dysfunctionals playing in the White House

Early this morning in a BBC news radio report, I first heard about U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfield's press briefing statement yesterday that the U.S. might invade Iraq without Britain.

Question: Would the United States go to war without Great Britain?

Mr Rumsfeld: "This is a matter that most of the senior officials in the government discuss with the UK on a daily or every-other-day basis. And I had a good visit with the Minister of Defence of the UK about an hour ago.

Their situation is distinctive to their country, and they have a government that deals with a parliament in their way, a distinctive way.

And what will ultimately be decided is unclear as to their role; that is to say, their role in the event that a decision is made to use force.

There's the second issue of their role in a post-Saddam Hussein reconstruction process or stabilisation process, which would be a different matter.

And I think until we know what the resolution is, we won't know the answer as to what their role will be and to the extent they're able to participate in the event the president decides to use force, that would obviously be welcomed.

To the extent they're not, there are workarounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it."

Question: We would consider going to war without our closest ally, then?

Mr Rumsfeld: "That is an issue that the president will be addressing in the days ahead, one would assume."

I was shocked, but also, I'll admit, perversely delighted to have my estimate of the administration's incompetence further confirmed, even though my immediate thought was of the classic, distressing kindergarten grade, "does not play well with others." This junta has already made it clear that it holds in contempt any need for cooperation at home, and for two years it has been perfectly content to thumb its nose at the entire world. Yesterday it decided to do without its only remaining serious ally, Tony Blair.

Later in the morning I found that Maureen Dowd was also thinking of the White House in terms more appropriate to dysfunctional toddlers.

The Bush bullies, having driven off all the other kids in the international schoolyard, are now resorting to imaginary friends.

Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars here yesterday and reassured the group that America would have "a formidable coalition" to attack Iraq. "The number of countries involved will be in the substantial double digits," he boasted. Unfortunately, he could not actually name one of the supposed allies. "Some of them would prefer not to be named now," he said coyly, "but they will be known with pride in due time."

Perhaps the hawks' fixation on being the messiahs of the Middle East has unhinged them. I could just picture Wolfy sauntering down the road to Baghdad with our new ally Harvey, his very own pooka, a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit that the U.S. wants to put on the U.N. Security Council.

Ari Fleischer upped the ante, conjuring up an entire international forum filled with imaginary allies.

He suggested that if the U.N. remained recalcitrant, we would replace it with "another international body" to disarm Saddam Hussein. It wasn't clear what he was talking about. What other international body? Salma Hayek? The World Bank? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association?