[Clocks ticking Iraq clock repairmen work at their shop on a Baghdad street (AFP/Karim Sahib) April 11, 2006]

In a commentary yesterday in the New York Times, columnist Nicholas D. Kristoff started off with a startling figure. “For every additional second we stay in Iraq, we taxpayers will end up paying an additional $6,300.” Most Americans make less than this in a month, which by my count for the 30-day variety has a total of 2,592,000 seconds. My math faculties start to break down with the thought of computing the cost per month of this war in seconds on the U.S. Budget.

But there are other reasons to have second thoughts on this war in Iraq. Consider how many seconds it takes for a life to be taken in Iraq. The recent study by a Johns Hopkins team suggests that the death toll since the U.S.-led invasion may be as high as 500 per day. If this is the case then a victim of this war has died about every 173 seconds (not quite every 3 minutes). By this logic, we are spending over a million dollars per capita in the death toll. Since most of these victims are not actual combatants, it would seem more logical not to send any troops and hire professional mercenary bounty hunters to get the “real” terrorists.

Even President Bush and his Cowboy-in-White-Hat-House allies has decided not to “stay the course” or at least not to use the phrase any more before the midterm election. Maureen Dowd, in a New York times column today, asks the question “Can Jim Baker can bail out Junior one more time?” Her cinematic metaphor for the current Republican stampede to get out of the “stay the course” path is aptly summed up by the indomitable Dowd: “It is a hilarious spectacle of a whole party re-enacting the classic scene in Mel Brook’s ‘Blazing Saddles.’ in which the sheriff holds the gun to his own head to take himself hostage.” When Cheney holds the gun to his own head, everybody else had better duck.

Perhaps a more relevant and deadly metaphor is the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel in which two eminent politicians vented their frustration honorably (it is amazing what passes for honor in American history) by only shooting at each other. The seconds were there but did not get in the way. In that historic case the buckshot stopped there and the Republic survived. The Buck Rogers currently lame deducing his way through his final two-plus years in office simply forges ahead as though past administration mistakes can disappear if his foxy news hound Tony can snow the American public via his press conference act.

The seconds are ticking down to November 7. And this time there will be no second chance.

Daniel Martin Varisco