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How About Discussing the Truth
Behind France's Pretextry for Once?

Paris's Defense of High Principles in Iraq
May Have Served to Hide Shameful Secrets?
Mais Non! Pas du Tout, C'est N'importe Quoi!…

Do you remember the long months between George W Bush's axis-of-evil speech and America's invasion of Saddam Hussein's Irak? Echoing protestors from around the world, French politicians, French media outlets, and French citizens alike joined in denouncing, mocking, and lambasting the coming war, calling Washington leaders murderous egomaniacs, ridiculing Dubya's intelligence, and sputtering that the war's real cause was an unholy lust for oil. And weren't America's citizens, not to speak of its allies, smart enough to see through lies that were that obvious?!

How lucky for everybody that there were people in this world who are guileless, opposed to violence, in favor of universal brotherhood, and willing to promote peace among all nations, and who never stoop so low as to pursue the crude goals of profit instead of a policy based on the most profound principles of the ages.

People who said that they had voted for Jacques Chirac in the second round of France's 2002 presidential elections only reluctantly, now said that now they had to reconsider their hostility somewhat (if only briefly), declaring that now that le bulldozer opposed Bush's war, they had to admit that maybe Chirac wasn't that bad after all. Well, why not? This veritable "folk hero" was for peace, he proved he could cling to principles, he demonstrated he was even willing to sacrifice riches for principles, and — above all else — he recognized who really was France's (and the world's) most important and dangerous enemy.

How moving that in a world of war, hate, terror, and oil-hungry leaders with no love for their fellow man, who are base enough to covet the natural riches of other nations (imagine: oil!), there are saintly figures in this world who will stand up for principles.

It is in this perspective that I will have no choice but to throw away a number of articles, columns, and book reviews I recently clipped from such publications as the International Herald Tribune and The Economist, because those Anglo-Saxon rags were evidently demonstrating horrendously bad faith when they printed the following texts. What can be said but that those journalists and editors deserve to be punished? Off with their heads!


Principe # 1: Principles Should Be Stronger than Personal Rivalries

One of the reasons people have opposed the Iraq war is that they figure that the conflict (as all conflicts) was due at least partly to George W Bush allowing personal resentment to interfere with his duties and responsibilities as a leader, and sans doute to a case of personal rivalry Dubya had with Saddam because the latter had been his father's nemesis. By contrast, heaven forbid that the French would betray their friendships and alliances in the name of uncalled-for power games. Unheard of.

Chirac Was "Out to Get" Tony Blair

According to a new book about Tony Blair, at least part of the reason Jacques Chirac was strongly opposed to the war in Iraq was a desire to undermine Britain's prime minister and isolate him within the European Union. Based in part on reports from MI6, author Philip Stephens writes that British intelligence and Blair himself concluded that Chirac was "out to get him" and "the dispute over Iraq was in fact a proxy for a much more serious contest". According to the book, the British figured that the French leader's strategy could be explained by his rage over Blair's earlier assault on protectionist farm policies as well as an attempt to re-cement the German-French relationship.

This is scandalous reporting. The Financial Times, the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, and others of their ilk are stooping to the level of yellow-journalism tabloids. These clippings on French pretextions I will immediately throw away. There. Done.


Principe # 2: In France, Having Principles Is More Important than Trade

Often the Anglo-Saxons do not see this (either that or they guilefully pretend, against all evidence, that it isn't so), but their brand of capitalism is often destructive, on both a personal and an international level. Besides, the myopia of its leaders is what creates the very thugs that they must later fight. That is why benevolent intervention of the French type is desirable. In the case of the Iraq war, it is also why Paris would not join in the fighting, as it recognized that the main reason for the American military's presence there was for Middle Eastern riches, notably oil. The only reasonable course of action, France said, was to favor peace. Avoid devious capitalist greed at all costs.

a. "Saddam Rewarded the Closest
Thing it Had to a Western Ally"

Less than two weeks before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched, a Paris-based British reporter had the nerve to write a column for the International Herald Tribune claiming that the French are hardly very consistent in their call for values and in their principled resistance to the errors of their friends' ways. Beyond that, John Laurenson added, France might have less-than-holy goals of its own in Iraq. Here are parts of this outrageous article, with its scandalous claims:

Polls show that many of the 80 percent of French people who oppose a U.S.-led offensive against Iraq believe America's Iraq policy is driven by its appetite for oil. But similar claims could be made about French efforts to avoid war.…

Whether or not France's interests in Iraq are guiding its foreign policy, the country has a clear commercial interest in the maintenance of Saddam Hussein's regime. France's economic ties with Iraq have been close and lucrative in the past. They [have been profitable] despite the embargo and, should Saddam survive the current crisis, they would become much more so in the future.

