Denial brings big costs.
Long after Sept. 11, when it became unmistakable that we had entered an era of serial terrorism, France and Saudi Arabia clung to denial.
Last week showed France perpetuating, and Saudi Arabia perhaps easing, denial.
Each week France's behavior seems so abominable that it couldn't get worse. That's at least what I initially thought, while watching France support and defend Saddam Hussein's regime. The sanctimonious French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) frequently urged the United Nations Security Council to ease, if not remove, economic sanctions against the regime.
The low point got lower when de Villepin blatantly lied to Secretary of State Colin Powell on France's sincerity to enforce U.N. resolution 1441 (search), which it voted for. De Villepin went even lower when he began cajoling the Germans and other EU states into actively opposing the U.S.-U.K.-Central European stance. And even lower still when he was whirling around the world to strong-arm council mini-members — Cameroon, Guinea and the like — to actively oppose any enforcement of U.N. resolutions.
The latest, and lowest, low point comes now as France — which worked hard to lift Iraqi sanctions under Saddam's oppression — now works to retain Iraqi sanctions after America's liberation. Rather than realize its foolishness — if not viciousness — France clings to denial.
Last week, the French government publicly accused unnamed Bush folks of an "organized campaign of disinformation" to discredit it with the American people — as if Washington's leaks, and not Paris' deeds, were the reason for the explosion of French jokes.
There is, the French claimed, an "ugly campaign to destroy the image of France." Well, that campaign comes from France's actions nowadays, which do "destroy the image of France" as a country promoting liberty, equality and fraternity.
France's "image" was destroyed, for me, when I watched the Security Council cope with Saddam's defiance of its resolution 1441. While the U.S. sought final action, the U.K. issued a final ultimatum. If Iraq did not take several specific actions to comply within several weeks, the council would enforce its 17 resolutions. Paris rejected this fair-minded approach — even before Saddam got the chance to reject it.
What did the French foreign minister offer in its stead? To remedy this crisis by urging that Saddam's toady parliament pass legislation outlawing all weapons of mass destruction.
This — I wondered — is a serious suggestion? To remedy a serious issue, offered by a serious person?
Nothing a Bush Francophile could conceivably leak quietly would be as damaging to France's "image" as what its foreign minister stated clearly before an attentive world.
If the French had their way, the mass and massive graves now daily being dug up around Iraq would instead be daily added to. The jails, long filled with 8, 9, 10, and 11-year-old children — imprisoned for years because of what their parents may have said — would today remain full of these youngsters, who could spend their lives in such squalor and misery.
The behavior of Saudi Arabia has, over the years, been no better than France's. Indeed, it's been worse as they've funded the main terrorist networks. Yet, instead of remaining in denial, the terrorist blasts in Saudi compounds may have jolted the royal family enough to make its members recognize their responsibility.
For decades now there has been a clear understanding, if not an explicit deal: The Saudi royal family would fund the radical Wahhabi sect, in exchange for its believers packaging their terrorist practices strictly as export items. The deal — as of last week — seems off. The terrorists hit Saudis directly. Evidently their vile hatred for the West now extends to their own bankrollers, in the holy kingdom itself.
Since Sept. 11, Saudi officials denied any Saudi involvement with terrorists — despite 15 of 19 of those crashing their planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon being Saudis, despite Usama bin Laden being a Saudi, despite Saudi religious leaders spreading hatred of Christians, Jews and Americans of all kinds.
Now, just maybe, Saudi officials may be getting real — and, perhaps, even a bit responsible. At least, they're no longer in such a state of total denial, as the French are.
Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.