Oliver North

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It has been widely reported that President George W. Bush doesn't particularly like making trips abroad. In the aftermath of his first state visit to Africa, it is painfully obvious why.

The masters of the mainstream media largely ignored his diplomatic overtures in five African countries and offered scant praise for his promise to help fight the AIDS pandemic sweeping the continent. By the time he returned to Washington, 16 words from his State of the Union address last January were being used by liberal Democrats to rally their troops. In Iraq, casualties among real American troops continue to mount -- but Saddam's weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found.

Kim Jung Il, North Korea's "Dear Leader," chose to surprise the president on his return to Washington by announcing to the world that Pyongyang is building nuclear weapons. And from Monrovia, one of the African capitals President Bush wisely skipped, Charles Taylor, the former Boston gas station attendant, now resident dictator-in-charge, is lecturing on how many U.S. military personnel he wants dispatched to Liberia. Welcome home, Mr. President

As might be expected in the dog days of summer, the pundits and talking heads are having a ball pontificating on how each of these events have affected the president's plummeting approval ratings. Now, the prophets of gloom and doom are prognosticating that what President Bush decides to do about Liberia may well be some kind of turning point in the Bush presidency. Hogwash.

Whether the United States sends troops to Liberia or not is less important than what we do or fail to do about North Korea. It is less important than what we do in the next few months to bring order out of chaos in Iraq. And yet, there is one piece of common ground in all of these locales -- the lack of adequate intelligence. What we don't know about these situations is frightening.

How have the billions of dollars donated to fight AIDS in Africa been spent? We don't know. What we do know is that the disease continues to spread at horrific rates.

Did the Iraqis attempt to obtain "yellow cake" uranium from Niger -- or some other African country? We really don't know. Tony Blair, who arrived in Washington this week, continues to stand by his belief that Saddam's agents did indeed make the attempt.

Where are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, which were described in such detail before war began on March 20? Whatever happened to Saddam and his sons? We just don't know.

How many nuclear weapons do the North Koreans now possess and are they really reprocessing fuel rods to make them? We don't know.

Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.