In America: Bush finds time for golf but not for dead soldiers

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The Independent Online

* George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are busy men but surely they can find a moment to sign their names on the letters that get sent to the relatives of those soldiers killed in Iraq.

* George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are busy men but surely they can find a moment to sign their names on the letters that get sent to the relatives of those soldiers killed in Iraq.

Apparently not, at least according to Colonel David Hackworth, America's most decorated soldier, who reports on his website that two senior military officers at the Pentagon told him that Rumsfeld's office uses a machine to "print" the signature of their boss on the so-called KIA - killed in action - letters. Hackworth said he spoke to a dozen relatives of those killed in Iraq and the majority said the signatures looked fake.

The Pentagon has denied the accusation, saying Rumsfeld always signs his own name.

Meanwhile, Ted Smith, the father of Eric Smith, who was killed in Iraq in April 2003, told Pandora that a letter he received purportedly from President Bush, also bore what looked like a fake signature.

"It was just a green squiggle, like the Nike flash," he told me. "The very least he could do was sign his name. He had time for golf and the ranch but not enough to sign a decent signature with a pen for his beloved hero soldiers. I was going to send the letter back but did not. I am sorry I didn't. He wouldn't be allowed to get away with that if he was at a book signing."

*WASHINGTON'S longest-running mystery may very well be the identity of Deep Throat, the source who provided the journalist, Bob Woodward, with the tips that helped him and fellow hack, Carl Bernstein, crack the Watergate scandal.

Woodward, a somewhat holier-than-thou type who was played by Robert Redford, left, in the film All the President's Men, has long said he will only reveal the source after he or she had died.

But the former Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee - the only other person to know the source's identity - revealed this week that Deep Throat was a man.

During a lecture Bradlee said of Deep Throat: "I knew where he worked, I knew he was a he. I roughly knew how old he was and I knew he was right every time."

* THOSE WHO have been beguiled by the delights of the David Blunkett saga, should bear in mind that Washingtonians are the masters of the sex scandal.

Tame in comparison is the Blunkett, above, story in the light of the tortured tale of Bill and Monica. Dull, dull, dull is the behaviour of Bonking Boris Johnson when examined alongside the did-he-kill-her questions that surrounded Congressman Gary Condit's relationship with his murdered intern, Chandra Levy.

Not surprising then that the story about the Home Secretary in the usually austere Washington Post was accompanied by a headline that wins the award as best yet of the sex scandal season. It read: "Once again, London Britches Falling Down."

* MANY OF the nicest properties in Washington are, naturally enough, taken over by the diplomats that flock to this city. Most of the embassies are prestigious, well-tended buildings used to host various black-tie knees-ups. But Pandora is concerned about standards slipping at the recently opened Iraqi Embassy.

Back in the bad old days of Saddam, when the diplomatic operation was technically an "interests section" operating from a building "owned" by the government of Bahrain, the outside of the building was kept neat and tidy.

But since Mr Bush ousted Saddam in his altruistic mission to export democracy, things have been getting increasingly untidy to the point where there is now a lot of discarded litter and unraked leaves. If Mr Bush can spend billions of dollars on the occupation of the country, surely he can pay for a handyman for its embassy?

* An update from Boca Raton, Florida, on those poor souls suffering from Post Election Selection Trauma or Pest. As previously reported in these pages, a group of 20 Democrats identified themselves as suffering from severe depression and arranged for a session of group therapy with mental health counsellors.

The Boca Raton News reports that the first session has been held during which the group sat around shouting insults at the man who made them ill - President Bush. "It's no joke. People with Pest were traumatised by the election," said Robert Gordon, director of the American Health Association.

Pandora has chosen not to try to verify this report on the grounds that it might turn out not to be true, thus ruining a perfectly decent story.