GEORGE W. BUSH will be inaugurated to his second term as president of the United States on Thursday. The holy-rollers and high-rollers who got him elected will be full of glee.
The inaugural will be celebrated expensively and ostentatiously, full of pomp and pomposity. The other day I learned from National Public Radio that the Ritz-Carlton in Washington is offering a $150,000 package for the event that includes charter jet (from Texas, probably) to Washington, the most expensive suite in the house, and an endless supply of caviar and Dom Perignon for the two- or three-day visit.
Thus America will be on show to the world, and the degree of gluttony and glitz the leader of the free world and his supporters are capable of indulging in will be there for everyone to see.
In deference to what's happening in the real world, Mr. Bush should do something out of character. He should cancel Thursday's party and tell the high-rollers to give what they would have spent on his inaugural to some worthwhile cause.
In deference, that is, to the very long-term needs of the millions of people whose families, shelter and livelihoods were just wiped out by the worst natural disaster to hit the world in a very long time. (Yes, the American government and the American people have given generously to tsunami relief. But it seems obscene to be having a party like the one in Washington this week against that backdrop.)
And in deference, that is, to the casualties of President Bush's very own manmade disaster in Iraq, where more than 1,350 Americans have been killed, 10 times that number have been wounded and tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives and livelihoods.
One has to marvel at the ability of Mr. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the other clamorers for war against Iraq to have managed the truth and their own distortions of it with such success that they are still in power today.
We in the press and the electronic media have been their accomplices to a large degree. The latest example of that was the relatively small amount of attention paid to the revelations last week that the Bush administration formally has shut down the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq .
The story appeared first in The Washington Post (1,029 words on Page One) and in The New York Times (240 words on Page 10). This newspaper published a 521-word Associated Press story on Page 14A.
This story, underplayed by most of the media, was important because it put the final kibosh on the lies Americans were fed to justify the decision to go to war in Iraq. The president and the chief architects of the war in Iraq claimed the war was necessary because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear program, and because he was in league with Osama bin Laden. All of which is not true.
The decision by the government to shut down the work of the Iraqi Survey Group - which it did quietly after Mr. Bush had won the November election - effectively admits the lie.
The president and his men have blamed it all on bad intelligence, like the "slam dunk" on Iraqi WMD that CIA Director George J. Tenet promised a president so eager to hear it, he wouldn't have noticed the truth if it had appeared.
In the face of this damning evidence against his decision to go to war, Mr. Bush doesn't flinch. He says that knowing what he does today, he still would have gone to war. To war, that is, in a place where so many Americans and Iraqis have been killed and where so many more will be killed while that country descends into chaos.
And you know what? Mr. Bush will get away with it. He has gotten away with it. Look carefully as the president does the swagger he calls a Texas walk the day after tomorrow. Watch for the grin. Watch the champagne flow.
Then check the week's casualty reports from Iraq. They're real. And the man with the grin has a personal responsibility for them.
G. Jefferson Price III is a former editor and foreign correspondent for The Sun.