"AS YOU stand for your own liberty, America stands with you," declared George W Bush to the Iranian people in the course of his stirring State of the Union address on Wednesday. (Gosh, I am enjoying myself this week. Not only has myopic Ireland at last spotted that the republican movement is led by gangsters and liars - and petulant gangsters and liars at that, as the latest toys-out-of-pram-throwing incidents demonstrate - but the people of Iraq have chosen democracy over terror and Bush is on a roll. If I weren't such a nice person I'd have 'I told you so' tattooed on my forehead.)
Now, I know President Bush has plenty of more important places to think about than our piddling little island, but shortly he's going to have to turn his reluctant attention to us. St Patrick's Day is less than six weeks away, and many an Irish doormat is being anxiously watched for invitations to the annual White House shindig.
George W, not being the sort of man whose idea of a fun occasion is having to listen to superannuated politicians singing The Town I Loved So Well, you can be sure he'd really like to tell the Irish to get lost and freeload at someone else's expense, but he has Irish-America to think about.
So he has four main options: invite the Taoiseach to come on his own to present the shamrock; invite him plus a cross-section of Irish-America; invite all the usual suspects, including the political wings of terrorist groups; or do the principled thing by inviting the usuals but telling Sinn Fein and the PUP and the other riff-raff to stay at home until their armed wings have gone out of business.
The president is as straight a thinker as he is a talker, and there's no doubt that he'd cheer on the British and Irish governments if they dispatched Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and all the other Sinn Fein/IRA thugs to an Irish equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. He certainly wouldn't want them in the White House, now he knows he'd have to count the spoons.
But the irony is that Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair - although they accuse Adams and McGuinness of being involved in a criminal conspiracy while pretending to negotiate a peace settlement - are briefing the US government to continue to put out the welcome mat.
Are they mad or what? Do they really want to drag Bush into the moral quagmire in which they're miserably splodging? Or is it just that they've been force-fed for so long the mantra about the politics of exclusion not working, that they actually believe it? Listen, guys, go dig up Eamon de Valera - who saw off the IRA - and ask him what he thinks. He'd point out that his idea of inclusivity was to execute IRA garda-killers and intern their friends.
Bush also has to take account of the Irish-America notables who want Sinn Fein in the White House because the poor saps think Gerry Adams is an honest man. Bill Flynn, for instance, chairman of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, is a high-minded Catholic who would be appalled if he knew what goes on behind the beard. But like the British and Irish establishments until recently, he has invested so much time and faith in the peace process that he's in denial.
In front of an audience, Flynn announced last month to the secretary of state for Northern Ireland that he would bet his house, his business and his horses that the IRA was not involved in robbing the Northern Bank. He has even fallen for the preposterous Adams lie that it was carried out by British "securocrats".
Congressman Peter King - although his enthusiasm for Adams has waned a bit because of Sinn Fein's support for the three FARC-lovers and its stance on Iraq - can't quite face the truth about his old chum, insists it's too early to say who robbed the bank, and wants Washington to treat him as if he were innocent.
If Bush is in any doubt, he should read his own moving words: "Our enemies send other people's children on missions of suicide and murder," he told the American people on Wednesday. "They embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice, made long ago, on the day of our founding. We affirm it again today. We choose freedom and the dignity of every life."
You said it, President Bush. Did you mean it?
Or are you going to make a mockery of your fine words by shaking hands with people who talk peace while they authorise robbery, racketeering and thetorture of young people, and who believe the murders of Jean McConville, Garda McCabe andalmost 1,800 others were not a crime?