France Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

And now the most fascinating two minutes in television, the latest from the political grapevine:

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Prior Private Ponderings
Even before the French U.N. ambassador criticized the Iraqi weapons declaration today as inadequate, French government officials had privately concluded the report was full of holes. And the International Herald Tribune reports that French weapons experts determined the Iraqi documents "raised alarming signals in almost every domain where it was supposed to provide explanations." The paper says the view in Paris now is that France may soon have to support a U.S.-led military action against Iraq. And the Herald Tribune notes, "The French view will be influential with other nations, including the 15 members of the Security Council, because Paris has in the past battled against hard-line U.S. calls for action against the government of Saddam Hussein."

Back From Baghdad
And it seems the Iraqis have even managed to annoy Sean Penn on the issue of its weapons program. The actor just got back from Baghdad where he said he had gone to "personally record the human face of the Iraqi people so that their blood -- along with that of American soldiers -- would not be invisible on my own hands." But the official Iraqi news agency reported that he had said Iraq was free of any weapons of mass destruction. Through his publicist, Penn denied that he had said any such thing, and denounced the Iraqi report as propaganda.

Language Limits?
John Miller, co-host of ABC's newsmagazine 20/20, vigorously disputes the Los Angeles Times article we mentioned yesterday which said his famous interview with Usama bin Laden in 1998 was not an interview at all, but a bellicose statement by bin Laden dressed up to look like an interview. The article said that Miller, who doesn't speak Arabic, couldn't understand bin Laden and asked no questions. But Miller says he did too ask questions, and that the transcript shows that. As for the charge that 25 passages in Miller's book The Cell, about the events leading to 9/11, were nearly identical to an earlier Times article, Miller concedes, "in a number of instances there should have been credit given to the LA Times."