At this point it would be shocking, almost bizarre, to hear any meaningful discussion on television about the morality of war. It would seem a distraction from the primary obsession of the moment: the technological magic of this Nintendo phase of the conflict. We are awed that all these gadgets actually work.

That there is a morality question can only be inferred through pictures of the anti-war movement and counter-demonstrations. These reports do not actually delve into the substance of the debate, but rather show us fleeting images and symbols, such as a crowd chanting "No blood for oil" or perhaps waving or desecrating an American flag.

In the small town of Cherry Valley, N.Y., not far from Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame, lives Howard Moore, who, a few weeks shy of his 102nd birthday, has much to say about the morality of war. He went to prison for his beliefs in 1918. Moore was a breed of pacifist known as an absolutist, refusing to compromise in any way with the military. Drafted for duty in World War I, he arrived at his assigned army base on Long Island and immediately refused to follow orders or wear a uniform. A military tribunal sentenced Moore to prison; he served two years and seven months, and was one of the last conscientious objectors released after the war.

"I've always thought that a punch in the nose is no way to settle an argument," he said yesterday. "It depends entirely on how much power someone has. It doesn't determine the right and the wrong. Unless we have a moral basis for our society I don't think we can survive."

Is war ever justified?

"Every war is immoral. It is based on acquisition and competition. The war in the Middle East is a good example of authoritarianism and -- I can't think of the word -- arrogant power."

After many years and many wars, Moore is pessimistic about the trajectory of modern society. "The dominant motivations today are money, gratification of sex, and power. It permeates all elements of society. We're sick. We're morally bankrupt. And financially bankrupt."

Instant Book

Bantam Books strikes fast. It is famous for instant books. An instant Leona Helmsley. An instant Tower Commission Report. More than 70 such books have been published by Bantam in the past three decades -- starting with the Warren Commission Report in 1964. It sold more than a million copies of "90 Minutes at Entebbe," which hit the stores two months after that famous raid by Israeli commandos in July 1976. Once, Bantam took a manuscript from a writer and had it coming off the presses within 50 hours.

A Gulf War book in the works?

"You can't tip your hand too soon, it's an enormously competitive business," said Stuart Applebaum, spokesman for Bantam. He sees nothing wrong with supersonic publishing: "If newspapers can do it, why can't we?"

A war book might set a sales record, but there's tough competition. "The most successful instant book we ever did," said Applebaum, "was a biography of New Kids on the Block."