Short of good news ever since the end of the formal war, Bush and Blair are naturally exultant that Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusay, have been satisfactorily incinerated in Mosul, Iraq, presumably victims of someone eager to collar the $30-million reward for turning them in.

            But though Saddam's sons deserve everything they got, and more, the news of their demise should not be cause for great rejoicing in the White House and 10 Downing Street. In the event that Saddam soon follows his sons into the Great Hereafter, that would not, in anything other than the short term, be great news for Bush and Blair either.

            For obvious reasons, Bush and his entourage have been eager to identify Saddam, Uday and Qusay as the instigators of the attacks on the U.S. and U.K. occupying forces, with attendant steady, demoralizing trickle of casualties.

            To suggest otherwise would be to concede that there might be long-term, organized opposition to the Allied occupation, which has less to do with Saddam Hussein and his clan, and more with nationalist, or Islamic/nationalist opposition to the invaders.

            The fact that Uday and Qusay were holed up in the house of a relative scarcely suggests that they had elaborate flight plans, replete with secret command bunkers, prepared in advance of the U.S./U.K. invasion. It looks as though, like many others suddenly on the run, the only plan they could come up with was an desperate rap on the door of a family friend.

            With his epic record of blunders and miscalculations we're probably safe in assuming Saddam wasn't much better prepared. All those elaborate scenarios about rat lines to Russia or even nearby Syria were so much hooey. So in the end the huge reward for Saddam will weigh heavier than loyalty or fear, and he'll end up dead, too.

            With Uday and Qusay finished off, Bush may enjoy a short-term uptick on the polls. Maybe the attacks on U.S. and U.K. troops will slow, but they certainly won't stop, and in the medium term, they'll probably increase.

            Remember, many Iraqis saw the only virtue of the invasion as the end of a hated regime. If Saddam gets nailed, too, that fear will finally dissipate, and then more Iraqis will focus on the business of driving the Americans and the British out of their country. More U.S. and British troops will get killed, but the rationale that this is the last-ditch resistance of the cornered Saddam clan will have disappeared.

            It's a cynical proposition, but Bush and Blair will be much better off if Saddam is not run to earth, at least until some advanced point in next year's presidential campaign season.

            Even the killing of Uday and Qusay won't help much in the steady erosion in both Bush and Blair's popularity, because of the reasons for their slump. They stitched together a handsome patchwork of lies about Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), and that patchwork has fallen apart. No amount of grandstanding by Blair in Congress about the absolutions of history alters that.

            Take the current uproar in the United Kingdom about the suicide of Dr. David Kelly, the biowar expert charged by Blair and his minions with leaking disobliging information to the BBC. The plan of Blair's spin team in 10 Downing Street, headed by Alastair Campbell, has been to create a diversion, to occlude the obvious: that Blair and his cohort obviously mangled the truth about Saddam's WMDs.

            This is the reason for all the howling from No. 10 about the BBC's charges, based on interviews with Kelly by three separate BBC reporters, that Blair's people "sexed up" (words never used by the BBC) the original report on WMDs prepared by Britain's intelligence services.

            But the record is clear enough. First, Britain's intelligence services rushed from one preposterous piece of inflation to the next, accepted crude forgeries, plagiarized a student's essay off the Internet, and so forth. Kelly himself was an assiduous threat inflator till near the end, and maybe guilt over his own role contributed to his very strange decision to kill himself. (Or maybe the security services were threatening him with some damaging personal revelation unless he denounced the BBC for misrepresenting his remarks to their reporters.)

            Then Blair and his team took these threat inflations and inflated them even further. Whether it was some intelligence officer in MI6 or one of Blair's flacks who came up with the notorious 45-minute launch time for one of Saddam's bioweapons is a legitimate but not very important question. They were all in the business of exaggeration, as was UNSCOM, which has thus far escaped well-deserved rebuke. The same is true this side of the Atlantic. The press has finally caught up with the matter and won't let it drop. Neither will the Democrats.

            It will take a lot more than the killing of Uday or Qusay to turn this tide.

            Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2003 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.