UNScam Update

|

Toe-sucking freak Dick Morris reminds us of a surprisingly underplayed story: The continuing revelations of the UN's malfeasance in operating Iraq's oil-for-food program.

Why did France and Russia oppose efforts to topple Saddam Hussein's regime? And why did they press constantly, throughout the '90s, for an expansion of Iraqi oil sales? Was it their empathy for the starving children of that impoverished nation? Their desire to stop the United States from arrogantly imposing its vision upon the Middle East?

It now looks like they it was simply because they were on the take. Saddam was their cash cow. If President Bush has suffered some discredit over his apparently false—but not disingenuous—claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the lapse is minor compared to the outright personal selfishness and criminality that appears to have motivated many of those who opposed his efforts to rid the world of one of its worst dictators….

Now it appears that Secretary-General Kofi Annan's sanctimonious posturing may have concealed oil bribes which reached high up in the ranks of the U.N. organization itself.

Whole thing here.

Forget for the moment whether the lone and level sands of Iraq may provide the Amerucan Umpire with its Ozymandias Moment. Iraq may end up having a far more long-term destructive effect on the UN, which first failed to enforce its own resolutions on Saddam's regime and now has been unmasked as complicit (either through greed or incompetence) with those same thugs. And the UN is now facing the possibility of actually running the joint sometime this year. Good luck–they're going to need it.

[NY Post link via Instapundit]

Advertisement

NEXT: Papers Losing In Ink-Stained Bloodbath: Peanut gallery joins the show—blogs a pickler for Gore-bashing feuilletoniste

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Phil,

    Actually, the Iraqi government under Hussein owned them; they had a government monopoly on the facilities, etc. And Russia is not about to run out of oil.

    “And why did they press constantly, throughout the ’90s, for an expansion of Iraqi oil sales?”

    I really can’t think of any country that did not press for such an increase, including the U.S.

    Morris’ argument essentially is this (at least with regard to France and Russia – its interesting how he slides in a very slippery way from allegations against the U.N. to trying to use such as a means to explain foreign policy decisions): France and Russia opposed the U.S. invasion due to greed. Its the exactly same argument used against the U.S. – the “No War For Oil” argument – and is as equally credible as this argument (not credible in other words).

    No, France opposed the war for the same reasons I did: you are fucking up our back yard and you are stirring up something that will bite everyone in the ass (really two sides of the same coin).

  2. BTW, despite all of Morris’ claims, its interesting to note that France went hand and hand with the US over the “smart sanctions” issue, knowing that this would anger Hussein. Indeed, its efforts to create such a sanctions regime from 1998 onward ended negotiations between Total and the Iraqi government in that year.

  3. Assuming Russia and France had such large interests in Iraqi oil, wouldn’t that be a reason to be a part of the coalition? Why let the US just walk in and take over (or have all the outside influence on) the decision-making regarding Iraqi oil? Now they’ve got squat. (For now, anyway.)

    Perhaps their reluctance had more to do with political pressures in their respective countries keeping them from sending troops to another country, a concept that makes some sense but doesn’t sound all that sensational. In any case, it’s not like the US and Britain didn’t welcome the extra oil placed on the market; even if the US and Britain didn’t directly or indirectly put their money in Saddam’s pocket, it certainly lowered the prices they paid to others.

    I wish this had repercussions in weakening the UN to the point of increasing irrelevance, but as scandals go this one’s pretty minor.

  4. I wish this had repercussions in weakening the UN to the point of increasing irrelevance, but as scandals go this one’s pretty minor.

    Dick Morris may overstate in blaming French and Russian opposition on buy-offs by Saddam, but the UN as an institution should have its tarnation significantly leveled by the scandal. If the UN’s sanctions-enforcing bureaucracy not only allowed Saddam to put dozens of world politicians and organizations on the take, but was on the take itself, that’s hardly “pretty minor.”

