Shooting frogs with BB guns was apparently pretty standard entertainment for young boys in Texas in the 1950s. But for added amusement, George W. Bush and his friends used to tuck firecrackers into the mouths of frogs, throw them in the air, and watch them explode.

The story &#0151 recounted with fondness by a Bush childhood friend in a long, flattering New York Times profile of Bush during the 2000 presidential election campaign &#0151 never became an issue on the campaign trail.

Despite psychiatric evidence that children who are cruel to animals often go on to be abusive adults, the U.S. media apparently decided that the torture of frogs was nothing more than a charming little anecdote from Dubya&#0146s early years. (Imagine what the media would make of a charming little childhood anecdote like that, if it were in Saddam Hussein&#0146s background.)

It should have at least been a clue that Bush &#0151 now the most powerful man in the world &#0151 has a taste for blowing things up, not to mention an insensitivity to suffering.

If there&#0146s any lingering doubt about that, it will likely be dispelled shortly; the Bush administration seems barely able to contain its enthusiasm to begin blowing things up in Iraq. Last week Bush upped the level of bellicosity on that front, indicating that he has every intention of unleashing Washington&#0146s nuclear arsenal if Iraq responds to a U.S. assault with biological or chemical weapons. (Iraq is only permitted to respond to U.S. attacks with weapons that the U.S. can easily knock out; otherwise that wouldn&#0146t be fair, would it?)

As we brace for all-out war, we seem to have lost sight of how far we&#0146ve drifted from the original rationale for war, which was supposed to have something to do with making the world safer, after the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11.

But, as even the CIA has pointed out, there&#0146s no reliable evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, nor does the impoverished, militarily weak nation seem to have much in the way of weapons of mass destruction &#0151 a phrase now routinely used to describe devastatingly powerful weapons, when those weapons are held by people we don&#0146t like.

What Iraq does have is oil, and the installation of a pro-U.S. regime there would allow Washington to establish a new base for controlling the Middle East, just as Saudi Arabia becomes less reliable.

Of course, on any practical level, it&#0146s hard to imagine how an invasion could possibly make anyone safer &#0151 least of all Americans &#0151 as images of the U.S. bombardment of Iraq fill TV screens throughout the Muslim and Arab world.

But Bush clearly has his heart set on an invasion, and has complained that the U.N. weapons inspections are proceeding too slowly.

Don&#0146t those weapons inspectors realize there&#0146s a timetable to meet here &#0151 the serious U.S. military legwork has to be done before it gets too hot over there for comfortable fighting, and postwar Iraq will have to be fixed up enough to be presented on CNN as some kind of foreign policy triumph, in time for Bush&#0146s 2004 re-election bid?

So war seems likely soon. Certainly, Washington has such definitive military superiority, it can do pretty much whatever it wants in the world.

But that doesn&#0146t mean the world community should offer support.

It&#0146s often argued that we must prevent Washington from acting unilaterally (or just with Britain&#0146s support). In line with this thinking, the world &#0151 including Canada &#0151 has bent over backwards to keep the U.S. operating within the bounds of the United Nations.

Getting the Bush cabinet to pay attention to the world community and to international law is a fine idea. But not if it simply means the rest of the world adjusts itself to accommodate Bush&#0146s war agenda, rather than bringing U.S. behaviour into line with world disapproval of an unnecessary, provocative war.

If Bush is determined to take the U.S. military on a rampage through Iraq, the rest of the world may be powerless to stop him.

But let&#0146s not allow him do so under the banner of the United Nations, thereby destroying whatever legitimacy that institution has in the eyes of the world. Let&#0146s not facilitate his efforts to dress up an imperialistic adventure as a contribution to world peace. Let&#0146s not give his war that figleaf of respectability.

Just because Bush had a taste for blowing up frogs, doesn&#0146t mean we have to pass him the firecrackers.

Linda McQuaig

Journalist and best-selling author Linda McQuaig has developed a reputation for challenging the establishment. As a reporter for The Globe and Mail, she won a National Newspaper Award in 1989...