"The New York Times The president is giving a speech tonight about his "clear strategy" for Iraq. Don't hold your breath. By BOB HERBERT President Bush fell off his bike and hurt himself during a 17-mile excursion at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., on Saturday. Nothing serious. A few cuts and bruises. He was wearing a bike helmet and a mouth guard, and he was able to climb back on his bike and finish his ride. A little later he left the ranch and went to Austin for a graduation party for his daughter Jenna. And then it was on to New Haven, where daughter Barbara will graduate today from Yale. Except for the bicycle mishap, it sounded like a very pleasant weekend. Meanwhile, there's a war on. Yet another U.S. soldier was killed near Falluja yesterday. You remember Falluja. That's the rebellious city that the Marines gave up on and turned over to the control of officers from the very same Baathist army that we invaded Iraq to defeat. It's impossible to think about Iraq without stumbling over these kinds of absurdities. How do you get a logical foothold on a war that was nurtured from the beginning on absurd premises? You can't. Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11. The invasion of Iraq was not part of the war on terror. We had no business launching this war. Now we're left with the tragic absurdity of a clueless president riding his bicycle in Texas while Americans in Iraq are going up in flames. How bad is the current situation? Gen. Anthony Zinni, the retired Marine Corps general who headed the U.S. Central Command (which covers much of the Middle East and Central Asia) from 1997 to 2000, was utterly dismissive about the administration's "stay the course" strategy in Iraq. "The course is headed over Niagara Falls," he said in an interview with "60 Minutes," adding, "It should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up." When the weapons of mass destruction rationale went by the boards, the administration and its apologists tried to justify the war by asserting that the U.S. could use bullets and bombs to seed Iraq with an American-style democracy that would then spread like the flowers of spring throughout the Middle East. Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, addressed that point last week in a report titled, "The `Post Conflict' Lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan." "At this point," the report said, "the U.S. lacks good options in Iraq - although it probably never really had them in the sense the Bush administration sought. The option of quickly turning Iraq into a successful, free-market democracy was never practical, and was as absurd a neoconservative fantasy as the idea that success in this objective would magically make Iraq an example that would transform the Middle East." The president's reservoir of credibility on Iraq is bone dry. His approval ratings are going down. Conservative voices in opposition to his policies are growing louder. And the troops themselves are becoming increasingly disenchanted with their mission. Yet no one knows quite what to do. Americans are torn between a desire to stop the madness by pulling the plug on this tragic and hopeless adventure and the realization that the U.S., for the time being, may be the only safeguard against a catastrophic civil war. The president is scheduled to give a speech tonight to lay out his "clear strategy" for the future of Iraq. Don't hold your breath. This is the same president who deliberately exploited his nation's fear of terrorism in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to lead it into the long dark starless night of Iraq. As for the Iraqis, they've been had. We're not going to foot the bill in any real sense for the reconstruction of Iraq, any more than we've been willing to foot the bill for a reconstruction of the public school system here at home. There's a reason why Ahmad Chalabi and the Bush crowd were so simpatico for so long. They all considered themselves masters of the con. They all thought that they could fool all of the people all of the time. There's a terrible sense of dread filtering across America at the moment and it's not simply because of the continuing fear of terrorism and the fact that the nation is at war. It's more frightening than that. It grows out of the suspicion that we all may be passengers in a vehicle that has made a radically wrong turn and is barreling along a dark road, with its headlights off and with someone behind the wheel who may not know how to drive.