A reader monitors the french evening news for me and sends in reports. His latest is the most disturbing yet:

Today’s evening news broadcast on French ratings leader TF1, (streaming video at “News,” under “Les JT a la carte”), finally has gone over the edge in directly supporting Saddam Hussein against the US and allied forces.-Many, many of the stories center on civilian casualties and hardships.-According to the leading story, the population of Baghdad no longer believes that the air attacks are meant to avoid civilians; the population of Basra is being actually targeted with “illegal” cluster bombs, shown in the video.- (They looked like little canisters to me.) And the military situation isn’t going any-better for the Americans:-Iraqis are proud that their army is matching up with the American forces, explains the broadcast.-The video accompanying all this is filled with angry people on the street shouting in Arabic at the cameras, desperate people crowded around water and food distribution points, and sad wounded children in hospital beds.-Story after story pounds these points home, repetitively, sickeningly, sadly. The strangest part of all this are the contradictions.- The streets of Baghdad’s government quarters are shown as a grey, deserted, and lined with bombed-out-buildings; the residential quarters are shown teeming with people everywhere going about their daily business, most of them angry at the US, says the narration.-As for the-US army, it’s practically losing the war –but Baghdad will be encircled within five or ten days.

De Villepin’s awkwardness when asked whether he actually wants Saddam to be defeated was not misleading. We should realize that the French in their heads know we must win. But perhaps because of that, in their hearts, they want us to lose. They are not an ally.

GAY MILITARY DISCHARGES: Thanks for some challenging emails, many of which challenged my view that the drop in gay discharges is largely due to war. As one pointed out, the numbers go back to October 2001 – long before war with Iraq. One military emailer argues: “The gay discharge rate is down in the military because more gay soldiers want to stay in and they don’t mind keeping their sexuality out of the barracks. And we routinely throw heteros out how can’t keep sex out of the barracks as well.” As i worte, increasing acceptance of “out but discreet” gay soldiers may also be a factor. Another possibility is that discharges doubled under Clinton because the military was trying to make a point against the administration. Inexcusable, of course. But possible. With a new commander in chief, they might be more willing to let this issue die away. None of these explanations is mutually exclusive, of course.