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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Friday, February 21, 2003



All Molly Ivins

The InstAssassin pounces on a ludicrous Molly Ivins column, and finds links to others who laugh out loud at it. Our heroine, Ms. Ivins, is engaged in a fervent but contra-historical defense of French military valor in WWII.

One reader points out that her statement that the French had fewer tanks than the Germans is false. She misquotes George Will, as we note in the update. And another chap declares it "The Worst Column Ever". However, he is being kind, since he skates past this howler by Ms. Ivins:

"For 18 months after that execrable defeat [France, May 1940], the United States of America continued to have cordial diplomatic relations with Nazi Germany."

We did? Then why have I read so often that FDR, whose history might be familiar to Ms. Ivins, was determined to lead us into war? Does she imagine that Lend-Lease was the act of a truly neutral nation, and that the Germans did not object? Perhaps when a US destroyer attacked a German U-boat, the Germans raised their glasses in good cheer? A few too many excerpts highlighting our "cordial" relations:

1940 AID TO ENGLAND

July 10 - Battle of Britian begins

Aug. 27 - FDR executive order traded destroyers for bases - also allowed British pilots to train in U.S., British ships to be repaired in U.S. ports, Flight Ferry Command, Eagle Squadron

Dec. 17 - lend-lease proposed at press conference - passed Congress and signed by FDR March 11

1941 BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC

Mar. 24 - FDR froze $50M Yugoslavian assets when Prince Paul signed Tripartite Pact, but Mar. 27 Gen. Simovic overthrows Markovic - Hitler invades Apr. 6 - FDR pledges "all material aid possible"

Mar. 27 - Congress approved initial $7B lend-lease appropriation

Mar. 30 - Coast Guard siezed 64 Axis ships in U.S. ports for lend-lease convoys

Apr. 2 - FDR transfers 10 Coast Guard ships to England, allowed Royal Navy to use U.S. ports for repair and refueling

Apr. 10 - Security Zone extended to 26° longitude including Greenland and Azores - also Red Sea; removed from list of forbidden combat zones, allowing lend-lease to British in Mideast

Apr. 11 - U.S. destroyer Niblack fired 3 depth charges at German U-boat - began undeclared naval war

Apr. 24 - Navy ordered to begin observation patrols in Security Zone

Apr. 28 - FDR froze $50M Greek assets after Greece fell to Hitler

May 26 - German battleship Bismarck located by US-built PBY with US pilot

May 27 - FDR declared "unlimited national emergency" - need to build ships, help British

June 14 - FDR froze Axis funds in U.S.

June 16 - FDR ordered German consulates closed, expels diplomats
- ordered secret occupation of Iceland

June 20 - U.S. battleship Texas enters combat zone near England & tracked by U-boat

June 21 - Hitler ordered U-boats to avoid all U.S. warships

June 22 - Hitler invaded Russia

June 24 - U.S. released $39 million Soviet funds previously frozen

June 25 - FDR did not invoke Neutrality Act with Russia, sent Hopkins to Moscow in July and Averill Harriman in September, and Congress approved lend-lease appropriation of $1B in October

July 7 - FDR made public the arrival of 4000 Marines in Iceland, extended Security Zone and Navy patrols to Iceland - Gallup poll showed 61% approved

Aug. 9-13 - Atlantic Conference at Placentia Bay with Churchill, FDR and their staffs - decided to follow Plan Dog, make public declaration of liberal war aims, affirmed secret guarantees to defend British possessions, start search-and-destroy security patrols, provoke and incident

Sept. 4 - U.S. destroyer Greer attacked U-652, eluded 2 torpedos


"Cordial" relations. Quel joke.

Perhaps a "Marshall Plan" for Ms. Ivins would be helpful - something, anything, to help her marshal her facts.

UPDATE: Writing in the annoying Wall Street Journal (pledge of first-born required), James Woolsey, ex-CIA, defends France and Germany and manages to make sense. He tosses this in as an aside, which relates to a recent George Will gibe:

To take only one case, Internet messages mocking French courage and denying that the French have ever successfully defended Paris should not only be beneath us but are quite false -- the drafters of this nonsense should consult, among other things, the history of the Battle of the Marne in September 1914. Gen. Gallieni's mobilization of the taxis of Paris to rush reinforcements to the front and save the city is as famous in France as Washington's crossing the Delaware is to Americans.

Now, this ties in nicely to Ms. Ivins column for a couple of reasons. First, it illustrates her own ignorance of French history, which complements her ignorance of American history. Secondly, it gives us an excuse to highlight her misquote of George Will.

What she said:

George Will saw fit to include in his latest Newsweek column this joke: "How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? No one knows, it's never been tried."

Well, here is what he wrote:

...(A joke going around: How many French soldiers does it take to defend Paris? No one knows because it has not been tried for so long.)

Quite possibly she was thinking of Fred Barnes, another irksome middle aged white guy on the right. Well, with this Ms. Ivins column, I think we can take for granted that her name is spelled correctly in the byline. After that, you are on your own.


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