Fanning the flames of prejudice.

millermolesky.jpgOur Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with FranceJohn J. Miller[1], has decided to embark upon a new endeavour: to publish a book to further Bash France and the French.

Miller is well known for his talent as a polemicist, but he probably wasn’t sufficiently versed in abstruse history to write this book alone. He therefore teamed up with a Harvard lecturer, Mark Molesky[2], thus gaining, in the eyes of some, a certain intellectual respectability.

Thus the Miller Molesky team has delved into the deep recesses of North American History, extracting isolated events from the general schema, such as the Deerfield Massacre of 1704, when a group of Canadiens and Indians massacred settlers in northern Massachusetts to prove a point: the French cannot be trusted. Needless to say, the North America of 1704 was brutal; this was a time of raids and expeditions between British and French establishments from Newfoundland, New France to Hudson’s Bay.

Not only content to trivialize the French role in the war of independence, Miller and Molesky argue the French involvement was motivated by the pursuit of its own agenda. A revelation that will come as no surprise to the serious scholars of history, no more shocking that the ulterior motives that can be found behind the current Iraq war and every other strategic and diplomatic choice made by any power in the last thousand years.

The Miller Molesky duo then moves on to the Civil War in an attempt at portraying the French as only being pro-south. The fact is French nationals were on both sides of that terrible war. Over 26 000 French citizens enrolled in the Confederate (60%) and Union (40%) armies. Several French officers were amongst the ranks of the two armies: princes of Orléans, the count of Paris, the duke of Chartres aided general MacClellan. General Trobriand was also with the Union army. On the Confederate side, General Camille de Polignac, son of a minister of Charles the Xth of France was nicknamed the Southern Lafayette. What Miller and Molesky do not address is the fact that although sympathetic to the South at first, the French under Napoleon the IIIrd, refused to intervene. In 1861, Napoleon the IIIrd declared French neutrality.

Moving on to World War I, the Miller Molesky blame game uses the much-touted theory that the Versailles Peace Conference paved the way for the rise of fascism in Germany. Had Miller and Molesky bothered to read the widely acclaimed book « 1919 » by Margaret MacMillan, they would have realized this theory is closer to wishful thinking and « conventional wisdom » than actual history.

De Gaulle’s legacy is also put under the polemiscope, and Miller and Molesky churn out the usual Anti-American facets of the first president of the Fifth Republic. The book further blames the French for educating genocidal dictators such as Pol Pot and having links with Iraq and Syria, thus proving in their eyes that France is America’s enemy. Miller and Molesky claim that they «provide an authoritative explanation for the explosive anger toward France that has swept across America and continues to shape debates about our foreign policy and role in the world».

Unfortunately the book seems to be nothing more than a one-sided patchwork of historical events taken out of context for one purpose only: fanning the flames of Anti-French prejudice in Conservative circles.

Marc Saint Aubin du Cormier

[1] John J. Miller is a writer for the right wing publication, National Review, and co-founder with Linda Chavez of the Center for Equal Opportunity (www.ceousa.org), an anti-affirmative action group
[2] Dr. Mark C. Molesky is a lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University.

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