My first meeting with Jacques Chirac was organised by Michel Baroin (François Baroin’s father, whom Jacques Chirac considered as a son). At the time, Jacques Chirac was mayor of Paris and Michel Baroin, former head of cabinet of the President of the National Assembly, Edgar Faure, had become CEO of the GMF (Garantie Mutuelle des Fonctionnaires).
Roland Jacquard with Michel Baroin & Jacques Chirac
When Jacques Chirac had his car accident in Corrèze in November 1978, I visited him almost every day during his convalescence. When he was discharged from Cochin Hospital in early 1979, he asked me to help him sort through some photos and documents. I then got to know the real Chirac, sensitive, human, so close to people and full of humour….
In 1986, when he was appointed Prime Minister, he asked me to continue to work discreetly with him, to give him the “echoes of the street”. At that time, he also commissioned me to write reports on terrorist risks in France.
Roland Jacquard with Jacques Chirac in 1986
Since then, we have never ceased to be in direct contact, particularly on these subjects. Thus, after the Paris attacks in 1995, he gave me a report on the Algerian Islamists of the GIA (Armed Islamic Group), then put me in contact with the then Police Commissioner, Philippe Massoni.
The GIA (Armed Islamic Group) then sent him a letter urging him to convert to Islam. I remember President Chirac’s comments to this effect: “They think I am a crusader. What an obscurantism! But you will see, one day they will strike other great countries.”
A few years later, when I told him about my fears about Bin Laden (whom I had met in Sudan in 1994), President Chirac told me: “I know the family well, they are beyond reproach, but they are suspicious of Osama, too enlightened”. I then explained to him my discoveries on the Bin Laden networks: the jihad encyclopaedia, the threats to come, etc.
Letter from Jacques Chirac to Roland Jacquard giving him the « Légion d’honneur » decoration
In June 2000, when Jacques Chirac learned that I had been invited by Bill and Hillary Clinton to a private dinner at the French restaurant La grenouille in New York, he asked me to send a message to the American President. And during our meeting, Bill Clinton told me: “You will thank President Chirac for me, he has always had a lot of flair…”
Roland Jacquard with Bill Clinton during a private dinner in New York in June 2000
At that time, I was finishing my book In the Name of Osama Bin Laden (the first world biography of the leader of Al-Qaeda), which was published on September 10, 2001! After the attacks of 11 September, I met President Chirac at the Elysée and he told me: “We are now all in self-defence. My arm will not weaken. But we must be careful not to stir up hatred”.
Letter from Jacques Chirac to Rolland Jacquard following the publication of his book « In the Name of Osama Bin Laden »
After that, I never stopped talking, often on weekends, with Jacques Chirac about what he called the “demons of the century”.
I also remember his admiring words about some Arab monarchies in the Gulf, particularly the United Arab Emirates: “From the desert they have made a paradise and are always of good advice”. And also on Africa: “I have a weakness for Africans, they are natural and love France, and then let us remember General De Gaulle’s speech from Brazzaville…”
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Jacques Chirac and thank him very much for his humanism, his open-mindedness, his great patience and his deep affection for the French people.
* Writer and consultant, President of Roland Jacquard Global Security Consulting (RJGSC)