From the “what did you really expect?” department, we give you Jacques Chirac, the best ally that Saddam’s money could buy:
Chirac’s performance benefited mightily from his tolerance of wide chasms between his words and his deeds. “France will never forget what it owes America,” the French president told some 6,000 D-Day veterans and assorted guests in his talk on Sunday in the Norman coastal town of Arromanches. A few days later he opposed America’s requests for deeper involvement of NATO in the pacification of Iraq, saying such a move would not be “opportune”; fought to water down Bush’s program to foster the growth of democratic institutions in the Middle East, stating that he opposed such “missionary” work; and responded with a vigorous “non” to Bush’s plea that Iraq’s creditors join America in forgiving “the vast majority” of the debts incurred by Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime. (Within the G-8 nations, Japan is owed $4.1 billion, Russia $3.5 billion, France $3 billion, Germany $2.4 billion, and the United States $2.2 billion.) And just to make certain that none of the anti-American voters at home get any idea that he has moved too close to the Americans, Chirac decided to pass up President Reagan’s funeral to keep an unspecified “previous commitment” in Europe.
Apparently, remembering one’s debt to America, France’s “steadfast friend and ally,” and honoring that debt are two different things. Iraq’s monetary debt to France must, Chirac insists, be paid, but France’s moral debt to America remains in the need-not-repay file.