Today’s top story is by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times, which begins a three-part series on the French connection. Gertz writes:
New intelligence revealing how long France continued to supply and arm Saddam Hussein’s regime infuriated U.S. officials as the nation prepared for military action against Iraq.
The intelligence reports showing French assistance to Saddam ongoing in the late winter of 2002 helped explain why France refused to deal harshly with Iraq and blocked U.S. moves at the United Nations. “No wonder the French are opposing us,” one U.S. intelligence official remarked after illegal sales to Iraq of military and dual-use parts, originating in France, were discovered early last year before the war began.
French aid to Iraq goes back decades and includes transfers of advanced conventional arms and components for weapons of mass destruction. The central figure in these weapons ties is French President Jacques Chirac. His relationship with Saddam dates to 1975, when, as prime minister, the French politician rolled out the red carpet when the Iraqi strongman visited Paris.
Gertz’s report cites chapter and verse. You should read it all; here is just a brief excerpt:
On April 8 came the downing of Air Force Maj. Jim Ewald’s A-10 Thunderbolt fighter over Baghdad and the discovery that it was a French-made Roland missile that brought down the American pilot and destroyed a $13 million aircraft. Ewald, one of the first U.S. pilots shot down in the war, was rescued by members of the Army’s 54th Engineer Battalion who saw him parachute to earth not far from the wreckage.
Army intelligence concluded that the French had sold the missile to the Iraqis within the past year, despite French denials.
A week after Ewald’s A-10 was downed, an Army team searching Iraqi weapons depots at the Baghdad airport discovered caches of French-made missiles. One anti-aircraft missile, among a cache of 51 Roland-2s from a French-German manufacturing partnership, bore a label indicating that the batch was produced just months earlier.
In May, Army intelligence found a stack of blank French passports in an Iraqi ministry, confirming what U.S. intelligence already had determined: The French had helped Iraqi war criminals escape from coalition forces