Today's Blogs

Pillar of the Community?

The war against “cherry-picked” Iraq intelligence continues to run hot and cold in cyberspace after Paul Pillar’s Bush-bashing Foreign Affairs article. Bloggers also dip into their limitless cache of French jokes about Jacques Chirac’s “upgraded” nuclear arsenal, and they discuss HBO’s new polygamy drama Big Love.

Pillar of the community? The Washington Post ran a story Friday publicizing a new Foreign Affairs essay by Paul R. Pillar, former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, who argues that apart from coercing selective CIA intelligence-gathering on Saddam Hussein’s WMD threat and links to al-Qaida, the Bush administration made an a priori determination of regime change. 

In a rapid-response riposte at the Web site of the neoconservative magazine the Weekly Standard, senior writer Stephen Hayes suggests that no one broke the Langley mold when they made Paul Pillar, in whose judgment “terrorism [is] something to be managed, not something to be fought and certainly not something to be defeated.” Hayes also writes that Pillar has acted selectively himself in the field of whistle-blowing, as evidenced by his rationale for the 1998 rocketing of the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, and that if prewar data on Iraq was indeed subject to “politicization,” this was “apparently so subtle that it escaped the notice of both the Robb/Silberman Commission and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, which both found that no such politicization took place.”

Fred W of Mad as Hell, a blog committed to impeaching the president, writes: “It should by now be beyond dispute that Bushco was itching to go to war with Iraq and that their concern was not with the facts but how to gin them up to get public buy-in.”

Bush detractor Blake at The Next Left asks, “[C]ould the deluge of new evidence that Bush lied about Iraq and the president’s pitiful approval ratings make Pillar’s assertions even more incriminating of the administration than Clarke’s?”—before answering his own question in the mournful negative and continuing, “The president’s misuse of intelligence in misleading America into Iraq is largely played out in the media. But, the voices against Bush’s politicizing of intelligence are continuing to grow.”

Sean, a doctoral candidate in political science, at Weapons of Mass Destruction, is having none of Pillar’s claim that collecting WMD intel on Iraq was a pro forma gesture to legitimize an already formulated decision to go to war: “The Bush administration, responsible for making the decision to invade Iraq, collects the facts and makes a decision and the CIA says ill will developed over the politicalization of intelligence? What agency has leaked a staggering array of stories designed to torpedo the Bush administration and the war on terror?”

Read Pillar’s Foreign Affairs piece. Read more reactions to his post-retirement disclosures.

Changement de bombe: According to this Guardian story, France has secretly “upgraded” its nuclear arsenal to lengthen missile strike range and accuracy and thus make the threat of deployment more “credible.” The news—first scooped by Libération— comes weeks after President Jacques Chirac made overtures about the French recourse to nuclear retaliation as the “ultimate warning” against foreign aggression. 

“Triton” at the right-wing Triton Unleashed comments, “I used to think that either India or Pakistan would be the next country to actually use a nuclear weapon against an enemy. As erratic as the French have been lately, though, I might have to reevaluate that opinion.” Quoting the French defense minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who said French “principles” do not foreclose the use of nuclear weapons, the conservative Bullwinkle at Random Numbers defines such principles as “[o]vereagerness to surrender to any attacker with a force better equipped and larger than a Cub Scout den.”

John Rosenthal at the libertarian Tech Central Station has an interesting theory as to why Chirac has been swishily waving an atomic fist lately: not as any implicit threat against aggression by an escalationist Iran, but by that of the United States: “Even Chirac’s allusion to the threat to peace represented by countries ‘spreading radical ideas’ about a ‘confrontation of civilizations’ will … be more readily understood by Chirac’s French public as a reference to George Bush’s America than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.”

Read more about the new French nukes.

Latter-day Love: Next month HBO will premiere its latest drama Big Love, about a Utah-based polygamist family (Bill Paxton, his three hot wives, and all their children). The Mormon Church, however, is already fretting about pop-culture-exacerbated stereotypes and is quick to point out that it officially banned simultaneous marriages more than a century ago. Yet, some bloggers insist that such might be the de jure policy on Latter-Day Saints’ “I do’s,” but it is not the de facto practice out West.

Latter-day Londoner Sarai at Anglofille grew up in the exact Utah town where Big Love is set. While she’s none too pleased to see polygamy being made sexy (insert joke about fistfuls of Viagra), she’s nevertheless “glad that the Mormon Church and the people of Utah will once again be shamed on the international stage for the disgusting and degrading practice [which] is still practiced by tens of thousands of people in Utah and the Colorado/Arizona border towns. Church leaders and government officials have done virtually nothing to put a stop to a practice that often sees very young girls (we’re talking 12-year-olds) ‘married’ to 60-year-old men.”

But at conservative Clayton Cramer’s Blog, the opinion of the show’s likely portrayal of marital multitasking is tilted more toward (single) family values: “Somehow, I rather doubt that this polygamous relationship will be portrayed like the Colorado City, Arizona, crowd—and of course, they couldn’t show an Islamic polygamous situation. I doubt that either would create the right image of polygamy as cool and sophisticated.”

Watch the trailer for Big Love. Read more about Mormon backlash and the church’s official statement on the series.