President Sarkozy’s One Man Show: A Very Limited Run

French President Sarkozy has twice appeared in the spotlight of the world’s mass media announcing his determination to free French-Colombian dual citizen, Ingrid Betancourt, held captive by the Colombian guerrilla movement, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army (FARC-EP). Following in the footsteps of Hugo Chavez’ successful negotiations in late December 2007 and early January 2008 that led to the FARC’s unilateral freeing of 4 captives, Sarkozy announced his determination to become directly involved in freeing Ingrid, even if it meant risking a trip into Colombia’s jungle and climbing its mountains.1

After the TV cameras were off, Sarkozy put his Foreign Minister, Bernie Kouchner in charge of negotiations with the FARC by long-distance mobile phone. Kouchner’s background as an ardent supporter of the US war in Iraq (his first trip in office was to fly to Iraq and announce his backing of US troops), a lifetime unconditional supporter of Israel’s war against the Palestinians, including its genocidal war against Palestinian Gaza and his presiding over the ethnic cleansing of over 200,000 ethnic Serbs from Kosova in the late 1990s made him a less than reliable interlocutor with the FARC. Kouchner established phone contact with FARC leader and negotiator Raul Reyes, joining President Chavez of Venezuela and President Correa of Ecuador… The CIA and Colombian intelligence agents monitored Kouchner’s phone conversations with Reyes, with or without Bernie’s knowledge.2 Reyes (perhaps unaware of Kouchner’s role as imperialist enabler) negotiated in good faith, even promising to release Ingrid and other prisoners in exchange for a promise of a reciprocal response from the Colombian government to free 500 imprisoned FARC members and sympathizers. In the meantime, the Colombian government continued its massive and brutal military sweeps of the countryside where hundreds of villagers suspected of pro-FARC sympathies were massacred. Colombian President Uribe’s stated goal was to militarily ‘liberate’ the prisoners.3 Sarkozy’s abject failure to convince Uribe to negotiate and Kouchner’s unwillingness to pressure him led to the breakdown of the humanitarian mission.

A month later Sarkozy once against convoked the world’s mass media and read a letter addressed to FARC leader Manuel Marulanda demanding he immediately free Ingrid or else face the opprobrium of the international community and eternal condemnation for a crime against humanity.4 Once again, the mass media gave top coverage to his speech with accompanying photos broadcast throughout the world. Needless to say, as the conductor orchestrating the entire ‘humanitarian’ act, Sarkozy thought it inconvenient to mention the FARC demands for a reciprocal exchange of prisoners and a demilitarized zone for negotiations. Maestro Sarkozy’s silence on Colombian President Uribe’s (and US President George Bush) ongoing bombing campaign in the Colombian countryside and their refusal to negotiate was never mentioned during or after his press extravaganza. Ignored by the FARC as well as by Uribe and Bush, Sarkozy turned to President Chavez and asked him to demand the FARC provide fresh proof including recent photos of the FARC captives.5

The FARC notified Chavez and Sarkozy that they would comply by sending two emissaries, who were promptly captured by the Colombian military, tortured and jailed. Evidently the Kouchner-Chavez communication lines were actively monitored. Throughout the ‘negotiating process’, the US backed Colombian regime never received a single public message (let alone demand) from Sarkozy urging it to respond positively to the good will gestures of the FARC by releasing some of their political prisoners. On the night of March 1, 2008, US satellite intelligence pinpointed the precise location of Reyes just across the Ecuador frontier, Uribe directed the Colombian armed forces to bomb the FARC negotiators’ camp — a cross border raid which killed Reyes, the head of the FARC’s negotiators and 18 other guerrillas, 4 Mexican university students and one Ecuadorian civilian.6 Colombia’s cross-border military operation was a blatant violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty and destroyed the negotiations in progress. Uribe deliberately killed off the principal FARC negotiator working with Sarkozy, Chavez and Correa.7 Clearly, the FARC’s unilateral humanitarian concession was extremely costly in terms of loss of key leaders increasing its vulnerability to Colombian military detection and assault. At no point did Sarkozy or Kouchner criticize Uribe. In fact Kouchner praised Uribe’s ‘anti-terrorist’ assaults.

