May 16, 2003


The French ambassador to the US, Jean-David Levitte, has written to the White House, State Department, Pentagon, members of Congress, newspapers and television stations to refute charges of collusion with Iraq and complain about a disinformation campaign coming from some quarters of the US government.

Levitte says that various articles alleging France co-operated with Iraq right up to the war and possibly during it are based on information from ‘anonymous government sources’. The Pentagon is particularly targetted in this regard and Rumsfeld, denying any knowledge, still maintains that France has a case to answer. Similarly, Ari Fleischer, while saying he could not confirm rumours that France had offered passports to members of the Iraqi government, said ‘I think the French will have to explain what they have done or not done’. Well, I suppose we all knew there was no such thing as innocent until proven guilty in the court of public opinion…

I can’t comment on the veracity of the reports, but this sounds like a classic case of anonymous muck-flinging to me. Throw enough to create an impression, and some of it will stick, regardless of the facts. You can see why the French might be annoyed by the constant drip drip of anonymous ‘tip offs’, half-hearted denials, and journalists all to eager to write stories on the basis of allegations and not facts.

These are pretty serious allegations from one liberal democracy to another. The quotes from Levitte’s letter excerpted in Le Monde make for quite strong words. He comments on the ‘troubling, and, to be honest, unacceptable’ nature of ‘this campaign of disinformation, which aims to tarnish the image of France and mislead public opinion.’, saying:

“The methods employed by those propagating this disinformation have no place in the relations between friends and allies, who can disagree on important questions, but who should not engage in denigration or lies.”

As far as I can tell, there is no outright accusation of the Pentagon, but it’s still pretty strong stuff.

p.s. quotes above are my rough and ready translations of the article in Le Monde today.

Posted by Maria at May 16, 2003 08:43 AM | TrackBack

The Post have written written about it:

Posted by: David Weman at May 16, 2003 11:12 AM

Oh, I see you noticed. (I assume.) Well, link may be of interest to someone.

(MT still won’t remember my personal info.)

Posted by: David at May 16, 2003 11:18 AM

Given the Chirac and de V. have been pushing the line that France’s role in the international system is to oppose the United States, they ought to be expecting a little - or indeed a lot - of payback. I’d expect to see more of this, rather than less.

Posted by: Doug at May 18, 2003 06:12 AM
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