drakkar in 1983. We are in some way asking the victims to submit to their executioner.
Le Salon Beige posted some excerpts from remarks by Ségolène Royal:
"I denounce the intolerable ordeal inflicted on all French people and the armed forces of our Republic, forced to parade before the inadmissible presence of Bashar al-Assad [...] After the visit by Qadhafi, another dictator is restored to international credibility without anything given in return: no regret over the French soldiers killed at Drakkar, no international Tribunal for the assassination of Rafic Hariri, nor recognition of the sovereignty of Lebanon.
LSB's readers lambast her hypocrisy while sharing her sentiments.
An article at 24 Heures gives this account of the "malaise":
Seated in the open military vehicle as it descended the Champs-Elysées, Nicolas Sarkozy was able to measure his unpopularity Monday morning. While he passed his troops in review, before the traditional July 14 parade, an icy silence froze the Parisian crowds, who until that point, had been quite festive. A few boos, several hisses. No applause, at least not where we were. The French president did not delay in rejoining his guests: the 30 heads of State of the new Union for the Mediterranean, seated on the official platform at Place de la Concorde.
This traditional parade of armies gave Nicolas Sarkozy an opportunity to win back his military, whose discontent has broken through their obligatory reserve. The president ventured to issue a communiqué in which he lavished his praise on the uniformed men: "I assure you of all my esteem and my friendship and reiterate my trust in you" [...] These attempts to make amends were urgently needed due to the many tensions of the past weeks. The split between the president and his military is in fact due to an accumulation of factors: the parade before Bashar al-Assad, the elimination of 54,000 positions causing many towns to lose their bases and barracks and to find their populations drastically reduced, the "Surcouf" Affair, when high-ranking officers criticized the president's new defense strategy, the accident at Carcassonne that prompted Sarkozy to insult his officers, triggering the resignation of General Cuche, and the opposing value systems.
This last point is probably the main area of discord. Hedonism, individualism, passion for novelty, attraction to money, are part of the image conveyed of the French president. For him it is difficult to comprehend the military who defend principles that are diametrically the opposite. And they, in turn, do not understand very much about this president who, publicly, insists on his "right to happiness" while they have agreed to sacrifice their lives. It will take more than fine words to close this gap.
(The article from 24 Heures is no longer online.)