Phil Brennan,
Tuesday, Mar. 23, 2004

This is a review of Kenneth R. Timmerman's book 'The French Betrayal of America' published by Crown Forum.

In July 1981 President Reagan met with French President Francois Mitterrand at the G-7 meetings in Ottawa. It was expected to be a stormy session – the presence of communists in the French president’s cabinet was a sore point between the U.S. and France, and it was expected that Reagan might threaten to expel Socialist France from the Western alliance unless Mitterand got rid of the communists.

Instead, the meeting French journalist Thierry Wolton wrote "brought a spectacular improvement in French-U.S. relations ..."

What happened was what Wolton called "an event of such magnitude that it changed Washington’s tone on the spot." Out of the blue, Mitterrand handed the U.S. what was easily the most important intelligence breakthrough in the Cold War – the revelation of the details of the entire Soviet campaign to steal the West’s most vital military secrets provided by a Soviet defector code named "Farewell," who was working at the heart of the Soviet intelligence operation.

Using the information, the Reagan administration was able to all but shut down the flow of strategic materials to Moscow. In addition, aware of what strategic materials the Soviets wanted to steal, the Reagan administration was able to supply ersatz versions with built-in flaws that not only made the weapons and other materials useless, but dangerous.

This was especially true with a part meant to be used in the Soviet Siberian gas pipeline vital to the Soviet economy. The part, once installed caused an explosion so great U.S. monitors thought at first it was a nuclear blast.

Writes Timmerman, "Given a choice between freedom and tyranny, Mitterrand didn’t hesitate an instant. Despite his leftist philosophy and political affinities … he chose America as his ally. It is by this standard that Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin must be judged today."

On the other side of the equation was French complicity in the building of nuclear facilities in Iraq which Paris knew could produce nuclear bombs, and French sales of strategic aircraft and sophisticated weaponry.

Last year Americans watched with revulsion as French President, Jacques Chirac sought to rally an international coalition to oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

In March 2003 a French public opinion poll showed that 25 percent of those polled supported Saddam Hussein before the start of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In his book investigative reporter Kenneth R. Timmerman reveals why Americans can no longer trust the French, especially when our security is at stake.

Wrote Timmerman "Coalition intelligence teams discovered extensive evidence of the well-documented love affair between Saddam Hussein and Jacques Chirac that began in 1975.

As Timmerman shows, that love affair paid big dividends to both men – to Saddam in a flow of armaments and to Chirac huge sums of money and a bonanza in oil contracts.

So close were the two men that it could be said that if they lived in San Francisco in the present they would have been in line at city hall for a marriage license.

Running throughout the book is the theme of corruption at top levels of the French government where bribery, payoffs and kickbacks are the order of the day, despite who is in charge. French governments are run by people on the take – and in the case of Iraq, the take was huge.

One of Timmerman’s the most shocking revelations was France’s key role in the ruthless destruction of the legendary and spectacularly beautiful Howeiza marshes in southern Iraq, the home of some three hundred thousands so-called "marsh Arabs" - an atrocity linked to a French-Iraqi oil deal.

The French "were refusing to send their oil engineers into an area where they might be kidnapped by rebel forces," Timmerman wrote. "So they suggested that the Iraqi’s ‘clean up’ the area ahead of tine." As a result "thousands of ‘marsh Arabs’ paid the ultimate price for this particular instance of French cupidity.

Acting on orders from Chiraq’s pal Saddam, Iraqi armament engineers diverted the marsh’s water sources thus drying up thousands of square miles of marshland and ending a way of life and destroying one of the world’s most beautiful areas both of which have enchanted Westerners for eons.

"Some three hundred thousand marsh Arabs were sent into forced exile in Iran, their way of life gone forever," Timmerman wrote.

The book is a primer on the French government’s modus operandi and the author explains in fascinating detail the development of the French-Iraqi love affair. Along the way Timmerman provides intimate glimpses into the often shameful activities of France’s most powerful political figures, almost all of whom were mired in the slime of corruption.

Among the many sidelights is the revelation of the activities of the UN’s Hans Blix in covering up Saddam’s nuclear program, noting that in 1981 when one of the arms inspectors, Robert Richter told a Senate committee that the Iraq had built secret nuclear facilities that were off limits to the UN’s inspectors. Blix promptly fired Richter for breaking ranks with the official – and false - UN line.

The villains of the piece are Jacques Chiraq – a man who, he writes, almost ended up in prison and French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin and Timmerman nails both men with a relentless examination of their duplicity in causing France’s betrayal of America.

Timmerman explains one reason for Chiraq’s support of Saddam and his betrayal, of the U.S.: money.

He quotes Alain Madelin, a former member of the Chiraq administration: "You can’t have billions and billions in arms deals or large construction projects when you know that the kickbacks on those contracts was often greater than 5 or 10 percent. Huge sums of money were put into circulation as a result of these pro-Arab policies. That is the hidden face of these policies. We’ll know the extent of it one day, perhaps."

Timmerman reports that there were a number of reasons why France wanted to help Saddam "and all of them had to do with money. Behind the scene, intense negotiations were underway that would be worth $50 billion to the French state owned-oil company Total and huge kickbacks to the French politicians who greased the skids. If the French could pull it off, the rewards for the support of Saddam would make the arms-for-oil deals of the 1980s seem like small beer."

Few Western journalists could have written this remarkable book but Timmerman has the credentials having been based in France for 18 years, from 1975 to 1993. Moreover he is widely recognized as an expert on the world’s armament trade and is the author of "The Death Lobby, How the West Armed Iraq," and a number of other books.

Many wondered if the boycotts of French goods that swept America was not an overreaction. After reading Timmerman’s indictment of the French, it seems that nothing Americans could do to punish a former ally for whom tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen bled and died in two wars, would be excessive.

This extraordinary book also reveals:

That Chirac lied to Bush and to the public about the war in Iraq The French claim they were "shocked to learn" that the Bush administration was preparing for war in early January 2003. The book proves that President Chirac had personally told President Bush well ahead of time that France would be at America’s side.

The war in Iraq was indeed a "war for oil"– waged by France, not the U.S.
Saddam had promised the French $100 billion in exclusive oil contracts if they succeeded in keeping him in power.

France helped build Saddam’s long-range missiles and nukes. Exclusive access to new documents provided by Iraq to the United Nations show that French defense companies were key partners in helping Saddam Hussein perfect the long-range missiles that killed U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia in 1991 and rained terror onto Israel. The documents also detail recent French assistance to Saddam’s clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Saddam paid off French politicians with suitcases of cash. The book reveals for the first time how arms dealers made cash payments in Switzerland to French politicians on behalf of Saddam Hussein, in exchange for their support.

Chirac has blocked cooperation on a high-profile terrorism case. France’s top counter-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, was ordered to stop cooperating with the United States in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker, despite mounds of documents that would have helped the United States to convict Moussaoui of conspiracy to commit mass murder.

Chirac nearly went to jail for corruption. President Chirac was on the verge of being indicted on corruption charges in 1999 until he cooked up an immunity deal with the head of the French Supreme Court, former Socialist foreign minister Roland Dumas.

France illegally sold U.S. military secrets to Saddam Hussein A prominent French defense company shipped U.S.-designed laser designator pods to Iraq in the1980s that compromised the most high-tech weapons in the U.S. arsenal.
When Timmerman first revealed that cooperation in 1991, he was subjected to a dirty-tricks campaign that included wire taps, accusations of espionage, and even death threats conveyed by active-duty French counter-espionage officers.