By: E&P Staff
It was a week when opinion polls showed a plunge in support for the Iraq war, and the Downing Street memos finally made it into hundreds of newspapers across the nation. The congressman who turned french fries into freedom fries on Capitol Hill revealed he?d had a change of heart on Iraq, and now was in favor of U.S. withdrawal. On Saturday, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska told U.S. News, “Things aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq.?
With this as a backdrop, it was no surprise that editorials in many newspapers took a more negative view of the conflict, but others stood firm. Here?s a sampling:
?The Downing Street memo — as well as an earlier British briefing paper concluding that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for a ‘protracted and costly’ postwar occupation — is a timely reminder of how many unanswered questions remain about the Bush administration’s inept and ill-conceived misadventure in Iraq.
?Those issues won’t be addressed by the White House, which dismisses inquiries about the Downing Street memo as rehashing the past.
?Americans’ hopes for a full and truthful accounting of the President’s handling of Iraq rest primarily with the Senate intelligence committee. Its Republican leaders have refused to launch such a probe. But they are not in Washington to protect the President. It is time for them to do their jobs, conduct a thorough review and ask tough questions.?
San Antonio Express-News:
?Precipitously drawing down U.S. troops based on some politically inspired timetable would increase the danger to the smaller American contingent left in Iraq. It would also increase the ability of insurgents to wage their bloody campaign against Iraqi civilians.
?The best and only hope for Iraq’s future is for the new Iraqi government and its emerging security forces to take the leading role in establishing order in their own country. Until that happens, or unless it becomes evident it won’t happen, weakening the U.S. presence there would be a mistake.?
?A growing tide of developments on the ground in Iraq and in the United States itself may result in irresistible pressure on the Bush administration to end U.S. involvement there, sooner rather than later.
?There is always ambiguity in what one government’s observers say about another’s machinations. If the Downing Street memo was on the mark, however, it is saying that all the administration consultations with the United Nations, America’s allies and the Congress itself between July 2002 and March 2003 were pure theater: The Bush administration had already decided to go to war for its own reasons and was simply playing political games in the meantime with the other interested parties, including the American people.
?One result of this confluence of events in Iraq and in the United States is growing pressure from Congress on Mr. Bush to declare a timetable for withdrawal. He is still acting as though he doesn’t get it, but he will not be able to maintain that posture for long, faced with violent events and plummeting popularity figures. Wars should not be determined on the basis of polls, but only 3 out of 8 respondents to a New York Times/CBS News poll this week approved his handling of Iraq.?
?This much is certain: Suicide bombers will never rule Iraq. But when, many Americans want to know, will Iraqis rule and protect Iraq?
?With that question heavy on his nation, President Bush is expected to speak often in the coming days about the future he envisions, both for Iraq and for the young Americans serving there.
?Americans re-elected Bush because they trusted his judgment in difficult moments such as this. Yet the insurgents, by sustaining the bloodshed in Iraq and slowing the formation of the new government, haven’t just murdered innocents. They also have shaken America’s resolve. It is time for the president to step forward.?
Bradenton (Fl.) Herald:
?Here we have a war in which thousands are dying and being maimed, and a top-secret document that says evidence was ?fixed? to justify it. It’s not quite as definitive as a tape recording with the president’s own voice, which Watergate produced, but it is definitely a smoking gun loaded with fingerprints.
?Why is there so little interest in it being investigated??
Newsday (Melville, N.Y.):
?Rummy, get real. Tell Americans the painful truth about what’s going on in Iraq and what must be done to overcome an insurgency that is not in its ?last throes,? in Vice President Dick Cheney’s absurdly optimistic words.
?That’s the message that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld must hear. Neither he nor other key members of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy team can continue to try to bridge the yawning gap between what they say is steady improvement in Iraq’s security nightmare and what is actually happening on the ground.?
Los Angeles Times:
“The Bush administration should publicly set a target for the number of Iraqi soldiers and police who will be trained, equipped and capable of defending their country by July 1, 2006. That means troops able to protect their positions and go on the offensive against their enemies, with enough guns, bullets and tanks to do the job. If the objective is not reached, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should be fired, along with the top U.S. military commanders in Iraq.
“No one has been held accountable for the blunders, from the bad intelligence before the war to the failure to provide sufficient troops during the conflict and since. Fixing responsibility is long overdue.”