The Nose loves Peter Jennings.

Dan Rather's superiority complex leaves him cold. Tom Brokaw's Dakota folksiness seems forced. But Jennings, with his clean-cut image and slightly aristocratic Canadian lilt, has always seemed bright and trustworthy.

So, when the Nose heard that Jennings was hosting KATU's Town Hall last Sunday, he was thrilled. But by the time he bothered calling about tickets, the show was sold out, and he had to settle for watching Peter on the tube.

To be honest, the Nose wasn't sure what the show's topic was going to be until he fired up his 30-inch Sony. As it turned out, Jennings and a local panel of politicos, journalists and military experts kicked around the issue of whether to invade Iraq.

This was a big disappointment for the Nose. He tries to avoid any news involving other countries. That's why he didn't watch President Bush's State of the Union Address this year. And it's why he'd never listen to Colin Powell address the U.N. So, had it not been for Peter Jennings, he sure wouldn't have spent a beautiful Sunday evening listening to some blowhards sound off about Iraq.

But, since it was his favorite newscaster, the Nose decided to give Pete a chance.

He watched with mild interest as the suave network anchor tried to negotiate through the competing egos of KXL radio's Lars Larson, Southwest Washington Congressman Brian Baird and former Oregon Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse (who lamented that her spring travel plans to Europe were cut short due to terrorist threats).

Then, about halfway through the live hourlong broadcast, some longhaired Portland peacenik questioned why Bush seems so hellbent on calling in the troops.

That's when state Rep. Jeff Kropf piped up with his take. The Marion County mint farmer (best known for efforts to establish an official Elvis Day in Oregon) said, "I believe the Iraqi people need the taste of freedom."

The Nose was so astounded that he spit out a mouthful of warm Coors Light.

The Nose is no political scientist. He's not even a state lawmaker. But he can tell you that of all the reasons we might want to come up with to justify opening a can of whup-ass on Saddam, bringing "freedom" to an oppressed people is the most ludicrous.

Maybe, as Powell told the U.N., Saddam really is playing hide-and-seek with some nasty missiles.

Maybe, as the cynics reply, we just want to stabilize the world's oil reserves.

Maybe, as the Nose suspects, Bush-the-younger simply wants to finish the job a lot of folks say his old man bungled.

None of them convinces the Nose we should march to war, but they're all more plausible than Kropf's crock.

If you want to talk about people with a hankering for "tasting freedom," give a ring to Beijing, where the U.S. State Department last month delivered a list of 230 new political prisoners that it wants released.

Or what about neighboring North Korea, where water torture is still used as an interrogation technique, human experimentation in prisons is widespread and Christians are forced to recant their religious beliefs?

Closer to Iraq, there's our good friend Saudi Arabia, where "religious police" regularly beat and intimidate people, particularly foreigners and women, and where amputations and beheadings (121 in 2000) continue to be government-sanctioned punishments. Or, for that matter, Kuwait, where, more than 10 years after being liberated by our armed forces, women still didn't have the right to vote.

No, when it comes to hungering for the delicacies of democracy, the Iraqis will have to get in line.

The Nose doesn't know what this war's about, but, for the love of Pete, he's damn sure that a desire to offer a side order of freedom has little to do with it.