Warm French relations with the current Iraqi regime go back a long way. In September 1975, the French prime minister played host to the vice-president of the Revolution Command Council of Iraq. The first, Jacques Chirac, described the second, Saddam Hussein, as a personal friend, showed him around a French nuclear reactor and invited him to his home for the weekend. It was about this time that the prime minister was nicknamed Jacques Iraq.

The same year France sold the Iraqis two nuclear reactors, one of which, Tamuz II, at Osirak near Baghdad, was designed to produce plutonium. Israeli fighter bombers destroyed this plant in 1981 as French engineers were completing work on the facility." President François Mitterrand was furious.

Throughout the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, right up to the UN embargo imposed after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, France sold Iraq $25 billion worth of weaponry. Industry sources say French companies still haven't been paid for everything they supplied to Iraq. If Saddam goes, those debts will be a write-off.

The UN embargo hit the volume of French exports but, once the UN oil-for-food program was introduced in 1996, the French share of the Iraqi market became larger than ever as Saddam rewarded the closest thing it had to a Western ally.

[France] managed to sell Iraq $650 million worth of goods in 2001, more than any other country [generating substantial income for firms such as Alcatel, Alstom, Renault, and Peugeot]. France, unsurprisingly, was the Western country with the largest number of stands at [the November 2002] Baghdad Trade Fair.

But above all, the French are interested in Iraqi oil. French oil industry experts say France's state-controlled oil company TotalFinaElf is poised to win contracts to drill the largest unexploited reserves of easily accessible oil in the world. …

Through the late '90s, Elf and TotalFina weren't allowed to sign these contracts because of the trade embargo. But Saddam agreed to wait while France lobbied to get those sanctions lifted.…

War would mean a blow not only to French diplomacy but to French industry as well.

What!? You think that Germany, Belgium, and Luxemburg might have had similar arrangements with Bagdad, or that France may have promised them a share in the spoils!? Nonsense. C'est n'importe quoi. How can you be so cynical and have so much bad faith to suggest that these courageous, principled nations were the poodles of Paris or (along with Paris) of Saddam?! You would do better to shut up. John Laurenson's IHT article is preposterous; a complete outrage. It will immediately join the others in my waste basket.

b. International Indignation from an "Axis of Avarice"

As will a December 16, 2003, column in The New York Times which points out that under "the United Nations oil-for-food program, the despot got to tap his preferred business partners"; Over the course of seven years, Saddam "turned to contractors in the countries that ultimately proved most energetic in protesting his ouster: Russia, France, and, to a lesser extent, Germany and China."

Claudia Rosett, a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, puts America's 1990s embargo of Bagdad into perspective, as well as the international objections to same (on the so-called basis of human rights):

What began as a relief program for Iraqis suffering under sanctions turned into a multibillion-dollar contracting business flowing through the shrouded books of the United Nations. By the end, the Russians were selling the Baathist elite luxury cars, the French were providing broadcasting equipment for the Information Ministry[,] and the Germans and Chinese worked on the phone system. The United Nations refused to disclose anything beyond the generic details of the contracts … 

Not only should the Iraqi people know what their money went for, the data could provide an illuminating context for the current Russian, French[,] and German indignation over the American contracting list, and for the diplomatic jousting of the past year. Full disclosure might also help us figure out which foreign contractors were deeply complicit with the Baathist regime and which simply shipped in rice at a reasonable price. …

In any case, Old Europe's indigation over the list is a marvel of hypocrisy. When Saddam specified under the oil-for-food program that the billions generated by the program all flow through one French bank, BNP Paribas, President Jacques Chirac did not indignantly demand, in the interest of fair play, that the business be divided among banks of various nations. It is also curious that Russia, which in its own post-tyranny days received billions in aid, only to default on its debt in 1998, is now demanding back from free Iraqis every nickel it cheerfully loaned to the dictator.

What with all the evidence showing how France, Germany, and Russia have constituted an untrustworthy "Axis of Avarice" in Iraq over the past decade, Claudia Rosett comes squarely down on the side of the Bush administration's decision to hand contracting rewards to the "countries that can best be trusted" (meanwhile taking note of the president's declaration that "friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that"). Her final sentence states that: "in a free and fair society, state-financed contracts need to serve the customers, not the contractors — and certainly not the heads of state who howl loudest and contribute least." (An article devoted entirely to the UN Oil-for-Food story can be found here.)


