11-11-11 In Tangier: Morts Pour la France

TALIM 11-11-11Brief but moving ceremony on the steps of the French Consulate General in Tangier, with newly-arrived Consul General Pierre Thénard presiding.  A reading of President Nicolas Sarkozy's Armistice Day message.  A vin d'honneur.

Very much like in every town and village in France, the monument aux morts has lots and lots of names of the fallen from World War I, 1914-1918.  Fewer for 1939-1945.

But look at the names.  You'll see lots of French names, of course.  But also a reflection of polyglot Tangier, International Zone.  Spanish, Italian, and Jewish, but also lots of Moroccan names, mostly written in Arabic.

Today's ceremony was even more moving because of the presence of three of the Moroccan veterans of World War II.  For how many more 11 Novembres will they be able to mount the steps of the Consulate General?

Readers who haven't had the chance to visit the dozens (hundreds?) of First World War and Second World War cemeteries that cover the battlefields of France, Belgium, and Luxembourg should make a point of seeing them, especially on days like November 11. TALIM Mort pour la France

You will see, among the thousands of crosses, the occasional Star of David or Muslim crescent.  Sometimes there are entire sections of crescent-marked graves (at right, at Notre Dame de Lorette, an Algerian soldier's tomb), representing the hundreds of thousands of soldiers from North Africa who fought in France's wars in Europe.

Would that all the Arab and African veterans and the fallen of the wars of the Twentieth century receive the dignified honors shown at today's ceremony.

It seems that there are repeated incidents of desecration of the graves of Muslim war dead in France, and veterans from France's former empire must still struggle for equal rights with veterans from metropolitan France.

America's fallen from Operation Torch (November 1942) in Morocco and Algeria, and from the subsequent fighting in Tunisia in 1943, all rest in the beautiful North Africa Cemetery and Memorial (American Battle Monuments Commission – ABMC) in Carthage.

May we remember them all on this November 11, 2011.

Gerald Loftus

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