Fighting a war without end?

Six years after Sept. 11, 2001, a convenient moment for stock-taking, are we at war or are we not at war — and if so with whom or with what?

Americans are killed at an average of 80 a month in Iraq. More come home forever damaged in body or spirit. But for most of us, daily life goes merrily on.

Iraqis are displaced by the millions and killed at a rate of 2,000 a month (down, it’s said, from 4,000 a few months ago). It’s not clear whether that’s progress or just because of the growing number of neighborhoods that have been ethnically cleansed.

The need for more plain talk about Iraq

Solemnity and sadness, remembrance and resolve filled American hearts and minds on yet another September 11 anniversary this week. Once again, for a few minutes, television transported us to the southern tip of Manhattan, to a flag-draped, once-shattered wall of the Pentagon, and to a farm field in Pennsylvania.

The first casualty of Iraq

It seems to me that the most uncommon attribute in American life is common sense. While everybody thinks they have it, not too many people actually do.

Talk show hosts like to suggest that they are all about common sense, but they really are in the business of populism, which is all about directing public prejudices against convenient scapegoats. While this is common, it isn’t sense.

The perfect illustration of the uncommonness of common sense is the war in Iraq. Everything about it is ridiculous except the bravery of our troops.

At least 10 more years in Iraq

Democrats charged General David Petraeus’s latest Iraq strategy was a blueprint for 10 more years of war, as they rejected “rosy” claims of battlefield progress and demanded a speedy US withdrawal.

The Democratic counter-attack came as President George W. Bush prepared to address Americans on future Iraq strategy on Thursday, and war commander Petraeus endured a roasting in Congress.

“President Bush’s policy announced by General Petraeus is a path to 10 more years of war in Iraq,” said Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives in a statement after meeting the president at the White House.

Playing the avoid-blame game

This being once again the month of 9/11, it is increasingly fascinating to watch the gyrations of those seeking to either capitalize on that culture-altering event for political purposes or to find a haven in history that allows them to escape the blame for all the mistakes since.

Declare victory by changing the rules

One of the charms of sports is that they keep score. For example, if like me you’re a fan of Michigan Wolverines football, no amount of rationalization can hide the dismal fact that, this season, we’ve been sentenced to root for a terrible team.

Running out of options

Here’s the upshot of two days of testimony on Capitol Hill by our top military commander and top diplomat in Iraq: We’re stuck.

The “surge,” due to begin winding down this fall, brought some measure of increased security, but not as much as one might expect from 30,000 additional troops. The Sunnis and Shiites are not closer to reconciliation; the central government remains quarrelsome and ineffective; and the Iraqi security forces are only marginally more capable.

Curbing a lust for crime memorabilia

Round and chrome, it looks like an average hubcap from a vintage VW Bug. But this one has a history. And it’s for sale.

It’s off the tan 1968 Volkswagen Beetle that Ted Bundy drove as he roamed the West in the mid-1970s murdering young women. From Washington state to Colorado to Utah, Bundy is considered among the most diabolical serial killers in U.S. history.

Spearing the Britney

We suppose there was a legitimate reason for putting an overweight, under-prepared Britney Spears on the stage of the stage of the MTV video music awards Sunday night in Las Vegas but we’re sure the producers of the show are now wondering just what the hell it was.

Spears was so unprepared that her lip syncing was out of sync, her so-called dance movement didn’t mesh with the professionals around her and she moved with all the grace of a drunken elephant.

At 25, Spears is clearly past her prime, if indeed she ever had one.

Is bin Laden ‘virtually impotent’

President George W. Bush’s homeland security adviser said on Sunday al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is “virtually impotent” and can do little more than send videotaped messages.

Top White House aide Fran Townsend said officials were studying bin Laden’s new video tape for clues to his health or whereabouts, and whether there were any hidden meanings or messages.

But she said there was no sign of an imminent attack.

“This is a man on the run in a cave who is virtually impotent other than his ability to get these messages out,” Townsend said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “It is propaganda.