The French have faced some serious charges in the past few months. They've been called traitorous, lazy and odious. But now, it seems that those charges haven't gone nearly far enough: It appears that the French have engaged in espionage against the United States and coalition forces in the Middle East.
The other day, I received a letter from a U.S. Air Force officer stationed on a base in Saudi Arabia. He wrote that coalition commanders expelled French soldiers from his base late last week. The French had apparently been caught hacking into the U.S. secret computer system. Their rooms had been evacuated, and British and American troops were allowed to move their own belongings into the plush surroundings the French had previously enjoyed. The officer reported that the information was 60-70 percent reliable, as a couple of semi-reliable sources had corroborated the story.
This story has been kept under tight wrap by the governments involved -- perhaps because the information is false. But if the French troops were indeed removed from the base for spying on the U.S. military, relations between our countries will have reached a new low.
This latest breach of international relations would be the logical culmination of a pattern of deceit and treachery. After stifling a United Nations vote on any resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, France has frustrated U.S. goals as much as humanly possible. On March 24, the French refused the United States' request that France expel Iraqi diplomats and freeze the French-held funds of the Saddam Hussein regime.
French President Jacques Chirac pledged to oppose any U.S.-led effort to gain an "after-the-fact" U.N. resolution condoning our campaign to disarm Iraq. In a letter to fellow peacenik Pope John Paul II, Chirac reiterated his commitment to "defend the primacy of law, justice and dialogue between peoples." Chirac's commitment to law and justice ends where physical force begins; Chirac said that he "deeply (regrets) the start of armed operations." Despite France's opposition to the war, the French maintain that any post-war mess must be cleaned up with the help of the United Nations, aided by -- you
guessed it -- France.
The French government has also made untiring efforts to paint Saddam Hussein and his gang of brutal thugs as victims of imperialist aggression. Over the weekend, the Iraqi military allegedly murdered some American POWs and taped interrogations of several others, a few of whom were wounded at the time. Al-Jazeera, the Qatari television channel, broadcast the footage of the interrogations that was distributed by the Iraqi government. While the video made clear the brutality of the Iraqi regime, the French did not react with shock or horror at the prospect of American POWs being killed, wounded or forced to undergo severe humiliation in violation of the Geneva Convention. Instead, the Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA), the French broadcast watchdog, chastised Al-Jazeera head Michael Kik for putting the tape on television and revealing Iraqi war crimes.
Now, the French military has allegedly been expelled from a coalition base in Saudi Arabia for spying on the uncultured Americans. Can the French sink any lower?
The sad truth is that they can. Jacques Chirac's approval ratings are sky high; anything anti-American goes over like gangbusters with the French public. And that anti-American sentiment is likely to become more and more severe with the growth of the militant Muslim population in France. France currently has 5 million Muslims, totaling somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent of its population. The highly polarized Muslim community has gained enormous prominence in France, especially because other ethnic groups are reproducing at relatively low rates while Muslims are having many children. At some point in the future, if demographic trends hold, France could become a majority Muslim state -- and a dangerous foe to the United States.
The French government has nuclear weapons. What will happen if an extremist Muslim government rises to power in France, with control of full-fledged nuclear weapons? This is a problem that cannot be solved in the short term, with people like Jacques Chirac in charge of foreign policy. But over the long term, France must be given some sort of economic incentive or disincentive to disarm, before it is too late. If France is willing to spy on United States forces in the Persian Gulf now, can we expect any better if the electoral majority in France is militantly Islamist?