Over the past month, the situation in Iraq has markedly deteriorated. Attacks by insurgents are growing in number and spreading across the country. National elections scheduled for January are in danger of being postponed or possibly only being held in parts of the country. Assessments by the CIA, the State Department, and senior military officials all highlight significant challenges ahead. Newspapers across the country are chiming in with commentary on the ongoing war.

Hartford, Conn. – Hartford Courant
"No Time For Rosy Scenario"
Sept. 24, 2004

"His [the president's] relatively sunny assessment of the situation in Iraq in a speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly doesn't square with reality… Baseless optimism won't work over the long run. Candor about the sacrifices that may lie ahead is a must if the president is to serve the people well…

The dreadful daily news reports from Iraq – car bombs, kidnappings, beheadings, a growing insurgency, large cities under the control of hostiles, more casualties among American troops and Iraqi civilians – conflict dramatically with Mr. Bush's contention that progress is being made toward pacification and democracy…. What's needed from Mr. Bush now and from whomever is elected in November is a clear-eyed assessment of what is possible in Iraq and a realistic timetable for doing it."

Detroit, Mich. – Detroit Free Press
"Iraq Terror"
Sept. 21, 2004

"The most gruesome aspect of the war in Iraq hit home on Monday when militant fanatics posted a video showing them beheading a construction contractor who grew up in Michigan… nothing America has done excuses this or other cold-blooded executions of innocent people by terrorists. Nor can such vileness be allowed to advance their political goals…

"But increased U.S. military action – the expected response – has not provided the Iraqi people what they need most to reject the terrorists: hope for a better, less fearful future. If President George W. Bush has a new plan for that, he would do well to lay it out for the people of Iraq – and the safety of all Americans there and anywhere overseas."

Albany, N.Y. – Albany Times-Union
"Be realistic about Iraq"
Sept. 23, 2004

"President Bush has to start taking his own administration's intelligence reports more seriously. And so does the rest of the country – all those who favored invading Iraq last year and all those who opposed it. What we get from the White House, however, is more like a sound bite sort of defense of a war that by any fair assessment is going badly…

A sensible and worthwhile debate about Iraq would focus on providing the necessary troop strength to bring order to the Iraqi cities where the instability predicted by intelligence experts is on daily display, and where the possibility of civil war doesn't seem all that far-fetched… But that means a debate that involves more than a reiteration of how successful a war that's cost more than 1,000 American lives has really been. A debate under those restrictions is a one-sided affair, with no value to speak of."

Wilmington, Del. – Delaware News Journal
"Republican senators' warnings about Iraq counter Bush's hopes"
Sept. 22, 2004

"Several Republican senators have persistently had a much more pessimistic view, and last weekend their voices rose to a crescendo. Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska all concluded, on different news shows that Iraq is spinning out of control… The timing of their comments was driven by events in Iraq, not political considerations, and so must be taken given great weight…

"These Republican critics of current Iraq policy each drew a much grimmer picture than the president does… But the nitty-gritty worries his Republican critics too. If the war continues its downward spiral, they are concerned it will become another disaster like the one the former Soviet Union suffered after being bogged down for years in Afghanistan. That is a better metaphor than Vietnam for the dangers inherent in failure to change strategy in Iraq."

Orlando, Fla. – Orlando Sentinel
"Face reality in Iraq"
Sept. 22, 2004

"[Senator] Hagel was right on when he called recently for changes in U.S. policy on Iraq. It's not politics; it's common sense… Changes in policy now could stabilize Iraq sooner and bring home U.S. troops sooner. Surely Republicans and Democrats can agree on those goals."

Portland, Maine – Portland Press Herald
"Ask for U.N. help to secure Iraq for elections"
Sept. 28, 2004

"It's still several months before Iraq's planned elections, but it's already clear that they're facing some trouble. Insurgency in the nation is increasing. Trust in Americans is decreasing. There are regions that are still violently unstable and becoming more so each day… Clearly, every effort should be made to hold country-wide elections, but it's not clear if the United States can do it alone… For that reason, it would be best for the United States to seek the help of a third party – the United Nations – in securing Iraq for its elections."

Norfolk, Va. – Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
"Bush's Cabinet Off Message, Off-Key On Iraq"
Sept. 29, 2004

"But Bush's stubborn insistence that Iraq is on the right track is belied by facts. The president's sunny evaluation came in a week that saw the beheadings of two Americans, the deaths of 14 American troops and the wounding of 168 and the incineration of dozens of Iraqis in car bombings. Saying things are improving does not make it so… By painting a rosier picture than the situation warrants, Bush risks botching that nation's elections – and any chance for fragile democracy to take root – in a quest to appear resolute at home."

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