One of the currently more popular theories of US-war-blogosphere regarding the German and French government’s opposition to the war is that they opposed it in order to conceal the extent to which they were involved in the built-up of Iraq’s pool of WMD. This theory has been prominently publicized by Steven DenBeste.
For all those who hold the opinion that no thinking human being could oppose the war for non-selfish reasons, DenBeste’s theory seemed to be a logic explanation of reality. But it has serious flaws. It is certainly not flawed to say that there is a certain possibility that a number of German and French companies (as well as companies from other nations…) sold suspicious stuff to Saddam’s regime pre-, but especially post 1991 in breach of UN sanctions. It is, however, flawed to argue that the French and German government’s opposition to the war must have been informed by this, including the possibility that the governments actually found out about such a breach by companies legally residing in the respective country. In fact, such a conclusion is actually illogical – although chances are, we will never find out, because whatever is or is not reported to be found in Iraq is entirely within the discretion of those in control of the area.
Thus, depending on the US’ government’s intentions of how to involve Europe in the reconstruction of Iraq (that’s what denBeste calls the ‘blackmailing strategy’), the theory could well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eamonn Fitzgerald today points to an article in the New York Times that illustrates this rather well – now that the US and the UK are actually in charge of Iraq and will soon be in control of whatever remains of the previous administration, they are unlikely to reveal information that would put blame on themselves for whatever remains of WMDs they may find down there. And I suppose they will find something eventually – they simply have to, after using the Iraqi WMD-threat as a pro-war-discourse element for so long. So it is very likely that the stuff they will acknowledge to have found will be of Old European production – French, I suppose – and, again, the amount of stuff revealed will probably depend on the development of the transatlantic relationship in the coming weeks and months.
Looking at the problem from this perspective, the DenBeste theory does not make much sense. Had Germany’s and France’s governments been involved in the military build-up of Iraq in a way they would have deemed necessary to conceal, the logical policy would have been to be as involved in the invasion as possible in order to retain as much control over what will be found and what will be published now. Being as closely allied to the US as possible is certainly a better way to achieve that than publicly angering the Pentagon’s PR people, don’t you think?
But even though the theory may be wrong, the result may eventually be close to what Steven DenBeste predicted. Some reality will be constructed, even though, in the end, no one will actually know what has been going on.