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By Bill Gallagher

"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." -- Niels Bohr, Danish Physicist, 1922 Nobel Prize Winner.

DETROIT -- Professor Bohr brought us greater understanding of how our world is organized. His seminal work in quantum mechanics led the Nobel committee to recognize him "for his service to the investigation of the structure of atoms and the radiation emanating from them."

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Now here's a man who brought us revolutionary insight and comprehension of theoretical physics expressing a Yogi Berra-ism about the simple world of prediction. There is nothing difficult about prediction itself, but getting it right can be a problem.

Actually, predictions in politics are probably more difficult than in physics. The hard sciences do have some eternal laws and immutable principles -- unlike politics, where principle and truth are rare and actually inhibit political success (See: Karl Rove's biography). And if you're wrong in political predictions, so what?

The great leaders of our time -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld -- experienced no serious consequences for their horribly wrong predictions about what invading Iraq would mean.

The president just awarded the Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian honor, to former CIA Director George Tenet, retired Gen. Tommy Franks and former U.S. Viceroy in Iraq and Ambassador L. Paul Bremer. Their predictions -- about Saddam's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the military strength needed to pacify Iraq and how dismantling the Iraqi army would end the insurgency and help build a civilian government -- were laughably off the mark. But instead of ridicule, or at least accountability, they get medals.

It's a shame that the darling of Dick Cheney and the Pentagon neocons, Ahmed Chalabi, didn't receive the medal, too. He told the boys how to do it and what to expect. Chalabi had more influence over our designs and strategies in Iraq than the State Department, the United Nations, the European Union and the rest of the world combined. This bank swindler and third-rate crook had the Bush administration in his hands. I'm surprised his supporters didn't urge the president to do like the Vatican does when the pope names a new cardinal "in pectore" -- in secret. It's a maneuver used when the pontiff has reason to believe announcing publicly the name of the honored would be "imprudent," usually for political reasons.

Anyone who's been that consistently wrong certainly deserves a Medal of Freedom from the Bush administration. The success of failure was a predictable feature of George W. Bush's first term and the first year of his second term ought to be a dilly.

So with arrogance, bravado and the certainty that getting it wrong doesn't mean a damn thing (with that attitude, I should get a White House job), I proceed with some predictions for 2005.

The bad predictions come first.

It will be a bleak and painful year for Americans at home and our ship of state around the world is terribly off-course.

The insurrection in Iraq will continue and pacification will be increasingly difficult for our overstretched, overexposed and inadequately equipped occupation forces. The attack on the dining hall at the U.S. base in Mosul underscores the vulnerability of all our forces.

Elections in Iraq will proceed on schedule, regardless of what the Iraqi people want. George W. Bush wants the elections and his is the only voice that matters.

Voting will be marked by violence and widespread confusion. Vast regions of the country and large segments of the population will be unable to vote. Others will simply refuse to participate in such a contrived exercise in the American-imposed civics lesson.

George W. Bush will declare the elections a great victory and proof that his experiment in planting seeds of democracy will blossom throughout the Middle East -- except in Saudi Arabia, but that's a personal, family matter.

International observers will pronounce the elections a meaningless "political show," as the process will fuel more sectarian and ethnic hostilities. Iraqi security forces will be of little use in quelling the disturbances during the elections.

Field Marshall Rumsfeld will survive. His screw-ups don't matter. He has the unflinching support of Dick Cheney, who has told the president that "Rummy stays."

More evidence of abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners will emerge and those horrors will be traced to "Do what you have to do" memos and OKs from the White House. The Red Cross, Red Crescent and Amnesty International will document torture and murder in the prisons. The military atrocities at Guantanamo Bay will make the civilized world sick.

The Bush administration will blame "rogue" National Guard units and media "hype."

But the man behind the curtain of fascism -- White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who wrote legal briefs enabling torture and, in effect, declaring the president is a king -- will become Attorney General of the United States.

Instead he should be facing indictment, imprisonment and disbarment. He's a first-rate toady and third-rate legal mind, but rises to undeserved respectability as a devoted, professional Bush loyalist, who will say and write anything to please the boss. Lawyers who take their oaths seriously should be outraged!

Democrats in the Senate will be politically correct, roll over and allow the confirmation of a man whose wanted poster should hang outside every respectable court of international justice.

Condoleezza Rice presents another portrait of easy confirmation. Forget that she ignored a specific warning that Osama bin Laden was planning to use airplanes to attack the United States. She will glibly defend the whole episode as misinterpretations about what the word "threat" meant. She will talk for days and say nothing.

A handful of senators might ask her a few tough questions. In the end, they will simply roll over.

Actually, she does have some expertise in the old Soviet Union, where she could prove herself invaluable in trying to get Bush's "soul mate," Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, to stop dancing with Stalin's ghost.

But Bush wants Condi nearby. In his world, personal convenience always looms larger than world issues. She, too, should not be confirmed. Her national security failures and her fabrications about Iraq and Saddam should make her political toast. But the Democratic wimps in the Senate will rescue her from the grill.

I predict Rudy Giuliani's halo will permanently disappear and his sidekick -- the once would-be Secretary of Homeland Security, Bernie Kerik -- will be in more legal hot water. These two are rewriting the book of sleaze and neither will hold public office ever again.

Bush will get the Congress to craft some kind of privatized Social Security accounts.

They won't do a damn thing to address the real problem and won't offer any specifics about reductions in benefits, older retirement age and greater payroll deductions. That would require courage and candor.

We have, as they say in Texas, a president who is "all hat and no cattle." He ain't gonna tell the real truth. He'll just swag and brag and "pray" for a good year to come. I worry about an unending war and the suffering it will cause, the desecration of our environment, a tidal wave of national debt and the fate of millions of Americans who don't have jobs.

But I do predict that 2005 will be a year of enlightenment for all of us.

We'll know and understand more about the mess George W. Bush has wrought and the readers of the Niagara Falls Reporter will be way out in front.

However, Niels Bohr's thoughts give me pause: "Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true."

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@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec. 28 2004