May 16, 2003 | Lecture on Middle East
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today, at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. I want to salute the efforts of this great foundation, which is expanding its influence in the United States and in the world.
I am deeply honored to deliver this lecture. As you may know, I am a classical liberal, believing in free markets, free trade, and free enterprise. Three times, I was a member of the French government with Jacques Chirac. For a long time, I was the president of the political party of the current Prime Minister. But today, you will easily understand that my opinion does not reflect the present French diplomacy.
If it is obvious that Iraq harbors many secret production factories of terrifying weapons, my country certainly harbors some of the most prestigious intellectual laboratories of anti-globalization, anti-liberalism, and anti-Americanism. These ideas are exported to Porto Allegre, Florence, Johannesburg, and, alas, the U.N. They influence French media, public opinion, and, therefore, France's foreign policy. That's why, first of all, I wish to express my deepest regrets that your country came under French diplomatic "friendly fire."
Today, you should know that France's foreign policy crystallizes all the anti-American tendencies of the French society. A part of the French population is jealous and resentful of American power. Anti-Americanism is a flag for those who lost their flag. This anti-Americanism is put forth by the orphans of Marxism. These orphans still have a very strong influence in culture, the media, and the universities, and they are also seeking an economic third way against the Anglo-Saxon idea of the free market. Finally, there is nostalgia for a Gaullist posture and the idea that the only way to recover international standing is for France and Europe to oppose the United States. I fight against this anti-Americanism because I know it is used as a reason to reject free markets, free enterprise, and the rule of law--in short, all the values we share.
Nevertheless, I want to tell you that there are a large number of French people--a number I try to increase every day--who understand and support the military intervention in Iraq. It not only serves American interests, it also serves the interests of the free world and, in the long run, the cause of peace. The military intervention is not outside but within international law.
I try to explain this to my fellow citizens. We should side with the United States because we share common values. Because in the past, this great nation fought to preserve our freedom. Because for 40 years, the United States risked nuclear suicide to protect Europe from the threat of the USSR. And because in 1999, you were once again with us defending peace and democracy in Kosovo, without the U.N. But most of all, because your cause is also our cause, your interest is also our interest.
A lot of people, both in France and elsewhere, think George Bush is violating international law. No, that's wrong. Saddam Hussein is. He is a dictator who oppressed his people, lost a war, signed a conditional and temporary cease-fire, did not end his people's oppression, and did not disarm. He is a dictator who has despised international law and expelled inspectors. He refused to submit to his international obligations, even though warned by 16 U.N. resolutions. President Bush is merely enforcing international law by using armed force, the last resort to topple a regime that is a threat to the world.
Indeed, all resolutions concerning Iraqi disarmament are in accordance with Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes the use of force. Therefore, a strict application of international law would have allowed military intervention without any new resolutions.
But some countries, among them France, convinced you to go to the Security Council, to adopt a new resolution. This Resolution 1441 was adopted unanimously. It decided, "to afford Iraq...a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations." Saddam was given 30 days to provide "a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration" of armaments. It also warned Iraq that "false statements or omissions in the declarations...shall constitute a further material breach."
Inspectors were given a total of 105 days to check the declaration that Iraq submitted. On January 27, 2003, Hans Blix reported that it was not compliant with the Security Council's demands. This was a clear casus belli that legitimated an intervention.
Instead of writing out an official statement recognizing the lies in the Iraqi declaration, France and numerous countries explained that since the inspectors had begun to inspect, we had to give them more time in order to give peace a new chance. But this meant more time for Saddam Hussein and another last chance for him.
But the United States preferred to launch a military intervention than to listen to that friendly advice. This led to a paradoxical situation: the United States and its allies acted in perfect agreement with the U.N. resolutions, but without the endorsement of the Security Council because it was impossible to gather a majority due to the threat of the French veto. It is worth noting that the Security Council was unable to condemn the United States intervention.
But I want to also explain that this intervention is useful and even necessary for peace. On one hand, it aims at seizing Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, this intervention is an act of prevention against terrorism.
Intervention by the United States and the allies is needed because it aims at protecting the world from the threat of weapons of mass destruction. And Iraq is surely a threat, not only for American national security, but for everybody else's national security.
