I've changed my plan for the upcoming Iraqi elections. At least Don Rumsfeld intends to change the plan, and I'm going along with him.

He told the Senate Armed Services Committee that just because there was going to be an election in Iraq, there was no need for everyone to vote. Rumsfeld said there were parts of the country where the violence is too great, and his kicker was, "Nothing's perfect in life."

Harold Booklicker, assistant secretary of defense for quagmires, denied that the elections would not go forward. "Rumsfeld promised the people that they would have a democracy, come hell or high water."

"What does that mean?"

"We are going to have hell. No one has ever said that installing freedom in a country that has never known it would be a piece of cake. There are still people who are willing to go back to Saddam Hussein's form of government."

"Would Saddam get amnesty for his war crimes?"

"If that is what the people want."

"There is more fighting going on than ever. How do you explain that?" I asked.

"The Pentagon says the more people the insurgents kill, the more desperate and frightened it means they are."

"And that's why we're in a quagmire?"

"We wouldn't be in one if the media wouldn't keep saying we are. They don't tell about all the good things going on in Iraq, such as rebuilding the country after we made it fall down."

"The media never show the progress Halliburton has made in the sewer systems," I said.

He replied, "Or the construction of bulletproof voting booths so people can go to the polls on Election Day."

I asked him, "What is your role in all this?"

Booklicker replied: "My job is to lower everyone's expectations. When we invaded Iraq, the United States thought it would be a slam-dunk. The people would dance in the streets and throw flowers at our tanks. I coined the phrase 'Mission Accomplished.' "

He continued, "At the beginning, I was in charge of celebrations and making sure everyone had enough fireworks."

"Something went wrong?"

"It did. We were all living in a fantasy world. That's when Rumsfeld created a Quagmire Department to explain what was going on in Iraq."

"What do you do?"

"I constantly accuse John Kerry of flip-flopping."

"I have heard Vice President Cheney say it every day," I said.

"My role is to win the hearts and minds of the American voters. They must realize we did the right thing. Then we will see the light at the end of the tunnel."

"Is it true that Iraq has enough of its own trained police to guarantee an election?"

"That's the story we're putting out. Even if it is not true, it will get the insurgents to lay down their arms."

"Would you say your department is made up of doves or hawks?"

"We are hawks who insist we did the right thing in going into Iraq, and even a quagmire will not change our minds."

"What parts of the country will not be able to vote?"

"Fallujah, parts of Baghdad, Mosul and any absentee voters in the Abu Ghraib prison who will not cooperate with the CIA."

"From what you tell me, the Rumsfeld plan is foolproof."

"He told me at a meeting the other day, 'Nothing's perfect in life,' and if he doesn't know it, who does?"

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services