Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Chirac: Man of Peace

William Drozdiak, "Gulf Crisis [1990] Ends 15 Years Of French-Iraqi Closeness; Paris Was Baghdad's Prime Patron in West," The Washington Post, First Section p. A-13 (October 12, 1990, Friday, Final Edition):

Jacques Chirac, prime minister under president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, launched France's quest for high-stakes contracts with Baghdad and soon cultivated a warm rapport with Saddam. Welcoming the Iraqi leader on a visit to France in September 1975, Chirac surprised even his staff by speaking of his affection for his "personal friend."    

A year later, France began constructing the Osirak nuclear research facility at Tammuz that would be bombed in 1981 by Israeli aircraft. Even though France insisted that sufficient controls would have prevented any misuse of the center, Saddam declared in 1976 that "the accord with France is the first concrete step toward the production of an Arab nuclear weapon."    

The close rapport established by Chirac between Paris and Baghdad persisted through several changes of government, as French politicians from right to left on the ideological spectrum helped sustain the strategic friendship. Even the left-wing Socialist Jean-Pierre Chevenement, the current defense minister, became so enamored of Iraq that he helped found the French-Iraqi Friendship Society in 1985.

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Douglas Davis, "An explosion of Gallic chutzpah," Jerusalem Post, News p. 14A (February 14, 2003):

"The Americans think they have a monopoly on the truth, and they think they have a right to impose it on us," an outraged French guest told me at a smart dinner party in Paris last weekend. "Well, we don't accept it. We don't accept their imperial ways."    

Even the Picasso figure on the wall behind him, which had remained impervious to this haughty explosion of Gallic chutzpah, seemed to blush slightly when high principle turned to hypocrisy and then to outright opportunism.

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Joshua Glenn, "The Examined Life; Chirac's Other Iraq Policy," Boston Globe, Section Ideas p. E3 (March 2, 2003, Third Edition):

   JACQUES CHIRAC'S OPPOSITION TO the Bush administration's march to war may have won him the applause of antiwar activists, but others have noted that the French president may have less than principled reasons for his position. After all, France has economic ties to Iraq, and Chirac has millions of Muslim voters to worry about, too. And a photograph which has recently been circulating online offers a mute, though eloquent, J'accuse of its own.

In this 1975 photo, then-Vice President Hussein is seen touring the Cadarache nuclear power station in France, accompanied by a bespectacled Chirac, France's prime minister at the time. Chirac freelanced a deal to sell Saddam two nuclear reactors, and arranged to have French nuclear scientists and engineers train their counterparts in Iraq-most of whom are now on the list of Iraqi scientists and engineers that UN weapons inspectors want to chat with. Not only did Chirac help build Iraq's "Osirak" reactor-the Israelis dubbed it "O-Chirac"-near Baghdad, but he also sought to ship Iraq weapons-grade uranium, even though a safer grade was available. (France's president, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, scotched the plan.) By the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq was France's single largest arms customer; Iranians referred to Chirac as "Shah-Iraq."  In 1981, Israeli fighter pilots-including a 26-year-old Ilan Ramon, who died last month on the space shuttle Columbia-destroyed the Osirak reactor shortly before it was due to deliver nuclear capacity to Iraq. Chirac, echoing the views of many world leaders at the time, described the Israeli raid as "unacceptable."

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