  5. Jean Bart – All this so very nice, but leaders of the Anti-War effort did it to cover their on asses. Inexcusable.

    Secondly, you were against the war because it was the US that led the charge? What? Fuck the Iraqi people? Fuck the United States, they deserved to get hit? I guarantee that if France and Germany weren’t so interested in covering their own asses and offered to lead the end of terrorism (something you’d think they would benefit from) the US would haven’t to go in your precious backyard.

  6. Let’s not ignore the fact that this program was not only used for bribes, but was probably funding terrorism . . . in fact, it was funding whoever and whatever Saddam wanted to fund. Rape rooms, prisons, weapons facilities . . . you name it he had access to the cash for it. We’re talking about a personal slush fund for Saddam, completely under his control and right under the nose of the Secretariat. Ending UNSCAM alone seems reason enough to have deposed Saddam.

  7. A sad calculus:

    The UN is a clown school, and a corrupt one at that, that provides hundreds of countries with a veneer of importance. No matter how crappy a dictator you are, you can still be a chartered member!

    The US has the only military of significance in the world. It is an economic superpower and an exporter of filthy culture-destroying capitalism.

    Despite the reality that the UN are toothless boobs, and that the only way to enforce a UN resolution against medium to large country is with the US military backing their play, the appearance on the ground that the UN is (worshipful pause) Multinational makes them the better party to get elections going in Iraq.

    What I wonder is, if guys surrounding Falluja were all wearing blue hats and looked like the bridge of the Enterprise, would the violence disappear? I especially wonder about this considering the amazing proclivity of our partners (not you Brits!) to utilize the tactical advance to the rear after the first explosion sounds.

  8. Put the UN in Haiti. They speak French there, it’ll work out great.

  9. it is a little premature to discard the “greed” motive here. Granted, a billion dollars is not much for countries like France and Russia to base their foreign policies on.

    but to individual politicians (and their supporters) a few thousand dollars is enough to influence votes. it happens in the US where a national pol votes for/against something and gets a few (tens) thousand $ contribution. I don’t see how individual French/Russian/other countries persons would not oppose action against Saddam’s regime if the pipeline is flowing their way.

    either way, if this does discredit the UN, that would be good thing. that is one coldwar relic that needs some serious reform.

  10. “The UN is a clown school, and a corrupt one at that, that provides hundreds of countries with a veneer of importance. No matter how crappy a dictator you are, you can still be a chartered member!”

    Replace UN with US and the statement remains valid.

  11. “The UN is a clown school, and a corrupt one at that, that provides hundreds of countries with a veneer of importance. No matter how crappy a dictator you are, you can still be a chartered member!”

    Replace UN with US and the statement remains valid.

  12. …because so many dictators are charter members of the US? What does that mean?

  13. Jean Bart—backyard? we invaded Iraq, not Lichtenstein. Rough, back of the envelope calculations would indicate that the US–me and my 285mm confreres–have been hurt significantly more, and more often, than you and yours, from mid-east terrorism.

    whether or not the macro-bet embedded in Bush’s strategy works–i.e. that a democratic Iraq forces Syria and Iran to become notionally decent places, it is and was worth a shot.

    the alternative? The ‘tards who brought us OIl for Hussein’s palaces etc…

    oh, FWIW, i’d have advocated hitting iran first. Mullahs and nukes….what did PJ o’Rourke say about whiskey, car keys and 16 year old boys….

    And if you were concerned about your backyard, you’d think your government would do something about it.

    hey mark Anderson: That’s a super, accurate analogy. Boy, youre slick.

  14. Jean Bart—backyard? we invaded Iraq, not Lichtenstein. Rough, back of the envelope calculations would indicate that the US–me and my 285mm confreres–have been hurt significantly more, and more often, than you and yours, from mid-east terrorism.

    whether or not the macro-bet embedded in Bush’s strategy works–i.e. that a democratic Iraq forces Syria and Iran to become notionally decent places, it is and was worth a shot.

    the alternative? The ‘tards who brought us OIl for Hussein’s palaces etc…

    oh, FWIW, i’d have advocated hitting iran first. Mullahs and nukes….what did PJ o’Rourke say about whiskey, car keys and 16 year old boys….

