After five long years, the Iraq war’s toll mounts

As America marks five long, grisly years of war, waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq, President George W. Bush plans to claim success and say the war must go on while demonstrators protest and his Democratic opponents say it is time to admit failure and bring the troops home.

Not since Vietnam has a war so divided this nation and today’s observances mark a conflict that has lasted half the length of Vietnam — and longer than World War II — but has cost the nation far more in political damage and lost prestige and morale. While American deaths have not yet reached the level of Vietnam, the toll is approaching 4,000 and thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians have died.

Polls show most Americans feel the war is a failure. On Capitol Hill, opponents call Bush’s invasion the most monumental foreign policy blunder in American history. While Bush squanders money, American lives and this nation’s prestige in Iraq, the nation’s economy plunges into recession amid a housing and banking crisis that some say could trigger a depression.

Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton spoke about the war Monday but she is saddled by the fact that she voted along with most of her Senate colleagues to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq. Democratic front runner Barak Obama is expected to speak out more forcefully against the war today. Of the remaining Democratic and Republican Presidential contenders, only John McCain continues to support the war without question.

It will be an sad and interesting day.

Reports The Associated Press:

Five years after launching the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President Bush is making some of his most expansive claims of success in the fighting there. Bush said last year’s troop buildup has turned Iraq around and produced “the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden.”

Massive anti-war demonstrations were planned in downtown Washington to mark Wednesday’s anniversary of the war, which has claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops. Across the river at the Pentagon, Bush was to give a speech to warn that backsliding in recent progress fueled by the increase of 30,000 troops he ordered more than a year ago cannot be allowed.

“The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists’ defeat,” he said in excerpts the White House released Tuesday night. “We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast — the terrorists and extremists step in, fill the vacuum, establish safe havens and use them to spread chaos and carnage.”

Bush added: “The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable, yet some in Washington still call for retreat.”

Democrats took a different view.

“On this grim milestone, it is worth remembering how we got into this situation, and thinking about how best we can get out,” said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. “The tasks that remain in Iraq — to bring an end to sectarian conflict, to devise a way to share political power and to create a functioning government that is capable of providing for the needs of the Iraqi people — are tasks that only the Iraqis can complete.”