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« A New Cold War | Main | Death Of The Dream »

What Have They Done For Us Lately?

As a follow up to my last post, as ammunition for those who think that I'm being too hard on our "allies," I have a question. Has France done anything useful for us, that was of national significance, since 1781?

[Update at 11:26 AM PST]

Before anyone tells me, I mean besides the Statue of Liberty, which was just a symbolic gift.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 16, 2003 11:02 AM
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The Louisiana Purchase, the most stupid real estate deal in history.

On the other hand, I believe France was the first country we fired upon after adopting the Constituion in 1787.

Posted by Richard A. Heddleson at March 16, 2003 02:47 PM

They didn't do that as a favor to us. Napolean needed the money.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 16, 2003 03:00 PM

Recognized the Republic of Texas. Refrained from recognizing the Confederacy. ;)

To be just slightly contrarian, I would point out that the French were considered the best fighters in the world at the beginning of 1940 -- see Churchill's history of WWII. We should be sobered by the effect of a single defeat.

Nor can one read Tuchman's "The Guns of August" without acquiring a profound sense of the sacrifice the French made to stop the German Empire -- just barely -- in the first weeks of WWI.

The problem, of course, is that they don't seem to have learned anything.

Posted by Jay Manifold at March 16, 2003 04:10 PM

But in neither case were they doing that for us, though I suppose in the case of WW II it may have made things a little easier, if only because it helped save the Brits at Dunkerqe.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 16, 2003 04:18 PM

If the standard is doing something for us as a favor, exclude 1781 as well. They only did that to disrupt the British Empire, not as a favor to us.

Posted by Richard A. Heddleson at March 16, 2003 04:23 PM

I didn't mean as a favor. I meant, when did they ever do anything useful for us for any reason since then? I don't consider liberating them in WW II a favor, either, but they benefited nonetheless (well, at least the non-Nazis among them...)

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 16, 2003 04:30 PM

Rand, just to let you know, I've removed your site from my bookmarks. Your recent anti-French tirade had me wondering what I was even doing reading your stuff - what got me here was the space theme, on which I thought you had some interesting ideas - but it's no longer worth the trouble.

What's next after France? Canada? They're half French, and their leaders have been insulting us and our dear president with impunity! They force universal health care on their people! Their corporations and rich people are saddled with oppressive taxes! Their state-sponsored nuclear program tries to export their technology to third-world countries! They even signed on to the ridiculous Kyoto treaty! We need to invade and free their people to form a republic (not a democracy!) modeled on ours!

Yeah right. If I want blind sycophantic war-mongering idiocy I'll know where to turn. In the meantime - goodbye.

Posted by Arthur Smith at March 17, 2003 06:13 AM

Sorry you feel that way Arthur. No, I'm not proposing that we invade Canada, or even France. I'm simply proposing that we stop pretending they're an ally, because they're not, and despite their pious proclamations, they do not have our interests at heart. Their clear goal is to weaken us, so they can become relatively stronger at no cost or effort to themselves.

Posted by Rand Simberg at March 17, 2003 07:15 AM


I'd actually argue that France, at least during the Reagan years, was at least as good an ally as other members of the NATO coalition.

President Mitterand faced down the anti-nuclear pacifists and made it clear that he stood behind the American decision to deploy cruise missiles and Pershing II's to Europe. And while none were going into France, that support helped bolster Schmidt (and, to a lesser extent, Kohl) as well as the Italians, both of whom faced massive anti-nuclear efforts, funded in no small part by the USSR. (By contrast, several of the Low Countries eventually balked, iirc.)

'Course, Mitterand was a very different creature from Chirac, just as Kohl (and Schmidt) are very different from Schroeder. In the older cases, they understood the importance of trans-Atlantic solidarity.

From men to midgets, in but a generation....

Posted by Dean at March 17, 2003 01:14 PM

Not of national significance, but a nice story not many people know. In 1947, private American citizens sent $40m in welcome relief supplies to the war-torn French. In return, in 1949, the French people -- not the government -- started a huge effort to put together a "gratitude train" of gifts for the American people. The gifts filled enough boxcars to send one to every state in the US. Ohio's boxcar is still on display at the Camp Perry National Guard base. You can find the history on the web -- just do a search for "gratitude train".

I'm not sure the posturings of the French goverment really reflect the feelings of the French people.

Posted by Ev at March 18, 2003 03:15 PM

By Kevin Myers
The Daily Telegraph, London
April 21, 2002

As our country honours the last of its four dead soldiers, we reprint a remarkable tribute to Canada's record of quiet valour in wartime that appeared in the Telegraph, one of Britain's largest circulation newspapers.


LONDON - Until the deaths last week of four Canadian soldiers accidentally killed by a U.S. warplane in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops were deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will now bury its dead, just as the rest of the world as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.

It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada's entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as somehow or other the work of the "British." The Second World War rovided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic against U-boat attack.

More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth-largest air force in the world.

The world thanked Canada with the same sublime indifference as it had the previous time. Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United States had clearly not participated -- a touching scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood keep their nationality -- unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British. It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves -- and are unheard by anyone else -- that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces. Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest peacekeepers on Earth -- in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.

Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non- Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia, in which out-of- control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in disgrace -- a uniquely Canadian act of self- abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan?

Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac, Canada repeatedly does honourable things for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains something of a figure of fun.

It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost.

This week, four more grieving Canadian families knew that cost all too tragically well.

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Posted by david at May 13, 2005 02:53 AM

Killing shot made at distance of 2,430 metres
Stephen Thorne
Canadian Press
A world-record killing shot by a Canadian sniper detachment in Afghanistan could never have been made with the ammunition they were issued when they left Edmonton last winter, the triggerman said in a recent interview. The Canadian .50-calibre rounds have a maximum range of between 2,200 and 2,300 metres.

But the U.S. rounds, they discovered, "fly farther, faster," said Cpl. "Bill", a 26-year-old native of Fogo Island, Nfld.

The two-man Canadian team, coupled with American Sgt. Zevon Durham of Greenville, S.C., made the kill from 2,430 metres, or nearly 2 1/2 kilometres, on the second shot.

This feat is the equivalent of standing at the foot of Yonge St. and hitting a target in the intersection of Yonge and Wellesley Sts., just north of College St.

The first shot blew a bag from the hand of their target, an Al Qaeda fighter walking on a road.

"He didn't even flinch," said Bill, who spoke on condition that his real name not be used.

"We made a correction and the next round hit exactly where we wanted it to. Well, a bit to the right."

The kill, one of more than 20 unofficially accredited to Canadian snipers during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan's Shah-i-Kot Valley, beat the 35-year-old record of 2,500 yards, or 2,250 metres, set by U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock in Duc Pho, South Vietnam.

Soldier of Fortune magazine estimated the number of kills made by the Canadians after talking to several U.S. soldiers in Kandahar for a cover story in its August edition.

The snipers themselves will not confirm the figure.

But judging from accounts given by Canadians involved in the first major coalition offensive of the Afghan war, the figure of at least 20 sounds conservative.

The 800-strong 3rd battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is pulling out this month.

They'll first go through a reintegration process on the Pacific island of Guam before heading home to Edmonton.

About 100 British Royal Marines, too, wrapped up their last combat mission in Afghanistan yesterday after four months in Afghanistan.

The five Canadian snipers, outfitted with British desert fatigues and an array of equipment from all over the world, were divided into two detachments that earned the respect of their American brothers-in-arms after helping rescue dozens of paratroopers pinned down by enemy fire.

The five have been nominated for one of the highest awards given by the United States military - the Bronze Star, two of them with Vs for Valour, marking exceptional bravery.

Awarding of the American medal, which was to have been done at a ceremony along with other Anaconda veterans in Kandahar in April, has been delayed by Canadian protocol officials.

But more important to the Canadians are the gestures from their American brethren who - while nearly killing them several times over with "friendly fire" - owe many lives to their shooting skills.

"They trusted us to do our job, without question," said Master Cpl. "James," a 31-year-old native of Kingsville, Ont., who like Cpl. Bill asked that his identity not be revealed.

At one point during a series of battles, one of the Canadians was without his rifle. Enemy bullets were hitting the earth all around. Mortars were dropping in front and behind them, some within 10 metres, bracketing their position and getting closer all the time. "They really hammered us," said Bill. He tried to get to their rifles but couldn't. Finally, an American sniper tossed him his rifle and said: "Here, you know how to use this better than I do."

They held off the enemy until darkness descended and escaped.

"They were instrumental in helping us achieve our goals out there," said 1st Lieut. Justin Overbaugh, 25, of Missoula, Mont., the soldier who recommended Bill and James for Bronze Stars.

"They are professionals; they are very good at what they do; they train hard, they are very mature, they are tactically and technically proficient so when it came time to do business, they were on," he said. "If they told me I was going out right now, I'd be begging, kicking, screaming, crying for them to come with us."

Bill and James said they pulled off several shots from 2,400 metres or more.

"Shots out that far are 60 per cent skill and 40 per cent luck, or vice versa," said Bill. "Usually, it takes two or three rounds, sometimes five. "Normally, a sniper wouldn't take that many shots, but they were out so far we felt confident they couldn't tell where we were."

One morning, the two Canadians were set up overlooking a compound when Al Qaeda fighters started "pouring out of buildings like ants." Bill started shooting while James called in a mortar attack, followed by B-52, F-16 and Apache helicopter strikes.

In a separate incident, Bill and James found themselves looking up at a large dark object screaming out of the sky directly above them - a 220-kilogram American bomb.

"We hit the deck and covered our heads with our hands," said James. The bomb landed 30 metres away, nose in, and never went off.

"By the grace of God, it was a dud," said Bill. "It landed 15 metres from the B company (U.S. 101st Airborne Division) trenches. A guy got up, walked out of the trench and kicked the thing."

Capt. Paul Madej, Operation Enduring Freedom chaplain, who debriefed the Canadians, described them: "The Canadian snipers are professional, well-trained soldiers who walked into harm's way and fulfilled their mission. They represent the best and they have our respect."

With files from Associated Press

Posted by david at May 13, 2005 02:56 AM

let`s not forget 9/11 when canadians cared for thousands of usa people when their planes were diverted.note: not one single terrorist came thru canada,all were admitted to the usa by the usa and trained to fly there.

Posted by david at May 13, 2005 02:59 AM

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