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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- The worst commander in chief in American history is relaxing, escaping from reality, and enjoying his five-week vacation down on the ranch. Maybe he should spend a little time reviewing his war plan for prevailing in Iraq, thinking of a way to end the carnage and get U.S. troops home safely.

Such a review is clearly in order, but don't count on this commander in chief questioning his own judgments and actually considering the possibility that he's made horrible mistakes and miscalculations.

The war in Iraq is all about politics, and George W. Bush practices the politics of Karl Rove.

Change the focus. Change the debate. Confuse and conquer. Call what you're doing something else. But even when the overwhelming evidence points to grievous error, never admit it.

This political strategy also fits well with Bush's substance-damaged personality. Decades of serious and admitted alcohol abuse -- along with suspected, yet so far unacknowledged, cocaine use -- leave a muddled, damaged mind, incapable of reflective thinking. Two other failed commanders in chief -- Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon -- had similar substance abuse issues, megalomania and personalities that closed their minds to the grim facts of their disastrous war plans.

Bush is actually worse than his failed predecessors. He is less analytical than Johnson and Nixon, more averse to open discussion and even more isolated than those notoriously isolated presidents.

Ironically, Bush had an interesting reflection on the lessons of Vietnam. In 2004, on NBC's "Meet the Press," he said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war. We had politicians making military decisions and it's a lesson that every president must learn, and that is to set the objective and allow the military to come up with the plans to achieve that objective. And those are the essential lessons to learn from Vietnam." Oh, really?

Iraq is the most politically driven war in U.S. history. The "crisis" of Saddam's bogus weapons of mass destruction was all aimed at recreating George W. Bush, a third-rate hack, as a courageous "war president."

James Moore, the author of "Bush's Brain," knows very well how Rove's amoral mind works. In an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Moore wrote, with refreshing candor, "Karl Rove led the nation into war to improve the political prospects of George W. Bush." Iraq also served the interests of the Bushevik money-backers. Win, win for them is lose, lose for the nation and the world.

Since the objective in Iraq has changed so many times, it's difficult to plan for anything. First, we had to save civilization from Saddam's horrible weapons. Then we had to topple the evil dictator. Now we're using bullets to spread democracy. We're staying the course so when the Iraqis get their own government and constitution, we can pack up and go home and declare our mission accomplished. Only partisans and fools buy that crap.

Bush's objective is to use Iraq as a permanent military base to protect oil production in the region and assure a steady flow of "Texas tea" to satisfy America's corporate-created, unquenchable thirst for petroleum.

Because he hasn't shared this real objective with the generals, or the American people for that matter, Bush has to come up with interim explanations to justify the mounting toll of U.S. war dead. The military is sticking to the line that progress is being made against the insurgents. Bush repeats his tired mantra that "we will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq."

Bush chooses to ignore military reality, clinging to his political war. "Capitol Hill Blue," an online journal, reports many military experts say the war cannot be won. "Our present scenarios do not provide a successful outcome," the report quotes one senior military planner as saying. "We are not adequately equipped to prevail in this conflict," the Pentagon official added.

The Busheviks are already working to change the language of their follies to provide cover for their failures. What began as Operation Iraqi Freedom morphed into the Global War on Terrorism and is now being called the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism. Whatever these Orwellian sloganeers call it, young American soldiers and Iraqi civilians are dying every day and will continue to do so in order to serve Bush's publicly nebulous and privately cynical objective.

An argument over a memorial in Shelby Township, Mich., underscores the torn feelings over Bush's Iraq adventure. Last October, a roadside bomb exploded and took the life of U.S. Army Pfc. Mark Barbret of Shelby. A veterans' group wanted Barbret's name inscribed on a new monument to honor those who died in the Global War on Terrorism, noting his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Angie Barbret, the 21-year-old soldier's mother, told the Detroit News that she only wants her son's memory honored, but said, "I know this: Mark didn't go to Iraq to free Iraqis, he went because his country called him to war."

Peace activists joined in the debate, arguing that tying Iraq to terrorism is dishonest.

Kim Bergier from the Cranbrook Peace Foundation said, "I don't think the war in Iraq should be called the war on terrorism. Saddam Hussein did not have any part to play in causing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

Frank O'Donnell from Peace Action Michigan lashed out at the Bushevik "bumper sticker phrases." Noting the bloody obvious, he said, "I have no problem calling it what it is -- a war. There was an invasion. There are bombs. There are soldiers. That's a war."

It tells us much about the times we are living in when such a debate even occurs. The town board, after much discussion, finally agreed to honor Pfc. Barbret under the new veterans' memorial category named simply Iraq. They left plenty of room for more names.

Bush's war -- and his refusal to recognize its failure -- is pure fanaticism. His obsession with loyalty is hardly a virtue. It's really a malignant reflection of his own unmerited self-assurance and refusal to see realities that challenge his visceral mentality. The case of baseball star Rafael Palmeiro's steroid use and Bush's unequivocal defense of him is telling.

Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, told Knight Ridder newspapers, "It seems that President Bush is falling into the Nixon trap -- his administration can do no wrong. His allies and people who support him can do no wrong. Palmeiro is above suspicion, Rove is not to be questioned, John Bolton is a stand-up guy."

Palmeiro was slapped with a 10-day suspension when he tested positive for juicing up with steroids. Just five months ago, in sworn testimony before Congress, Palmeiro said unequivocally, "I have never used steroids. Period." That ranks right up there with Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

In his book, former teammate Jose Conseco wrote he personally shot up Palmeiro with steroids on several occasions. Palmeiro is 40 and just became only the fourth player to have 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. His numbers have been shooting up as he ages. Amazing.

When caught testing positive for steroids, Palmeiro rivaled Clinton's "I didn't inhale" with a statement claiming, "I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period." Sure, Rafael. You thought that stuff they were poking you in the ass with was botox.

Do you believe Palmeiro? Does any reasonable person? Well, our commander in chief does. "Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him," Bush said when he heard about the suspension. "He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him. Still do."

It makes sense that Bush believes Palmeiro. Here's the man who regularly stood up in front of the klieg lights and claimed Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons and posed an imminent threat to our national security. Here's the man who consistently mentioned Iraq and the 9/11 attacks in the same breath. Here's the man who repeatedly tells us we invaded Iraq to make the world a safer place.

Bush and Palmeiro became friends when the drug-enhanced slugger played for the Texas Rangers. At the time, Bush owned a piece of the team and was the Rangers' public face. Their friendship is understandable. Both are disconnected from reality. They cheat to win and then lie when they're caught. Both refuse to accept responsibility for their failures. They richly deserve each other. We deserve neither.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Aug. 9 2005