Monday, January 17, 2005

Still waiting for those French Helicopters

France 2 Humiliates French Government
The expeditious and professional deployment of US troops on humanitarian assistance missions to areas devastated by the Boxing Day Tsunami has quite publicly embarrassed the French government — on live television, no less. Yet another reason to thank the US Armed Forces. To see what is sure to be one of the most exceptional moments broadcast on the French evening news all year long, make sure that you click here to watch this evening's news. (Latest version of Windows Media Player required. Before 2 PM Eastern time to-morrow, it'll be the first displayed. After that, click on the one labeled 10/01/2005 - JT 20h.)For days now, the US military has been getting favorable coverage on the French nightly news due to its response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. But tonight's broadcast was simply astounding. At 8 minutes into the broadcast, anchor David Pujadas begins a discussion of the disaster response and introduced a report on the American deployment:
First off, here is the powerful American machinery in action. For 24 hours now, there has been a landing ["débarquement"] taking place — there is no other word — while helicopters continue the distribution [of humanitarian aid].The report begins with an improvised helipad and then shows US airmen distributing "survival packages" of food, clothes and demountable shelters. In addition to showing those in need that they have not been forgotten, these supplies will allow their recipients to live for another day, says the narrator. Cut to shot of a Sri Lankan beach where amphibious vehicles are disembarking from landing craft — unmistakably reminiscent of the D-Day landings. Note that above Pujadas used the word "débarquement" ("there is no other word"), which is the word most often used to refer to the D-Day landings. Footage of thousands of US marines offloading equipment. None of them are armed, points out the narrator, as this is a reconstruction mission. An interview with Juan Quijada, a US marine whose rank is not given. "Just here to help them as best I can," he says. 13,000 soldiers, we're told, and so far 200 metric tons of supplies."Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed/And batten on this moor?" asks Hamlet. At nine minutes and 30 seconds into the broadcast, Pujadas says that "the scale of need must not hide the failure to provide it." He introduces the next report: "... the failure of a French civilian rescue mission in one of the most heavily affected areas."We learn that 100 French firefighters as well as rescue and response workers have been sent to Meulaboh to establish a field hospital but that 8 days after their deployment and 15 days after the disaster, only 25% of their supplies have been delivered "because France has no helicopters [to deliver them]." (NB: during the Afghanistan war, France had to rent ALL of its helicopters from the Russian army.)"The good will of the rescuers is not in question," says Pujadas. "This is well and truly a foul up." Yes, those were his words. Watch the damn video if you don't believe me.The report tells us that France has only 1 helicopter on the scene, a Dauphin. However this one is on loan from the manufacturer, Aérospatiale, and is normally used to shuttle around executives, not to move large amounts of cargo.Sporting a sour smile, a French soldier is interviewed:
For the moment, we don't have the infrastructure in place, if you will, for logistics. The tents, the shelters, the hospital grounds. We can't begin to treat people under these circumstances.When the news team arrived, the day's mission was no more than the installation of a latrine. The narrator says:
Privately, the doctors admit that the first emergency phase has passed and that the French have missed it.On screen, we then see a French doctor say... "As soon as our supplies gets here. No problem." Then we are treated to the image of the French begging for assistance from an Indonesian colonel! "We're expecting helicopters tomorrow," he says, asking for two trucks so they can move supplies. The colonel laughs and claps him on the shoulder. Then the French meet with some Americans. "It's been tough for us," says a French firefighter. "The Americans prove goodnatured toward the 'Frenchies,'" says the narrator. "But not much else." Then a big, impressive American Chinook helicopter arrives, empty, to pick up American journalists. French men looking dejected. The report ends with the following summation:
... that the French army should even now be unable to provide them with a few helicopters 15 days after the fact is surprising, especially given the public outcry that the tsunami provoked. It is as though France no longer has the means even to express its emotions.

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