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"Old" Europe:
Pro-UN and Pro-Iraq or... Simply Anti-U.S.?

"The numbers are in and the numbers don't lie. At the Madrid conference, Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion in new loans and credits for Iraq — and Germany and France pledged zero new dollars", writes Thomas L Friedman in the New York Times on November 2, 2003. "The bottom line is clear: Saudi Arabia cares more about nurturing democracy in Iraq than Germany and France."
Ah, you say, that's unfair. Germany and France opposed the war, so why should they pay more than their share of the paltry EU contribution? Actually, it's not unfair, when you remember that before the war France and Germany were obsessed with the lifting of UN sanctions on Saddam's regime — in the name of easing the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Well, the United States has removed Saddam, the source of Iraqi suffering, and yet that seems to be worth nothing to Germany and France. So there we have it: Pretending to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people — by calling for the removal of sanctions but keeping Saddam in power so he can buy lots of stuff from Germany and France — is priceless to them. But easing the suffering of the Iraqi people by removing Saddam's regime is worthless to them.

Ah, you say, but that's unfair. The leaders of France and Germany have a principled position. They honestly believe that democracy is not possible in Iraq, and trying to deliver it will just make things worse. Now, that's an honest argument. But they never say that out loud — they simply complain at the United Nations that America has not transferred sovereignty to the Iraqi people more quickly. If their real concern was empowering Iraqis to run their own lives, wouldn't they be in there helping Iraqis get their act together faster?

What I'm getting at here is that when an American finds himself in an argument with Europeans over Iraq, they try to present it as if we both want the same thing, but we just have different approaches. And had the Bush team not been so dishonest and unilateral, we could have worked together. I wish the Bush team had behaved differently, but that would not have been a cure-all — because if you look under the European position you see we have two different visions, not just tactical differences. Many Europeans really do believe that a dominant America is more threatening to global stability than Saddam's tyranny.…

"France Chose to Be Saddam's Defense Lawyers"

Six weeks later, Friedman added that "I don't believe Chirac ever intended to go to war against Saddam, under any circumstances. So history will record that all three of these leaders were probably stretching the truth — but with one big difference. Bush and Blair were stretching the truth in order to risk their own political careers to get rid of a really terrible dictator. And Jacques Chirac was stretching the truth to advance his own political career by protecting a really terrible dictator."

Something tells me that the picture of Saddam looking like some crazed werewolf may have shocked even Chirac and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin: Yes, boys, this is the creep you were protecting. History will also record that while the United States and Britain chose to be Saddam's prosecutors, France chose to be his defense lawyers.

…By risking their own political careers, Bush and Blair have, indeed, given Iraqis the gift of freedom.

© The New York Times

Read the November 2, 2003, op-ed column
Read the December 18, 2003 op-ed column
Read Jean-François Revel's take on the same subject (in French)