Joe Conason's Journal

Yes, Sen. Warner, they still eat French fries in Kabul, because the French are helping to rebuild Afghanistan.


Salon Staff
June 18, 2003 1:42AM (UTC)

French fries in Afghanistan Stupidity can apparently become a contagious disease, at least in the unwholesome atmosphere of the nation's capital. That would explain the anecdote that leads today's superb Wall Street Journal front-page feature on America's European allies (subscription only, alas). Like so much other terrific WSJ journalism, it exposes the fatuity of the paper's editorial page -- in this instance, the notion that the U.S. should "punish" traditional friends like France and Germany for dissenting from Bush's Iraq policy.

Datelined Kabul, the article begins by recounting a visit by John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to an "American-led training camp for Afghan soldiers." Upon arriving at the camp, the Virginia Republican was stunned to encounter "a cheery French officer" who greeted him with a handshake.

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"What are they doing here?" demanded Warner, described as a "robust supporter of President Bush's with-us-or-against-us foreign policy." Still referring to the French, Warner asked: "They muckin' things up again?"

Why no, Senator -- as our dedicated partners in post-Taliban Afghanistan, they and the Germans have been doing little things like paying the salaries of the new Afghan army recruits, patrolling the city, providing troops for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, and taking casualties. This was patiently explained to Warner by an American Special Forces colonel there, who also mentioned that in Kabul "we still have French fries."

It would probably be better if the Armed Services chairman knew that without going to Afghanistan, but then Warner does better at looking like a senator than behaving like one.

Refreshingly, the American officers stationed in Kabul don't share the senator's dull-minded worldview, because they've been working with the French and Germans in the real war against terrorism and the Taliban. As one told the Journal's Andrew Higgins -- while a satellite broadcast of Fox News blared in the background -- watching too much TV can result in "a pretty skewed view of reality." Perhaps overseas congressional junkets aren't so bad if they serve to educate ignorant politicians like Warner. Then when they ask dumb questions, they might hear smart answers.

[7:45 p.m. PDT, June 17, 2003

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