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"Be Careful !" Chirac to USA [Eve of Iraq War]

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Uploaded on Dec 24, 2010

The French Were Right, Paul Starobin, National Journal, Friday Nov. 7 2003

"Be careful!" That was the exclamation-point warning French President Jacques René Chirac sent to "my American friends" in a March 16 interview on CNN, just before the Pentagon began its invasion of Iraq. "Think twice before you do something which is not necessary and may be very dangerous," Chirac advised. There were, of course, other war critics in Europe and elsewhere, but nobody presented the arguments more insistently or comprehensively than did the French, God bless 'em.
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The White House strains to explain the failure, so far, to find weapons of mass destruction, whose supposed presence in the country, after all, was a prime rationale for the war.
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France was the only country, other than the United States, to conduct air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan, with their Mirage jets and Super Etendard fighters hitting more than 30 targets during Operation Anaconda in March 2002. The French enthusiastically backed the Afghanistan war, breaking with Washington only on the Iraq question.

No more persuasive is the widely voiced (in the U.S.) argument that the French were defending wide-reaching and profitable commercial relationships with Saddam's regime. The truth is that France enjoyed minor economic ties with Saddam. Under the United Nations' now-defunct Oil for Food program with Saddam's Iraq, the French were only the 13th-largest participant. The U.S. under that program bought more than 50 percent of Iraq's total oil exports, the French 8 percent.
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One big reason the French were right is that they were thinking along the lines that Americans are generally apt to think - that is, in a cautious, pragmatic way, informed by their own particular trial-and-error experience, in this case as an occupier forced out of Algeria and as a front-line battler, long before 9/11, against global Islamic terrorist groups.
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There is only one Western country with an intimate, bloody, and recent experience of what it is like to be an occupying power in an Arab land, facing an Islamic insurgency. That country is France, which granted independence to Algeria in 1963 after failing to subdue an eight-year-long rebellion by cold-blooded assassins who didn't blanch at bombing Algiers nightclubs frequented by French teenagers.
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The Islamic world, as the most immediately problematic for the French, received France's priority attention. In the United States, it was only with 9/11 that beginning a dialogue with the Muslim community came to seem urgent, but the French, because of Algeria, had embarked on this road decades before. "The U.S. is still a bit virginal in its relationship with the Islamic part of the world," notes Simon Serfaty, who is an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "The French know this part of the world better."
The Algerian uprising certainly made a powerful impression on a young man destined for France's highest political office: Jacques Chirac. Conscripted in 1956, at the age of 23, to serve as an officer in the French army, Chirac commanded a platoon in an isolated mountainous region of Algeria. The mission was to keep order. But order proved impossible to keep, with the local population protective of the fellaghas, the armed resistance fighters from the Front de Liberation National (FLN). Chirac himself was not wounded in engagements with the guerrillas, but some of his men were, and some were killed. In a speech to the French Military Academy in 1996, he called his time there the most important formative experience of his life.
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So the French are not virgins when it comes to occupations. Nor are they virgins when it comes to countering international terrorism.
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Paris possessed counter-terrorism capabilities, oriented toward preventing attacks, second to none in the Western world in effectiveness. And French Mirages were dropping bombs on Afghanistan.
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"We Are All Americans" - "Nous Sommes Tous Americains" - the front page of Le Monde declared on September 13, 2001. And with Levitte at the helm of the U.N. Security Council, that body, for the first time in its history, declared that an act of terrorism was equivalent to an act of war.
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French authorities suspected links between Al Qaeda and Chechen rebels, but not between Al Qaeda and Baghdad, French officials stated publicly at that time.
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