President Bush may have convinced Saddam Hussein that war is inevitable and American forces will soon attack. But he hasn't convinced me, and here's why.

It is, quite simply, beyond belief that Bush could order young Americans into battle, knowing thousands might die, when Saddam and Iraq pose no serious threat to the United States, not now, not in the foreseeable future.American interests are involved in the Persian Gulf crisis: assured oil deliveries to European allies and Japan, the protection of Saudi Arabia as a dependable supplier of oil, an overall stability in the Middle East and, specifically, the safety of Israel.

But those interests, while important, are not vital to America's future or its survival. And those interests wouldn't be protected in a war launched by the United States.

Arguably, those same interests would be placed in further jeopardy by an American war spreading death and destruction across Iraq and other Arab states, destroying cities, killing and maiming civilian populations, a war stirring old suspicions and fears of the West and a war that could inflame Muslim populations, even to revolt against Middle East governments we now count as allies.

One difficulty for Bush in his threats to use massive force against Saddam is that Saddam's invasion of Kuwait has become an occupation, moving nowhere else. His threat against Saudi Arabia, if there ever was a threat, is blocked by Americans now numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

Saddam's recent scorched-earth talk sounds more like bragging for domestic consumption, and his stridency can't come near matching the daily output of American civilian and military leaders.

So it would be up to Bush, absent any new attack by Saddam, to begin a war in the Middle East. Certainly, the president would cite as justification for an attack the U.N. resolutions demanding Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, the return of the Kuwaiti government and payment of Iraqi reparations for damages.

But the United Nations will not declare war and, quite likely, Congress won't declare war, not in the mid-January time-frame that's been suggested by the president and his aides.

It would be - if it comes - Bush's call, his alone and his decision to order that tens of thousands of young Americans attack an enemy whose sitting army actually poses no danger to the American homeland.

Any decision by Bush to attack would also run against impressive advice from past and present American leaders who have urged that sanctions against Iraq must be given more time.

The president has to be aware that too much of what's been said to prepare Americans for an American war is pure propaganda, some of it propaganda he's used and some of it even bought and paid for.

For example, there was no evidence that Iraq, after the invasion of Kuwait, either intended or could exert a "stranglehold over the world's energy supply."

For another example, the only Iraqi "nuclear" threat is fiction, a frightening fiction spread by media liars who've gone so far as to suggest that America itself is menaced by Iraqi nuclear warheads and missiles that don't exist.

Americans, for still another example, have been targeted by a professional public relations campaign ordered up by the deposed Kuwaiti rulers and their wealthy hangers-on.

Saddam Hussein doesn't threaten the United States. It's inconceivable President Bush could send Americans to war just to provide the fitting end of an international propaganda assault and a domestic public relations campaign.