We know Iraq still has hundreds of tons of chemical products, several tons of liquids used to produce biological weapons, several thousand chemical bombs as well as long range missiles. We know Saddam tried for a long time to build nuclear weapons. A certain amount of naïveté is needed to imagine that after he expelled the inspectors in 1998, Saddam Hussein spontaneously continued his disarmament when everything shows otherwise. The indictments in Germany brought against companies that violated the embargo and the import of missile engines show that Saddam Hussein has clearly continued to arm himself despite his international obligations.
The world is too small to tolerate rogue states such as Iraq that are seeking weapons of mass destruction. It is a simple principle of precaution, then, to get rid of dictators by force when peaceful means fail.
Indeed, September 11, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the intervention in Kosovo, was a turning point. We had an enemy, but we did not want to see him or name him. The terrible images of September 11 touched our hearts and will mark our children forever. That day brought an end to our blindness. These acts of mass terrorism and the barbarian furor of their perpetrators carry the signature of "Islamic fascism"--a folly that disfigures one of the world's greatest religions. For too long we believed that international terrorism was primarily a matter for the police and the courts. It is above all a political matter.
The defense and security policies of all the world's democracies, starting with France's, need to be completely reworked--and, as I have often advocated, it needed to be done ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Reshaping our foreign policies is now a priority, a vital priority. After the fall of the Wall, and especially the intervention in Kosovo, it seemed possible to break with such shameful agreements and hold dictators accountable for what they were doing, especially oppressing their own people.
France must avoid its tendency toward anti-Americanism, which so often served to blind French public opinion about the true nature of communist regimes. Our response must not be weakened by bad habits from our diplomacy, which have seen us fraternize with regimes which oppress their people such as Syria and Iraq.
Secondly, I said that after having fought Osama bin Laden, Americans must not back down from their responsibilities in the new, dangerous world--responsibilities they have because of their strength. And all democracies must join them.
We must not lose sight of these values that we will defend together in our response to the tragedy of September 11. The democracies and their foreign policies need to integrate the values defended together in our response to September 11. We would imperil the legitimacy of our response today if we were to forget tomorrow these same values for other people or for other victims.
"To be meaningful," I said, "our solidarity must be an affirmation of our will to defend universal values such as the fundamental human rights throughout the world. This is the message we must send to the people of the world, offering them hope and ultimately an exit from poverty and oppression thanks to open societies."
Our nation's cause has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace--a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.
Only open societies can end the resentment of unhappy Muslim populations. This feeling is feeding terrorism, because dictators are using it. Anti-Americanism and nationalism are being used as a pretext to turn their own people from the reality of oppression, poverty, and corruption.
I was at the Salahadin conference, with the Iraqi opposition, and I know for a fact that such an Iraq is possible. To liberate Iraq is the first step toward a new regional order. It is giving people the hope of more liberty, more prosperity. It is the most efficient way to disarm Islamic terrorism in the long run.
It was a mistake to continue inspections in spite of Saddam's false declaration that constituted, according to Resolution 1441, a new material breach that authorized all member states to use all necessary means to implement the resolution.
This made people think disarmament was the only aim and that it was not necessary to overthrow Saddam's regime. The American intervention, in spite of its legitimacy, seems unilateral. This unleashed anti-Americanism throughout the world and, unfortunately, this was crystallized by France.
First scenario: Americans focus on bin Laden and forget Iraq. Iraq continues its rearmament effort, defies the international community, and acts with impunity. Iraq gives more support to Palestinian terrorism. The Iraqi people are still oppressed. French diplomacy finally obtains a lifting of the embargo. Nobody is demonstrating in the streets to say that the Iraqi people must be liberated. Peace is safe. Democracies can sleep well. A good time for dictators.
Second scenario: American determination is weakening in the face of the firmness and clearsightedness of the French position, and American forces head back to the United States. Inspectors continue their Iraqi tour. Saddam is glowing with pride; a bright future lies ahead of all dictatorships in the region. Democracies are back in the dark. The Americans are gone, saying they will never be caught again. A very good time for dictators.
The United States is indeed a superpower, and it is very useful against super-dictatorships and super-terrorism. The worst danger the world could face, would be to see this superpower being tempted by isolationism.
