Thursday, September 09, 2004

Were the WMD "Lies" that the French Love to Mock Bush About Actually the Result of a Sinister French Trap?

You've heard the ridicule that (in hindsight) has been heaped on George W Bush and Tony Blair concerning their claims of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

You've heard the disgust, and the outrage, with America and its allies because of WMD as the, or as a, main reason for going to war in Iraq.

And if you live in France, you've heard the mocking, the horselaughter, and the spitting revulsion twice as loudly as anywhere else.

What, now, if it turned out that not only had the White House and 10 Downing Street not lied, but they had been deliberately misled into believing the reality of the WMD was undeniable, and that by none other than those whose laughter has been the loudest and whose outrage has been expressed in the most bitter way?

What if it turned out that the citizens of France — who have been lauding their leaders for opposing Bush and who have been priding themselves on their superior wisdom as well as their immunity to manipulation (notably their inability to be taken in by a greedy oil fiend like Dubya) — had actually been fooled by their own leaders precisely into believing just that?

What if, when it comes to greed for oil, the members of the peace camp turn out to be far worse than W, Dick Cheney, or any of the usual suspects…

That might make for the surprizing final twist of a good Frederick Forsyth thriller, but according to the Sunday Telegraph's Bruce Johnston and Kim Willsher, it just happens to be true…

(I suppose I could write a lot here about France's outrage over "lies" and how they are the world's specialists in detecting them. But for the moment, just remember this: the French are the friends of the Americans, oh oui, they are their allies…)

A row has broken out between France and Italy over whose intelligence service is to blame for the Niger uranium controversy, which led to Britain and America claiming wrongly that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy material for nuclear bombs.

Italian diplomats say that France was behind forged documents which at first appeared to prove that Iraq was seeking "yellow-cake" uranium in Niger — evidence used by Britain and America to promote the case for last year's Gulf war.

They say that France's intelligence services used an Italian-born middle-man to circulate a mixture of genuine and bogus documents to "trap" the two leading proponents of war with Saddam into making unsupportable claims.

…"Their aim [that of the French] was to make the allies look ridiculous in order to undermine their case for war."

According to an account given to The Sunday Telegraph, France was driven by "a cold desire to protect their privileged, dominant trading relationship with Saddam, which in the case of war would have been at risk".

The allegation, which has infuriated French officials, follows reports last month that "Giacomo" [the go-between] claimed to have been unwittingly used by Sismi, Italy's foreign intelligence service, to circulate the false documents.

The papers found their way to the CIA and to MI6, and in September 2002 Tony Blair accused Saddam of seeking "significant quantities" of uranium from an undisclosed African country — in fact, Niger. President George W Bush made a similar claim in his State of the Union address to Congress four months later, using information passed to him by MI6.

The International Atomic Energy Agency expressed doubts over the documents' authenticity, however, and in March 2003 declared them false.

The suggestion that Italy, driven by its government's support for America, had forged the documents to help to justify the war in Iraq, has caused a furore and has now led to the revelation of new information about "Giacomo".

The Sunday Telegraph has been told that the man has a criminal record for extortion and fraud, but draws a monthly salary of €4,000 (£2,715) from the DGSE — the French equivalent of MI6 [and the CIA] — for which he is said to have worked for the past five years.

He had an expense account and received bonuses in return for carrying out orders allegedly given him by the head of the French services' operations in Belgium. …

"Giacomo" was allegedly first engaged by the French secret service to investigate genuine fears of illicit trafficking in uranium from Niger. He collected a dossier of documents — some real, some forged by a diplomat — by offering large sums of money to Niger officials.

American intelligence officials were further misled over Saddam's supposed attempt to buy uranium when France — which effectively controls mining in Niger — told Washington that it had reason to believe that Iraq was trying to do so. "Only later did Paris inform Washington that its belief had been based on the same documents that had tricked the Americans and the British," an Italian diplomat said.

"This was la grande trappola [the big trap]. The Americans were now convinced by the French that Saddam really was trying to buy uranium. They thought the French must be right, since not even a gram of uranium in Niger could be shifted without their knowledge."

British officials still say that the claim about Iraqi uranium purchases rested on a second source, not just the now-discredited documents. Intelligence officials from some other Western countries now believe, however, that the second source was also France — part of a "sinister trap" for Mr Blair.

French intelligence was asked by The Sunday Telegraph for a public comment on the allegations against it, but has yet to give one.

(Thanks to Barcapundit)

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