French chatter, Chinese proverb, Sid.
From the January 17, 2005 issue: What do the French think about Iraqi hostage taking?
Jan 17, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 17 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
On December 22, in an evening sleet storm at Villacoublay air base west of Paris, two French journalists, Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro and Christian Chesnot of Radio France Internationale, were finally reunited with their families after spending 124 days as kidnapped hostages of an Iraqi jihadist group. Chesnot seemed especially shaken by the experience, during which at least three other people held hostage with him were beheaded. Chesnot said very little to the army of attending reporters, and he's had very little to say in public ever since.
Georges Malbrunot, on the other hand, has proved himself quite the chatterbox.
On the Villacoublay tarmac, for example, Malbrunot explained how the two men had sustained themselves through four straight months of mortal fear by remaining "humble." And "Cartesian." And ostentatiously French. During their very first interrogation, Malbrunot remembered, he and Chesnot "immediately played the 'French journalist card,' while insisting on the fact that France is against the war." Then, "we told them that we'd understood them to be a 'resistance' from the moment there was an illegal occupation" of Iraq. Or, put another way, "we gave them pledges to demonstrate that we weren't pro-American." It was only privately, "to myself," that Malbrunot found himself fondly daydreaming about the United States Marines: "If only an American patrol would come through, take out this lovely bunch, and set us free."
Not French enough for you? Okay, then have a look at the following passage from an exclusive interview Malbrunot has now granted Nidra Poller in the January 3 edition of the New York Sun:
Poller: Would you call the people who were holding you insurgents, or resistants?
Malbrunot: For us it is clear: People who combat an illegal occupation that results from an illegal war are resistants. Resistance is a sacred right, whether you are Islamist or nationalist, you are resistants. However, when you capture people from a country that has nothing to do with the situation, then your methods have nothing to do with the resistance. Those methods are--uh--different.
Poller: When they take hostages from countries who have troops in Iraq, would that be resistance? Nick Berg?
Malbrunot: Would that be resistance? [Long silence.] That--that--they can capture them--negotiate--but not kill them. [Pause.] Taking hostages is a measure--it's--it's a method of terrorists.
Poller: Whether or not? Occupation or no occupation?
Malbrunot: Still it's all the more reprehensible when it hits people who have nothing to do with the war.
Here's an idea: How's about you come over here and explain that theory to Nick Berg's mom and dad, Frog boy?
According to the January 5 edition of Taipei Times, Taiwan's largest and most prominent English-language daily, that country's governing Democratic Progressive party is having trouble moving a controversial "sovereignty resolution" through the legislature, where the two largest opposition parties both seem determined to block the measure. The proposal in question would declare Taiwan an independent country neither governed by nor belonging to mainland China--a status alterable only by popular referendum.
All of which is terribly important in its own right, don't get us wrong. And next time The Scrapbook is feeling like a serious journalistic enterprise, maybe we'll offer up an appropriately serious comment on the subject. Meantime, we're just looking for a half-decent excuse to share with you a genuinely magical quotation that Taipei Times staff reporter Debby Wu managed to include in her story. It seems she asked Chinese Nationalist party legislative caucus whip Huang Teh-fu to elaborate on his objections to the sovereignty bill. And it seems he offered this in response: "The sovereignty of the ROC [Republic of China] is already something that is acknowledged by the Taiwanese public, and proposing this resolution is like taking one's pants down before farting."
"The Chinese proverb 'to take one's pants down before farting,'" Ms. Wu helpfully points out, "means to engage in an unnecessary act."
Speaking of flatulence: Judging from initial reports last Thursday by New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove and Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy, our magazine's then-still-current issue contained what suddenly became an imprecise description of former Clinton White House apparatchik Sidney Blumenthal's employment status. Specifically, last issue's installment of The Scrapbook identified Blumenthal as an "altogether unprofessional journalist" and a "notoriously malicious fable-spinner."