Given that Stranger readers will accuse me of cultural imperialism if I dare to have an opinion about the governance of another country (unless it's those evil Zionists in Israel, of course), I will give the mic to the French themselves before I set out to make the case that when it comes to the war in Iraq, France isn't exactly the hip anti-American peace-loving country that the left wishes it were.

"As for France," a February 6 editorial in Paris' liberal newspaper Le Monde states, "too much opposing without proposing alternatives can... kindle renewed doubts as to our own motives.... Suffice it to say that the United States does not have a monopoly on hidden agendas, including oil-driven ones."

Indeed, French oil titan TotalFinaElf recently negotiated a deal with Saddam Hussein's government worth $40 to $60 billion, the New Republic reported last February. Meanwhile, a recent Iraqi defector who was formerly an Iraqi trade official told the New Republic that 10 percent of French oil contracts are regularly kicked back to Saddam Hussein and his sons--who then use the money to buy military equipment for Iraq's covert weapons program. And guess which country Hussein turns around and buys that military equipment from? Oui oui!

French business makes up 25 percent of Iraq's imports--worth nearly $1.5 billion to French corporations. And the list of French military-related imports certainly catches French President Jacques Chirac as a hypocrite for saying groovy-sounding stuff like, "Together and in peace, we must keep strong pressure on [Iraq] to attain the objective we have set: the elimination of weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Chirac must be kidding. A UN database of Iraq's foreign contracts shows that French companies like Alcatel, Renault, and a French subsidiary of Germany's Siemens have been profiting off military sales through 2003. Indeed, the UN's Office of the Iraq Programme shows that French businesses have supplied Iraq with equipment that can be used for uranium enrichment and nuclear warhead triggers.

These chilling tidbits are the kind of information that antiwar activists tend to overlook when cheering France's "bold" stand for diplomacy over war.

There's just something annoying about lefty analysis that condemns the U.S. for supporting Hussein in the '80s, but simultaneously smiles on France's "peace" position--while France currently arms and profits off Iraq's militarism.

By the way, France was key to Iraq's war machine in the '70s and '80s too. In fact, France jump-started Iraq's nascent uranium program in 1975, when (according to a report from global intelligence company Stratfor) France sold Iraq two nuclear weapons reactors in a deal initiated by Chirac, then France's prime minister, and Saddam Hussein, then Iraq's vice-president. The deal, which reportedly sparked a close personal friendship between Hussein and Chirac (Hussein is rumored to have financed Chirac's run for mayor of Paris in 1977), also included $1.5 billion in French conventional weapons systems (like 60 Mirage F1 fighter planes), and $70 million in Iraqi oil contracts.

If America is so bad and hypocritical for profiting off and funding Iraq in the '80s, why isn't France held accountable for its historic and ongoing military support of Iraq? More important, if it's so bad that the U.S. supported Hussein, isn't it more honorable for the U.S. to challenge Hussein now--rather than, à la France, continuing to make money off Hussein through arms sales? After all, hasn't the revered international community passed resolution after resolution to disarm Hussein's belligerent regime?

Yes, the U.S. helped prop up Hussein in the past, but ever since we decided (despite Iraq's massive oil reserves) that we didn't want to do business with them, France has had no trouble continuing to traffic in oil and weapons with Iraq.

I still like my pommes frites, and goddamn if Le Pichet isn't the best restaurant in Seattle, but France's recent "diplomatic" motives--as Le Monde pointed out--sure taste like hypocrisy to me.