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The French Connection

Posted by Ed Davis, DPM on 3/21/03 at 15:11 (113776)

French Connection II

ASHINGTON What will the world discover, after the war is over, about which countries secretly helped Saddam obtain components for terror weapons?

Last week, I wrote that French brokerage was involved in the illicit transfer of the chemical HTBP, a rubbery base for a rocket propellant, from a Chinese company through Syria to Iraq.

When Christiane Amanpour asked President Jacques Chirac about it on CBS's '60 Minutes,' he replied: 'Because The New York Times is a serious newspaper, as soon as I read this I ordered an inquiry. I can now confirm officially, after an inquiry by the French foreign ministry, France and French companies have never endorsed or even provided such material to Iraq. So I am clearly denying this allegation.'

Mr. Chirac knows more than I do about trade with Iraq: in the late 1970's, he facilitated France's multibillion-dollar sale of the Osirak nuclear reactor to the rising Saddam. (After Iraq officially stated that the reactor's purpose was not to incinerate Tehran but 'to eliminate Zionism,' Israel destroyed it.)

Let me supply Mr. Chirac with some documentation that the Inspector Clouseau in his foreign ministry cannot find.

On Aug. 25, 2002, e-mail went from the director general of CIS Paris to Qilu Chemicals in China regarding a preliminary order: 'We are about to have one of our affiliates open a L/C [Letter of Credit] for an initial order of 20,000 kg. of sealant type HTBP-III. . . . The drums should have a label mentioning the nature of the goods, same as your sample: 'modified polybatadiene [sic] sealant type III,' it is not necessary that the label shows the name of your company.'

Ten days later, on Sept. 4, this response came from Qilu: 'Thank you for your order to our HTPB-III! We just have sent a 40-foot container to Tartous (Syria) last month. I am not sure whether the container is in your warehouse now.' A month later, Qilu sought a 'formal order.'

A Times colleague in Paris visited CIS early last week. The director, Jean-Pierre Pertriaux, acknowledged the documents but said someone else had filled the order. I duly reported his denial.

Mr. Pertriaux has since written to me to denounce my column as 'mostly imagination and slander.' He argues, in a rambling fashion, 'About HTPB, one of the uses of this chemical is as a binder for rocket propellant, one of the possible rocket style is long-range missile, which I personally know for sure the Iraqis do not have (the CIA know it still better): so the supply of HTPB is legal, it is not forbidden by the UN except for a use which does not exist, though it is unpleasant if you plan to invade Iraq and do not want to face field rockets or anti-tank weapons.'

But what about those e-mail notes? 'My company never supplied HTPB to Iraq (but it considered this eventuality) we know the Chinese QiLu company, they boasted to have shipped HTPB to promote their business but never actually did.'

Then, 'leaving you a chance to show that you distorted the truth, but did not organize a lie,' the French broker pointed elsewhere: 'Three shipments (totaling 115.8 tons) have actually been made from USA via Jordanian traders.'

He didn't name the supposed suppliers, but I was able to check his assertion that 'the supply of HTPB is legal' with an assistant secretary of state, John Wolf. 'All military-related sales to Iraq are banned by several U.N. resolutions,' countered Mr. Wolf, the man in charge of our nonproliferation bureau. 'This is rocket fuel you're talking about. The fact that Iraq was permitted to have missiles in the sub-150-kilometer range does not therefore allow the import of such fuel. Any sale to Iraq, except for humanitarian goods, requires the approval of the U.N. sanctions committee.' The U.S. is on that committee and never approved such a sale.

Is this component of fuel propelling 'unpleasant' weapons in Iraq now, to be used against our troops? I have no proof of that. But the name of the Iraqi arms merchant who handled the shipment when it arrived in Syria is no mystery. After the war, he'll sing, same as Saddam's runners of Al Qaeda agents.

Then President Chirac, all injured innocence, may castigate the foreign minister who too quickly assured him that a column about a French connection was 'devoid of all foundation.'

Forum: Join a Discussion on William Safire's Columns

Re: Who can allies at risk really rely on...