    And if you were concerned about your backyard, you’d think your government would do something about it.

    hey mark Anderson: That’s a super, accurate analogy. Boy, youre slick.

  15. I’ve had just about enough of this bashing of toe-sucking, people. If you’re not on the phone with the President at the time, it’s an activity I highly recommend.

  16. Michael,

    “All this so very nice, but leaders of the Anti-War effort did it to cover their on asses.”

    Did what to “cover there asses?”

    “Secondly, you were against the war because it was the US that led the charge?”

    I suggest that you actually read my comment idiot.

    zorel,

    If greed were really the reason for the action, then acting with the U.S., when it was sure to go to war, would have been the ideal decision.

    rod,

    Yes, it is my nation’s backyard; the arrogance of course on your part is to assume yours is the only position of merit.

  17. “If greed were really the reason for the action, then acting with the U.S., when it was sure to go to war, would have been the ideal decision.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time a Frog made a bad decision.

  18. I really can’t think of any country that did not press for such an increase, including the U.S.

    The U.S.’s original position in the 90s was NO food for oil; rather, sanctions sanctions sanctions. Only after finding that it was alone with Great Britain in supporting this hard line did it move its position a bit.

  19. Jean Bart,
    It = Oppose the war. Oppose the war so that maybe the US won’t go to war without European and UN support and discover that Europeans and UN types have been on the take from Saddam for years. That Europeans and the UN have been supporting terrorism all these years.

    I should remind you of these words from al-Zawahiri, “We do not want an offer, we want your destruction.”

    I don’t know if that influences your decision about what goes on in your backyard but over here in the US, after someone levels two of our buildings and kills thousands, we go to war; regardless of its location and whose backyard its in. We don’t need help, we only ask.

    France, once again, will have to learn that laying down arms in the face of aggression doesn’t make tyrants leave them alone.

  20. It’s working! Heh, heh, heh.

  21. Jean Bart, how are you able to speak for the entire nation of France? Or are you referring only to what you believe to be (perhaps from polling data?) majority opinion, or the official Chirac govt opinion when you make statements like, “No, France opposed the war for the same reasons…”? (not arguing with you on the facts, just how you arrive at them) I don’t recall any don’t-mess-up-our-backyard arguments coming from the Chirac government officials, just stuff more to the tune of “let the inspection process work” and whatnot. But maybe I missed something. Links?

    Also, (here it comes!) Let me ask you two VERY serious questions:) Sir do you have any weapons or illegal drugs or stolen goods in your car? Second, are you posting on this Enlish-language site as an official representative of the French government, sent here to influence the soon-to-be powerful Libertarian party of the United States? Just kidding, but sometimes it seems you have the offical French govt answer on every issue. what are you, French or something:)

    Russ,

    “Assuming Russia and France had such large interests in Iraqi oil, wouldn’t that be a reason to be a part of the coalition?”

    I’d say, no, their oil interests, including and especially corruption on a personal but perhaps not national level, under the oil for food program would be reason to oppose a UN-sanctioned war, in the belief such opposition would actually prevent the war. I vaguely recall an article claiming French (or German/Russian?) officials gave assurances to Iraqi officials there would be no war. Wishful thinking on their parts perhaps. As I stated about a month ago when I posted four links on this subject (patting self on back…), I don’t see how you can have any kind of meaningful discussion concerning the build-up to the Iraq war (and whether Bush did or did not try hard enough to get more support from the UN or other individual nations) without considering these corruption issues. We now know there was absolutely nothing Bush (or Saddam) could have done to get the support of certain individuals and perhaps certain governments to remove Saddam. Will the people who were calling for no action without UN support ever come around to understanding or admiting, or even discussing, this point?

