WASHINGTON - With America needing all the help it can get in Iraq, it's time to swallow our pride and give the French back their fries, a House lawmaker said in a letter to her colleagues.
House Republican leaders last March, angered by French opposition to U.S. plans to take military action against Iraq, ordered that all restaurants in the House replace the french fries on their menus with "freedom fries." But now, said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, we need to bring the French back to the table.
"President Bush is now urging that all parties put aside "past bickering.' Delays in rebuilding international good will are costing Americans lives in Iraq, and billions of dollars to the American taxpayers," Lee wrote last week in a letter first reported by the congressional newspaper Roll Call. "A symbolic start to that effort would be reinstating foods in the House cafeterias and dining halls and their traditional "American' names - french toast and french fries."
The House should show civility and respect as Secretary of State Colin Powell embarks on the difficult task of garnering international support for efforts to stabilize Iraq, Jackson Lee said, adding that the president's chef, "after months of dodging the question," recently acknowledged to the chefs of other world heads of state that french fries were never taken off the White House menu.
But House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who initiated the menu change with Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said they'll continue to fight for their freedom fries.
Ney said that the day after Jackson Lee wrote her letter the French came out with an untenable timetable for elections in Iraq, confounding U.S. efforts to win United Nations backing for the reconstruction effort. "They were noncooperative and arrogant then," before the war, "and they are again noncooperative and arrogant," Ney said. "I haven't seen a huge change."
Ney said what was originally a gesture toward the French "has become an international food fight. It means something to a lot of people."
"The whole premise behind the gesture was to support our troops in Iraq," said Lanier Swann, spokeswoman for Jones. "The congressional passion in support of them has not waned and the French position has not changed."