Ed Davis, DPM on 3/21/03 at 16:13 (113787)

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Portugal: U.S. 'best way' to have security
From the International Desk
Published 3/10/2003 8:17 PM
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LISBON, Portugal, March 10 (UPI) -- Portugal is siding with the United States on Iraq because Washington was 'Portugal's best way to ensure national security,' a Portuguese Cabinet minister said Monday.

Foreign Minister Antonio Martins da Cruz told state radio that if Portugal were attacked, 'it would be unlikely France and Germany would come to our rescue.'

His comments to RDP Antena 1 radio were monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp.

He said: 'Let us suppose Portugal, proper or its archipelagos, faced a threat, who would come to our rescue? The European Commission, France, Germany?

'I think it would be NATO who would come to our rescue, in other words, it would be the U.S., no one else would defend us. For instance, during the 1996 mission in Bosnia, operations took place with the support of 20 satellites, of which only one was European,' and the remainder belonged to the U.S.

'If we were attacked, is that what they would offer to defend us? How curious is this: in Bosnia, when we were called to send soldiers urgently to that region, the U.S. had C-17 and C-130 planes, and France leased ferry boats, which during the summer are employed in tourist services to Corsica.

'Is this how we are supposed to project our forces in Europe? Are they planning to defend us with ferry boats? I cannot envisage the European Commission protecting us from an attack in which highly developed weapons were employed,' the foreign minister said.

Copyright 2001-2003 United Press International

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Copyright 2001-2003, by United Press International. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten, redistributed, resold or manipulated in any form.

Re: Who can allies at risk really rely on...

Sharon W on 3/21/03 at 16:42 (113791)

Dr. Ed,

Good one.

I saw a report this morning where they were doing a 'people-on-the-street' interview in Paris. Half of the people interviewed said they had been involved in an anti-American protest during the past week. Only one of them actually supported the US in this war. But several of them made a big point of saying how they hate the politics of the American government, not Americans themselves... Just what a whole bunch of international reporters have quoted Iraqis as saying about us.

Only Iraqis are AT WAR with us, and France is supposed to be our ALLY... (Some ally!)

These 'typical Frenchmen' went on to explain that it was 'no hard feelings, we are still friends...'

Well, I doubt very much if I will ever think of France, or of the French, as 'friends' after this experience. I am really fed up with the huge piles of #%*! they've been shovelling in our direction.


Re: Who can allies at risk really rely on...

Leon S. on 3/21/03 at 18:23 (113806)

A friend of mine went to France several weeks ago when the first of the anti-war protests were going on. She said the French people couldn't have been nicer to her. Once they found out she was American, they would stop whatever they were doing and engage her in conversation. Even the waiters who normally (so I hear) aren't that friendly were exceptionally polite...
Someone must have injected me with a war pill because I have gotten into several discussions with people about what is going on and I find that most of my points are in support of our efforts in Iraq although I temper them with the moderate concerns about how we handle the administration of the country after the fighting is over. I laugh when people say that we are burning our bridges with our European allies. My answer to them is that they are burning their bridges with us. After 9/11 all the major heads of state came here and stood at ground zero and said that they too are New Yorkers. I guess too much time has gone by and their natural instincts of political survival has gotten in the way of their sympathies with us. Christopher Hitchens had a great line on o panel discussion I saw a few weeks ago when he said that Jacques Chirac never saw a bribe he didn't like and Saddam Hussein never saw one he didn't offer.

Re: Who can allies at risk really rely on...

Ed Davis, DPM on 3/21/03 at 18:45 (113813)

I have heard mixed stories -- Americans being snubbed by Parisians but treated warmly outside of the large cities. I would think and hope that French citizens would distance themselves from some of the antics of their government.

Chirac, today, stated that France would be against the UN effort to rebuild Iraq because doing so would legitimize the US effort. That is really dissapointing as the situation after the war is over is really critical to the future of the Iraqi people. Frances level of obstructionism will work against them if they cannot bring themselves to help out after the war is over.

Re: Who can allies at risk really rely on...

Sharon W on 3/21/03 at 19:02 (113820)

Dr. Ed,

That's what I'M so angry about. No, I'm PAST angry, I'm fed up.