  22. There’s no surprise to the media’s lack of interest here. To them, the UN does no wrong.

  23. “Yes, it is my nation’s backyard;”

    Yes, of course. Everything is in your backyard.

  24. As much as I enjoy beating on France, this isn’t much of a surprise. The UN is trying to be a government, and that’s part of the game. It is still a largely irrelevant body that writes ten dollar words on fancy paper but rarely displays the will to back them up.

    That having been said, I hope they get it right in the ass, from the chief on down.

  25. Sanctions sucked. Oil for wink wink sucked. Invasion sucked. Selling out the rebels in 91 sucked. Rummy meeting with Saddam while he was gassing Kurds sucked. Old Bush’s failure to send a clear message when Saddam’s government asked about its border dispute with Kuwait sucked.

    Desert Fox, on the other hand, seemed to work pretty well. UN inspections worked even better.

    It’s really reaching to use Iraq to smear the left. Mote, plank, eye.

  26. The UN is governments’ government.
    It is at the other end of the spectrum from me, an anachist.
    My faith is in complexity, then order, arising spontaneously from seeming chaos.
    Governments’ faith is in ueber-government, the UN, which strives for enforced order with the ends–unachievable as they will always be–still justifying brutal means.

    Why has this thread wasted so much time bashing the French people rather than the tragedies of the means resorted to by governments?

    Isn’t it obvious that government-sponsored violence is greater than would be the violence of the bogey, anarchy?

  27. It’s not surprising at all that this story is underplayed. Opponents of our involvement in Iraq idolize the UN and so don’t like having its image tarnished. Furthermore, why draw attention to the fact that half the opposition to the war apparently consisted of bribed knaves and the fools who followed them?

  28. It’s not surprising at all that this story is underplayed. Opponents of our involvement in Iraq idolize the UN and so don’t like having its image tarnished. Furthermore, why draw attention to the fact that half the opposition to the war apparently consisted of bribed knaves and the fools who followed them?

  29. Iraq itself is a plenty slippery enough slope for Bush. Now turning the mess over to the UN revs the slipperiness up to warp speed.

  30. I’m waiting for the first dolt to excuse this whole UNScam mess by claiming that the UN wouldn’t have to take money from nasty dictators if the USA would just pay their UN dues in a timely manner. It shouldn’t be long now…

  31. I thought that it was well-known before the war began that France and Russia (or rather, French and Russian companies) own almost all of the oil production facilities in Iraq. Russia, in particular, has been floating on oil money from inside for the last decade and it’s not terribly far from running out. They need ‘new’ reserves, and where else are they to be found but Iraq?

  32. “Don,

    Thanks for confirming that you are a bigot.”

    JB, excuse me, put I’ve made the mistake of buying several Peugeot products (most recently by accident), so I have an ax to grind.

  33. “No, and let me blunt about this, Petain laid down arms; France – “the eternal France” in de Gaulle’s words – never did.”

    Most of France laid down arms. Some French did not (more accuratly, they laid down French arms and picked up American or British arms). Many French who laid down arms picked them up again when the end of the Third Reich was clearly in sight.

  34. “Most of France laid down arms. Some French did not ….”

    Umm, the French protected the British retreat at Dunkirk and then held out for another three weeks against one of the most overpowering military onslaughts ever mounted.

    “cheese eating surrender monkeys” might have been funny on “The Simpsons” but it really does not ring true.

  35. A reading of the historical record indicates that the French were not quick to surrender. They fought against a much more capable opponent as well as they could, until the hopelessness of resistance was obvious, and then some.

    Though for some reason, “cowardly” has stuck as the insult of choice for the French military, while “icompetant,” though still ungenerous, would clearly be closer to the truth.

  36. To add to the above, IIRC something like 300k to 400k French troops escaped at Dunkirk. These are the French who “didn’t lay down their arms”. The same could be said of Poles and others who found their way into units armed by the British or Americans.

  37. “Umm, the French protected the British retreat at Dunkirk and then held out for another three weeks against one of the most overpowering military onslaughts ever mounted.”

