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July 18, 2004 - Allons enfants de la patrie!

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July 14, 2004, as it happened -


From our correspondent on the ground in Paris, Ric Erickson of MetropolePairs -


Bonjour Alan –

The weather cleared up for the Bastille Day parade in Paris, and we are having a fine afternoon.  It should be nearly perfect for the fireworks at the Tour Eiffel tonight.  Many short-term prisoners will receive presidential grace today, and many people involved with non-profit associations will be the guests of honor at the garden party at the Elysée Palace, hosted this afternoon by Jacques Chirac.

Photo of French army tank taken just after noon near the Mairie of the 14th arrondissement.  The tank is one of four military vehicles on display, meant to excite Paris' youth into joining the armed forces.  Not shown - army scout car - this looks like off-road armored hotrod, meant for swift reconnaissance missions in the badlands.  Very much racier-looking than a Hummer, it seats only two.  Rear filled with radios, etc.


The tank:

Actual size...

Ric also sends his summary of the gist of the Radio FIP news at 14h50 (the mid-afternoon newscast) -


France's military always plays the major role in the Bastille Day parade, but this year there is more emphasis on the military than usual.  The French armed forces are deployed overseas in several areas from Europe to Africa to Asia, including having two distinct units in Afghanistan.  The Minister of Finance is subjecting the armed forces to budget pressure, against the wishes of the chief of state and his Minister of Defense, Michele Alliot-Marie.  Last weekend she inspected commando troops training in Djibouti, for deployment in the Gulf area and Afghanistan.

France's military is traditionally treated to picnics by Parisians after the morning Bastille Day parade.  This year the 4000-odd troops and their material have a presence in each of Paris' 20 arrondissements, for an afternoon of fraternization with the populace and a bit of PR designed to incite volunteers.  Conscription ended several years ago.  The armed forces are actively seeking new recruits, a task made somewhat easier because of France's commitments to some of the world's hot spots.  The troops get to shoot; and get shot at.  The finance minister wants to slash the military budget by a billion euros.


No need to get into the details of the politics for American readers – Chirac and his Minister of Finance, Nicolas Sarkozy, in a tussle just who will be the leader of the UMP party. And what do you really want to know about the hyper-ambitious French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin? Will Sarkozy lead France in 2007 or not? Ah, best to worry about things here.

But a word on Michele Alliot-Marie. Now we have that most manly of men, Rumsfeld, running our Defense Department. The French Defense Minister, as you see, is… a WOMAN! Michele Alliot-Marie - and she’s a LAWYER! (barrister), with a doctorate in law, and is a senior lecturer at one of the Universities in Paris (Paris-I) - and she has a master's degree in ETHNOLOGY! So very “Old Europe….”

Rumsfeld, of course, could beat the snot out of her with one hand tied behind his back.

What is it with these people? Our two cultures are so very different.

In a recent email to me Ric commented:


Madame le ministre Michele Alliot-Marie was on France-2 TV news the other night, shown 'inspecting' the French spooks training at Djibouti.  The most remarkable aspect of the video clip was showing Madame le Ministre being obviously over-hot, sweating, hair a bit untidy, shirt open at the neck - she looked like a human being in a very hot place.  The commandos, in contrast, were bundled up like bears - wearing ski-masks. Must be a rough bunch.

Madame le ministre Michele Alliot-Marie has another distinction.  Until moving into her ministerial job she was the head of Chirac's UMP party.  This is the job Sarkozy is trying to get; while staying Minister of Finance, Budget (cash-flow).  She is in a clinch with Sarkozy over the defense budget at the moment.  He wants to slash it by a billion euros, while Jacques and Michele want to keep playing with the big guys.


Got it? She’s no wimp.

If you would like to see video clips of the Bastille Day parade click here - TF1 Le journal télévisé - Mercredi 14 juillet 2004 - and go to the 13h00 (1:00 pm CET) news broadcast.

A beautiful day and great shots! And the parade was lead this year by… British Redcoats!

See British Troops Lead France's Bastille Day Parade for First Time
Voice of America (VOA) News, 14 Jul 2004, 12:13 UTC


British troops have led France's annual Bastille Day parade for the first time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale, a treaty which ended centuries of hostility between the two countries.

Thousands lined Paris' major boulevard, the Champs-Elysées, to witness the Wednesday parade led by members of British Queen Elizabeth's royal guard and participate in Bastille Day festivities.



Note that on the first Bastille Day parade after 9/11 along with some fire engines from New York City, these guys from West Point led the parade – when we were still friends.

Actual size..



