Eight European leaders, writing inthe European edition of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Jan. 30,laid down a marker for their colleagues in France and Germany whoblindly refuse to acknowledge the imminent danger to world peaceposed by Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime.
Led by British Prime Minister TonyBlair, these leaders wrote because the stubborn refusal of France andGermany to face facts threatened to tear Europe apart. So why do theFrench and the German governments persist in this folly? It's allabout the euros &emdash; at least, that's what the leaders in Parisand Berlin who are driving policy believe.
The cynicism of these fair-weatherallies becomes apparent when one examines the lists of export licenseapplications to the Office of Iraq Programs at the United Nations.This is the agency that screens so-called "dual-use" equipment Iraqis trying to import using blocked funds from its oil sales.
Although the U.N. usually refers tothese sales as "Oil for Food," the Iraqis actually are seeking vitalequipment for their weapons plants, their intelligence services, andthe repressive apparatus of the Ba'ath Party. And the French and theGermans are willing suppliers.
According to publicly availabledata, French companies have made the lion's share of applications tothe U.N. for such sales over the past five years &emdash; 272applications in all &emdash; worth billions of dollars. The U.S. put93 of those contracts, worth $217 million, on hold. Among them wasthe sale as "medical equipment" of a series of lithotripsy machinesfor treating kidney stones without surgery by the company Karl StorzEndoscopie France SA.
Perfectly normal? Think again. Thelithotripter employs a high-speed krytron switch similar to thoseused to trigger nuclear warheads. Along with the six medicalmachines, Iraq wanted 120 spare krytrons.
Other French companies have soldmicrowave communications gear and fiber-optics repeaters used by theIraqi military to build out its secure command-and-control network,and large-scale agricultural sprayers the U.S. believes could be usedto disperse biological weapons. Now, according to the latest Iraqirequests submitted to the U.N. on Jan. 6, Saddam wants to modernizehis state-run torture apparatus with digital imaging hardware thatwill allow the Ministry of Justice the better to identify and trackopponents of the regime. Saddam also wants to purchase an intagliopress for the Iraqi mint.
Similar presses, sold to Iran in the1970s, have been diverted by the clerical government in Tehran tocounterfeit U.S. $100 bills.
Over the next six months, should heremain in power, Saddam has signaled his willingness to purchaseclose to $3.5 billion of industrial goods and machinery. This is whyFrance and Germany have opposed the U.S.-led coalition of the willingto oust Saddam, liberate Iraq, and destroy Saddam's unconventionalweapons. They see all this good business going down the tubes.
The cravenness of the French andGermans has not gone unnoticed by the Iraqi opposition. According toseveral top-ranking officials within the Iraqi National Congress(INC) I have spoken to in London and Washington over the past threemonths, a post-Saddam Iraq will return the favor. "Of course we willremember those who helped us in our time of need," said QobadTalabani, the D.C. representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistanand son of PUK leader, Jalal Talabani. "We tell the French, youshould understand that Saddam is going to go."
Nor has it gone unnoticed at theWhite House and in Congress, where tempers have reached the boilingpoint.
Here is what the world is going tolook like a few months from now for the French and the Germans afterthe overwhelming victory of the U.S.-led coalition against SaddamHussein.
Billions of dollars ofSaddam's government debts to the governments of France and Germany:canceled.
Billions of dollars ofSaddam's government debts to private French and German companies:cancelled.
Oil contracts signed bySaddam and his minions with French and German oil companies andequipment providers: null and void.
Access to tens of billions ofdollars in reconstruction contracts that will follow after the war:denied.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hasalready begun to signal he is prepared to change his opposition tothe U.S.-led coalition to oust Saddam.
But not Frances's President JacquesChirac or German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who strut and tutabout U.S. "unilateralism" as if they had something better tooffer.
Why should a democratic coalitiongovernment in liberated Iraq pay even lip service to those who foryears have aided and abetted their enslavers? That is a question Mr.Chirac in Paris and Mr. Schroeder in Berlin would do well to ponderbefore it is too late.
Kenneth Timmerman is author of "TheDeath Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq" (Houghton Mifflin) and a seniorwriter for Insight magazine.
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