Jewish World Review March 20, 2003 / 16 Adar II, 5763
Debra J. Saunders
Fickle finger of France
WERE WE double-crossed? "Yes," said U.S.
Ambassador to France Howard Leach in a Tuesday
morning phone call with me.
Leach was responding to my question about a report
that Secretary of State Colin Powell had thought
there was an understanding between him and French
Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on U.N.
Resolution 1441. The New York Times quoted
Powell's response as: "Don't vote for the first
(resolution), unless you are prepared to vote for the
"Clearly, de Villepin concurred with" that
understanding, Leach said.
Leach added that France and the United States
essentially wrote Resolution 1441. The French
"literally looked at every single word. In one 24-hour
they were debating to use the word 'and' and the
word 'or'." Leach doesn't understand how France
could support a carefully laid-out disarmament
resolution without the will to enforce it. Here are
some other views from Leach:
Will the U.S. government retaliate economically?
No. "Retaliation begets retaliation," he replied. It's
important to remember there are "millions of jobs at
stake on both sides of the Atlantic that are pending
on this (the U.S.-France) relationship."
What do you say to Americans who want to boycott
French goods and travel?
"That's entirely an individual decision. I'm not giving
Are French businesses feeling any pain?
"I don't think French businesses are feeling the pain,
What about the spate of French jokes?
"Those are unfortunate because I think some of them
are pretty unkind. We would not like to have
somebody saying things like that about the United
Has there been a failure in U.S. diplomacy?
Au contraire, the French have damaged themselves
diplomatically. Leach noted that French President
Jacques Chirac has undercut France's relations with
the United Kingdom. "Chirac has done major damage
to the European Union," he said. France bullied
smaller European countries, friendly to the United
States, by threatening to bar their admission into the
The United States, on the other hand, believes that
U.N. resolutions should mean something.
Would the Bush administration have fared better if,
for example, Bush had supported the international
Kyoto global warming pact?
Pas de tout. Leach noted that Kyoto had "draconian"
penalties and terms against the United States: "If
(Kyoto) had the same terms against France or
Germany or England or Russia, they would have
taken the same position and said we can't live with
What is the worst thing France has done?
"The worst thing it did was to come out and tell the
world we are going to veto under any circumstance,"
Leach replied. That "sabotaged" the whole process,
and made it impossible for the United States to win a
majority of votes, he said.
Worse, by signaling that it would not authorize force,
"All France did, in my opinion, is make military
action more likely."
Why is France doing this?
"The French have a history of protecting Iraq. Why, I
Before becoming ambassador, Leach was a
prominent San Francisco businessman and GOP
donor. He arrived in Paris embracing the fraternite
between France and America. He fondly remembers
the outpouring of support the U.S. Embassy enjoyed
following Sept. 11. But he has seen disappointment
in France's behavior turn to anger and camaraderie
devolve into distrust.
When this is over, will France have a part in
That, Leach said, the United Nations will decide. He
added, "Would France like a role? Yes. Will they
have a role? I don't know."
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© 2000, Creators Syndicate