AUSTIN, Texas -- Sigh. You write an article advocating what you think would be useful, constructive suggestions about Iraq, and you get an avalanche of right-wing reaction about "failuremongers" and "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Bill Safire is back at the same old stand after all these years, denouncing "merchants of dismay" trying to justify their "decade of appeasement."

Great, anybody who opposed this war in the first place was accused of lack of patriotism, and now anybody who points out that it's not going well is guilty of defeatism. If you raise your hand and ask where the weapons of mass destruction we were told were the reason for this war are, you're instructed to just Get Over It.

Well, I ain't gonna take it anymore. I am not shutting up for Bill O'Reilly or anyone else. I opposed our unprovoked, unnecessary invasion of Iraq on the grounds that it would be a short, easy war followed by the peace from hell. I predicted every terrorist in the Middle East would be drawn to Iraq like a magnet. I was right, and I'm not going to apologize for it.

I also realize the future in Iraq is a lot more important than any petty "I was right" vindication. I don't know if the glass in Iraq is half-empty or half-full, but what is clear is that the situation is deteriorating. That's why the Bush administration has changed course 180 degrees and is now asking for help from the United Nations.

But naturally, we're not supposed to mention that the administration has reversed itself -- no, no. As Paul Wolfowitz, who now has all the credibility of Ken Lay, explained, the new U.N. resolution "didn't sort of emerge out of nowhere a few days ago. It's been on our agenda ever since the fall of Baghdad."

He said the bombing of U.N. headquarters was "a breakthrough -- a sad one. The bombing, I think, changed the atmosphere in New York, and it looks like we can move forward in that area."

Right. The United Nations changed its position, we didn't change ours. How dumb do they think we are? I am tired of being asked to swallow lies by this administration. For $87 billion bucks, the least we deserve is some candor. I want to know who was responsible for the whole weapons of mass destruction fiasco, and I want to see some accountability for it -- resignations and firings. In May of this year, President Bush said, "We found the weapons of mass destruction." No, we didn't. We have yet to find any evidence of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.

President Bush's entire speech Sunday night was devoted to Iraq as "the central front" of the war on terrorism. The biggest bait-and-switch move of this whole administration has been to substitute Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Ladin. Iraq had nothing to do with the acts of terrorism perpetrated against the United States. The real villains, both Al Qaeda and the Taliban, are now regrouping in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, while we're stuck in the quicksand in Iraq.

I am trying hard to be a responsible citizen here: I don't think the choice is between "staying the course" or "cut and run." I think we need to change course and be honest enough to admit it to ourselves and everybody else. The security situation in Iraq is deteriorating because we had a poorly planned and badly botched postwar strategy. We need help, and we need to ask for it nicely.

The eeriest part about Bush's $87 billion request is that it may not be enough. Sixty-six billion will go to the military and intelligence, leaving a relative pittance for actually rebuilding Iraq. According to most experts, getting the lights and water back up, not to mention the oil industry, is critical to the security situation.

Meanwhile, indications are that homeland security is still pretty much a pathetic shambles. With Al Qaeda stirring around again, we might do some rethinking in that area, as well. I've been taking off my shoes at the airport to make us all safer, but don't you think we need to work on the ports, start screening container shipping, and take a look at our chemical and nuke plants?

Speaking of people trying to be constructive, Hussein Agha and Robert Malley had a piece in Sunday's Washington Post pointing out that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are once again in the toilet and suggesting that it's time to start at the other end. Instead of a step-by-step approach, work out a two-state map with international backing and present it with an international force to back it up. Since everybody knows that's the only way it can end, why not start there?

Pretty good idea, I thought.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2003 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.