- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

From combined dispatches

Mon dieu. Americans galled by France's reluctance to endorse an invasion of Iraq are boycotting French wine, bottled water and even french fries.

A Las Vegas radio station Tuesday used an armored vehicle to crush photographs of French President Jacques Chirac, photocopies of the French flag, a Paris travel guide, bottles of wine and a loaf of French bread.

In Beaufort, N.C., Neal Rowland said he was taking a page from history by removing french fries from the menu of Cubbies fast-food restaurant and replacing them with "freedom fries."

"People changed German words like sauerkraut to liberty cabbage and frankfurters to hot dogs during World War I," Mr. Rowland said. "I am just showing my support for the U.S. by doing the same with anything French."

The starch sidekick to the burger isn't a French invention. Belgians say they started serving fried potatoes in the early 1800s, but their popularity among American soldiers stationed in France during World War I earned them the name french fries.

U.S. Rep. H. James Saxton, New Jersey Republican, introduced a resolution in the House this week, calling on U.S. companies and Congress to boycott the Paris Air Show in June. American companies make up 37 percent of the 1,856 exhibitors for the annual trade show.

While Mr. Saxton said he has backing from several aerospace companies, the resolution was initiated to have more of a "psychological impact" than actually harm France's economy.

Other members of Congress have called for boycotting French products, suggesting orange hazard stickers be slapped on French wine bottles and stricter health standards for French bottled water.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., bar owner Ken Wagner dumped his entire stock of French wine and champagne into the street, vowing to serve vintages only from nations that support U.S. policy.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson said he would try to block a subsidiary of the French conglomerate Vivendi from winning a $25 million government contract to build a sludge treatment plant.

"France's attitude toward the United States is deplorable. I don't want to have any French companies earning dollars from American interests," the 75-year-old said. "We've left thousands of our men and women over in France, underground. It's quite possible that if we didn't send our troops there, the French people would all be speaking German."

France is far from alone in pushing for a delay in military action. Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg have said they would prefer to give U.N. weapons inspectors more time.

For their part, the French have long lambasted American cultural influence in Europe, decrying American fast food and pushy American tourists.

A Gallup Poll in early February found a nearly 20-point drop in the percentage of Americans who think favorably of France. About 59 percent of Americans view France favorably, while 33 percent have an unfavorable view.

Germany, America's enemy in two world wars, does not seem to have provoked the same level of disdain. Some 71 percent of Americans think favorably of Germany, while 21 percent view it unfavorably, the poll found.

Staff writer Marguerite Higgins contributed to this report.

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