Odious Debts

France motivated by its own oil argument

Jonah Goldberg
The Washington Times, USA
January 22, 2003

When it comes to “Well, duh” headlines, “France Is Being a Pain in the Keester” has to rank just behind “Bears Use Woods as Bathroom.” The latest evidence came this week when French diplomats at the United Nations orchestrated what The Washington Post called “a diplomatic version of an ambush.”

At a meeting on international terrorism, the French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin declared that France intends to launch a major offensive to block any U.N. Security Council vote authorizing war with Iraq, including the use of its Security Council veto.

Now, I understand that everyone from honest opponents of the war to the Bush-is-a-war-criminal-crowd are cheering the French. That’s to be expected, especially when you consider that the French have always been heroes to those who see America as a problem rather than a solution.

For some reason, many people think that anything said with a French accent or served with a slice of stinky cheese must be superior to anything on this side of the Atlantic. But the truth is that, according to the anti-war crowd’s own standards, the French are worse than America.

Villepin declared Monday, “Already we know for a fact that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen. We must do everything possible to strengthen this process.” That’s a funny choice of words.

As the White House was quick to point out, this diagnosis concedes that Iraq has “weapons of mass destruction programs.” In other words, the French understand that the Iraqis are lying when they swear that they have no such programs. After all, you can’t block or freeze something that doesn’t exist.

Ever since President Bush has demonstrated that he takes the Iraqi threat seriously, the French and others have argued that “containing Saddam” is a preferable alternative to war. Why risk bloodshed and the lives of innocent Iraqis if he’s unable to develop weapons of mass destruction? Containment worked in the Cold War, let it work here, they say.

Well, this is not an intellectually bankrupt position on its face, but there are two problems. First, the French are liars. They don’t believe in containment, and they shame themselves when they say they do.

The truth is France has been the chief Western advocate of normalizing relations with Iraq – one of its largest trading partners – for years, partly because France holds billions in IOUs from Iraq that wouldn’t be redeemable by a new regime.

In 1996, the French stopped helping to enforce the no-fly zones in the Kurdish north of Iraq, and in 1998 they withdrew from the Shiite south Iraq. France, a nation that bloviates about human rights deprivations in the United States every chance it gets, simply gave up doing its part to protect millions of people from Saddam’s wrath.

Indeed it’s a hilarious irony that the anti-war types who denounce American “hypocrisy” for having “created” Saddam Hussein have nary a harsh word for the French, who not only sold Saddam a nuclear reactor but are wholly unapologetic about their desire to continue trading with him.

French officials, including Villepin and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, have decried the “pain and suffering of the Iraqi people” for years as a way to undermine sanctions against Iraq. That would be a fine moral position, except that the French know that lifting sanctions wouldn’t help pay for childcare, it would go toward more weapons of mass destruction and presidential palaces.

And that points to the second problem with the French position. Sanctions haven’t been working, thanks in large part to French efforts to undermine them.

Where Saddam rules, oil money goes to palaces and weapons. The French know this. As Kenneth Pollack details in his masterful book “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” France has been rewarded time and again for its feckless lapdoggism. “As a result of (France’s) shameless pandering, the French have been the largest or second largest recipient of Iraqi oil-for-food contracts in every phase of the program.”

There may be good anti-war arguments out there. But none of them involve the French example. If the United States is wrong for having created the monster that is Saddam Hussein, France is doubly so.

At least America wants to correct its mistakes. France doesn’t even think it was a mistake to create Saddam and is doing everything it can to let Saddam out of his box. It’s a brainless slander to say America wants a war for oil. It is a plain fact that France wants “peace” for oil.

Categories: Odious Debts

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