September 16, 2005
France was not always opposed to the American invasion of Iraq. One persistent Pentagon rumor, however, might explain why the French went the way they did. In December, 2002, a French staff officer visited the Pentagon with a proposal from his government. France would send 18,000 troops (about what they contributed in 1991) to join the Iraq invasion force. However, France wanted a specific area of occupation after the war, with full authority in that area for as long as Iraq needed to be occupied. The American State Department backed the French proposal, but the Department of Defense didnt trust the French, and were suspicious of their motives. So the French officer went home empty handed, and the French government decided that invading Iraq was really an evil thing to do.
What exactly were the French up to? No one is sure, but the most plausible theory was that the French wanted to be in Iraq, after Saddam fell, to make sure no embarrassing documents, or witnesses, showed up. France had been supplying Saddam with weapons, and other assistance, for over three decades. Moreover, how better to help get the Sunni Arabs back in power, than to have 18,000 French troops occupying, say, western Iraq. This sort of arrangement is nothing new for the French. Although France participated in the Balkans peacekeeping of the 1990s, France was known to be pro-Serb, and French officers were later caught helping out the Serbs in illegal ways. Very embarrassing, but not unexpected. The Pentagon was well aware of how the French pulled their pro-Serb stunts in the 1990s, and apparently wanted no more of that nonsense in Iraq.