    The British and French outnumbered the Germans, even in areas like tanks. And the French tanks had heavier armor–the standard German 37 mm tank / antitank guns had serious trouble with both the French Char B as well as the British Matilda. The French also had a significant advantage in artillery.

    The only area where the Germans had material superiority was in airpower. The Germans were quite succesful destroying French aircraft on the ground. However, the Germans never had a stratigic air capability, and they primarly used their aircraft for interdiction: they never really had the resources for the massive ground support that the Anglo-American airforces eventually employed.

    The French also had the advantage of the Maginot line, which restricted German advances to a limited area.

    The 1940 invasion of France was a “Strange Victory” indeed:

    http://www.holtzbrinckpublishers.com/academic/Book/BookDisplay.asp?BookKey=442552

  38. To add to my last post above, the Brits (and also many French and others) were able to escape at Dunkirk because Hitler held back the panzer divisions.

    To answer Joe, many French gave up without much of a fight whatsoever; I don’t think that this was due to lack of courage, and that type of behavior is common in broken armies. In 1945, quite a few Germans were giving up to the Western allies without a fight as well.

    One of the reasons the French did so bad against the Germans was the slow decision making of their military system. The Germans were basically working well within the decision making capability of all of their enemies. This only failed against the overwhelming might of the Red Army and the United States, and the resources they were able to bring to bear.

  39. rst,

    Calling me a “frog” is epithet meant to insult based on nationality; its bigotry.

    “JB I thought you were smarter than that. Protecting the money was of paramount importance, not the secret; Europeans are quick to forgive corruption in their own governments. Without the oil-for-food program those vouchers have no value.”

    Yes, a few billion dollars (even if the allegations are of course true) to create foreign policy decisions; excuse my incredulity. BTW, just the other day you were saying it was “because of the secret.” Now its the money. What’s particularly important to note of course is that most of the so-called corruption was due to the Iraqi’s shipping oil illegally in covoys of trucks and boats no less; right through American controlled areas I might add to Turkey and other countries. I could create a rumor – which is what all this really is to begin with, is rumors – that the U.S. was allowing those products through and being paid off.

  40. Don,

    “Most of France laid down arms. Some French did not (more accuratly, they laid down French arms and picked up American or British arms).”

    You fight with what you have in hand. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen fighting long before D-Day (before there was any notion the “war was over”) should have fought with their hands instead. Would you have perferred that the 200,000 French soldiers in Italy in 1943 simply thrown their Americans arms to the ground and walked off? And to be blunt, at places like bir hakeim, where French soldiers were given sub-standard and inferior weapons by the British, they held off the Germans for two weeks longer than the far better equipped British who were running back to Cairo. Indeed, to be blunt, without their heroic effort, there would not have been an Egypt to save later at Alamein.

    “Many French who laid down arms picked them up again when the end of the Third Reich was clearly in sight.”

    This is the biggest canard of all; the day of D-Day and afterwards tens of thousands of Frenchmen were blowing up critical infrastructure and the like; indeed, you may note that the maquis, despite tremendous odds against them, fought Panzer divisions in an effort to keep them from getting to the D-Day beachead (many units were slaughtered to a man in the process I might add, perfering to die rather than surrender). Indeed, entire towns rose up in the aftermath of the invasion, ones which were deep inside France, far away from the beaches, and long before there was any thought that the war would soon be over, and were swooped down upon by SS and other German forces with armor and better arms – killing off entire towns.

    “One of the reasons the French did so bad against the Germans was the slow decision making of their military system.”

    It had far more to do with overall tactical and strategic theory than anything else; indeed, this is the same case regarding the British as well. France, a victor in WWI, learned the wrong lessons from that war (common for victors) regarding the nature of warfare. Strategy and tactics was defensive and static in nature, fluid, open warfare was not encouraged. Indeed, de Gaulle was one of the few French officers who “bucked” the static concept for the more fluid warfare imagined by British armor theorists (who were largely ignored by Britain and France, but not Germany).

