Trouble mounts for Bush as lethal Iraqi resistance claims more lives
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
27 July 2003
Just how organised is the resistance, and who is doing the organising, is not clear. But yesterday's grenade attack which killed three US troops outside a children's hospital north of Baghdad and injured four others has banished the hope that the death of Saddam Hussein's two sons would halt the de facto guerrilla war against the American forces occupying Iraq.
Even more ominously for President Bush, it can only deliver another blow to the morale of soldiers deployed in an inhospitable and scorching hot country, and alarm a public opinion growing steadily more disenchanted with an operation whose costs are soaring and of which no end is in sight.
Since Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed in Mosul on Tuesday, the ambushes have, if anything, become deadlier. Eight US soldiers have died. They may also hasten yet another revamp of the reconstruction effort.
Last week Paul Bremer, the chief US civilian administrator in Iraq, was in Washington to give a progress report. Outwardly he was all optimism, claiming that rebuilding was running ahead of schedule. Privately however, the message was very different, as he pleaded for more money and more personnel.
And in a rare admission of human fallibility, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense and a prime architect of the war, conceded last week that the Pentagon had been wrong in some of its post-war assumptions, and that "some conditions were worse than we anticipated."
The position of Mr Bremer is not in question. But the administration is urgently seeking to enlist one or more prominent figures to work alongside him, to try to revive public confidence in the overall project.
One person contacted is James Baker, the former Secretary of State and a trusted Bush family retainer who superintended the Republican team in Florida in the furiously contested aftermath of the presidential vote in Florida. Mr Baker, 73, who also served as Treasury Secretary, is seen as an ideal man to lead the search for foreign financial support for reconstruction.
For President Bush, the Iraqi war that had seemed to seal his popularity (and 2004 re-election) now threaten to become a liability. His approval ratings are back to the low 50s, where they were before the September 11 terrorist attacks, and a growing proportion of Americans tells pollsters the invasion was not worth it.
Mr Bush's Democratic challengers are increasingly critical of the war, and of how the administration used intelligence about Saddam Hussein's alleged illegal weapon programmes to justify it.