France: putting profit before principle
Having lived in Europe for almost a decade, this observer can say most Europeans, with the possible exception of the French, like most Americans. Moreover, despite the false view of America portrayed by Hollywood, they understand most Americans are hard-working, God-fearing people who just want to live in peace.
This despite some American tourists who do fit the stereotype of the rude, crude, loud, booze-swilling, crotch-scratching, English-only speaking, ugly Americans who barge in and out of their cathedrals and shrines wearing tank tops, shorts and flip-flops.
By and large, Americans seem to rejoice when their neighbors do well. Unfortunately some Europeans tend to view life and, incidentally, the relations of nations, as a zero-sum game. So, instead of hailing America for achieving one of the world’s highest standards of living, and trying to learn from our example, some Europeans seethe with envy. This, coupled with the secret business France and Germany have been doing with Iraq, is behind much of the anti-American feeling in Europe.
France and Germany owe us big time. Twice we restored their freedom. We helped re-build Germany after World War II. But, as they say in Hollywood, “If you want loyalty, buy a dog.”
But the nations we freed from the yoke of communism by winning the Cold War are grateful. They are standing with us in the effort to disarm Saddam Hussein.
Yet there is something rotten, not in Denmark, but in France. Why would the French foreign minister take the extraordinary step of flying to Angola, Cameron and Guinea to lobby those nations to vote against a UN resolution setting a firm deadline for Saddam Hussein to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction?
Let’s see what the Beirut, Lebanon, Daily Star (no friend to the U.S.) says about France and Iraqi oil: “France is, by far, the biggest player [in the Iraqi oil business]. The giant Total/Fina/Elf [French oil conglomerate] has development rights to roughly 25 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves. In theory, France’s long relationship with Iraq’s national oil company could put the French in a good position for more oil deals after any war.
“But, many French industry officials remain convinced the Americans will not allow French oil companies to work in Iraq if France fails to support the war effort.”
Assuming the U.S. does have the wisdom to exclude France from any involvement in post-war Iraq, what do the French have to lose? For starters, only Saudi Arabia has more proven oil reserves than Iraq’s estimated 112.5 billion barrels.
In other words, Iraq is sitting on top of about $2.8 trillion dollars worth of oil. Since the French have development rights to 25 percent of that $2.8 trillion, that $700 billion in potential profits explains French President Jacques Chirac’s desire to keep his long-time friend, Saddam Hussein, in power.
When some people opine the U.S. is only motivated by a desire to control Middle East oil, they forget the U.S. sits on huge, untapped oil reserves plus we have multiple foreign oil sources. But, to France and Germany who have no oil of their own, this dispute is very much about oil.
Over recent months, a French company has been illegally selling Iraq spare parts for the Iraqi Air Force’s French Mirage fighter jets and helicopters. A U.S. company would not be able to engage in such traffic without the knowledge of our government. So, it stands to reason that France, with its even more centrally controlled government apparatus, has cast a blind eye on this outrageous breach of international law.
Ultimately, the French will play a price for placing profit above principle. Our family already cancelled a barge trip through Burgundy and we don’t buy gas from Total, or Fina. While the cumulative impact of these personal boycotts will only affect France at the margins, the exclusion of the French from commerce with post-war Iraq could bring the French economy to its knees.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2003. William Hamilton