The Democrats and other cut-and-runners are in disarray over their next move on Iraq. And they keep jabbering that the administration has no plan for the war other than the same old, same old.

Nonsense. The Pentagon, in a series of recent memos, is making the fight against terrorism synonymous with Iraq (although it has been pretty much confirmed that Saddam Hussein wasn't involved in the Sept. 11 attacks) and has issued a clear call for getting the job done by the end of next year.

In a Dec. 6 memo to top civilian and military folks, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England outlined the Pentagon's eight priorities for this fiscal year, and No. 1 was "Win the Global War on Terror," or GWOT.

The No. 3 goal was "Meet the Challenge of Improvised Explosive Devices." No. 8 was "Improve Effectiveness and Efficiency Across the Board." England warned that meeting these goals "will inform our decisions on individual senior employee performance ratings." That means their paychecks.

In a Feb. 15 memo, England spotted a key fact that most everyone in this town has overlooked. "At noon on Jan. 20, 2009," he wrote, "many of the civilian Department of Defense (DOD) leadership positions will transition to a new Administration Team. This change, coupled with the normal rotation of military leadership, could disrupt many of the management process changes currently underway in the Department."

So "to ensure that warfighters and taxpayers receive maximum benefit from on-going initiatives," England suggested, "it would be highly desirable to complete current projects by the summer/fall of 2008."

There's a handy "notional" grid with the memos, with the eight priorities down the left side and quarterly milestones for 2007 and 2008 across the top. Little triangles denote the "expected milestone conclusion date."

Sure enough, the GWOT looks to be over around October 2008, a month before. . . .

A Labor of Love?The White House is bringing in one of Washington's premier lobbyists to shore up the oft-criticized legislative affairs office. Dan Meyer of the Duberstein Group, who was the first chief of staff for incoming Speaker Newt Gingrichwhen the GOP won the House, is said to be coming on board to handle the House side for the administration. Unclear why Meyer, who surely made a gajillion dollars a year at Duberstein, would want to jump on a ship that's taking water these days. Must be something about government service.

"He's not doing it for the money," said Pat Griffin, who as head of legislative affairs in the Clinton White House worked with -- or against -- Meyer. "One of the most remarkable men I've met in Washington," Griffin said.

No One Getting a Piece of the PieSeveral dozen D.C. lawyers are wandering about town today in search of a cheap lunch. Seems former attorney general and now D.C. consultant John Ashcroft's planned pizza party for his old staff, many of them still in government, has been canceled.

The Justice Department's ethics office, while it did not prohibit department employees from attending the lunch at Ashcroft's firm, "advised invitees to consider the appearance of attending such an event," Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse told U.S. News & World Report, which first reported the problem.

There are restrictions on former officials lobbying folks at their old agencies, but it was unclear how the pizza party called those restrictions into question.

Yesterday afternoon, Ashcroft e-mailed everyone saying, " I do not wish to place you in the uncomfortable or awkward position of explaining the circumstances under which you ate pizza with me." He said he never thought there would be some question about the lunch. "I do not believe for a second that your integrity could be compromised for a piece of pizza."

Two pieces?

Better Than ChickenMark your calendars! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's fourth annual "Hook and Cook" Festival will be held tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Library of Congress's Montpelier Room. "It's a great opportunity to learn more about fisheries and habitat conservation . . . and mingle with our staff and partners." The lovely invitation has photos of the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker -- excellent in an orange sauce -- and the pallid sturgeon, best served deep-fried. As one Interior Department employee, likely not impressed with the administration's conservation efforts, quipped, "You know, endangered species can be very tasty if cooked correctly."

The Honesty PolicyIn these days, when out-there groups give themselves innocuous names such as "Americans for Good Things," it's refreshing to see a little candor. For example, PoliticalMoneyLine reports that Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain, a Section 527 organization in Garnerville, N.Y., told the IRS that "we will collect donations for a Web site, radio and TV ads exposing John McCain only [negative advertising]. We are completely independent and not connected to any political organization. All of the money collected will be used for the express purpose of defeating John McCain."

Not much ambiguity there.