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Um, folks, this doesn't look like victory 

NEW YORK CITY --

Much as I hate to interrupt what is apparently a deeply felt triumphalism on the American right, now that it's over, does anyone see any reason for our having invaded Iraq?

I realize that's what we all kept trying to figure out before the invasion, but don't you think it should at least be visible in hindsight? Good thing we won the war, because the peace sure looks like a quagmire.

These are early days, certainly, to attempt a full historical evaluation. Could be a case of the forest and the trees. Perhaps we're well along the road to having everything work out magnificently, and I'm just missing it. Still, I can't see anything that's going right.

Iraq is in chaos, and apparently the only way we'll be able to stop it will be to kill a lot of Iraqis. Just what Saddam used to do. The other day, we announced we were going to shoot looters, and when that produced nightmare scenarios of children dead for stealing bread, we had to cancel that plan. Now we're going to try gun control -- that should have the enthusiastic support of the NRA. Meanwhile, the chaos in Iraq seems to be costing us whatever goodwill we earned for getting rid of Saddam Hussein, the one unmitigated good to have come from all of this.

I hate to be picky-picky, but there are still no weapons of mass destruction. In fact, we've apparently even stopped looking for them. Since Iraq never had anything to do with al Qaeda or Sept. 11 -- despite American public opinion on this issue -- it was certainly no surprise to see al Qaeda back again, with strikes in both Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Bush's announcement that we had broken up the organization seems to have been a trifle premature. There was much un-muted griping from American intelligence about the total Saudi failure to cooperate before the attack there. (As one anti-war sign reminded us before the recent events, "Sept. 11 equals 15 Saudis, 0 Iraqis."

Meanwhile, Iraq looks more and more as though it will be costing us the high-end estimate of $20 billion a year, for which they have yet to appear noticeably grateful. The Shiites hate us, the Kurds are killing the Arabs, we're hiring old Ba'athite thugs to run things and generally becoming about as popular over there as a whore trying to get into the SMU School of Theology. As John Henry's cousin Eddie used to say of the Vietnamese, 'If they don't like what we're doin' for 'em, why don't they just go back where they come from?'

OK, if this is the situation -- and it's certainly what's being reported -- I don't get why we're still hearing Bushies saying, "Ha, ha, ha; we won the war." Was there anyone who said we wouldn't?

Since I am in the happy position of having predicted a short, easy war and the peace from hell, I think I'm looking like a genius prognosticator about now. I can't figure out why the Republicans are happy about this. Sure, it was a great photo-op for the president on the aircraft carrier, but if you think the American people won't notice $20 billion a year because of some nice pictures, you have sadly underestimated the common sense of this nation. I realize that what we see depends on where we stand, but there is a substantial body of emerging fact here, none of it encouraging for optimists.

We may yet see hopeful developments, but damned if I can see any cause for celebration now, or even for building a presidential re-election campaign around footage of our triumphant pres flying out to the aircraft carrier. There's a very real possibility that by November 2004, Republicans will very much want everybody to forget the war now called Dubya Dubya II. (Sorry, I don't know whom to credit for that one, but it's not original with me.)

I've got an even-money bet out that says more Americans will be killed in the peace than in the war and more Iraqis will be killed by Americans in the peace than in the war. Not the first time I've had a bet out that I hoped I'd lose.

Molly Ivins' column appears twice weekly on AlterNet.org, courtesy of Creators Syndicate.

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