    “To add to my last post above, the Brits (and also many French and others) were able to escape at Dunkirk because Hitler held back the panzer divisions.”

    Actually, many things explain the Dunkirk escape, among them are:

    For the Germans there was Hitler’s halt order; von Rundstedt’s nervousness about the exposed flanks of the Sichelschnitt thrust; Goring’s desire to grab glory for the Luftwaffe (which failed). For the allies there was Martel’s counterattack west of Arras (which led to von Rundstedt’s nervousness, that led to further delays by German ground forces), the brave French defense of Lille (long past any hope of victory or survival) of Molinie, the heroic efforts of French and British rearguard forces at Calais and Dunkirk, the RAF’s heroism attacking the Stukas and E-boats come to slaughter the men and their transports, the heroism of the individual seamen who drove their private boats into the warzone to save men, and Admiral Ramsay’s brilliant coordination of the actual evacuation.

  41. Don,

    Thanks for confirming that you are a bigot.

    Boutros,

    “The U.S.’s original position in the 90s was NO food for oil…”

    Which is strange given that in the 1990s they were the ones who were the progenitors of the food for oil program.

    bigbigslacker,

    “I don’t recall any don’t-mess-up-our-backyard arguments coming from the Chirac government officials, just stuff more to the tune of ‘let the inspection process work’ and whatnot.”

    Do you read French? The misreporting (and lies and simple ignorance) and lack of reporting about the French government’s position on these matters has been detailed by me in the past. I suggest you go to the President’s website (there is an English version as I recall) to read his comments in detail.

    “Just kidding, but sometimes it seems you have the offical French govt answer on every issue.”

    They are my opinions; I should think this was true of every person who posts here.

    Michael,

    “Oppose the war so that maybe the US won’t go to war without European and UN support and discover that Europeans and UN types have been on the take from Saddam for years.”

    If that were the real rational then a far safer way to protect such “secrets” would have been NOT to oppose the war.

    “That Europeans and the UN have been supporting terrorism all these years.”

    Really? Even if that were true, it hardly is something that is peculiar to Europeans – the U.S. has supported numerous Latin American terrorist groups (what else can you call people who take over planes and blow up civilian buildings?). After a while, your shrill self-righteous attitude becomes somewhat annoying.

    “France, once again, will have to learn that laying down arms in the face of aggression doesn’t make tyrants leave them alone.”

    When exactly did we “lay down arms” in the face of aggression? This will be an interesting historical discussion where I beat you over the head with my knowledge of French martial history I am sure. If we “laid down arms” in WWII, one wonders why in 1943 there were several hundred thousand Frenchmen fighting in Italy against the Axis powers. Indeed, one wonders about such battles like Bir Hakeim, le Clerc’s drive across West Africa (defeating Italians and Germans along the way), the critical efforts put into Tunisia driving Rommel to the sea, the punching drives up the Rhone river, etc. No, and let me blunt about this, Petain laid down arms; France – “the eternal France” in de Gaulle’s words – never did.

  42. Michael,

    BTW, I should note that attempting to conflate Saddam Hussein into (a) Hitler or into (b) the leader of world wide terrorism (one can make either inference) is the grossest sort of mischaracterization possible.

  43. Don,

    The superiority of French tanks to German one-on-one is irrelevant, because the obsolete French tank tactics made fights between even numbers of tanks almost impossible. While the French tanks sat around by the handful “supporting” infantry units, German tanks were massed by the hundreds, overrunning and bypassing those units. You seem to be suggesting that the French units could have stood up the German units because of the better design of their tanks, but that just isn’t the case. A French division just didn’t have a chance against a Panzer division.

