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France must help depose Saddam

Along with other National Assembly members from Jacques Chirac’s UMP party I support the commitments the president has made to the French people. But at the same time I must avow that, today, the French position on Iraq is causing me and others in my party some concern. The chorus of voices rising in this country to denounce the position of the United States, Britain, Spain or Italy seem to be forgetting on which side France stands.

The choice we have to make is not between war and peace, as those who protest at war say, but whether to enforce international law or not.

Saddam Hussein is a terrible dictator. He has invaded two neighboring countries and used weapons of mass destruction and chemical gases against his own people. Since seizing power in a coup in 1979, he has made daily use of torture to stay in office. Even before the vote on U.N. Resolution 1441, conditions were ripe for military intervention.

The allies had no hesitation in doing so, and in fact have had to bomb Iraqi military installations on a periodic basis for the past few years. But these sporadic interventions are clearly not enough. To bring down this despicable regime that hands out money to the families of terrorists who carry out suicide attacks against a democracy, France helped in obtaining a unanimous vote on a new resolution, 1441. This step before the United Nations was necessary before any intervention took place. It made it possible to renew the legal framework that has to accompany any military action. France has thus played its role, but let us now take action to get rid of Saddam Hussein rather than give him more alibis to hang on in power.

Forget about Saddam Hussein for a minute and think of all the heads of “rogue states” who are observing this trial of strength in silence. If we give in to the dictator of Iraq, what can we expect from the dictator of North Korea ? And what of all the other states that are far from being models of democracy but who the international community now prevents from subjecting neighbors or bothersome minorities to an equally unenviable fate ? Will they behave ? I was born in 1964, so I have never personally knew the atmosphere and humiliation of the Munich agreements. But what I have read sends shivers down my spine. And when I hear demonstrations in our streets backed by parties running the gamut from the Communists to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front-all shouting nonetheless “Save peace !”—I wonder if we’re not headed the down the same path we were in the late 1930s.

Today’s world could pay an equally high price for failure. And by failure I mean the only two options that increasingly seem open to us now, one being an invasion of Iraq that lacks a U.N. mandate and the other continued rule by Saddam.

The first option would let the U.N. would suffer the same fate as the League of Nations. An intervention by just the U.S., Britain and Australia would be denounced by most around the world. Inside the U.S., a population that has always known democracy and which, despite the events of 9/11, feels safe inside a vast continent, might easily give in to isolationist temptations. This would trigger a period of instability, maybe even of chaos, for the rest of the world. Europe, whose own defense policy sadly is still in its infancy, would suffer in particular. Insecurity would reign supreme.

That is why, in the name of the values enshrined in the French constitution we have to clearly declare that we are on the side of those who enforce the law laid down by the U.N. ; that we stand alongside those who enforce this law unambiguously and apply it inexorably.

Delay would only mean more suffering for the Shiite populations in southern Iraq and the Kurdish people in the north. The embargo has had its day. Saddam Hussein does not suffer from the embargo, but it victimizes the entire Iraqi population. Saddam, in other words, must go now. He must be brought before an international court to answer for his crimes against humanity. To do so, a new resolution is needed to rule on the sending of a military force to go and get him in the name of the United Nations.

My compatriots need to understand that to act in this manner is not an act of submission to U.S. policies but one that will guarantee lasting peace, founded on the ideal of freedom. This is the side that the French revolutionaries chose back in 1789, with the American patriots at their side !