If France doesn't want the US or the Brits to administer the rebuilding of Iraq, then fine, then perhaps the UN will choose France to do it. Then THEY can feed the hungry people, THEY can pay the bills, THEY can make all the decisions, THEY can deal with all the controversy, and THEY can choose for Iraq's new leader someone who will give France a cheap deal on oil in exchange for providing UN vetos on demand -- perhaps one of Saddam's adorable older sons -- that would be the type of corrupt and brutal regime that the French like and could get along with!!

That seems to be what the world WANTS...


Re: Who can allies at risk really rely on...

john h on 3/22/03 at 10:56 (113888)

Ed I saw one of the elected members of the French government being interviewed. He said he was strongly against the French President taking the hard stance and threating to veto everything. He said this is the President of France has that authority and is nothing the government votes on.

Re: Saddam's bunker

Ed Davis, DPM on 3/22/03 at 11:24 (113893)

It is still encouraging to realize that France and Germany are democracies and that their governments can be freely changed by popular vote.

Our pre-emptive surgical strike against what we beleived to be Saddam's bunker brought forth some interesting information. I had a sick feeling in my stomach to hear that the bunker we struck as well as other Saddam's bunkers were built by the Germans. That brought up visions of Hitler's bunker. Such bunkers are built for only one reason -- no 'dual' use excuses here.

Re: Saddam's bunker

john h on 3/22/03 at 18:46 (113927)

Ed: I think that bunker cost in excess of 1 billion dollars. There is another amazing thing that is going on in this war Ed that the media or papers have not even touched on and I have no idea how it is being handled. It is Air Traffic Control. You have upwards of two thousand sorties a day being flown by aircraft flying mach II, sub-sonic, helicopters, drones, missiles on the deck, aircraft being launched from all over the world and sea, air refuleling, aircraft dropping chaff which indicates multiple aircraft or snow, electronic jamming, artillery both friendly and enemy which reaches to flight altitudes. All these aircraft have to be on a target at a specified time and altitude, make refueling hookups at a given place and altitude at a given time. It boggles my mind how all this is being accomplished. In Vietnam we had radar sectors set up for various areas and just as with air control in the U.S. each radar sector was responsible for aircraft operating in its area. If you left the area you were passed off to the new radar sector. I just have no idea how you can possble coordinate this many aircraft and missiles all in the same air space with many of them putting out false signals and then having the stealth aircraft which put out no radar signal other than IFF. Our B-52' flying out of England are in the air 16 hours and perform three air to air refuelings. I have flown a few 24 hous missions on B-52's during the Cuban crisis and I can tell you that you are really beat after one of these sorties. We had two helicopters collide but we are really fortunate to not even have a loss from mechanical failure from these high performance aircraft operating mainly at night which is instrument flying. I can think of nothing much more dangerous than a night carrier landing and these guys are doing it day in and day out. We have got some really professional heroes out their people. It took some very big brains to put this thing together and coordinate it whether you are against or for this war..The sailors on the decks of these carriers are working 16 hour shifts 24/7 and many have been at sea 8 months. Our technology is like nothing I ever imagined and anyone looking at what is going on might take a pause before ever launching an attack against our country. This has to be the strongest miltary force in the history of mankind.

Re: allies

Ed Davis, DPM on 3/23/03 at 12:06 (113993)


I recieved a call from my sister-in-law last night. She is a flight attendent with United Airlines who has done primarily domestic flights.
United Airlines has asked US flight attendents to volunteer to work the Frankfurt to Kuwait route.

United is flying US troups from Frankfurt to Kuwait and apparently German flight attendents are refusing to cooperate in protest of our action. The Germans will be replaced with volunteers from the US.


Re: Saddam's bunker

Ed Davis, DPM on 3/23/03 at 12:12 (113994)


Another impressive aspect of our efforts is the manner in which we have made a herculean effort to conduct the war in a manner in which the fewest number of civilians are killed and limit collateral damage. This has never been done before and, if successful, will go down in history as an incredible achievement. I am sure there will be those who will finds fault no matter how well this is being done and hope that those individuals are not too big a distraction on this mission.

