Mention the war in Iraq to anyone and watch him shake his head.
People over the age of 7 know that the course in Iraq chosen and pursued without veering one inch by President Bush will ultimately cost the lives of ever more Americans and Iraqis.
And, worst of all, the war will achieve next to nothing … if even that.
From Dec. 15, the date of the still undecided election in Iraq, through Jan. 11, 498 Iraqis and 54 Americans were killed.
And since the war began in 2003, the Department of Defense has confirmed 2,210 U.S. deaths.
Is Bush aware, as most Americans are, that more deaths are futile? What goes through Bush's mind, I ask myself over and again, when he hears those body counts? Is Bush completely inured to the mounting death toll? Do the deaths of young American men and women mean less to him than saving face?
Judge for yourself by watching a CBS News video of Bush's address to the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia on December here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/12/12/politics/main1117045.shtml."> http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/12/12/politics/main1117045.shtml.
When a reporter asked Bush for his estimate of Iraqi casualties, Bush replied:
"I would say 30,000 more or less have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis. We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq."
I watched the tape several times; I urge you to do the same. Bush appears matter-of-fact, indifferent and detached. What Bush does not seem is caring or concerned.
Maybe Bush keeps everything inside. But if you ask me, Bush's grief and anguish should have been visible in his response. How about a comment that began with, "My heart goes out to the families of everyone who has lost a loved one … ."
In a way, Bush has gotten what he asked for. Do you remember his July 2003 challenge to Iraqi insurgents to, "Bring them on"?
Apparently, they listened. American soldiers are locked into a no-win battle against insurgents. The deaths have no end in sight.
Bush is a strange and frightening man who takes counsel from no one. He ignored warnings from the State Department about postwar insurgencies. And Bush disregarded information from the Central Intelligence Agency and the governments of England, Germany and France that indicated Iraq never sought uranium from Niger.
As for Bush's promise that the U.S. would hunt down Osama bin Laden and capture him "dead or alive" - that's a long-ago dashed dream.
Osama bin Laden, the symbol of the War on Terror, most likely enjoys sanctuary from Afghans and Pakistanis where he is considered a hero.
For the dwindling number of Americans who still support the way in which Bush handles the war, even they can be pleased about its cost.
A news item released over the Christmas holiday may have escaped the attention of many. According to a report, Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University economics professor, and Linda Bilmes, a Harvard University budget expert, the Iraq war will ultimately cost between $1 and $2 trillion.
Stiglitz and Bilmes write that the U.S. government continues (purposely?) to understate Iraq's total cost.
In his syndicated column, Paul Craig Roberts, an assistant secretary of the treasury under President Ronald Reagan, stated that Siglitz and Bilmes underestimated the war's cost.
This is the same U.S. government that belittled Bush economic advisor Larry Lindsey when he suggested that the war would cost Americans $200 billion. The White House insisted instead that Iraqi oil reserves would pay not only for the war but for the country's subsequent reconstruction.
Since it is unlikely that either American citizens or 2006 Congressional candidates will tolerate Bush's do-nothing game plan too much longer, now is the time to change course.
Writing in the Jan. 8 Washington Post, former national security advisor to president Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, recommends in his column, "The Real Choice in Iraq," that Bush "break out of his political cocoon" "widen his circle of advisors," and "redefine," the goals in Iraq with the intention of "disengagement" by the end of 2006.
Brzezinski's point is that American's real choice in Iraq is not "hang in and win" or "quit and lose." Instead, Brzezinski claims that the options are "persist but not win" or "desist but not lose."
Winning, as defined by Bush, is not possible. Therefore, persisting in the status quo mode is useless.
But ending the war by December 2006, especially as the Iraqis are making noises that they want us out, is the right and honorable thing to do.
Most importantly, exiting Iraq will save American and Iraqi lives.
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.