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Rosenblum writes: "The old saw, monkey-see-monkey-do, is hard to avoid as Donald Trump plans to ape France's Bastille Day parade. He misconstrues that Gallic clash of cymbals, showing a worried world what sort of chest-thumping primate now occupies the White House."

Tanks rumble down the Champs Elysee avenue during the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris. (photo: Reuters)
Tanks rumble down the Champs Elysee avenue during the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris. (photo: Reuters)


“Bastille” Is Not French for Bullshit

By Mort Rosenblum, Mort Report

10 February 18

 

he old saw, monkey-see-monkey-do, is hard to avoid as Donald Trump plans to ape France’s Bastille Day parade. He misconstrues that Gallic clash of cymbals, showing a worried world what sort of chest-thumping primate now occupies the White House.

July 14, 1789, was when peasants with pitchforks -- the 99 percent -- stuck it to a greedy ruling class. The modern parade celebrates 1945 when allies helped France drive off a despot who thought not cheering at his speeches was treason.

“We have to try and do better,” Trump told aides, seeking a personal not-cheap thrill and totally missing the point. America hardly needs to flaunt armed forces that cost $642.9 billion in 2017, equal to the next 13 countries’ budgets, and will increase by $54 billion.

Spines tingle each year in Paris at the opening flourish: Three jets swoop low and close over the Champs-Elysées trailing blue, white and red smoke. Tanks chew up pavement, and missiles roll by. But hardware is not the point.

Crowds love gendarmes in red-plumed gleaming silver helmets on spirited horses in syncopated step: a Republican Guard that protects democrats. They cheer as Foreign Legion Pioneers, in beards and buffalo leather aprons, stride past armed only with polished axes.

Trump is no Hitler, but his laughably transparent Big Lie convinces a substantial hardcore. Few who profit from his exclusionary policies are fooled, just silent. He is not about Fatherland über alles, only his gargantuan ego. Think Mussolini. And imagine if Il Duce had had that big red button on his desk.

With three million dead over the last century, the French don’t use the word war unless they mean it. Having seen what can happen when deluded demagogues crave power, they take their freedoms, and elections, seriously.

France learned its Vietnam lesson in 1954: old cultures reject colonizers and saviors with shopping lists. During the Soviet Evil Empire days, it was allied with NATO but refused to have its political decisions made in Washington.

After Mikhail Gorbachev gave the crumbling Iron Curtain a final push, France resisted Europe’s trend to leave defense to America. It spent what it had to, without costly overkill or needless bases that got legislators elected.

Today, France has enough nukes to ruin anyone’s day. Lumbering Transalls that fly past on Bastille Day are no match for the U.S. C-5M Super Galaxy (or Russia’s larger Russian Antonov Condor), but they get the job done.

No one will win a world war involving China or Russia. The immediate risk is North Korea, but the only military deaths so far have been aboard U.S. Navy ships colliding with each other, signaling incompetence to Kim Jong-un.

And the stunning North-South Korea opening to the Winter Olympics suggest that Kim might emerge as the bigger man.

Wars, these days, are “unconventional,” with few front lines. Bombing usually makes them worse. They need well-trained highly mobile commandos backed at home by statesmen and seasoned diplomats to defuse casus belli.

I’ve covered France in action since my West African days in the 1960s. In 2003, I found a squad of French troops in Cote d’Ivoire in soft berets and no flak vests, calmly smoking in full view of rebel snipers in the hills above.

“What are you, nuts?” I asked one. He laughed. “They know what we’ve got for them if they piss us off.” True enough. For decades, a few well-placed bases cut short coups and protected civilians across much of Africa.

When Islamist zealots fled Libya south into Mali in 2013, several hundred elite troops ran them out of Timbuktu, chased them into Niger, and scattered them into the desert. Der Spiegel Online wrote:

“In a single stroke, it transformed the international community's image of French President François Hollande from that of a president perceived by many to be a ditherer to one who has become a decisive military leader.”

Hollande dithered but not about defense. When Bashar al-Assad crossed Barack Obama’s red line, using chemical weapons on civilians, he had jets revving up on the runway. But the United States and Britain wimped out, and NATO stood down.

Since the 1980s, Americans have become obsessed with the doctrine of overwhelming force. And troops are trained, above all, to protect their own. All else, such as the people they are meant to protect, is secondary.

In theory, that’s fine. Of course, armies should avoid casualties. In practice, it gets tricky. One example among many makes the point.

