| French President Jacques Chirac kisses the hand of New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Clark is on an official visit to France. (Reuters)
Paris, April 28 (Reuters): As France wonders how Washington might punish it for opposing the war in Iraq, a spoof Paris newspaper has let its imagination run wild and reported a US-led invasion to topple President Jacques Chirac.
The Monde, a satirical take-off on the daily Le Monde and a French-basher’s fantasy come true, hit newsstands around France over the weekend with wacky tales of chaos amid a ficticious invasion that echoes the real war just waged in Iraq.
“American, British and Monaco forces land in France,” the front-page headline screams. “Chirac calls for resistance and disappears ... Pro-American uprising on Left Bank in Paris.”
Among the 16 pages of reports are some on American troops seizing the Louvre museum, mistaking it for the nearby City Hall, while Kurds proclaim an autonomous state in eastern Paris. According to The Monde, President George W. Bush dubbed the operation “Big Spanking,” much to the delight of defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but secretary of state Colin Powell blocked its use out of concern for world reaction.
“We just wanted to tease the Americans a bit by pushing their strategy to its logical conclusion,” said Mathias Toledano of the Robert Lafont publishing house that produced The Monde.
The spoof newspaper lacks the angry and sometimes vindictive edge of many anti-French articles that have appeared in recent months in the US and, to a lesser extent, in Britain.
But it builds on what critics say, especially their charge that Chirac was an objective ally of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
One report on an imagined post-invasion speech by Bush quotes him as saying the invasion’s aim was “to liberate France from the tiny, dirty naughty Chiraqi-Saddamistic crew”.
Powell said last week France would be punished somehow for leading the anti-war camp before the US-led attack on Iraq.
At the invasion’s start, the paper depicts a groggy and unshaven Chirac delivering a rambling television address to the nation before fleeing to an underground tunnel. “It’s our duty to fiercely resist our American friends,” he says.
CNN television, The Monde says, shows US troops marvelling at the luxury of Chirac’s Elysee Palace, much as the real troops gaped at Saddam’s palace in Baghdad.
The Monde has Prime Minister Tony Blair being shot down by “friendly fire” as he returns to London in a Tornado fighter jet after participating in a bombing raid over Normandy.
The allied command centre is located on the British Channel island of Jersey, led by a US general named Tommy Freaks. Not far from there, bombers mistake the famous medieval monastery of Mont Saint Michel for a radar station and damage it badly.
The tiny principality of Monaco joins the assault and attacks the nearby French city of Nice in exchange for a UN Security Council “jumpseat” promised by Washington.
A bag of powdered garlic, not something that would normally offend the French, set alarm bells ringing when it was left on a plane at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport and officials were unable to identify the substance.
The bag found on a US Airways plane which arrived from Orlando yesterday sparked a security alert when police feared the whitish-grey powder inside could be a deadly toxin.
The abandoned hand luggage was taken away for laboratory analysis and several people who had approached it were taken to hospital for tests.
However, the contents were found to be an innocuous stash of powdered garlic and other spices, which the owner later returned to collect.
The false alert came days after officials said an amount of powder found at a Paris train station and initially believed to be the lethal poison ricin appeared to be pulverised wheat and barley.
France has been on high alert in recent months amid fears of attacks by Islamic radicals.