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Changing course on Iraq.

Byline: The Register-Guard

President Bush told the American people Sunday night what they've known for months: that waging the war and winning the peace in Iraq will cost more in dollars and human lives - and take longer - than expected.

The president was right to acknowledge these realities, but he should have done so long ago, even before ordering U.S. troops to invade Iraq. The president also was right to say the United States must stay the course in Iraq and to at least partially recognize the massive cost of doing so.

But the $87 billion Bush requested of Congress still may not be enough to do the job. The bulk of it is earmarked for military operations, leaving little for the essential, costly job of restoring basics such as water and electricity, and rebuilding Iraq's shattered economy. Until those tasks are accomplished, there will be no peace in Iraq.

Bush also refused to recognize what is increasingly obvious to most Americans - that spending tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan requires a new budgetary mindset in the White House and Congress. With the federal deficit already running at historic highs and rapidly escalating, the president continues to argue for more tax cuts that will make it impossible for the government to pay for both the war and for the nation's domestic needs.

Before Congress approves the president's request for $87 billion, lawmakers must make certain that there is money to foot the bill - and that will require suspending major portions of the Bush tax cuts.

In his speech, Bush acknowledged the need to expand the international role in rebuilding Iraq and providing security - another welcome infusion of reality into the administration's Iraq policy. However, Bush showed no signs of acknowledging the necessary price for such assistance - sharing broad U.N. authority over Iraq's governance and economy, and yielding at least partial control over military efforts.

Bush also confirmed what U.S. military officials have been saying for weeks - that Iraq is drawing Islamic militants from across the Arab world. But the president failed to recognize that it's the American presence in Iraq that created what he calls the new "central front" in the war on terror.

Just as there still is no evidence backing up the administration's claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there also is no evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. The president's decision to invade Iraq has created a self-fulfilling prophecy - now U.S. forces really are fighting terrorists in Iraq in what promises to be a long and bloody guerrilla war.

Bush's speech came four months after the president made his much-ballyhooed landing on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to "major combat operations" in Iraq. Since then, more U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq than in the invasion, and only now has the administration begun to acknowledge the true long-term costs of the war.

The president's speech represented a partial, but still welcome, course correction. More adjustments - and more acknowledgements of painful realities - are necessary before the United States is headed in the right direction in Iraq.
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Title Annotation:President finally acknowledges the high costs; Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 9, 2003
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