Even before Jacques Chirac formally steps down as French President and Nicolas Sarkozy takes over, the New York Times is heaping praise on Chirac for his attempts to expiate the demons of France’s past: “He will be remembered as the first French leader to recognize the country’s crimes against Jews in World War II and to commemorate formally the complicity in African slavery.” By contrast, President-elect Sarkozy is described unfavorably as a man who “does not believe in saying he is sorry.”
Apologizing for the past, however, does not mean knowing how to apply its hard learned lessons to present circumstances. In this respect Chirac was a dismal failure. He kowtowed to the Hitler wannabes of our time such as Saddam Hussein. Indeed, Chirac ran interference for Saddam at the United Nations at every turn. The two men’s friendship went way back to the 1970’s, when Chirac (who was then French Prime Minister) had helped arrange France’s assistance in building a nuclear reactor in Iraq. Chirac, who vehemently condemned Israel for destroying the reactor in 1981, was so cozy with the Iraq dictatorship that his unofficial media title at the time was “Sheikh Iraq.”
Indeed, France under Chirac’s leadership continued to provide assistance to Iraq during the period of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. By 2001, France had become Iraq’s largest European trading partner and had controlled over 22.5% of Iraq’s imports, which included arms imports. A report commissioned by the French parliament published in September 2002 put the value of French exports to Iraq since sanctions were imposed at $3.5 billion. Just prior to the start of the Iraq war in 2003, France’s huge oil company and a large contributor to Chirac’s political party – Total Fina Elf – was poised to win contracts to drill large unexploited oil reserves in Iraq which would have been jeopardized by Saddam’s overthrow. Chirac did not act out of any moral conviction in opposing the United States at the Security Council when we sought a follow-up resolution authorizing military action to enforce all of the Security Council’s prior resolutions ignored by Saddam. Chirac put the narrow business interests of his own political benefactors before any concern about the potential dangers posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime to international peace and security.
As to Iran, Chirac blew hot and cold about its nuclear program, saying at one point that “[H]aving one or perhaps a second bomb a little later, well, that’s not very dangerous.” He claimed it did not matter because, if Iran were ever to use a nuclear bomb against a country like Israel, there would be instant retaliation of like kind against Tehran – which, needless to say, would be a bit too late to help the Israelis incinerated by Iran’s initiation of a nuclear holocaust. Chirac later tried to retract the part of his statement dealing with the destruction of Tehran, although not the part of his statement casually accepting the prospect of Iran’s attainment of one or two nuclear bombs. "I take it back of course when I said, ‘One is going to raze Tehran,’" Chirac said. "It was of course a manner of speaking."
In short, Chirac played down the threat of nuclear arms in the hands of terrorist sponsoring states in favor of currying influence in the Islamic world. In Chirac’s view of geo-politics, he had to counter-balance what he considered the more dangerous threat of American hegemony.
Sarkozy sees the world differently. He recognizes that the chief threat to France, like to the rest of the free world, is allowing nuclear weapons to reach the wrong hands – the terrorists and their state sponsors:
“Today we are confronted by multiple widespread threats. Whether it be proliferation of missiles and nuclear warheads, a matter of concern with Iran and North Korea, or the dissemination of bacteriological and chemical weapons, or hyper-terrorism, the conclusion is inescapable that no country is safe from these threats, certainly not France.”
Under Chirac, France coddled its growing Islamic population as some sort of bridge to the Muslim world, but his accommodationist strategy has backfired. France has a Muslim population of at least 6 million - nearly ten times the size of its Jewish population. At least 10% of France’s Muslims are radical Islamists who are prone to violence. Muslim-inspired attacks against French Jews jumped during Chirac’s presidency, with little action taken by the government to stop them. Chirac only became alarmed fairly late in his term when the situation started to spin out of control with not only more attacks against Jews but with widespread riots around the country. Even then, he left it to his Interior Minister, Sarkozy, to finally take some forceful countermeasures. As a reward for his efforts, Sarkozy came under attack for daring to call the rioters "scum," and advocating a hard-line approach to quelling the violence and destruction. Sarkozy wisely refused to back down from his remarks, which were not aimed at all Muslims but only at the radical Islamic youth gangs who were causing mayhem and firing live bullets at the police.
The Islamo-fascists who sparked the riots deserved such condemnation, certainly not apologies or expressions of understanding of the type they received from members of the pusillanimous, politically correct French elite like Chirac who called for applying the law against the rioters “in a spirit of dialogue and respect."
Some second and third generation French-born Muslim youth have spurned any notion of integration into French society while continuing to receive the economic and political benefits of the French democratic welfare state. They are not entitled to any respect or dialogue when they refuse to respect the basic legal foundations of a pluralistic, secular republic that makes such dialogue possible.
Here is but one horrific report of Islamic lawlessness in France, written about back in 2003 by French journalist Guy Milliere in Frontpage Magazine:
“A few weeks ago, a young Arab burnt a teenaged girl alive in the suburbs of Paris. He was convicted of murder, but he became a hero and an example for other young Arabs living in the same kind of areas. Two month ago, ten Arab men who raped another teenaged girl in another district were convicted and condemned to spend five years in jail. Yes, just five years. Their families left the court of justice shouting to the journalists it was unfair and they would look out for revenge. Eight days later, the court was burnt down during the night.”
Chirac was so obsessed with defending French culture against the supposed inroads of Anglo-American values that he never really grasped the potential existential threat of the fanatical Islamic cancer growing within the body politic of France. His silence for so many years allowed the threat to grow, something one would have thought that the French had learned not to repeat after suffering the dire consequences of silence and complicity in the face of the growing Nazi threat. French Islamization will continue to advance if this threat is not dealt with squarely as Sarkozy proposes to do.
Chirac failed to understand that there is more which should unite the democracies of Europe, North America, Israel, Australia, Japan and India than should divide us. We all face a common enemy in Islamo-fascism. Sarkozy, on the other hand, stated in his characteristic blunt style that “[W]e have the same adversaries. Bin Laden targeted New York, but he might just as well have targeted Paris.”
Rather than intellectually engage the points of view of the newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe who supported the United States and the United Kingdom against Saddam Hussein’s tyranny in Iraq, Chirac had a temper tantrum. He told the Eastern European leaders to shut up. One cannot imagine that Nicolas Sarkozy – the son of a Hungarian immigrant – would ever act so churlishly toward the defenders of freedom in Eastern Europe.
This contrast in mindset also appears with regard to Israel. Chirac tended to see Israel as the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East. France under his leadership was a more reliable “pro-Arab” voice in international forums than any other Western European country. Sarkozy recognizes that Israel is the first line of defense of democracy in the Middle East.
Finally, Sarkozy admires America’s open, entrepreneurial culture and its moral character, for which he offers no apologies: “I'm proud of this friendship, and I proclaim it gladly."
Sarkozy knows who his true friends are in this dangerous world: C’est magnifique!