- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

France and Saddam

I enjoyed French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte’s attempts to divert attention from the issue raised by Bill Gertz’s Wednesday front-page article, “French connection armed Saddam” (“Regrettable consequences,” Letters, Thursday).

Let us not forget that our gallant ally, France, went beyond disagreeing with our Iraq policy and actively worked against us. France led a coalition whose goal was to prevent the United States from taking military action against Iraq.

The right honorable Mr. Levitte does a magnificent job of trying to obscure the facts by attacking the credibility of Mr. Gertz and lamenting the terrible French-bashing that may result from his article.

You will notice that the ambassador fails to address any facts or put forth any plausible reason why French weapons found their way to Iraq. The fact is, French weapons that clearly had been acquired recently were found in Iraq. Does the ambassador expect us to believe these weapons were not found?

Based on the support the French have rendered during the past several years and their close ties to Saddam Hussein, I find it difficult to ignore the possibility that our best friend in the whole wide world may have knowingly violated the United Nations-imposed arms embargo against Iraq and provided it with weapons and repair parts.

What kind of friend and ally would that make France? One we don’t need.

TED W. MAUZEY

Jacksonville, Fla.

It was interesting to read French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte’s response to Bill Gertz’s charges that the French government and defense industry supplied Iraq with weapons in spite of U.N. sanctions over the past decade.

The ambassador’s answer to the charges is, “I rejected them” before, and so he rejects them now. His only other defense is to claim that Mr. Gertz relied on “anonymous sources.” No response as to why recently produced French-made aircraft parts, Roland missiles, RPG night sights and Matra SNEB rockets were being used by Iraqis against American and coalition forces. Some of these French-produced weapons are still being used by Iraqi insurgents.

Mr. Levitte’s biggest concern is that the evidence Mr. Gertz presents may lead to more “French-bashing.” Well, is it Mr. Gertz’s fault for presenting the evidence, or should France have thought about such consequences when it provided weapons to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions for 12 years?

It’s a pretty neat trick to illegally sell arms for a large profit, insist on payment with U.S. subsidized funds and then provide just enough assistance that the U.S. government is willing to hush up the facts.

COL. CURTIS MARSH

U.S. Marine Corps (retired)

Fairfax

The American Foreign Service Association takes strong exception to the unfair and unfounded attacks on career Foreign Service officers leveled by Bill Gertz in his Wednesday article “French connection armed Saddam.”

We are grateful that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was not injured in the Oct. 26 rocket attack on the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. However, Mr. Gertz fails to mention that a Foreign Service employee was seriously wounded in that attack and that two Foreign Service officers earned awards for heroism for rescuing colleagues in the incident.

Mr. Gertz states: “The problem with the Foreign Service is its culture. It trains diplomats to ‘get along’ with the foreign governments they are sent to work with. Not insignificantly, Paris is among the most coveted postings in the world.” Times readers should read Nicholas Kralev’sspringseries “America’s Other Army: Inside the Foreign Service,” which presents a well-researched picture of the realities of Foreign Service life.

Our men and women are not trained to “get along.” They are trained to represent the people of the United States and to protect our nation’s security in some very difficult and dangerous places. When Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in early 2004 launched a worldwide call for the Foreign Service to staff the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, more than 1,000 bids were received from our colleagues for some 140 positions.

Our professionals serving in Iraq are doing dangerous and important duty. They do it willingly. The men and women of the Foreign Service need no lessons in patriotism or courage. The American people can be proud of the heroic work of our Foreign Service colleagues in Iraq and around the world.

JOHN W. LIMBERT

President

American Foreign Service Association

Washington

National Guard questions (again)

The controversy over President Bush’s National Guard service is reminiscent of the 1992 Democratic primaries, when then-Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, running against Bill Clinton, questioned Mr. Clinton’s artful draft dodging and avoidance of service in Vietnam (“Democrats to push Guard questions through election,” Page 1, Thursday). Sen. John Kerry rose to support Mr. Clinton.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Mr. Kerry opined: “We do not need to divide America over who served and how. … But while those who served are owed special recognition, that recognition should not come at the expense of others, nor does it require that others be victimized or criticized or said to have settled for a lesser standard.”

Mr. Kerry continued in his appeal to those pursuing the presidency in both parties, saying, “We do not need more division… What has been said has been said… but I hope and pray we will put it behind us and go forward in a constructive spirit for the good of our party and the good of our country.” It will be interesting if Mr. Kerry endorses the Democratic National Committee’s continued pounding on Mr. Bush for supposed discrepancies in his National Guard service, and if he does, the question arises: What is the statute of limitations on flip-flopping?

BILL SMITH

Palm Desert, Calif.

I am willing to accept, for the sake of argument, all that the Democrats say about George W. Bush and his Air National Guard service, that he shirked duty, tried to pull strings to get a cushy assignment and was a mediocre airman at best.

We knew all this in 2000. Candidate Bush pretty much admitted that for almost the first 40 years of his life, he was a fairly typical rich-boy frat-rat kind of guy, irresponsible and reckless, until he found religion. So what?

In 2000, Bush said time and again how he became a changed man. He has never sought to portray his past in any other light, and he asked the American people to judge the man he had become in spite of who he had been.

On top of that, and more important for all of us, the real Mr. Bush has emerged as a result of and in response to the nationally life-changing events of September 11. He has been decisive and resolute in protecting the nation in the face of withering criticism and scorn from here at home and in some places abroad. Not a bad quality in an American president.

TERRY BARNICH

Chicago

Russian pre-emption

In your article “Russia vows pre-emptive terror hits” (Page 1, Thursday), Nicholas Kralev quotes U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as saying, “We need to come up with ways and means of fighting terrorism effectively, but we need to make sure that these approaches do not undermine the rule of law and basic civil rights.”

Pure pap. Did Mr. Annan suddenly, maybe the night before, discover we live in a world of terrorism? He should have been doing something as the U.N. head a long time ago instead of endlessly spouting words with no deeds.

Just what is the worth of the United Nations? Terrorism is rampant, and the world body is sitting on its thumbs as children are being massacred. For shame.

LEO BEINHORN

Banner Elk, N.C.

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