Mood music, please -- preferably the Marine Corps Band. George Bush has announced "I'm not in a negotiating mood, or anything of that nature" as he prepares to talk with Iraq's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz.

Bush is in a war mood, ready to strike, in his secretary of state's words, "suddenly, massively and decisively." Such reckless palaver, while satisfying those who confuse bravado for leadership, ignores the one predictable certainty when two armies prepare to fight: the unpredictability of state-organized mass slaughter.

The sole example of American military force being used "suddenly, massively and decisively" came in 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at the end of the war, not the beginning. It was also against noncombatant men, women and children, not that that bothered U.S. bombers.

A nuclear scenario in Iraq isn't beyond imagining. Bush's generals and admirals having botched the planned quick defeat and humiliation of Saddam Hussein, and needing to fulfill his promise that this won't stall into another Vietnam, he could order a nuclear incineration of Baghdad. It's for war -- not war games -- that America has a nuclear arsenal at the ready in planes, subs and aircraft carriers in the gulf. The Trumanesque rationale for obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- to save American lives by ending the war -- is available for recycling in Iraq.

The four months of the gulf crisis have provided a euphoria for idle or over-the-hill military scenarists. A half-dozen former secretaries of defense, some retired joint chiefs, a platoon of aging Carter and Reagan national security advisers and the always-available- for-"Nightline" Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle have backed up the Bush-Saddam war of words with a war of theories. Air power vs. ground troops. Wait for the sanctions, don't wait. Remember Vietnam, remember Grenada.

For some, the preferred pose, whether before a mike at a congressional committee or a camera in a television studio, is that of wise elders who understand the folly of war, except the ones they pushed for while in office. Robert McNamara, now a sage with both hands on a plowshare, counsels restraint of a kind that might have saved thousands of American and Vietnamese lives had he thought that way when advancing bombs-away policies in Southeast Asia as Lyndon Johnson's obedient secretary of defense.

For the current McNamaras, who have ordered more than 400,000 U.S. soldiers to risk their lives to restore a remote sheikdom, it is mandatory to preface war talk with war-abhorrence talk. Gen. Colin Powell claims in one breath, "We don't want a war; we aren't looking for one. The president doesn't want one ... No one in uniform wants one," and says in another, we are planning "a combined overwhelming air, land and sea campaign."

As this policy of all-outism for desert warfare unfolds, street warfare is ignored in the battle zones at home. A record year for urban bloodshed draws to a close, with more than a dozen U.S. cities recording the highest murder rates in their histories. A protesting voice was heard recently when Sherman Block, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, said that the police should "not be used as an army of occupation in the streets of America." The war against the police, like the fratricidal war that pits citizens against citizens is, Block says, "bullet-spewing violence {that} is becoming an everyday part of our community life. Society has been asking its police to deal with the outgrowth of years of neglect of the more basic needs of education, health care, transportation and human resources."

Why isn't George Bush telling the sheiks that the United States is already in a war -- a civil war in its streets -- and has no money or people to spare to settle a regional Arab dispute for which there should be Arab solutions? Troops sent to the gulf in August were told they were defensive. Now they are offensive, the shift coming at the same time the Energy Department reports that no oil shortage exists and what has been lost from Iraq and Kuwait has been more than adequately produced elsewhere.

Saudis themselves aren't hurting. With gas prices now at $1.40 a gallon in the United States, the current price at the pumps in Riyadh is 56 cents.