It was a stupid decision to go to war, but that boulder is already rolling down the mountain and there's nothing we can do to stop it. We will lose much and gain nothing from the war.

Still, with Americans in combat, there is nothing to do but press on and get them home as quickly as we can.The whole business is a sad affair. We are killing people who were not our enemies until we attacked them. They will kill as many of us as they can.

I'm glad to see that those who oppose the war are this time making that important distinction between the war and the warriors. Our military men did not make the decision to go to war. President Bush made it. Virtually all of the Republicans and a few Democrats in the House and Senate made it. They should all be held accountable.

At the same time, however, that we try to avoid doing anything that would demoralize our troops, we should not fall for the government's war propaganda any more than we should fall for the Iraqi propaganda.

The mock outrage over the Iraqi attack on Israel is just that - all for show. We knew if we started a war Iraq would attack Israel. Israel knew it. So starting a war was in effect done with the understanding that Israeli civilians would pay a price. Saddam Hussein had said he would attack Israel if we attacked him and everybody, including the Israelis, who know him, said he is a man who does what he says he will do.

The same is true about the White House posturing over the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of POWs. Surely no one in the government is so stupid and naive as to expect Saddam to abide by the Geneva Conventions. If anyone outside the government expected that, they ought to turn in their voter registration cards and ask the courts to appoint them a guardian.

Some Americans are acting like war is a football game. If we're going to drop 18,000 tons of bombs on people - inevitably killing civilians no matter how hard we try to avoid it - then we should not expect to be greeted with hot tea and cookies if we are captured.

The conventions aren't worth the paper they're written on. They were drawn up by a bunch of old diplomats and lawyers who never were in touch with reality. The North Vietnamese didn't abide by them and we didn't do one damned thing about it. In fact, even as we are saddened by the terrible ordeal our new POWs are going through, the Bush administration is scheming to establish diplomatic relations with the war criminals of the Vietnam era.

War, just or unjust, provoked or unprovoked, is a grim, ugly, vicious and sad business. To treat it as a sporting event - which only people far removed from the action can do - is disrespectful of both those who are killing and those who are dying.

There is nothing to celebrate about war except its end and the safe return of those who have to fight it. Certainly no one should celebrate the deaths of anyone. Certainly no one should celebrate the fact that some missile we paid $1 million for actually works. It had better work.

Once again there is an air of unreality. A few hundred thousand Americans and their families are involved in a deadly war in a distant place and the rest of us are living our normal, comfortable peacetime lives.

Maybe that's why some people do treat it like a football game. It's on television. It's interrupted by commercials. We don't feel any pain or fear or smell the blood and vomit. It's just pictures on the TV, not unlike pictures of make-believe wars. Only this is real, sadly real.