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What a coincidence.

Back in September and October, the Bush administration was busy building up its latest bogeyman, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist allegedly aligned with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

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Al-Zarqawi, the administration told us, was holed up in Fallujah, a city of around 300,000 souls about 40 miles west of Baghdad. From this stronghold, he was directing the operations of the "foreign fighters," Arabs who had come from all over the world for the opportunity to kill an American soldier.

Why didn't we just go in and get that evildoer, some wondered. With a straight face, Bush told us that we would have to wait until Iraqi President Ayad Allawi gave us permission.

On its face, the assertion was ludicrous. Was this the same George W. Bush who vowed that American soldiers would never fight under the command of the United Nations? Now submitting to the whim of some unelected potentate in a wartorn country we are occupying?

As usual, the Washington press corps swallowed the administration's line without question. No eyebrows were raised even when Allawi decided the ideal time for the Fallujah operation to begin would be immediately after the American election.

Since then, five American soldiers have died each day, and another 52 have been wounded. Each and every day. The city of Fallujah has been bombed to rubble, and untold thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children have been slaughtered.

As for the bogeyman Zarqawi? Oh, he got away, taking with him his cadre of foreign fighters and leaving behind a well-armed rear guard of local militia. It seems that the two months Bush gifted him between the announcement of the Fallujah assault and its actual launch provided more than enough time to escape.

The concentration of American forces in Fallujah has allowed insurgents in Mosul, Baghdad and the southern "Triangle of Death" to ramp up their activities, and an unequaled reign of terror has spread throughout the country.

In the annals of military history, it is difficult to find a more egregious example of a military operation dictated so completely by domestic political concerns. The battle for Fallujah is yet another pointless chapter in a sad war that didn't have to be fought in the first place.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 30 2004