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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- His shrill voice pains sensitive ears. In the red states of the South and West, he ramps up his Texas twang as he brags on his war and hurls insults and lies about those who don't share his views. President George W. Bush says he's "pleased with the progress in Iraq," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is doing a "fantastic job," and those who support Democrats "want the terrorists to win."

Bush goes well beyond gutter rhetoric and the politics of desperation. He is a delusional madman and a disgrace to our national heritage. When young people hear the president of the United States talking as he does, it's no wonder their perception of politics and public life is so low.

The man who ran for the presidency claiming "I'm a uniter, not a divider" is one of the most divisive figures in American history and he will only get worse as his fiasco in Iraq continues to spiral into the abyss and the nation unravels.

Bush says, with mindless repetition, that we will "win the war," when the fact is, we are slogging it out in a conflict that screams for a political solution he is unwilling to confront as any reasonable leader would.

"Bring 'em on" is the emblem of Bush's sick mentality, as Iraqis and American troops spill their blood for his cowboy machismo.

"There is never a purely military solution to a guerrilla war," said Juan Cole, a Middle East expert at the University of Michigan, as I spoke with him last week at his Ann Arbor home.

"This is actually several unconventional wars," he argued, "and the only way they are ever resolved is through politics."

Cole, unlike Bush a thoughtful, well-informed realist, recognizes the futility of "staying the course" and using American troops for target practice for the increasingly deadly snipers popping up all over Iraq.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow," Cole said, "but if we are to see an end to this, eventually there are going to have to be negotiations with the Sunni Arab guerrilla groups that have blown up our troops. There are going to have to be negotiations with neighboring countries like Syria and Iran that have enormous amounts of pull in Iraq."

Cole finds Bush's lone-ranger military strategy a failure: "The idea that we can just unilaterally muscle our way through this is just a non-starter."

The Busheviks made the ugly congressional campaign a referendum on the "war on terrorism" and the importance of "victory" in Iraq. They smeared all those who question their war strategy, and pretended that only they have the resolve to make us "safe."

A New York Times editorial nailed it: "In Mr. Bush's world, there are only two kinds of Americans: those who are against terrorism, and those who somehow are right with it. Some Americans want to win in Iraq and some don't. There are Americans who support the troops and Americans who don't support the troops. And at the root of it all is the hideously damaging fantasy that there is a gulf between Americans who love their country and those who question his leadership."

Bush's fantasies are even disturbing his fans. In a sit-down with wire-service reporters, Bush assured them that Rumsfeld, the most incompetent man on earth, would keep his job for two more years. Maybe in the last days of the Republican-dominated Congress, Bush can get him declared Defense Secretary for Life, sort of an American Raul Castro.

Gushing over Rummy and Dick Cheney, the two principal thugs who lied to get us into Iraq and designed the disaster, Bush claimed they "are doing a fantastic job and I strongly support them."

The remark prompted conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan to raise the question of Bush's mental fitness. Sullivan told CNN Bush is so delusional, "this is not an election anymore, it's an intervention."

Sullivan, long a cheerleader for the war in Iraq, said Bush is "so in denial" he simply can't come to grips with his failure: "It's unhinged. It suggests this man has lost his mind. No one objectively could look at the way this war has been conducted, whether you were for it, as I was, or against it, and say that is has been done well. It's a disaster."

Sullivan added, "For him to say it's a fantastic job suggests the president has lost it. I'm sorry, there is no other way to say it."

The president's nanny corps -- his mother, his wife, State Department hands Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes -- know he's unhinged, but are too loyal to share that disturbing truth with the world. Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner tried to shift responsibility for the Iraq disaster away from Rumsfeld. Boehner quickly filled the disgraced Tom DeLay's shoes as the most loathsome member of Congress.

Boehner told CNN, "Let's not blame what's happening in Iraq on Rumsfeld. But the fact is, the generals on the ground are in charge, and he works closely with them and the president."

Rummy, the notorious micromanager who second-guesses every move his commanders make, gets a free pass from that idiot, Boehner.

Before the invasion, Cole assessed the risks of invading Iraq for the University of Michigan's International Institute and he was part of a group of experts that advised the State Department on the risks. He believed that destroying secular Arab nationalism could drive Sunni Arabs toward al-Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism. Cole envisioned Shiites hooking up with ayatollahs in Iran, and the Kurds pushing toward their own state and causing tension with neighboring Turkey. Cole was spot-on, but the Bush administration ignored his warnings.

"The problems were foreseeable to anyone who knows the area," he said, "but I have to say, the full magnitude of the catastrophe boggles even my mind."

Cole fears the mess in Iraq "could get worse." He sees continued violence and instability in the Shiite south and the potential interruption of oil supplies making the "military more vulnerable." As the sectarian violence rages out of control, Cole argues that "this kind of situation is intractable" and "once it begins, once people are angry on a nationwide scale, once they are afraid, they're taking the law into their own hands."

Cole fears Sunnis and Shiites will continue "ethnically cleansing their neighborhoods" with U.S. forces caught in the middle and placed in even greater danger.

"We need a change in policy," he insisted. "I think our presence there is exacerbating the problems. And I think if we go on as we are, there is a real danger to British and U.S. troops being killed in very large numbers." That's what George W. Bush considers a "fantastic job."

Bush, the great born-again Christian who consulted Jesus with his war plans, is presiding over the death of Christianity in Iraq. Christian refugees are fleeing to Syria and Lebanon in vast numbers. Their churches are being burned, and their priests are being murdered. Iraq's one million Christians -- who have survived on that land for 2,000 years -- are in mortal peril. Bush's war has made that happen.

"There is a real prospect that at the end of this conflict, there simply won't be many in the way of Christians in Iraq," Cole predicted.

Father Jacob Yasso, the pastor of Detroit's Sacred Heart Church, shares that fear. His church is on Seven Mile Road in Detroit, an area often called Little Baghdad.

The Chaldeans are people noted in biblical times who settled in Mesopotamia long before the Arabs. Saint Thomas the Apostle brought the faith to them, and the Chaldeans have clung to their Catholicism ever since. They celebrate Mass in Aramaic, the language Christ spoke. Their liturgies are beautiful and reflect one of the most ancient expressions of Christian worship.

"We never felt as foreigners or strangers in Iraq," Father Yasso told me as we chatted in his office.

I've known the priest for years and interviewed him many times. He grew up in Baghdad and studied for the priesthood there and in Rome. He knows Saddam Hussein, and the former Iraqi dictator once gave Yasso $200,000 of government money to build a social center near his church.

In spite of Saddam's largess, Yasso was happy to see him toppled. At least at first. Chaldean and Assyrian Christians were tolerated in prewar Iraq. "How come before the invasion they were working together under Saddam? Why after the fall of that government things are changing?" he wondered.

The priest described an incident in Basra in which Shiite radicals attacked a Christian village: "They kidnapped a youngster, killed him and hanged him on a cross, telling him, 'All Christians will be killed like your Jesus.'"

In Mosul, a gang of men upset over the pope's remarks about Islam kidnapped Father Iskander Behnam. His severed head and limbs were found on top of his body.

Churches are burned, and bishops are fleeing. Christian refugees are living in misery.

I asked Yasso the obvious question, "Was it better under Saddam?"

Quickly and emphatically, he replied, "Much better, yes."

This is what Rumsfeld's "fantastic job" has done. George W. Bush and the Republicans who support the fiasco in Iraq must be held accountable.

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 November 6 2006