See U.S.-French rift doesn't detract from visit to City of Light
Americans celebrate Bastille Day in Paris
MSNBC, Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Excerpts of interviews – the first on choosing even to visit France:


“I think it’s a reasonable expression of goodwill,” said psychiatrist Randy Buzan, as he stood in line this week to visit the Eiffel Tower and discussed his decision to visit France.

“I don’t hold the French personally accountable, and as it turns out, they were right,” the Denver resident said, referring to French insistence that Saddam Hussein was not developing new weapons of mass destruction.

“In the beginning I thought the Bush administration was probably providing accurate information and in that case I thought the French were not being particularly generous," said Buzan.

"But, as it turns out, our government was lying, and therefore it seems to be that the French were correct all along, and we probably owe the world an apology,” he said.


Don’t hold your breath, Randy. We don’t do apologies any longer.

Then, on the other hand, this -


… some expatriates living in France said they never supported the U.S.-led war and feel more at home living among like-minded people.

“I’m happy to be here and not in America,” said Thor Manetta, 17, and studying at the American School in Paris.

“I feel really welcomed by everybody that I meet, and when I tell them I don’t like Bush, they welcome me even more,” he said.

Andrew Cantell, Manetta’s friend from his hometown of Bolinas, Calif., agreed, saying, “The American people are different from American politics — you have to say that kind’ve stuff.”

The two students will be watching the Bastille Day firework display with their Parisian friends at Parc du Champs de Mars, which looks onto the Eiffel Tower.

… Jeff Keacher, a recent college graduate enjoying his second visit to France this year, said, “I think it’s unfortunate we have such a rift because it seems the people, not the government, but the people, have a really good friendship.”


As Ann Coulter would say, these guy are obviously traitors who hate America. But maybe they’re there for the cheese.

MSNBC also give you a middle to the extremes -


“Everyone here has been really welcoming to us,” said his friend, Paul Webb, also a recent graduate. “We haven’t gotten any anti-American hatred anywhere we’ve gone on our trip,” he added.

The 22-year-old Minnesotans declined to give their opinions on the Iraq war, but said they had to respect France’s decision.

“I noticed in the Luxembourg Gardens they have a picture series that focuses a lot on the American help during World War II -- I think they’re trying to mend the rift in some ways,” said Keacher.


Trying to mend the rift?  I don’t think so.  They’re just covering historic events with the current Luxembourg display.  WWII was when we arrived, a bit late but we arrived, and did help out.

But these guys, on the Iraq business, say they had to respect France’s decision.  Oh, did they have to?

Geez, respecting the opinions of others is so… French?  No.  We claim we to do that too – and have a nifty constitution to encourage freedom of speech and diverse opinion and all the rest of the 1789 sort of thing.  And as much as the current administration works on eliminating provisions of that constitution for our safety in these difficult times, we still have that constitution, for now.

No need to move to France, yet.

But for a light-hearted look at Bastille Day do click on this, a good primer on Bastille Day with clever links –
Bastille Day
Gwladys Fouché, The Guardian (UK), Wednesday July 14, 2004

And for Ric’s compendium of Bastille Day events see To the Bal Citizens! - over at MetropoleParis.

He lists everything that happens, including the details of the parade, and events the evening before – the Firemen’s Bals at each location (along with what sort of music your hear).

This evening?


The Ville de Paris is promising an 'original' fireworks spectacular this year, accompanied with real–time music from an orchestra with 85 musicians rather than the usual electronic razzle–dazzle.  The time for this is 22:30, and the Place is the huge Champ de Mars.  No Métros are really close, so everybody gets to walk.

The musicians will be in a tent directly underneath the tower, to play 'Un grand bouquet blanc,' composed by Etienne Perruchon.  Other stars include the pianist François–René Duchâble, accompanied by the Orchestre des Lauréats du Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, directed by Laurent Petitgirard.

The show should last until 11:00 or 11:10.  Fireworks will be launched from Trocadéro, the Pont d'Iéna and the bushes lining the Champ de Mars.  When it's over everybody will try and leave at once.  This means up to 350,000 people may be trying to get on Métros at the closest stations.

You either have to leave early, or should be prepared to wait at least a half hour.  Be relaxed about this because the Métro will carry everybody away given enough time.  Bonne fête!


No fireworks here in Hollywood. Drat.

Late update from Rick in Paris just back from the fireworks


Here is the champagne cork from the Champ de Mars tonight.

Forty minutes before blast-off the Champ was full.  It seemed as if ten thousand people per minute continued to arrive right up until the cork blew.  Everybody rushed to the exit thirty seconds after it finished. Some are probably still walking home.  It's warm enough for it, for a change.  Crowd estimate - quarter-million-plus.



Actual size...

And this from me...

Click for full image...


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Paris readers add nine hours....