After reporting in Kosovo in 1999, I asked a French officer for a ride to Marseille from the NATO base in Tirana, Albania. “No problem,” he said, adding with a laugh, “if you can get past the Americans guarding the gate.”

Sure enough, I showed a puffed-up U.S. corporal my Pentagon press credentials and pointed to the French plane barely 100 meters away. “Not possible, sir,” he said. The American flag on that tiny strip meant it was his turf. I tried some friendly GI banter. He gave me that 1,000-mile stare of a man who holds the Free World’s fate in his hands. I cajoled. He stared.

After half an hour, the Transall’s props began to turn. I made a run for it, hoping not to get shot in the back by a bullet bought with my taxes.

I thought of this dichotomy watching the Super Bowl. After the teary extravaganza of national hymns, gladiators in heavy gear tried to send each other off the field in stretchers. It is the reverse of football elsewhere, soccer, which avoids contact, played in shorts and jersey with no need for armor.

It was a great game, with a thrilling finish. But it was a game, with few lasting consequences beyond hangovers in Philadelphia. If more Americans spent a tenth of the time learning global realities as we do sports minutia, we could elect leaders worthy of us. In our democracy, whoever wins is everyone’s president, even if he, or she, doesn’t act like it.

Rather than the parade, Trump might have reflected on the Paris accords, essential to the survival of a planet, which he imperils by encouraging more fossil-fuel pollution. He could have noticed desperate refugee hordes, who if ignored risk turning to the terrorism he sees as his greatest challenge.

Consider: A president sworn to protect America attempts to squelch inquiry into Russian election meddling. With hypocritical reference to national security, he stonewalls the Democrats’ response to a Republican whitewash.

The real Donald Trump should be a surprise to no one. Take, for example, his demand in 2012 to see Obama’s passport records and college transcripts. Bill Maher then offered $5 million to charity if anyone could show proof that Trump was not “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.”

Trump sued Maher for breach of contract. He wanted the $5 million because his lawyers provided a birth certificate saying his father was, in fact, a bona fide human. He eventually dropped the suit.

It is safe to assume that Trump is not an orangutan. But with his thin skin, his failure to grasp basic democratic principles or his responsibility to a wider world he puts in peril, neither is he a president.


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+27 # Realist1948 2018-02-10 14:47
The biggest military parade Trump could feasibly have would only show a tiny fraction of our defense assets. Most Americans interested in seeing the parade would watch it on television.

So instead of a parade, how about conducting a thorough audit of our military? Take inventory of our military hardware, and post pictures of these weapons on whitehouse.gov. Then anyone who wants to see tanks, airplanes, ships etc. can look at them there. Not only could this show the true power of our military, it also might turn up a few billion dollars that have been "misplaced" in recent years. Spend the money on an audit/inventory , not a meaningless parade.
 
 
+14 # elizabethblock 2018-02-10 23:36
And list ALL the American military bases, all over the world. (And what they cost.) Chalmers Johnson said no one knew how many there were, and that Americans had no idea where they were - though the people on whose territories they were placed knew very well.
 
 
+7 # GreenBee 2018-02-11 16:03
In the late 1990's several Senators stated to push for a serious and thorough audit of the Pentagon to find out why so much money was unaccounted for.The day before 9/11 them Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld held a press conference stating he was going to begin such an investigation. According to many 9/11 conspiracy theorists, on 9/11 the accounting department of the Pentagon was destroyed as well as one of the smaller buildings at the WTC where the back-up accounting records were kept making such an investigation impossible. Perhaps such an audit can never happen, or will never be allowed to happen.I haven't heard any Senators screaming for such an audit since.
 
 
+19 # boredlion 2018-02-10 15:42
Trumpot should just move to North Korea, where they revel in military parades and displays as much as he does. That way, North Korea could pay for his infantile and bellicose pleasures.
 
 
+21 # angelfish 2018-02-10 16:32
Howevwer Trump just MIGHT be! H a child who is THRILLED at the thought of a Parade, REGARDLESS of the Cost of such a Farce! We are Americans and have NO need of gaudy displays of Power ala Russia and China! At least the French are celebrating something worthy in their History. I don't see HOW the Moron in our White House can Justify spending MILLIONS for a Spectacle that will rip up the Streets, engage Thousands of Millitary Personnel while Homeless Veterans go Hungry as well as ALL the Victims of the past Year's Natural Disasters. Trump is an UN-natural Disaster that was given to us by the Russians and Numerous Traitors in our Government. Their work continues to aid and abet him! Rebel, Resist and RePudiate them ALL until the FULL weight of Special Prosecutor Mueller's Investigation either vindicates him (Hardly likely considering ALL the evidence that has been discovered) OR, Convicts him and his Minions! God Bless and SAVE the United States of America from ALL who would try and Destroy her!
 
