Do Americans of good conscience really believe that we are making the United States more secure by bombing and killing the people of Fallujah?
That's the justification President Bush and his hawkish circle have given for their brutal offensive against the Sunni stronghold as they push ahead for the total military occupation of Iraq.
Why are we killing Iraqis in their own country? And why are our forces being killed?
Of course it was convenient and the better part of valor for the president to wait until after the election to start dropping the 500-pound bombs on Fallujah as well as raking the streets with artillery and aircraft firepower.
Bush, who has never been in war, flaunted his commander in chief status during the campaign. But clearly he did not want to put it to the test at Fallujah before Election Day.
Had he done so, the president would have had to explain why he took the United States into Iraq and why he was targeting innocent Iraqis.
From day one, the U.S. government has been hard-pressed to find legal justification for being in Iraq by force. U.S. military moves were contrary to the U.N. Charter and the laws that came from the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II.
Under the U.N. Charter, armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of another state is a violation of international law.
Does anyone believe that hand-picked interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, on the CIA payroll for years, is a free soul? Did we really make war against Iraq out of the goodness of our hearts to ensure free elections for Iraqis?
The silence of the Democrats is playing into the president's hands. As was the case with the original October 2002 congressional resolution authorizing war, Democrats are unsure of themselves and therefore unwilling to challenge the president.
Once the offensive was under way, many Americans were appalled to learn that among our first major targets were the hospitals in Fallujah.
By now everyone in this country must know that every reason Bush gave to attack Iraq has turned out to be a false. No weapons of mass destruction were found after two task forces took months and spent millions to hunt for them.
There was no imminent threat by Iraq against the United States. And virtually nothing has been found to connect al-Qaida with deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Presidential credibility used to have some meaning in this country. The president visited the soldiers wounded in Iraq at Walter Reed Hospital Army Medical Center on Tuesday for the first time since March. He told reporters that the U.S. soldiers in Fallujah were doing "the hard work necessary" for a free Iraq to emerge.
And he said the coalition forces were moving into Fallujah "to bring to justice those who are willing to kill the innocent, those who are trying to terrorize the Iraqi people and our coalition (and) those who want to stop democracy."
The Bush administration has no count on civilians who have lost their lives in the current massive assault on Fallujah, but some 900 civilians reportedly died in the fighting last April when the U.S. retreated temporarily from Fallujah.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters he knew of "no specific estimate of civilians" who may have been killed in the recent fighting.
But he added: "I know the military goes out of its way to minimize the loss of civilian life, and what we are working to achieve in Iraq is an important cause that will make America more secure."
Thousands in Fallujah fled their homes and are living in tents, knowing that the U.S. attack was about to begin.
Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers are going from house to house in urban street fighting -- something Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, wanted to avoid as a way of reducing the human cost of the first Gulf War. For that reason he resisted going on to Baghdad after the liberation of Kuwait.
To understand the Iraqi resistance, I suggest reading the Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott. He wrote: "Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said this is mine own my native land."
Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.
© 2004 Seattle Post-Intelligecer