French kiss-off

Posted: Jan 24, 2003 12:00 AM
Do the French owe the United States for saving its bacon in World War II? Mais oui. They at least owe us some respect, and the same benefit of the doubt that they are so happy to bestow on Saddam Hussein. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin's declaration that France would fight against a U.N. Security Council resolution to wage war on Iraq shows why many Americans don't see France as a true ally. First, de Villepin's remarks have made war more likely, in that he eased international pressure on Saddam Hussein to step down. As The Washington Post reported, de Villepin looked down his nez at the notion of granting Hussein asylum outside Iraq. "Let us not be diverted from our objective," de Villepin sniffed. "It is the disarmament of Iraq." As if Iraq is more likely to disarm with Hussein -- a man who kills critics, tortures their children and gasses entire villages -- in charge. Saddam-ites such as de Villepin and U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix don't even pretend that Iraq is seriously complying with U.N. Resolution 1441. How could they, when no weapons have been turned over? How could they, when U.N. inspectors discovered warheads for chemical weapons this month? So the new argument, voiced by de Villepin in The Washington Post, is that "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen." "Largely blocked?" That tells me de Villepin realizes that, even with inspectors, Iraq continues to upgrade its deadly arsenal when possible. De Villepin told a reporter that France's Iraq policy is guided by four principles: justice, solidarity, morality and the law. All four ideals are missing in action. Justice demands that Hussein, who has killed his own people, be driven from office. Solidarity was what the United Nations had when France and other nations voted unanimously to send inspectors to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. Morality dictates that France stand by that vote. The law? In November, the U.N. Security Council voted that if Iraq doesn't comply with Resolution 1441 to deliver its weapons of mass destruction, there will be "serious consequences." What is France's idea of serious consequences for Hussein? Not being invited to Maxim's for dinner? Are serious consequences allowing Hussein to stall the inspectors? Or to bask in the pleasure of watching them make excuses for him? Or to enjoy the leisure of choosing the moment to shoo U.N. inspectors out of Iraq -- and then get away with it? An enemy couldn't concoct a more perfect formula for helping Iraq become as menacing as North Korea than our ally, France. If "serious consequences" means more delays and opportunities to stonewall, then the United Nations is irrelevant as a peace-keeping body. It is an entity capable of nothing but half-measures, and thus incapable of battling leaders who kill en masse. President Bush is right in his contention that America can wage this war, not alone, but with a smaller set of allies who will act on the threat of "serious consequences." The sad part is that de Villepin's drivel helps Americans to forget the sacrifices and contributions -- such as sending 4,500 troops to Afghanistan -- the French have made. That's a choice France is free to make. If the French and the United Nations want to prove they are irrelevant, that second-rate thugs can violate their inspectors with impunity and that the United States can win a war without them, well, so be it.