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TAKING IT FROM THE TOP

In Iraq, the game is over for the Bush administration.

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STRIKE THREE, MR. PRESIDENT! NAPA -- I am blessed to be celebrating the Fourth of July this year in the Napa Valley, the most American of places, a splendid locale where fine wines, fine weather, and fine friends are combining to make this, for me at least, a perfect holiday. In these crowded political and economic times, even a newspaper publisher needs down time. But while reading the baseball box scores in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning, a thought came to me about the larger "game" being played by the Bush Administration in Iraq while we celebrate this great national holiday. As far back as the summer of 2001, the Bush Administration was clearly spoiling for a fight in Iraq. And in March, the President went to the plate ready to "swing for the fences" when it came to Saddam Hussein and the country he ruled. When the American team took the field, there was no question that he was trotting out the varsity team. But alas, George W. Bush has struck out. Mightily. Strike One was his use -- deliberate or otherwise -- of clearly tainted evidence as his rationale for that war. No weapons of mass destruction have been found, nor at this point appear likely to be discovered. Either President Bush has surrounded himself with incompetents (called strike) incapable of giving him accurate intelligence information, or he himself played a role in misrepresenting that information (swinging strike) to the American people and the world. Strike Two was the President's decision to go it alone in Iraq, against the wishes of a majority of the members of the UN Security Council. Yes, he put together a "coalition of the willing," including as it did Britain, Australia and Spain, and whatever other minor countries' support could be bought. But for the first time in our nation's history since that organization's foundation in 1945, the United States has taken military action -- a pre-emptive strike, at that -- in clear defiance of the wishes of the majority of the members of the United Nations. Had we had the "show of hands" on the Security Council which Mr. Bush promised would be taken (in his March 10th press conference) but never was, the USA would have found itself on the outside looking in, for the first time ever facing the vetos of at least two of the Council's permanent members. If this wasn't an indication of how questionable his call to action was, I do not know what would be. I do know that FDR was turning in his grave, and that generations of American foreign-policy makers, both Republican and Democrat, were shaking their heads in shame. Strike Three has come in the aftermath of this misguided Iraqi war, after that war was "won," as the President declared in May. Since that famous declaration, dozens of Americans have perished, and Iraq is fast descending into chaos. "Quagmire" is the word used increasingly to describe the situation on the ground in that troubled country, a country where 24 million people are at best uneasy about the occupation of their homeland by 150,000 foreign "liberators," liberators who know next to the nothing about Iraqi languages, cultures, and values. This is a recipe for complete disaster, and a situation that any reasonably competent American political and military leadership should have forseen and prevented. Or else considered other options besides this misguided, ill-fated war. Strike Three, and you're out, Mr. Bush! That should be the mantra chnated by the Democratic Party leadership, and shouted from the treetops. That should be the clarion call that Party, if it had any gumption at all, would be making to the American people. Indeed, the "outing" of a President who is at best utterly incompetent and at worst, well, far, far worst should be a first priority of the Democratic Congressional leadership. Robert Byrd speaks out eloquently on this subject in the Senate almost daily; think of the national impact if each and every House and Senate Democrat were to do the same. It wouldn't hurt, either, if responsible, patriotic Republicans in the Congress did the same. On this of all days, every American who cares about and loves his country should be thinking about how we might restore our nation's integrity, honor, and good name in the world.

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