Editor’s Note: This story was excerpted from the September 23 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
Benjamin Franklin would have been proud. An exquisite linguistic ceasefire between the US and France was crafted this week in the finest tradition of the founding father and diplomat.
After days of fury in Paris over a US-UK-Australian agreement that killed France’s deal to build conventional submarines for Canberra, Presidents Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron got on the phone. Now we know why it took so long. Likely wrung from hours of drafting of loaded language and translations, the resulting joint statement is a masterpiece of diplomatic elusiveness that saves face on each side.
The English version notes that “the situation would have benefitted from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners.” The deft use of tenses allows the US to subtly admit it erred by going behind France’s back to do the deal, but offers sufficient distance for the White House to deny Biden apologized.
The French text, however, underlines Macron’s anger at the betrayal, saying that such consultations “auraient permis d’éviter cette situation” — would have allowed the situation to be avoided. While the translation is acceptably accurate, the French version emphasizes how undesirable its authors find the current situation.
The statement also offers a carrot for the return of the French ambassador to Washington, who was recalled last week. The US “recognizes the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense …. complementary to NATO.” Washington has long opposed a separate security role for the EU — seeing it as a threat to NATO. But there’s a hint it may be willing to bend on an issue politically important to Macron.
Contrast the elegance of the entente between Washington and Paris with Wednesday’s boorish swipe by UK PM Boris Johnson, who lapsed into Franglais to mock French feelings. “I just think it’s time for some of my dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break,” Johnson said.
Admittedly, Paris has been flinging plenty of insults across the Channel. But schoolboy taunts that delight Johnson’s Brexit-loving base don’t help anyone’s security goals.
Postcard from Port-au-Prince
Port-au-Prince was not where they had expected to land, and for many of the deported Haitians arriving – bewildered and traumatized – at Toussaint Louverture airport this week, Haiti had not been their home for years.
On Wednesday, a steady trickle of arrivals came out one family at a time, carrying their meager belongings, a meal in a plastic foam box provided by the International Office for Migration and the heartache of knowing that their years spent on the road and dreams of finding a better life had all been in vain.
Few were willing to speak as they found themselves back in the city they had fled. Those who did told CNN of the trauma of their journey and of their shock at finding the worst treatment of all on the American side of the border.
Eddy, who preferred not to give his surname, said he had come from Chile and trekked across 11 countries before arriving in the US. “We drank the water that was washing away the migrants who died on the way. And we saw bodies of those who died,” he told CNN. But the worst, he said, was arriving in the land of his dreams.
“When we arrived in the USA, they put us on a bus,” he said. “They put chains on our feet, around our stomachs and on our hands. They put us in cars and took us to the airport. There were Haitians on the plane who told us not to fight because there were many soldiers on the plane and they warned us that otherwise we would be mistreated.”
Like so many others we heard from, Eddy had not understood, until it was too late, where he was being sent.
Much of his anger is now focused on the Haitian government that accepted the deportations. After a presidential assassination, yet another devastating earthquake and growing lawlessness and poverty in the country, his only question: What can Haiti’s government possibly offer to those it has agreed to take back? – CNN’s Melissa Bell writes to Meanwhile from Port-au-Prince