Behind every good Axis of Evil lurks an Axis of Weasels - individuals, corporations and nations that may not be openly aligned with the bad guys (and even might make enough of the proper noises to convince the willingly ignorant of their good intentions) but who profit from making rogue and tyrannical nations stronger.
Hitler had help from Western companies in his "secret" military buildup, and Lenin was assisted by those he would later threaten because they wanted Russia out of World War I.
Bill Gertz, the ace Pentagon reporter for the Washington Times, details the traffic in arms, equipment and technology from friendly and not-so-friendly countries to Iraq, North Korea, and Iran in his latest book, "Treachery."
While many readers' eyes may glaze over at the sheer volume of Gertz's detail, the book is a useful and devastating argument against any naive notion that Germany, France and Russia are just waiting for the United States to get a better attitude before they jump in and help out in Iraq.
As Gertz proves, the latter two countries not only helped create many of the problems in Iraq, reaping enormous profits, but they also did not stop once the war started.
It should be of no surprise to anyone that Russia was neck-deep in Iraq. Despite the fall of communism, many Russian military and intelligence personnel still had close ties with their Iraqi counterparts, and Moscow's control over the far-flung actions of such people has always been in some doubt.
Despite the cries of leftist conspiracy types who claim every dictator who ever bought an American-made bullet was "our creation," Iraq was the next thing to a client state for the Soviets (Gertz discusses American involvement with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s; noting that much of the aid was nonmilitary in nature, we writes, it kept Iran from overrunning Iraq in their war.)
At least the Russians stopped providing advice to the Iraqi air defenses once President Bush made an angry phone call to President Putin.
To this day, however, the rule in Iraq is that the more sophisticated the weapon used by a terrorist, the more likely it is to be of French origin.
In fact, the book begins with an A-10 pilot shot down by a new version of a French anti-aircraft missile - one that was produced after the "No-Fly Zone" was established and the arms embargo of Iraq was in place. One thing that is forgotten in the public debate is that the arms embargo of Iraq was not just about so-called weapons of mass destruction.
But that's not the worst of it. Gertz details ways in which France was helping Iraq even after the war in 2003 began. One of the ways made a quick blip in the media, when it was discovered that top Baathists were given French passports to flee the country to escape American forces. This was leaked to Gertz by Pentagon sources who were angered because the State Department did not want to embarrass the French.
But embarrassing French politicians by talking about their dealings with dictators might be a task on the order of embarrassing a French prostitute by talking about her clientele.
Gertz details French President Jacques Chirac's personal dealings with Saddam that go back to Chirac's hands-on participation in the building of the Osirak nuclear reactor, which the Israelis later destroyed. Chirac - so integral to the deal that insiders called the facility "O-Chirac" - even tried to help Saddam rebuild the reactor after it was bombed.
One might expect that cash-poor Russia might be secretly selling nasty stuff to bad people with hard currency and oil wells, but Gertz details a frightening pattern of reckless behavior when it comes to Germany.
German companies seemingly have no regard when it comes to selling so-called dual-use technology to any number of bad guys, Iraq included. In fact, one wonders if the North Koreans or the Iranians would be anywhere with their nuclear programs without greedy German companies. Perhaps someone could stop screaming about Haliburton's role in rebuilding Iraq long enough to talk about German chemical company Degussa AG selling poison to thugs.
The complicity of the German government is less clear, but Gertz makes is clear that there are no export controls in Germany, and no one has ever been prosecuted for violating proliferation agreements.
And if anyone has any doubt why Kofi Annan's United Nations has been obstructionist on the war in Iraq, the chapter on the so-called "Oil for Food" scandal - alternately called the "Oil for Palaces Program" or "Oil for Weapons" by those in the know - shows just how much the U.N. was making off of Saddam, with much of the money landing uncomfortably close to Annan himself.
Much of the book is equally frightening, though less shocking, including an expose of the wide world of proliferation from Pakistan and North Korea to China and Libya. The book is filled with bad actors doing bad things, while even the United States does not do nearly enough to stop them.
"Treachery" is an important book that contributes a welcome antidote to the platitudes of the current political debate. One suspects, however, that most of the people who parrot the arguments that this book destroys don't believe them, anyway.