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The High Cost of War

The somber George W. Bush who faced TV cameras on Sept. 7 was a far cry from the jaunty leader in a pilot's jumpsuit who declared victory over Saddam Hussein just four months earlier on the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier. Back then, Bush's victory speech was met with a banner that declared: "Mission accomplished." Now, with American casualties in Iraq mounting and chaos spreading, a President known for his optimism was forced to make a grim concession: Rebuilding war-torn Iraq would be long, hard, and costly.

To underscore the new reality, Bush requested a colossal $87 billion. Along with the big price tag came a belated recognition that a strapped U.S. could not bear the burdens alone. An Administration long suspicious of the U.N.'s intentions in Iraq was now prepared to go, 10-gallon hat in hand, back to the Security Council to seek U.N. troops and reconstruction money.

Bush had little choice. The costs of intervention are beginning to mount -- for his own political fortunes and, potentially, for a still-fragile U.S. economy. The number of Americans who say the President deserves reelection is at an all-time low of 40%, and his party's once-huge lead on foreign policy has dwindled. Meanwhile, without substantial international help, the occupation's cost could send the U.S. budget deficit spiraling past $500 billion in 2004 and threaten GOP plans for future tax cuts. If the red ink persists, rising interest rates could jeopardize future growth.

"BIG-GOVERNMENT AGENDA." The depth of the problem became clear on Sept. 7, when the President asked Congress for $87 billion, including $51 billion for military operations in Iraq and $11 billion for Afghanistan. Reconstruc

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