Sarkozy, like those actors whose stale jokes no longer evoke laughter except when they strike a solemn tragic pose, once again convoked the world’s mass media to inform the FARC that they should allow the International Red Cross to meet with Ingrid. He announced that he was sending a plane to Colombia with French medical personnel and that the FARC should prepare a welcoming contingent to escort the ill Ingrid Bentacourt to the French delegation for medical treatment. Relegating the FARC to playing second fiddle, Conductor Sarkozy assumed that they had no choice but to follow his baton, because refusal, he stated, would reveal their ‘inhumanity’ in not allowing a ‘near terminally ill captive’ elementary medical care.8

Like all moral blackmailers, Sarkozy followed the practice of escalating demands after the first payment. Having secured the earlier ‘proofs’ of the captives’ existence, he returned to demand new unilateral concessions. In early April, Sarkozy mounted his show accompanied by a ‘Free Ingrid’ demonstration in Paris: The planeload of medical personnel landed in Colombia and as usual Sarkozy made a grand show of offering to go to the jungle if necessary, knowing full well that it was a cheap publicity stunt.

This time, however, there was no Latin Americans to offer to ‘backup’ his media show. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, who was in Paris on an official visit, told the mass media that the freeing of Betancourt should be part of a reciprocal exchange of prisoners, sounding a dissonant note in Sarkozy’s show.9 President Chavez was even more direct. He told Sarkozy that he should address his humanitarian message to Presidents Bush and Uribe since they were the principle obstacles to any reciprocal exchange of prisoners.10

Sarkozy’s airplane sat on a Colombian runway, the French contingent sat bored and eager to return to Paris. The International Red Cross received no message. The FARC made no response, aware that any communication or humanitarian mission would once again facilitate another military assault on the FARC negotiators.

Sarkozy’s demands and dictates to the FARC went unanswered. The show failed to retain the attention of the mass media.

The FARC was predictably silent, knowing that any communications with Bernie Kouchner would be monitored by his friends in the CIA. No exchanges, no consultation, no security, no answers. The Latin Presidents who had attended Sarkozy’s previous humanitarian media shows failed to send even third echelon officials to accompany the bored French medical and media personnel lolling about in a mosquito-infested airport. Several days later, the FARC e-mailed a public communiqué (April 4, 2008) to Sarkozy and to world public opinion in which it made clear why Sarkozy’s ‘One Man Show’ was predetermined to failure. The FARC communiqué emphasized four points.11 It affirmed that the previous unilateral release of six prisoners was a ‘sovereign decision’ of the FARC and not a product of weakness or pressure — thus making it clear that they were not to be forced into making any further concessions. Secondly they underlined their priority in freeing their 500 guerrilla comrades incarcerated in Colombian and US prisons as part of a reciprocal agreement. They emphasized that Uribe had not met any of the essential conditions for negotiations, namely a demilitarized zone where the humanitarian exchange could take place. This was a reminder to Sarkozy that his lopsided and distorted emphasis on a unilateral release of FARC-held prisoners was a non-starter. The FARC further reminded public opinion and Sarkozy that the Uribe and Bush Administrations’ militarization of the countryside were a mortal threat to any FARC negotiating team.

The third part of the communiqué pointed Sarkozy directly to the murder of their previous negotiating team by the Uribe government, including the killing of Reyes, which made any humanitarian exchange impossible. Sarkozy, by totally ignoring the murder of Reyes and his colleagues, and failing to recognize and condemn Uribe’s deliberate policy of murdering negotiators, ended any possibility of proceeding with the humanitarian mission.

In the final section, the FARC made clear that under the above conditions, they would not cooperate with the medical mission. And in a pointed reference to Sarkozy’s unilateral arrogant, but impotent, impositions and his pretensions of being a world-class humanitarian, the FARC clearly stated: ‘We do not act in response to blackmail and media campaigns. If, at the beginning of the year, President Uribe had demilitarized Pradera and Florida (two municipalities) for 45 days, both Ingrid Betancourt, as well as the military prisoners and the guerrilla prisoners would have recovered their freedom and that would have been a victory for everyone.’

