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Keeping the Faith 

Crank Call

Published March 19, 2003 at 5:00 p.m.

"And so, in my State of the - my State of the Union - or state - my speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it, speech to the nation - I asked Americans to give 4000 years - 4000 hours over the next - the rest of your life - of service to America. That's what I asked - 4000 hours."

- George W. Bush, April 9, 2002

How many hours until the next election, if there is one? Somebody figure it out and get back to me - I'm too busy waiting for the "moment of truth" Bush promised at his photo-op in the Azores. So far, it's the one thing I've never heard from his mouth. The stench of lying is so thick in this country, we'll all be wearing masks before the anthrax arrives.

"Tomorrow is the day that will determine whether diplomacy can work,'' Bush lied on Sunday, having huddled for a minute with Tony Blair and the Spanish prime minister in a transparently phony "last chance for peace." He lied again when he blamed the United Nations - and France in particular - for making war on Iraq inevitable. And he lied a third time when he said, "Saddam Hussein can leave the country if he's interested in peace. You see, the decision is his to make. It's been his to make all along… And so far he's made bad decisions."

To Bush, of course, "diplomacy" only means that two or more people are conniving in a room; if he'd wanted it to work, he'd have asked some other nations to the party. Now, on Tuesday, things are moving so fast it's hard to keep up. Bush has given Saddam 48 hours to leave Iraq and Colin Powell, having withdrawn his bid for a U.N. resolution to authorize the war, says "It's not a resolution we thought was necessary" in the first place. He's lying, too: It's understood in Washington that Powell will pay the price for the Bushmen's U.N. charade.

"There's a recognition this has not been our finest diplomatic hour," an unnamed White House official tells The New York Times - the paper adds that his voice was "dripping with understatement." A second source confirms, "This has been the worst American diplomatic debacle of our lifetime," and says that Powell, not Bush, will be "the fall guy" when it's over. Bush, after all, made his position clear to Bob Woodward: "I don't need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

No kidding. In London, two of Tony Blair's cabinet ministers have already resigned, including the leader of the House of Commons, unable to condone the appalling choice Blair has made for Britain, Europe and the world. Blair himself left the Azores looking stricken, "all set to run the country from an underground bunker like Winston Churchill," according to The Independent, "while for the Queen a tightly sealed room is being prepared, secure from radiation and dangerous viruses."

Frankly, I'm surprised the Queen hasn't hauled Blair down to the palace yet and settled his hash for the grief he gave her when Diana died - all that talk about "public sentiment" and what had to be done "to satisfy national feeling." Tsk, tsk! Like their counterparts in the U.S., the British media are having some trouble admitting that their leader is just a dope, stuck with a schoolgirl crush on American power and hoisted on his own petard. But you can bet that Blair is praying hard right now to the same God who shared the cover of Newsweek with Bush not long ago - a blind, punitive, pipsqueak Papa, who plainly looks after fools and drunks.

"This president - this presidency - is the most resolutely ‘faith-based' in modern times," Newsweek remarks with a straight face, "an enterprise founded, supported and guided by trust in the temporal and spiritual power of God."

You could say the same about Osama bin Laden, of course. Golly, you could say it about "Emmanuel" - Brian David Mitchell, who thinks his nine-month abduction of Elizabeth Smart was "a call from God," not a kidnapping, and whose lawyer is arguing for a light sentence on the grounds that Mitchell didn't kill her.

"If we can somehow set up some structure where the message gets out that if you bring the girl back alive, that there's some kind of commutation of the sentence, we may be much better off as a society," says Mitchell's attorney.

Why not? If we can convince ourselves that George W. Bush is a man of God and that his murderous attack on the Iraqi people will be sharp, quick and clean, we can convince ourselves of anything. We are without question the dumbest nation on Earth, and, as of now, this week, the most lawless.

Meantime, the Vatican reports that 100,000 body bags have been unloaded at the U.S. naval base at Sigonella, Sicily, on their way to you-know-where. "We are doing what needs to be done," says an administration official who, like so many, refuses to be named: "Some of the planning is unpleasant and best discussed in only the most general terms."

Good idea. Maybe it will be over quickly. Maybe God will tell Bush to don a white robe, carry a staff and resign. Maybe Powell will wake up, or Congress rebel. Maybe the moon will fall out of the sky.

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Peter Kurth

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