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In 1945, British and U.S. troops paid a heavy price to liberate France from the yoke of Nazi oppression and domination.

Most Americans find it puzzling and extremely disappointing that France seems ungrateful for those sacrifices. Many of us will never forget those sacrifices because we have fathers and grandfathers and brothers and uncles who never came home from that mission. They are still there beneath French soil. We wonder how France could have forgotten – how it could have turned against us in favor of a tinpot Middle East dictator who was raised from the age of 10 by a leader of the Nazi cause in the region.

Why did France assume the leading role internationally as Saddam Hussein’s protectorate?

It’s business and it’s personal – and the story begins a long time ago.

In 1975, when Jacques Chirac first served as prime minister of France, he visited Baghdad – even before Saddam Hussein had assumed his full dictatorial powers.

Chirac helped pave the way for a very lucrative deal for French oil companies in developing Iraq’s No. 1 export – besides terrorism, that is. Those oil companies negotiated a 23 percent stake in Iraqi oil.

Shortly thereafter, Saddam Hussein visited Chirac in Paris – the first and last time he visited a Western nation.

Chirac approved the construction of Iraq’s first nuclear reactor. Remember that one? In 1981, the Israeli air force had the good sense to destroy it before it ever went online. Where would we be today – 23 years later – if Iraq had been able to reprocess the plutonium in that plant and turn it into a nuclear bomb factory?

Saddam Hussein, second from left, and Jacques Chirac, right, confer in Iraq’s French-built nuclear power plant in the 1970s.

All this friendship and goodwill between Saddam Hussein and Jacque Chirac led to a mutually beneficial relationship for the two countries. France sold some $20 billion worth of weapons to Iraq. France became Iraq’s No. 2 trading partner – second only to Russia.

Now let’s bring the story up to date.

William Safire, writing in his New York Times column last week, pointed out that even today France is permitting its businesses to serve as a conduit to Iraq for materials needed for the building of long-range missiles.

These are not the short-range SCUDS or the Al Samoud 2 missiles we’re hearing about in the news. These would be much bigger, much more powerful missiles that could easily carry weapons of mass destruction to distant countries. French businesses are involved in supplying materials to Iraq to develop these weapons despite the United Nations embargo against them.

Not only is the French government winking as French businesses help China and Syria smuggle these illicit materials to Iraq, but some are actually producing components of advanced missile systems under contract to Iraq.

Clearly France is protecting some very old, very deep relationships it has cultivated in Iraq. These are very lucrative relationships. And they are very dangerous and destructive relationships for the rest of the world.

Ironically, it is these compromising business and personal relationships that are causing the French today to be the major international roadblock to the liberation by British and U.S. troops of the Iraqi people from a Nazi disciple named Saddam Hussein.

What does France hope to achieve? Chirac thinks he can persuade Saddam Hussein to step aside – not in a way that will free the Iraqi people from tyranny, but to transition to a new generation of tyranny, one that will maintain the free flow of oil revenues to France, one that will maintain and even increase France’s influence in the region, one that will keep Iraqi markets open to French goods, especially arms.

Chirac actually thinks Saddam Hussein’s youngest son, Qusay, might be the right person to lead a transition government that will change the world’s perception about Iraq, if not the reality of the dangers it poses to the world.

The lesson for the future in all this? The next time France is invaded, let them call the Iraqis for help.

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