 
+15 # economagic 2018-02-10 16:46
Thanks for the clarification regarding the origin of the Bastille Day parade. I expressed concern about that a few days ago in these very pages, as I had never heard of that custom. I'm an early boomer, and the end of "The War" was not eve IN the history books until I was in college, maybe not before I was out.

Good work Mort--important history that even most well-educated USians are only dimly aware of, from one who has been there.
 
 
+5 # AldoJay69 2018-02-10 17:00
You wasted entirely too much ink on this man-child dimwit..
 
 
+17 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-02-10 17:13
'It is safe to assume that Trump is not an orang-utan.'

Well, somewhat safe.
 
 
+7 # Salus Populi 2018-02-10 18:17
It gets old, and wearying, to have to correct the bloviating "journalists" who constantly parrot the Official Story when it comes to foreign policy.

No, Bashar Assad did not "cross the 'red line'" that Obomber proclaimed in defiance of international agreements -- which require the UN, not the rogue U.S., to enforce chemical weapons bans; and it was not that the "UK wimped out"; it was that there was ample suspicion outside BrainWashington 's Official Circles, that in fact it was Bashar who carried out the attack.

In fact, the New York Times itself carried an article that showed it was impossible for the Syrian government, whose missiles had a two- or three-mile range, to have sailed the nine miles between the nearest government outpost and rebel-held territory. Although the Cold War relics in the State Department, which used to be known, appropriately, as Foggy Bottom, still insist that it was the government, the consensus outside the propagandists' nest is that it was a rebel attack, a false flag that killed a few hundred supporters in hope of triggering a response that would make the U.S. Air Force the protector of their aggression.

It would have worked, too, had not the Republican Congress balked, and Joe Biden not unwittingly given an opening to President Putin, the only politician in the whole sorry spectacle who behaved like a statesman, to persuade his ally to give up his supply of chemical weapons, which act was certified by UN inspectors.
 
 
+3 # mortrosenblum 2018-02-10 21:36
I don't usually respond to guesswork at a distance that "corrects" us bloviating journalists, who actually cover stories, but... Le Monde reporters at the scene produced rock-solid evidence, including chemical samples smuggled out of Syria, that Assad had used banned agents on civilians. United Nations officials confirmed it, but the UN has no troops. NATO does. David Cameron agreed to take military action, but Ed Miliband, the Labor leader, argued against it. I watched the debate in Parliament. Obama then referred his decision to Congress, and... As reported, Hollande was ready to go but, quite literally, had to cool his jets. Putin was not exactly an honest broker statesman. He stepped in to support Assad, his old-time ally and client, against fragmented resistance. You've seen the result.
 
 
+9 # futhark 2018-02-10 20:41
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has a recently published opinion entitle "Trump doesn't need a Parade. He needs a Roman Triumph". Not mentioned in the article is the best part of emulating the Romans in this regard: the person being celebrated (here, Mr. Trump) was required to bear the burden of the expense.
 
 
+9 # ahollman 2018-02-10 23:35
If Trump wants a military parade, let him go to Pyongyang. Little Rocket Man puts on a really good one.

It has long been noted that there is a clear parallel between displaying one's army's missiles in public and waving one's personal wanker around. Now that the #metoo movement has prohibited the latter, let's not allow the former either.
 
 
+8 # elkingo 2018-02-11 00:14
Maybe we need a Bastille Day to overthrow the super-rich ruling pigs here. Wouldn't democracy be nice in America?
 
 
+10 # janie1893 2018-02-11 00:50
Bastille Day parade is to remind the French of their history and what they have learned.
Trump wants a parade to show the world the size of his Button.
 
 
+1 # DickC 2018-02-14 00:29
Trump derides Kim Jung Un, then tries to emulate Kim by wasting precious tax payer money on an egotistical display of Trump's supposed 'power'. Isn't clear by now that the idiots inhabiting the United States of America don't give a rat's ass about anything beyond their beers, TV and pussy.
 

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