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July 18, 2005
French Lies Sink British Ties

The French continue to isolate themselves in the war on terror. First they allegedly concocted the forged documents that came to the CIA and caused a row over the State of the Union speech. Now they have gone out of their way to lie about sensitive information in the middle of the London bombing case simply to score a couple of political points, enraging the British and threatening to end cooperation between the two countries on intelligence:

In an interview with Le Monde that appeared on the newsstands last Monday afternoon - two days after the exceptionally open briefing - [French antiterrorism coordinator Christophe] Chaboud announced to the world that he knew "the nature of the explosives" used in the London bombings.

It "appears to be military, which is very worrisome," he said, adding: "We're more used to cells making homemade explosives from chemical substances. How did they get them? Either by trafficking, for example, in the Balkans, or they had someone on the inside who enabled them to get them out of a military base."

But Mr. Chaboud did not stop with his assessments of the explosives and their origins, which, it turned out, were completely wrong. He plunged into politics, railing at the British with an I-told-you-so air that Europe was a more dangerous place because of the war in Iraq.

For the past several years, the French have played an increasingly antagonistic role in security issues for the West. Although they joined the original coalition to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1990-91, they argued for normalization with Saddam almost since the last echoes of the guns faded from that war. When the US decided to stop issuing empty UN Security Council resolutions and demand compliance from Saddam in 2002, France originally told the US and Britain that it would support the effort, only to turn around and actively campaign to have other UNSC countries oppose any such enforcement.

After the invasion, we discovered mountains of evidence that France had taken bribes and undermined the sanctions regime, along with Russia, China, and Germany, making the effort to keep Saddam propped up much more understandable. However, it doesn't explain everything, as this latest development clearly shows. The French have apparently decided that their ludicrous quest to create a new French hyperpower out of sheer Gallic obstinacy has proceeded to new lows. In its way, it resembles the Joseph Wilson scandal; a government official in intelligence has lied about his information in order to make an anti-war argument based on fallacy.

The British feel that Chaboud leaked false information on purpose. The French might dispute that characterization, but the fact that Chaboud leaked anything and then followed it up with an insult to the British makes a counterargument rather difficult to believe. One would expect the man in charge of anti-terrorist efforts in a significant nation to know the meaning of sensitive information. The British, meanwhile, have made it clear that they will limit the information shared with France in the future, which will likely set off a tit-for-tat reaction across the EU.

If nothing else, this proves that we cannot rely on the French for assistance in the war on terror. They have no concept of the seriousness of the conflict or its nature, and now it looks like the French have lost what little honor they have left. The Chirac government, on the verge of being chased out of office by a highly discontented electorate, has settled for a survival strategy of damaging its putative allies for a brief moment of self-centered exploitation of Brit-hatred. Western governments should start protecting their interests by isolating France as quickly as possible, diplomatically, economically, and militarily. Perhaps that might provide a lesson for the current French regime about their empty fantasies of diplomatic domination.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 18, 2005 12:05 PM

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