AUSTIN, Texas -- Iraq and the media, the media and Iraq -- over and over. Last week was supposed to be a good media week for Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was dead. Taken out, we said, by a combination of American and Iraqi troops with Jordanian intelligence.

The churlish might note this was the second time the American military had announced Zarqawi's death -- but, hey, we've announced the capture of Osama's No. 2 guy at least seven or eighth times. Others claimed Zarqawi was never that important to begin with, indeed had been built up by our side. Still, that's a goal for our side, as they say in World Cup play.

Then reality got a bit bumpy. Zarqawi wasn't exactly dead when we found him. We put him on a stretcher and cleaned him up -- the fog of war intervened.

I distinctly remember people predicting the first time we killed Zarqawi that it wouldn't make much difference, so I presume they did it again. Thus, we get to revisit the old cackle over whether we are fighting international terrorists who have flocked to Iraq or a native uprising against our occupation of the country. Can't even agree on what's going on.

I'm so used to one side saying this and the other side saying the opposite that I didn't even blink over the differences.

I did, however, come to a screeching halt over the right's reaction to news of a triple suicide at Guantanamo. A great chorus of, "How dare they?" seemed to follow this dismal news. My local paper said, "Detainees hid their plans to die ... Guantanamo officials were fooled ... Inquiry looks at how to prevent other deaths."

Now it seems to me one might have any number of reactions to news of suicides at Guantanamo, but righteous indignation is not one of them. Most of these prisoners have been held for four years now without possibility of charge, trial or parole. I should think they would be suicidal. I'm sorry we failed to prevent it, but I'm not sure that's possible. "They hid their plans to die?" Gee, the sneaks.

You know what? This is getting silly. The debate over this war is unrealistic and even ludicrous. A) It is not going well. B) It keeps getting worse. C) Yes, it is possible that if we stay there long enough, it will get better eventually. D) There is no evidence suggesting that beyond hope.

A particularly acrid growth from this fruitless debate is the contempt for and dismissal of public opinion in other countries. "So what if we have alienated public opinion in nations throughout the Middle East?" seems to be the attitude. "Who cares what they think?" If I wanted to win a global war on terror, I'd sure be concerned about what they think.

I would hope the right would at least be concerned over the damage being done to the American military by this war. Morale, my ass. Excuse me, but our government doesn't even seem to be able to pay these people on time. Not to mention stretching them past the breaking point in Iraq, leaving them without adequate mental care when they come home, endlessly extending their tours, bribing them to re-up, and so forth and so on. Then, of course, something like Haditha happens, and they all get a black eye out of it.

I think it's time the antiwar side in this country started using a few threats of its own -- specifically, about who's going to take the blame for this when it's over. Forget the liberal tradition of forgiveness. I say, hold this grudge.

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