than a huge, 20th-century Potemkinnvillage (Baghdad), glitteringly erected tondazzle foreign eyes and to conceal thenextent to which the country’s resourcesnwere being taxed and strained to supportnan extravagantly large and costlynwar machine.nThe second alluring myth, to whichnso many French businessmen succumbed,nwas the belief that because ofnits vast wealth — 15 percent or more ofnthe world’s known oil reserves — Iraqnwas an “ideal” business partner, onenthat was scrupulously correct in honoringnits contracts, punctually paying, asnthe French picturesquely put it, rubisnsur I’ongle — like a ruby on the nail, or,ntranslated into the rougher language ofnour cowboy West, cash on the barrel.nFor years, prior to’ the invasion ofnKuwait, the French public had beennvaguely aware that Iraq was a kind ofnEl Dorado for French businessmen,nengineers, and, of course, weaponsnmanufacturers. But it was not until lastnautumn and even more this spring thatncertain Paris weeklies began to revealnthe crazy extremes to which this Iraqophilianhad been carried. Thus it was thenSpie-BatignoUes firm that built Baghdad’snbrand-new airport, Bouyguesn(the world’s largest reinforced-concretenconstruction company) that erectednSaddam Hussein’s neo-Babyloniannpalace, Dumez that built barracks fornthe Iraqi army; just as it was a team ofnFrench engineers and technicians whonbuilt the nuclear plant at Tammouz, innthe suburbs of Baghdad — which thennervous Israelis reduced to rubble in anbombing raid staged in 1982. It wasnalso a French firm, Prptec, based innAlsace and working hand in glove withntwo German concerns, Karl Kolb andnWet, that helped to supply Iraq withnchemicals for “pesticides,” easily divertednfor the manufacture of toxicngases.nDuring 1989 alone — that is to saynafter the conclusion of the “heroicallyndefensive” war against Iran, which justifiednmassive military support — thenSoviet Union, West Germany, andnFrance are estimated to have furnishednSaddam Hussein’s Iraq with 15 billionndollars’ worth of arms — and this at antime when Iraq was already staggeringnunder an international debt of close ton80 billion dollars. If George BernardnShaw had lived long enough to witnessnthese developments, he could haven46/CHRONICLESnstroked his patriarchal beard andnchuckled, “Reread Major Barbara.”nSeldom in modern times have thenUndershafts of this worid had it songood! At any rate in appearance. Fornonce France’s governmental underwritersnbegan to peel away the layers ofneuphoric camouflage enveloping thesenmatters, they discovered the bitterntruth: Saddam Hussein’s “progressive”nand “scrupulously punctual” Iraq hadnlong since ceased paying cash on thenpetroleum barrel. Payments for deliveredngoods and services were no longernbeing made on time or even at all, withnthe result that French firms were havingnto apply for compensation from thenFrench State’s official credit-insuringnagency (the so-called COFACE). Thentotal loss in poorly honored contractsnhas been reckoned at 29 billion francsn— not far from six billion dollars, at annexchange rate of five francs to thendollar. Once again, French taxpayersnwill have to pay the bill for thesenfinancial follies.nThe third myth, like Johnny Walker,nhas yet to stumble and fall on its face.nThis is the appealing notion that thenwar in the Gulf was essentially foughtnto establish what George Bush somewhatnrashly called a “New WorldnOrder” — the latest in a series of neo-nUtopian prescriptions (Roosevelt’sn”New Deal,” Kennedy’s “New Frontier,”nLyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”)nto which American Presidentsnseem incurably addicted. Because theynare socialists and members of a partynthat, like the Labour Party in Britain,nhas had a long and intellectually compellingnpacifist tradition, both PresidentnMitterrand and Foreign Minister RolandnDumas were more than happy tonembrace this planetary program, sincenthe idea that international law couldnnot be flouted with impunity and thatnnaked aggression practiced by thenstrong against the weak had to benpunished provided France with a valuablenmoral basis for its support of thenUnited States and, more specifically, ofnGeorge Bush, who, like Ronald Reagannbefore him, is regarded with instinctivensuspicion by many Frenchnleft-wingers. This was particulariy importantnfor Mitterrand and Dumas,ngiven the strong ideological aversionnfelt by many French socialists for a warnthat was going to be fought (and whichnwas eventually fought) to protect capi­nnntalistic and, in particular, Americannpetroleum interests in Saudi Arabianand the Gulf Nothing, in the eyes ofnsuch anticapitalistic diehards, couldnseem more iniquitous than a warn”fought for petroleum.”nThe simple fact of the matter, however,nis that the recent war was notnprimarily fought for petroleum. One ofnthe first to point this out, within days ofnthe Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, wasnFranz-Olivier Giesbert, the able managingneditor of Le Figaro and, incidentally,nthe author of what is probably thenmost devastating analysis in book formnof Frangois Mitterrand’s nine-yearnreign. What was basically at issue innthe Gulf conflict and what made it sonserious, Giesbert pointed out, was thatnSaddam Hussein was well on his waynto developing atomic weapons. Nonamount of pacifist hand-wringing ornvociferations could alter this ominousnreality.nThis lucid appraisal was fully bornenout by subsequent events. If the underlyingnissue had simply been a moralnone (defending the weak against thenstrong), or one of keeping Iraq’s dictatornfrom sitting on top of 3 5 percent ofnthe world’s known oil reserves, economicnsanctions and an embargonwould probably have sufficed to bringnhim slowly to heel, and a war couldnhave been avoided. But the stark realitynwas that the world did not have thatnmuch time, and that meanwhile thenatomic clock was ominously ticking.nThe basic issue was admirablynsummed up last February by anothernbest-selling author and a dedicatednmyth-buster, the TV commentatornFrangois de Glosets. This is what henhad to say in an article published in thenleft-wing (and often stridently anti-nBush) weekly, L’Evenement du jeudi:nA nuclear war was brewing innthe Middle East; it would havenbecome inevitable if the Westndid not, no matter what it cost,nundertake to defuse this atomicnbomb.nThese particular conditionsndid not exist when the Ghineseninvaded Tibet, when the RednArmy penetrated intonAfghanistan, or when Syrianintervened in Lebanon. Theynare the ones that played andetermining role in then