Hannity deceptively criticized France for providing weapons to Iraq

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

FOX News host Sean Hannity condemned France and other "so-called allies" of America for providing weapons to Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion of that country in 2003. On the February 23 edition of FOX News' Hannity & Colmes, in an attempt to impugn European nations' motives for opposing the war Hannity said to guest and fellow FOX News host Oliver North: "[Y]ou were there in Iraq. You saw weapons with French labels on them." North responded affirmatively.

This attack is misleading. French companies did sell weapons to Iraq prior to the 1990 embargo, during the Iran-Iraq War -- as did the United States and many other nations. But no credible evidence exists that French government approved weapons sales to Iraq after the United Nations Security Council imposed the arms embargo, and very little evidence exists that French companies conducted such sales in secret. President Jacques Chirac has denied that France violated the embargo.

Hannity's mention of "weapons with French labels on them" apparently referred to French Roland missiles, which "U.S. troops and journalists have seen ... at some [Iraqi] weapons sites," according to an October 5, 2003, Associated Press report. But the AP also noted that while Poland initially reported that the French missiles were produced in 2003, the Polish government quickly recognized that the report was "incorrect." France stopped exporting Roland missiles in 1986 and stopped producing them completely in 1993, according to the French Foreign Ministry.

International human rights organization Amnesty International has documented that both French and U.S. companies supplied weapons technology to Iraq prior to the 1991 Gulf War:

Before the 1991 Gulf War, at least 20 countries were accused of involvement in building up the technological basis for different Iraqi weapons programs, in particular the chemical weapons program. In December 2002, the Iraqi government submitted a 12,000-page dossier to the UN [United Nations] naming companies from the UK, France, Russia, the USA and China as suppliers of weapons technology to Iraq. ... The dossier claims that 24 US firms sold Iraq weapons including nuclear and rocket technology and that some "50 subsidiaries of foreign enterprises conducted their arms business with Iraq from the US". ... Although most of the trade ended in 1991 at the outbreak of the Gulf War, Russia, China and reportedly Portugal traded arms with Iraq after 1991 in breach of UN resolutions.

A December 30, 2002, report in The Washington Post further chronicled America's role in providing Iraq with weapons technology prior to the arms embargo: "The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague." The Post also documented that the U.S. provided "billions of dollars of credits" to supply the Iraqi war effort, according to former National Security Council official Howard Teicher, and that upon gaining entrance into Iraq following the Gulf War, U.N. weapons inspectors "compiled long lists of chemicals, missile components, and computers from American suppliers, including such household names as Union Carbide and Honeywell, which were being used for military purposes."

The Washington Post reported on October 8, 2004, that several French companies have been accused of selling weapons technology to Iraq after the embargo. But the Post noted that "U.S. weapons inspectors found no clear evidence" that French government officials were involved in or aware of those deals, and it is unclear whether reported offers from French companies to Iraq were ever consummated.

On May 16, 2003, the New York Times documented several other reports alleging that France had sold weapons to Iraq after the embargo -- each of which "France has challenged":

-- In September [2002] The New York Times reported that Iraq in 1998 had ordered or purchased from France or Germany precision switches that could be used to detonate nuclear bombs. A French response noted that the switches had been presented as spare parts for medical equipment (as the Times noted), and that French authorities had immediately barred the sale.

-- A March [2003] report in The Washington Times reporting that during the previous several months two French companies had sold Iraq spare parts for fighter jets and Gazelle attack helicopters. The account cited American intelligence officials. The companies and the French Foreign Ministry denied the charge.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
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