At that time, already, I strongly advocated the rights of oppressed people. Thus, during the Cold War, I supported people opposed to Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. Thus, I was in touch with opposition leaders in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, and even in the USSR.
In 1980, I was alongside the Afghan resistance as it was fighting against the Soviet occupation. In 1999, I was at the side of Commander Massoud in the Panshir valley to support his fight against the Taliban regime. I tried with all my heart to share with France and Europe his appeals for aid and to repeat his warnings about this new type of terrorism.
These crimes are not the result of the dragging on of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The terrorist acts carried out by this Islamic fascism in the Middle East have never aimed to achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Their aim is the pure and simple destruction of Israel.
But beyond the U.S. and Israel, there is more that this Islamic fascism cannot stand. It wants to destroy the picture of modern society, of openness, tolerance, protection of the fundamental rights and the dignity of women on which our democratic societies are based. These are a threat to their religious or political power. All their calls to a Holy War only serve to justify or continue illegitimate and despotic powers that oppress their people and keep them in ignorance and poverty. One does not choose one's enemies; it is they who choose us.
In our counterattack, we must not mistake the nature of our adversary. It is not a war of civilizations as some commentators would have it. It is not a conflict of North versus South or of rich countries versus poor ones. It is not a revolt of Islam against the rest of the world, nor a war of religion. It is a war conducted within Islam by a minority of fanatical fundamentalists who seek through a discourse of hate and by the manipulation of symbols to inflame the Muslim masses.
If we regret American unilateralism, it is then more necessary than ever to build a democratic multilateralism, based upon a strong alliance between Europe and the United States. It is a multilateralism that must be built now.
Behind the anti-Americanism lies the rejection of open societies, the rule of law, free market, and free trade, and that is why it must be fought. The alliance between democracies must correspond to the alliance of those who, like the Heritage Foundation, are waging the war of ideas.
We must not be deceived by polls that approve of the French diplomacy and by street demonstrations. If the demonstrations in 1950 had succeeded in bringing down NATO, then Stalin would not have been worried in his attempt to annex some of Western Europe. If the demonstration in 1982 had succeeded in stopping the deployment of the euromissiles, there might not have been a Gorbachev, or perestroika, or the fall of the Soviet empire.
Inside Chirac's majority, a lot of politicians are, in their heart, with the United States. And now, a good number of editors are saying that France went too far. As conclusion, I will take two examples.
[There comes] a time when public opinion is lost. Public opinion means all of us. Because, finally, one can with impunity behead its political opposition, move populations, organize daily terror, be responsible of two wars and the death of fifty thousand young people in a conflict against Iran which lasted eight long years. One can gas Kurds and massacre Shiites, starve these populations and organize an incredible cult of personality.
We do not forget that we always needed America. And it is not finished. Can we do anything without her? Ask the Arabs themselves, or the Palestinians. [The] Soviet Union was replaced by Russia and the danger is not coming from this side? No doubt. But we will need Americans tomorrow, in [a] few months or in the coming years, when North Korea, emboldened by Iraq and solicited by Iran, will spread--and that time really--weapons of massive destruction. Is too early to foresee what is coming? But it is the first round of this terrible fight. The first step is a disaster. Saddam Hussein is victorious.
It is a fact of huge importance. Last week, we were afraid of the consequences of an humiliation inflicted upon the Arabs. Now, here we are, afraid of the devastating consequences of this first Iraqi victory. We did not demonstrate all over the world, even in the United States, to contribute to Saddam Hussein's glory.
Among the damages of this crisis, an anti-American hysteria is spreading and which put at the same level Saddam and Bush, when it is not a mere inversion, that is to say Bush worse than Saddam. This madness is intentional. It is welcomed in streets and in conversations. Following it, this fever is awakening an anti-Semitism which demonstrates openly. The democratic world needs America. In globalization, American political defeats are democracy's defeats, which strengthen its adversaries, and especially Islamic fundamentalists. If after a political defeat, an isolationist America follows a unilateral America, we will bitterly regret its absence in the crucial fights of the world.
I wish that, like them, French opinion and world public opinion would soon open their eyes. I wish for a victory that will liberate Iraq as fast as possible from the dreadful tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and get rid of the threat he represents in his area and for the world.
Alain Madelin is a member of the French Parliament and a former cabinet minister.