We've successfully fended off scurrilous entreaties to run a Loop "Last Pundit Overboard" contest. But it's not just the pundits who've backed off their enthusiasm for the Iraq war. Even some of the staunchest Bush supporters have been voicing criticism in recent weeks.

For example, last week former Pentagon adviser and think-tanker Richard N. Perle called the occupation a "grave error."

"I would be the first to acknowledge we allowed the liberation to subside into an occupation," he told BBC Radio. "And I think that was a grave error, and in some ways a continuing error."

"We didn't have to find ourselves in the role of occupier," Perle said, according to a wire service account. "We could have made the transition that is going to be made at the end of June more or less immediately." Might have saved a lot of lives and money.

And, as it turns out, this is not hindsight by Perle. We recall a Washington Post article by colleague Peter Slevin on Oct. 4, 2002, almost six months before the war began, in which Perle, a huge booster of former Washington favorite Ahmed Chalabi, warned that the administration had "not made the decisions at the presidential level about" a government to succeed to Saddam Hussein.

Perle supported installing a provisional government right away. And that would have doubtless been headed by Chalabi. With yesterday's announcements in Baghdad, looks as if Chalabi is out of the government for now.

Million-Dollar Bush Birthday Bash

You should have RSVP'd by now, space is limited, but there may still be time to get into the gala 80th birthday bash of former president George H.W. Bush down in Texas June 12-13 -- especially if you pony up the required $1 million to be a "benefactor."

The charity fundraiser -- proceeds go to the George Bush Forty-One Endowment -- features a party at Minute Maid Park in Houston (lamentably known until recently as Enron Field), a parachute jump by the former president and a barbecue.

Dozens of celebrities are expected, including country stars Vince Gill and Amy Grant, comedian and football expert Dennis Miller, Hollywood stars Bruce Willis and Bo Derek, and formerly important pols such as former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, former British prime minister John Major and former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney. The money raised goes from the endowment to the Bush presidential library, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Points of Light Foundation. If you're too stingy to part with a lousy $1 million, you can be an "underwriter" for a half-million and still get most of the same stuff, but you only get two dinner invites -- not four -- and two "private VIP reception" tickets instead of four.

Former vice president Dan Quayle and wife Marilyn are the honorary campaign chairs, our invite says, and the national steering committee is run by Adele and Don Hall of Kansas and Sue and Tim Timken of Ohio. (Tim, by the way, is surely one of very few folks in Canton, Ohio, who are chevaliers in the French Legion of Honor. This was created by Napoleon for military service, then extended to other arenas to honor people who've made great contributions to our French allies.)

If you're down on your luck and can only be a "supporter" for $5,000, that might still get you into the parachute jump and other events, but not the good stuff, and you have to take the bus, not the luxury train, to see the jump.

A paltry $100 gets you lunch and the Sunday jump, but not much elbow-rubbing.

Our invite helpfully notes the "fair market value" for each package category. That's the part that's not tax deductible. So, for example, all of the $1 million package is deductible except for $10,700. The $100,000 "sponsor" package has a value of $5,290.

Hurry on down.

Benefit of the Doubt

Spotted by a Loop Fan the other day in the office of Tom H. Casey, director of the State Department's media office: one well-thumbed copy of that famous diplomatic research tome "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict."

Presumably this is to help the office craft understandable answers to reporters' questions and, better yet, avoid impenetrable diplo-speak.

Surely it's not actually guiding U.S. policy . . .

NASA Gets Safety Star

With a history of some tragedies, NASA may not be the first government agency that comes to mind when people think of worker safety.

But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last month deemed NASA's Kennedy Space Center a "Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star site," according to an announcement. The center was recommended for "star certification in July 2003 following an intensive OSHA review of the center's safety and health programs."

Moving on . . .

It's official: Former Housing and Urban Development general counsel Richard A. Hauser, off the HUD payroll as of last Friday, is moving to be president of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest. Hauser was Reagan White House deputy counsel and he chaired the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp.