Feature

Iraq

Why are Americans turning against the war?

Public opinion is 'œnearing a tipping point' on Iraq, said Robert Kuttner in The Boston Globe. Until Cindy Sheehan parked herself in protest outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, most Americans paid little attention to our faraway desert war. But Sheehan, the grieving mother of a dead soldier, has given the terrible cost of the Iraqi conflict a human face. Bush's 'œinept response' to Sheehan only heightened the impression that his mission in Iraq is to avoid admitting it was all a mistake. If Bush won't listen to Sheehan, said Michael Scherer in Salon.com, perhaps the majority of Americans will carry some weight. A new Gallup poll shows that 56 percent of Americans believe Bush 'œshould withdraw either some or all of the troops stationed in Iraq.' And in a stunning repudiation of his rationale for the war, 57 percent believe the war has made America more vulnerable to terrorism. 'œ'Stay the course' is not a policy,' said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) last weekend. 'œWe're not winning.'

It's true—the public is souring on the war, said David Frum in National Review Online. The media's negative coverage is partly responsible for that. But so is Bush's failure to explain the enormous progress that's been made, and to make a convincing case that it's in America's best interest to finish the job. In two speeches this week, Bush said we owe it to the dead to fight on, and that Iraqi democracy will make us more secure—nothing he hasn't said 'œa hundred times before.' If he's to rally America behind the war, Bush needs to go to Iraq himself, or come up with some dramatic new public relations campaign.

Critics of the war aren't doing much better, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post. With Bush flailing, 'œthis should be the Democrats' moment.' But Democratic leaders are allowing 'œthe most shrill voices in the party'—people like Ted Kennedy and, yes, Cindy Sheehan—to speak for them. There has to be more to the Democrats' Iraq policy than a sour defeatism, and a 'œvisceral dislike' of Bush. Don't count on it, said Peter Baker and Shailagh Murray, also in the Post. Democrats are deeply divided on Iraq. Some leaders, still echoing the simplistic anti-war sentiments of the Vietnam era, are clamoring for an immediate pullout. Others, such as Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, are critical of the administration's execution of the war, but favor staying. Still others, like party chairman Howard Dean, prefer to let Bush twist in the wind. A few weeks ago, Senate Democrats held a meeting 'œto develop a cohesive stance on the war and debated every option—only to break up with no consensus.'

Joe Klein

Time

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