Curtain Time

The plane and medical-media entourage flew back to Paris. There were no media waiting on the empty, dark tarmac. Once more, Sarkozy, the conductor and sole actor in his one-man-show, had demonstrated his virtuosity as a failed performer and a mediocre politician.

Epilogue

Two months later Bernard Kouchner hailed the death of FARC leader, Manuel Marulanda, and the killing of other FARC leaders as opening the way for the freeing of Betancourt — echoing the line of the Uribe regime. This effectively put an end to any French role in the process and was in line with Kouchner’s long affinity with gangster regimes.

  1. BBC December 6, 2007 and AFP, February 28, 2008. []
  2. Reyes last interview, February 28, 2008 by Anibal Gurgon and Ingrid Storgen, found in KAOSENLARED.NET. []
  3. ‘Uribe order the Army to ‘localize’ the kidnapped by the FARC’, La Jornada, March 30, 2008. []
  4. La Jornada, March 26, 2008. []
  5. La Jornada, March 30, 2008. []
  6. Miami Herald, March 6, 2008. On the collaboration of US, see Expresso/Guayaquil “Colombian pilots Operated from the (US) base in Manta.” []
  7. Richard Goff ‘Uribe’s Illegal Cross Border Raid’, Counterpunch, March 3, 2008. []
  8. La Jornada, April 3, 2008. On April 8, just 5 days later, Kouchner admitted that Ingrid Betancout’s health was better than Sarkozy had presented it. []
  9. La Jornada, April 7 and 8, 2008. []
  10. La Jornada, April 4, 2008. []
  11. FARC Communique, April 4 2008. Agencia Bolivariana de Prensa. []

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras’ most recent book is The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack. He can be reached at: jpetras@binghamton.edu. Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Michael Kenny said on June 8th, 2008 at 6:17am #

    Something that has struck me recently, on both the left and the right of the American political spectrum, is that the extremists are getting ever more frantic, ever more hysterical, ever more virulent.

    It doesn’t seem to have dawned on Professor Petras that hostage negotiations are, of their very nature, conducted in secret. The fact that Sarko has played all this out in public (unlike what he has done in other hostage situations) tells us that he doesn’t give a damn what happens in Colombia, one way or the other. He doesn’t give a damn either what happens to Ingrid Betancourt. Indeed, his conduct suggests that he expects her to die in captivity. He is merely playing to the French political gallery, so as to be able to say that did “all he could” when we hear that she is dead. The fact that Professor Petras fell for the trick hook, line and sinker suggests considerable political naiveté on his part.

    As for Kouchner, his name is Bernard. The French do not normally abbreviate first names and sneering or personal insuts should be beneath the dignity of those who engage in serious political discussion. More specifically, he did not “announce his backing of US troops”, he announced his backing for the reconstruction of Iraq after the war was over. That the US media might have falsely reported him would be nothing new. It already claimed he had called for an attack on Iran when he said that the world should prepare itself for a US/Israel attack on Iran. If I recall correctly, Professor Petras fell for that piece of propaganda hook, line and sinker as well!

  2. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 8th, 2008 at 8:48am #

    I may be wrong Michael, but I read the piece as almost a classic of ironic “detached” description. Sort of a Gourevitch’s “We Wish to Inform You…” condensed to the length of an article.

    I don’t possess sufficient data to respond to the points you make in your third paragraph. So I’ll shut up after repeating — although I agree with you 100% that Sarko is a tinhorn politico, I disagree that Petras’ article shows he has been taken in by the man’s recent performances.

    No wait, I’ll add in regard to your final sentence. I too base posted comments on my recollections. But I’m very chary of doing this when the article in question is by an academic.

  3. hp said on June 8th, 2008 at 9:39am #

    Well, you can take the “boys” (both Sarkozy and Kouchner) out of the “country,” but you can’t take the “country” out of the “boys.” So to speak.
    Betrayal, subterfuge, deceit and treason is their birthright. They’ve done absolutely nothing to disprove this, everything to prove it. They’re both Zionists and that’s all anyone needs to know.

