- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Bush administration yesterday set out to soothe American doubts and shore up morale after troop casualties were reported and images of dead and captured U.S. soldiers were televised over the weekend.
Officials from the White House to U.S. Central Command regional headquarters in Qatar echoed the same message: A U.S. victory is not in doubt, but it will come at a cost.
"We knew there would be losses and now the American people see that as well," one senior official said. "But Americans are prepared for the long haul because they know this war is just."
Polls show that the American public's optimism that the conflict will be quick has started to fade.
A CBS-New York Times poll taken Sunday found that a majority, 53 percent, said the war against Iraq could take months, while four in 10 predicted it would last a few weeks. A majority in Saturday's poll on the same topic said the war would be resolved in a few weeks.
In a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, the number who said the war was going well dropped from 62 percent Saturday to 44 percent on Sunday.
The White House, after learning that at least 16 Americans had been killed and five captured, acknowledged that Sunday was a "tough day."
"There have been setbacks, there have been casualties," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "But when you take a look at the overall plan, as the president has made repeatedly clear, we are indeed making progress."
President Bush says the war only appears to be prolonged because of round-the-clock news coverage.
"It's important for the American people to realize that this war has just begun, that it may it may seem like a long time because of all the action on TV, but in terms of the overall strategy, we're just in the beginning phases, and that we're executing a plan, which will make it easier to achieve objective," Mr. Bush said Sunday.
As he did in the early days of military action in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush on Sunday assumed his role as "consoler in chief."
"I pray for God's comfort and God's healing powers, to anybody, coalition force, American, Brit, anybody who loses a life in this, in our efforts to make the world more peaceful and more free," he said.
Military leaders yesterday sought to portray U.S. forces in control and to dispel the notion that Iraqi forces had caught American soldiers off guard.
"We know that the Fedayeen [militia force in Iraq] has in fact put himself in a position to mill about, to create difficulties in rear areas, and I can assure you that contact with those forces is not unexpected," allied commander Gen. Tommy Franks said in Qatar.
As top military commanders presented news outlets with footage of successful air strikes, Gen. Franks said the setbacks had not changed the U.S. plan to "fight this on our terms."
"I actually have seen no surprise here, and I think that our people on the ground have not seen a surprise," he said. "Our resolve is great. The morale is good."
Mr. Bush "will continue to be very upfront and visible and talk to the American people about what is happening, why it's happening," Mr. Fleischer said.
The president will be at the Pentagon today for a speech on the cost of the conflict. Tomorrow he will travel to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., to speak to soldiers at Central Command headquarters.

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