Blast From the Past: Vichy & Afghanistan

The other day I referred to General DeGaulle, and that put me in mind of this passage from Churchill’s war memoirs about his attempts to keep Vichy placid while not undercutting DeGaulle. The reader will instantly see the applicability of this passage to understand better the complicated relationship the U.S. government has with the Karzai government in Afghanistan.

“It was in this spirit that I was to receive in October a certain M. Rougier, who represented himself as acting on the personal instructions of Marshal Petain. This was not because I or my colleagues had any respect for Marshal Petain, but only because no road that led to France should be inconveniently barred. Our consistent policy was to make the Vichy government and its members fell that, so far as we were concerned, it was never too late to mend. Whatever had happened in the past, France was our comrade in tribulation, and nothing but actual war between us would prevent her being our partner in victory. This mood was hard upon DeGaulle, who had risked all and kept the flag flying, but whose handful of followers outside France could never claim to be an effective alternative French Government. Nevertheless, we did our utmost to increase his influence, authority, and power. He for his part naturally resented any kind of truck on our part with Vichy, and thought we ought to be exclusively loyal to him. He also felt it to be essential to his position before the French people that he should maintain a proud and haughty demeanour towards ‘perfidious Albion,’ although an exile dependent upon our protection and dwelling in our midst. He had to be rude to the British to prove to French eyes that he was not a British puppet. He certainly carried out this policy with perseverance. He even one day explained this technique to me, and I fully comprehended the extraordinary difficulties of his problem. I always admired his massive strength.”

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