On the July day American troops killed Saddam Hussein’s sons Qusai and Odai in the northern Iraqi city in Mosul, a senior NBC News producer called his usual intelligence and military sources trying to learn more about the raid.
As his best CIA source gushed about the American victory, the producer says he noticed a news bulletin on the television behind him: the Eiffel Tower, that great symbol of French grandeur and artistic prowess, had caught fire.
So I asked him, ‘Hey, do you guys know the Eiffel Tower’s on fire’? the producer said.
He was silent for a moment, then he said: Could this day get any better?
A joke, or not?
The fire turned out to be minor and not related to terrorism, and the producer involved feels to this day the CIA man had been joking. Joke or not, it speaks volumes about the chasm that has opened between the U.S. and its oldest European ally a nation whose intervention on the side of the American colonists saved them from defeat in the American Revolution, and whose intelligence networks in the Middle East continue to play a vital role to this day in the Bush administration’s war on terror.
Nearly a year has passed since France and America faced-off in the U.N. Security Council. Paris spoke for nations who felt American evidence of Saddam’s WMD programs was insufficient sufficient to justify war. Washington insisted Saddam posed a grave threat to peace, in President Bush’s words.
In the end, the impasse caused the U.S. to abandon efforts to win U.N. blessing for the war, bring France and America to such a low ebb that Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of The New York Times, could write this with a straight face: It’s time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy.0