Look for the French Label

I’ve never been big on using trade as a weapon, but I’m all for rearing back and delivering a blow to the solar plexus of the French economy. I’ve joined several million other Americans in boycotting French products-including everything from Evian bottled water to overpriced French wines and champagnes.

The embargo, first suggested by Fox radio and TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly, is totally voluntary. This is not a U.S. government-enforced blockade against the importation of French goods and services. This is a blockade of conscience and a way for every American to voice their protest against France for its hostile actions against the national security interests of the U.S.

The goal here is not to change the reprehensible behavior of the intransigent Chirac government. The intention is to win some satisfying payback against a country whose behavior is aggressively anti-American. This is retaliation. The French sell some $20 billion worth of goods, ranging from cheese to lingerie, in America each year. If those sales fall even by 20%, that could drive a $4 billion hole into France’s already fragile and anemic socialistic economy.

A moratorium on travel to Paris can also put a dent in the French economy. Close to a million American tourists travel to France each year and this stream of tourists is a vital source of income for French businesses. Americans should consider steering clear of France this Summer and spending their greenbacks in places that are more genuinely pro-America.

Some of my free trade colleagues-and I am ardently free trade myself-wonder whether a consumer boycott won’t undermine the case for unfettered trade and permanently injure our relationship with a major trade partner. Actually, I hope it does. I’m all for international trade: but let’s buy things from friends and allies that we can count on when their support is needed and avoid like the black plague products from our adversaries.

The case against France goes beyond the infuriating votes against the U.S. on the U.N. Security Council. What is much worse is that the pacifists in the French government have been despicably trying to rally other nations against us. The French in effect used diplomacy over the past several months to make America less safe in the war against terrorism.

These are the actions of an ally? These are the tactics that the French take against their two-time liberators?

Allow me to digress for a moment here and tell a personal story. My grandfather, an immigrant from Ireland, fought in France in World War I when he was 19 years old. He had his right arm shot up with shrapnel and spent nearly two years in an army hospital. He never gained use of the limb again. He was never bitter and had no regrets about fighting for his country. He thanked God that it was his arm that he had lost, not his leg. The only regrets he had was that the French were so obnoxiously ungrateful to the American soldiers who had risked their lives for a country an ocean away. Later, his son, my uncle, was a prisoner of war in a Nazi POW camp after being captured fighting for the liberation of France.

Grandpa kept a cartoon in his scrapbook that perfectly captured his contempt for the French. It was from the late 1940s and it showed Charles DeGaulle overlooking a vast field of tomb stones as he lectured Uncle Sam by saying: "You Americans always stay longer than you are wanted."

Who can explain the psyche of the French? Perhaps it is human nature for the liberated to feel resentment toward their liberators. One gets the sense that when we go to war with Iraq that many of the French people will be secretly rooting for Saddam.

It’s a small sacrifice not to buy anything from this nation of fools and ingrates. I’ve been buying Poland Spring bottled water for the last few weeks, and, you know, the truth is, it tastes much better knowing that not one penny of the profits will go to the French. If you join the boycott, you may very well discover the same thing.


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