    Here’s Sarkozy:
    “Should I remind you the visceral attachment of every Jew to Israel, as a second mother homeland? There is nothing outrageous about it. Every Jew carries within him a fear passed down through generations, and he knows that if one day he will not feel safe in his country, there will always be a place that would welcome him. And this is Israel.”
    Must be very comforting for Frenchmen to know that their President has already relegated them to questionable (second) status and is convinced that one day he and his brethren will have to flee for their lives to their “true” home. Isn’t this a classic example of neurotic behavior?

    Here’s an endorsement from an ultra-Zionist and one of the vilest men alive:
    Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu has said that with the coming to power of his friend Sarkozy, he expects French Middle East policy “will no longer be characterized by reflective anti-Israelism.”

    Sarkozy’s choice for Foreign Minister seems to have delighted some — the extreme-right Free Republic, and Zionist hawk and anti-Arab/Islamophobic editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, for instance. Peretz magnanimously forgives Kouchner’s socialist past; it does not make ’make him foul or “treyf” (non-Kosher)’, because ”Kouchner and Sarkozy have intellectual and political bonds that cross party lines”. (wink wink)

    “Israel got lucky [with Kouchner]. Israelis should thank God it’s him and not Vedrine“.

    To be French and have these Jewish-Zionist wolves “looking out for your country” is about as comforting as having Zionists John McCain and Joe (Israel first) Lieberman “looking out” for the USA.
    If anything Mr. Petras is far to kind, treats these Zionist cretins with kid gloves. I’d advise the French to sharpen those blades and oil those hinges.

  4. hp said on June 8th, 2008 at 10:31am #

    Here’s Bernie boy with some pretty righteous war criminals.
    Hashim (I’ll sell you a kidney cheap) Thaci, …Bernie (Zion’s little helper) Kouchner,…General Michael (I’m not starting world war III for the likes of you) Jackson,… Agim (call me ‘snake’) Ceku,.. and last but certainly not least Wesley (I just found out last week that I’m Jewish) Clark.

    http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/events-images/a328_clark_ceku_2050081722-5981.jpg

  5. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 8th, 2008 at 4:42pm #

    A pic is worth a 1,000… Thanx for this info, hp, and not a diatribe. As we close in on nut-cutting time (with no slight intended to the ladies), everyone seriously concerned to get a message across, mayby should (1) assume their readers know nothing, and (2) pare down their critiques as much as humanly possible. My ignorance encompassed, for example, not only the name Martin Peretz and the fact of his editorship at The New Republic, but his equating foulness with being non-Kosher.

  6. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 8th, 2008 at 5:34pm #

    And regarding Binyamin Netanyahu, hp, there’s possibly a discussion brewing about academics in politics over at Robert Jensen’s article of June 6 – “Masculine, Feminine or Human?”

  7. hp said on June 8th, 2008 at 6:19pm #

    All three candidates for POTUS and half the Congress on their knees before AIPAC this week says it all.
    Lloyd, what about the fact that AIPAC isn’t even required to register as a foreign lobby?
    Because it isn’t a foreign lobby, it just seems like one…
    Isn’t that special?

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 8th, 2008 at 11:40pm #

    My ignorance encompassed that also, hp.

    And don’t let this get around, but I tried to read James Petras’ The Power of Israel in the United States and found it so poorly done I didn’t get past about page 40. I say “don’t let this get around” because, you may note, I complimented Petras highly in a post (above). Apparently, when you praise some authors one place and criticize them in another, it’s not because their writing and general presentations differ from one work to another, instead it’s because you are inconsistent (or worse).

  9. hp said on June 10th, 2008 at 10:14am #

    Nothing like a little humor with which to tell the truth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gawcd4Pq-M#

  10. hp said on June 10th, 2008 at 10:42am #

    Here’s a little taste of the rotten truth of our “special friend.”
    Our Israeli “friends” also ran the security at each airport the hi-jacked planes were hi-jacked from. And on and on and on.
    Special, isn’t it?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWpWc_suPWo#

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwckJoP7-wg&feature=related#

  11. hp said on June 10th, 2008 at 10:55am #

    Last but not least, everyone should see this.
    A perfect example of the absolute power Israel and her treasonous minions in our country exert over everything from TV news and newspapers to movies, telecommunications, finance, and even college curriculum.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRZSzdQuOqM&feature=related#