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That Difficult June 30 Deadline

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Every year Mercer Human Resources Consulting lists the world’s best and worst cities to live and work in. Vancouver, British Columbia, routinely tops the list, but this year was pushed down to third place by Bern and Geneva, Switzerland. And if it weren’t for a few token cities in Africa, Baghdad would have taken top honors as the most miserable place on earth to plant two feet and a pair of working lungs. If only Mercer rated foreign policy by the world’s lone, remaining superpower. Read all the way to the bottom of this column, then place your bets on whether or not Iraq will make it all the way to the June 30 finish line for a transfer of power back to the Iraqi people:

& ull; Weapons inspector David Kay probably wasn’t laughing, not to mention families of four charred corpses from North Carolina: At a recent dinner for the Radio & Television Correspondent’s Association, President Bush joked about finding weapons of mass destruction under the furniture.

& ull; Iraqis get a lesson in Western-style free speech: Bush proconsul Paul Bremer shuts down Shia weekly newspaper Al Hawza.

& ull; Wasn’t the manhunt over when we caught Saddam? Rest assured that Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr never attended a Baath party function, but he is at the top of the coalition’s Most Wanted list. The troublemakers just keep on coming.

& ull; The world is a safer place with Saddam out of power: Alleged March 11 mastermind Abu Dujana Al Afgani, Ansar Group, al-Qaeda in Europe boasts that Spain will become “an inferno.” In fact, we’ve no idea how safe we are: State Department intelligence analyst J. Cofer Black believes that, since we invaded Iraq, Bin Laden’s message has gained greater relevance among Islamic militants and that the United States must change tactics from “defeating a group to fighting a movement,” he told The Washington Post.

& ull; Former counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke isn’t the only one questioning the president: Zbigniew Brzezinski, former adviser to President Jimmy Carter, told Newsweek that the best way to combat terrorism was to—wow!—“address some of the basic problems of the Middle East.” Brzezinski also believes that in order to fight terrorism, the United States needs allies. We’re a bit short on those at the moment.

& ull; Dick’s got answers: Bush wants to have Cheney by his side during a closed meeting with the 9/11 panel because, he told CNN, “It will be a great opportunity for them to ask both of us our opinions.” Hey, executive privilege is all about bringing the VP to help you out of tough spots.

& ull; Don’t worry, the Middle East experts are in charge: Bush National Security Adviser Condoleeza “Warrior Princess” Rice is a specialist in the history and affairs of Russia, China and Europe. But that’s OK, because most Americans can’t tell Jordan from Japan, much less name the capital of Saudi Arabia.

& ull; Don’t worry, the national grip on reality is firm! The recently released 12th volume of the “Left Behind” series, Glorious Appearing, shot to No. 3 at Amazon. Penned by evangelical authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the book describes Christ’s victory over Satan and his 1,000-year rule on earth. On the other hand, Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, sits firmly at Amazon’s No. 1 sales ranking.

& ull; It’s your money: Proconsul Paul Bremer himself estimates that the Pentagon spends $4 billion per month maintaining a presence in Iraq, not counting the $2 billion bill for electricity and the $16 billion for four year’s worth of clean water.

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