On Saturday, the Nose went to the Portland peace rally.

On Monday, the Nose watched our commander in chief give the butcher of Baghdad 48 hours.

On Tuesday, he woke up and wondered: Is it just possible that both sides are right?

Is the Nose schizophrenic? Or is there value in thinking that this is a just cause (the president called it "setting a course toward safety") that is being unjustly waged (or, as one peace rally sign stated, the product of "Mad Cowboy Disease")?

Can we laud George Bush for his willingness to rid the world of one really bad actor ("all the decades of deceit and cruelty must now end") and simultaneously cringe at his inability to figure out a less bellicose way to accomplish this (as one fetching peacenik, wearing a death mask and a too-tight body suit painted like a skeleton, proclaimed, "I'm Bush's bitch")?

Or did the Nose just get too close on Saturday to the open window of the downtown loft sporting the banner "Smoke ganja, not Baghdad"?

The Saturday rally, regardless which crowd estimate you pick (see "What's in a Number," page 13), was a marvelous example of the best sort of dissent--Oregonians refusing to adopt the official position.

If wit is an indicator of vigor, America's body politic is alive and well. The march included these bons mots:

* "Bush: pull out like your father should have"

* "Bush bombs Iraq, and all I got was a lousy education"

* Who Would Jesus Bomb?

* "Send Jenna 1st"

* "Friends of French Toast Societé"

* "How Many Lives per Gallon?"

* "We shaved our pubic hair, read our lips: No more Bush."

Yet some might say that the march was also a marvelous exercise in futility, an event that had as much hope of staving off war as eating bundt cake has in preventing the common cold.

After all, our president, since before 9/11, has had firm ideas about how he wanted to reshape the global village. And no peace rallies, or resistance from other nations, were going to get in his way.

An eye-opening piece in the current issue of Newsweek explores Bush's willingness to go it alone. In its first year, the Bush administration withdrew from five international treaties. It adopted a
language and diplomatic style that seemed calculated to offend the world. Foreign visitors were given perfunctory office visits, state dinners were unheard of and Bush rarely traveled overseas. George W. Bush, the story points out, has visited fewer foreign countries than any president in 40 years.

Oh yeah, the Azores.

And yet.

There's no disputing Saddam Hussein's reign of terror, his monomaniacal hold on power or the indisputable fact that, as our president said on Monday night, "Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power."

So why did the Nose and thousands of others feel their own "call to duty" last Saturday, a need to make that long, futile march? Maybe it was to simply add our voices to those of the Germans, the French, the Russians and others who all have been asking the same version of a nagging question scawled on the sign of one Portland protester: "Who brokers peace, when the peace brokers go to war?"