Principe # 3: Principles Must Be Stronger than Friendship

One of the most important principles in life, the French say, is that one must keep one's eyes open, and never betray one's values. When another nation — even one's closest friend — is seen to be making a mistake, big or small, one must not go along with its leaders, but openly and candidly spell out one's differences with them, telling them what one's own values are, and explaining how grateful they should be that the French are being friendly enough to point out how the other nation's actions are undermining "our common values". This can be called the good old "of course we are your allies (or friends), but do not ask that we be your vassals" principle.

It is all good and well to say that Paris had some riches of its own in Iraq, some will say, but if Saddam was such a great menace, either to the greater world or to his own people (or to both), how come America "allowed" Saddam to stay put for so long and why didn't they move against him sooner? I know this will surprize some people (I certainly was scandalized by this suggestion), but could it be that one possible answer is that one of the five permanent members on the UN Security Council tried to sabotage every effort to enforce the ceasefire resolution?

"France's President, Not Mr Bush,
Was the True Hypocrite"

Non, ce n'est pas possible. We should not believe the new book called Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe, and the War in Iraq. William Shawcross, like the Clintonite authors of America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay), comes from a background that you would not think of as pro-Bush and pro-Washingon. Far from it; he is no pro-American, pro-war sap, The Economist points out in its January 31, 2004, book review: "he made his name in 1979 with Sideshow, a book that chronicled and lambasted America's war in Cambodia earlier in that decade. More recently, he has been close to the United Nations, having published Deliver Us From Evil in 1999, an exploration of the UN's peacemaking and peacekeeping operations around the globe which brought him into regular contact … with Kofi Annan"…

"Despite that background," adds the London weekly, Mr Shawcross argues in Allies: The U.S., Britain, Europe, and the War in Iraq that "Mr Bush and Tony Blair were right to go to war against the bulk of world opinion and without the backing of the UN Security Council, and that Jacques Chirac was the second-biggest villain of the affair. He thinks that France's president, not Mr Bush, was the true hypocrite.

The issue of weapons of mass destruction was not, as [Mr Shawcross] explains, a simple one of whether they existed or whether they were primed for immediate attack on western countries. The real issue was whether it would have been right to take the risk that Saddam had them, might use them, or might resume development of them as soon as the coast was clear. All the evidence collected by UN weapons inspectors in 1991-98, when they were allowed in Iraq, pointed to the conclusion that Saddam could not be trusted. … There were no good options available, but leaving things as they were looked the worst of all.

Every doubt about Saddam and his capabilities is now being used by critics to reinforce the case against war. Yet, as Mr Shawcross argues, the responsible reaction to such doubts, about a serial slaughterer, invader, and user of chemical weapons, should rather have been to refuse to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt. That was true in 1991, in 1998 when UN inspections ceased, and in 2003. So why, critics ask, did it take so long if it was really so necessary?…

One big answer, Mr Shawcross believes, is President Chirac. He had been a self-declared 'dear friend' of Saddam since 1974 … And once he was president in the 1990s, France continually undermined efforts in the Security Council to enforce the ceasefire resolution of 1991. That is the context in which President Chirac's supposed efforts in 2002-03 to defend the 'international order' and the UN itself need to be placed. In Mr Shawcross's view he was a wrecker, not a defender.

Ludicrous. Scandalous. Trash. Economist no good. Never again.


Principe # 4: Telling the Truth Is Important,
Even at the Risk of One's Political Career

The "lies", hypocrisy, and deviousness of Bush and Blair are unforgivable, the French say, as do many others. And whatever French leaders and politicians may have said and done, war is never the right solution. At the very least, you must admit that French pretexts, had they been followed, served the cause of peace. It is always better to remain detached, and it is a good thing that Jacques Chirac chose to stand apart and remain neutral…

"France Chose to Be Saddam's Defense Lawyers"

As Thomas L Friedman wrote in mid-December 2003,

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.

How ridiculous! How revolting! Who do all those so-called journalists think they are?! These Rosbifs and Ricains are doing nothing but spread disinformation of the most cynical sort. C'est dégoûtant! The articles are now all in my trash can, and I promise never to read one of those journaux again. And I call on all French media outlets to boycott news of this type (beyond the habitual brief mention that will quickly be forgotten) in order to concentrate on continuing the valiant fight against the curse of our age, Anglo-Saxon capitalism and Yankee imperialism. Tous en chœur : Allons, enfants de la patrie…

all contents © Erik Svane unless otherwise noted

Read an in-depth story of the Peace Camp's Humanitarian Scam in Iraq