THE WAR'S on. American troops have moved into Iraq. Baghdad has been bombed. Iraqi thug-in-chief Saddam Hussein may well be the late Saddam Hussein by the time you read this.
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Contrary to what America's - and the world's - anti-war protesters tell you, President Bush is not the bad guy here.
The bad guy clearly is - or was - Hussein. Killer of Kurds, torturer of dissidents, user of poison gas, procurer of weapons of mass destruction, violator of United Nations resolutions - the guy clearly had to go.
How many more times was the United Nations going to allow him to violate resolutions? How much longer than 12 years should the diplomatic solution be given a chance?
Yes, I support Mr. Bush's war. So why, ever since Wednesday, have I felt so ... depressed?
I was supposed to show a movie that night to students in my opinion writing class at the Johns Hopkins University. No Way Out, director/screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz's searing, gritty, film noir look at American race relations circa 1950, was my first choice. I ended up having them watch Woody Allen's anti-war satire and farce Love and Death. I didn't have the heart to depress them any more than they may have been.
I feel no better now than I did immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. Back then, I'd sworn I'd be happy if this war happened. I had my own list of five "countries that need a beat-down right away."
Iraq was on the list, but at No. 5. No. 4 was Iran, where terrorist groups convened in 2001 before September. (I put an asterisk beside Iran as a reminder to evacuate all that country's excellent wrestlers before they got their smack-around.)
Third on the list was Sudan, for harboring terrorists - the ruling National Islamic Front welcomed O-Slimy bin Laden in 1996 - and for terrorizing the blacks in the south for darn near 20 years.
Second was Afghanistan, home of the Taliban and bin Laden's digs as of Sept. 11, 2001.
First on the list was Saudi Arabia, home of the fanatical, belligerent Wahhabi version of Islam. Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The country's honchos were Wahhabis on Sept. 11 and they're Wahhabis now.
So I guess part of my depression comes from my constant pondering: Are we fighting the right people at the right time?
It strikes me that the secular Baath socialism Hussein and his cohorts practice - or practiced - is by definition at odds with Wahhabi Islam. In the war against terrorism, Hussein, for all his faults and all the charges about "links" between Iraq and al-Qaida, could have been an ally. But haven't we been down that road before?
Such questions lead to even more depression. Anti-war folks love to point out that we supported Hussein in his war against Iran and that we gave him weapons. Thus, the "logic" goes, we are "responsible" for Hussein's villainy. You have to wonder if the peaceniks know how the world of realpolitik works.
We sold Japan the steel they later turned into bombs and bullets during World War II. We supported the Soviet Union - which later became our Cold War enemy - against Adolf Hitler's Nazi war machine. Using current peacenik thinking, we should never have gone to war against Japan after Dec. 7, 1941, and should have left the Soviets and the British to founder before the onslaught of the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe.
Support for a particular country or regime in year X doesn't mean that same country or regime won't be an enemy in year X-plus 10 or X-plus 20. Whether you're pro-war or anti-war in 2003, we should all be grateful the peaceniks weren't around in the 1940s.
But the peaceniks aren't the ones depressing me. Not even their protests, their puerile signs that read "Bush Is A Terrorist" or their bashing of America as the Land of Evil.
Maybe it's post-1968 traumatic stress syndrome. That year probably still haunts many baby boomers, starting as it did with the Tet offensive in Vietnam and heading straight down the sewer from there.
It was after Tet that many of us realized that President Johnson and his advisers had been lying to us about Vietnam all along. The administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson was brought low by Vietnam. Perhaps my angst springs from the knowledge that Bush is no LBJ.
That's not a knock. Neither were Bill Clinton, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon or Dwight David Eisenhower. The greatest American president of the last half of the 20th century was Johnson.
And if a war could undo him, what might one do to Bush?