Tom Friedman believes that France has finally got on the right side of the war. I’m not sure I fully agree with Tom here. More on this soon.
I believe the French president, Jacques Chirac, knows something in his heart: in the run-up to the Iraq war, President George W. Bush and Tony Blair, prime minister of Britain, stretched the truth about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction – but they were not alone. Chirac also stretched the truth about his willingness to join a UN-led coalition against Iraq if Saddam was given more time and still didn’t comply with UN weapons inspections.
I don’t believe Chirac ever intended to go to war against Saddam, under any circumstances. So history will record that all three of these leaders were probably stretching the truth – but with one big difference: Bush and Blair were stretching the truth in order to risk their own political careers to get rid of a really terrible dictator. And Jacques Chirac was stretching the truth to advance his own political career by protecting a really terrible dictator.
Something tells me that the picture of Saddam looking like some crazed werewolf may have shocked even Chirac and his foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin: Yes, boys, this is the creep you were protecting. History will also record that while the United States and Britain chose to be Saddam’s prosecutors, France chose to be his defense lawyers. So, no, it doesn’t surprise me that the French are now offering conscience money in the form of Iraqi debt relief.
Something tells me Chirac and de Villepin were just assuming Iraq would end in failure, but with Saddam’s capture they’ve decided they’d better put a few chips on success.