  44. Thanks for confirming that you are a bigot.

    JB, I do not think that word means what you think it means, unless it’s in that category with “anti-Semite,” “racist,” and “Nazi”…words that mean whatever you need them to mean in order to discredit your opponent. For France to consider Iraq its own backyard when it hasn’t done anything productive in the region since the roaring 20’s is a bit lame. To point that out isn’t bigotry. Our relations with Saudi Arabia – whether we like them or not – make Iraq more our backyard than yours, if it is truly in the “backyard” of any western power.

    Petain laid down arms; France – “the eternal France” in de Gaulle’s words – never did.

    Even if “eternal” France as a whole never laid down arms, Chirac can add his name to the list after Petain, because he did.

    After a while, your shrill self-righteous attitude becomes somewhat annoying.

    As would have been your assertion that the U.S. played along with oil-for-food quota adjustments, if it wasn’t so damned amusing for its ignorance.

    If that were the real rational then a far safer way to protect such “secrets” would have been NOT to oppose the war.

    JB I thought you were smarter than that. Protecting the money was of paramount importance, not the secret; Europeans are quick to forgive corruption in their own governments. Without the oil-for-food program those vouchers have no value.

  45. Joe,

    No, I didn’t mean that. I’m too lazy to scroll up to what I wrote, but I am well aware that the German organization, tactics, and militiary culture gave them a significant advantage.

    I wouldn’t even say that the French tanks were of superior design. What I would say is that, in 1940, a French Char B would beat any German tank in a face to face battle. However, I would argue that the panzer Mk III and Mk IV (approx 250 Mk IV used in the invasion) were superior designs. Both offered superior “work spaces” for the crew, and both were upgradable. The tiny Char B turret required one man to operate as commander, gunner, and loader. The 1940 Mk IV had a low velicity 75 mm gun; but the 1944 version had a high velocity 75 as well as upgraded armor. Also, the Germans fully appreciated the value of radio communications. IIRC, almost every German tank was equiped with an FM radio.

    The point is that, in 1940, the French had the hardware, and the numbers, to win. It was their application of the numbers and hardware that was flawed. Really, it was similar to the Mongol invasions, where a realitively small force prevails due to good tactics and cooridination.

    There is no doubting that the French could fight as bravely as anyone. And brave Frenchmen didn’t just serve on the allied side, either: SS Charlemagne, the French SS division, perished defending Berlin in 1945.

    The fact is, people all over the world are brave. There are examples of the Italians in North Africa fighting with great skill and courage. The deciding factor is often tactics, command and control, logistics, etc.

    But it’s a mistake to let the French “off the hook” and say they didn’t have a chance. They probably didn’t: but only because of the way they ran things, and the way they fought. They had the resources. And, fighting defensively with the Maginot line covering their flanks, they didn’t have to match the Germans in mobile tactics to halt the invasion.

  46. To add to my comment on the brave Italians in North Africa, most ended up as prisoners or dead due to a lack of motorized transport. In North Africa, the entire Africa Corp and 90th Light Division were motorized; their Italian allies were not so well off: only a couple of Italian divisions were fully motorized. Not a good thing in the desert . . .

    JB, in what way were the arms provided to the French poor? I understand that post-Dunkirk the Brits had an arms shortage, I’m just wondering what specifically you are referencing.

  47. “And to be blunt, at places like bir hakeim, where French soldiers were given sub-standard and inferior weapons by the British, they held off the Germans for two weeks longer than the far better equipped British who were running back to Cairo. Indeed, to be blunt, without their heroic effort, there would not have been an Egypt to save later at Alamein.”

    I assume you are referring to the Brits retreating from Tobruk. I think it bears pointing out that the Brits were defeated under somewhat different circumstances. For one thing, bir hakeim provided an excellent defensive position. It’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s true that the French defended with great courage, but I don’t have any reason to think that the Brits would have done worse (well, they had less to prove at this point, but the fact is the British have as brave a history as the French). It is also worth pointing out that some Brits transported supplies to the French defenders, at great risk. And, holding the position was key to defending the 8th Army, as you imply–consequently holding the postion was of great importance.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.