Re: Saddam's bunker

Leon S on 3/24/03 at 08:07 (114142)

Although I still support our actions in Iraq, I am very disappointed in the report that I just heard that Bush doesn't want to see the Al Jazeera video of the captured and killed prisoners from yesterday's action. I think that if he's going to send our troops into action, he should have the stomach to see what happens when things don't go right. I hope he doesn't imagine this as a war game video where he can turn it off if things don't go right. We have been fed a constant diet of how easy this was going to be and are not prepared to hear any bad news. I also heard some bimbo news reader on the radio say that the Iraqis are 'cheating' in refernce to the ambush yesterday. Cheating? What the hell does she think this is a game of tag?

Re: Saddam's bunker

pala on 3/24/03 at 09:52 (114168)

nice to hear an intelligent comment here leon. keep them coming.

Re: Saddam's bunker

john h on 3/24/03 at 11:25 (114203)

Leon: the White House has TV's set up to receive Al Jazeera. I think he has probably seen the videos by now. Certainly I do not think these videos be made public as the familes with the dead would view them. Freedom of the press needs to be very careful about such sensitive issues. I have picked up many combat casualties and many remains from aircraft that have been shot down. I would never want a family to see some of these scenes. They are still burned in my mind 35 years later.No one really needs to be exposed to this type of grusome scene. In particular the familes involved. The public always seems to want to view this type stuff just as they rubber neck at auto accidents. As the Commander in Chief you can bet the President and the Generals running this war have many sleepless nights about the people they send into battle. As a Squadron Commander every time I launched a flight it sure weighed on my mind and even today weighs on my mind. Even our Wing Commanders flew as many combat missions as the regular pilots. Watching the current TV war pictures I see the Colonels out front in the lead tanks on the way to Bagdad. You can bet any military leader takes very seriously launching the troops into battle. The diet of how easy this will be was not fed to us by the military but by the press. Every interview I have seen by the military and even individual officers and enlisted men are very quick to say it can turn real ugly on a dime. War has always been about death and destruction. Somewhere over the past decade perhaps starting with Desert Storm the public has come to think.we can have an almost casualty free war. I think as of yesterday we had more casualties as a result of accidents and friendly fire than from the enemy. In Desert Storm there were projections of from 10,000 to 30,000 casualties and we in fact lost around 236. In Vietnam we lost around 57,00, in Korea around 58,000, In WWII around 1 million and I think around 1 million in the civil war. War always has twist and turns but one thing remains constant and that is 'death and destruction'. I think it will take a few years to make a judgement on the embedding of the press in with the troops is a good thing or not. At this point I really do not know. Makes good TV coverage. Do not know how it effects the families involved.

Re: Saddam's bunker

Leon S. on 3/24/03 at 18:24 (114308)

John, The report that I heard this morning is that Bush said that he did not want to see the video. That's what angered me. I don't disagree with you about the propriety of showing this kind of footage on national televsion and surprisingly, in a rare exhibition of 'taste' (at least at this time) all the networks agreed not to show it, although this afternoon, CNN announced that after all the next of kin have been notified, in the interest of news, they will show the video of the prisoners. Earlier on MSNBC, I saw a taped interview of a wounded soldier, lying on a stretcher, talking to his mother at home. I'm sorry but this is getting out of hand. Why on earth did the military agree to have the reporters out in the field with them and allow these kind of stories? The technology available is turning this very serious undertaking into a media event.

Re: Saddam's bunker

john h on 3/24/03 at 19:02 (114326)

Leon: I still do not know what the final judgement will be on reporters in the field. I have this nawing feeling it might make a young soldier hesitate knowing he is on film and may cost him his life. Some of the newsagencies concerns are that the reporters will start to identify with the troops they are traveling with and not put out good reports. I also saw the soldier who had been shot (in the hand) and he was talking from the field to his family. You have to believe that a Commander leading a tank battilion has got to be effected in someway knowning a camera crew is filming him even in battle. It may cause a bad decision. This seems like a no win for the military. I have heard that one General in the Pentagon was responsible for this. General Franks was very much opposed. So far we have had several independent reporters either captured or killed. Since these independants are traveling on their on they can get in the way or be mistaken for the enemy. Already the Iraqu's have faked some TV crews with vehicles and cameras,etc.