Senior Bush administration officials have begun several days of speeches emphasizing progress in Iraq, amid increasing criticism about the costs of Iraqi reconstruction and growing indications that the American people have doubts about the mission.
The Bush administration says this upcoming series of speeches by White House officials is aimed at keeping the American people informed about the progress of Iraqi reconstruction and is not in response to what public opinion polls suggest is increasing skepticism among Americans about the costs and risks of U.S. involvement in the country.
"This is part of a sustained effort to keep the American people informed about the results we are achieving," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "by the actions we are taking to make America more secure, to make the world a better and safer place and to build a brighter future for the Iraqi people."
Over the next several days, Administration officials, including the President himself, will take their message outside Washington and directly to Americans around the country. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice kicked off that effort Wednesday. Even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, she told a foreign policy group in Chicago, trusting in the sanity of Saddam Hussein was not an option in the post 9/11 environment.
"We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks," she said. "Yet the possibility remained that he might use his weapons of mass destruction or that terrorists might acquire such weapons from his regime to mount an attack beyond the scale of 9/11. And that terrible prospect could not be put aside."
But public opinion polls suggest Americans are increasingly questioning the U.S. mission in Iraq because of the multi-billion dollar reconstruction price tag, and the continuing deaths of American soldiers there.
A Newsweek magazine poll published last week found 56 percent of Americans asked said the United States was spending too much money on post-Iraqi reconstruction. Another by CBS News found two thirds of those asked believe the United Nations, not the United States, should have the main role in setting up a new Iraqi government.
Earlier this week, President George Bush suggested the news media is partly to blame for bad news on Iraq, complaining to reporters it is hard to find good news when, as he put it, 'you listen to the filter.' With a field of Democratic presidential candidates also making the administration's handling of Iraq a central theme in the race for the White House, President Bush plans to take his Iraq message to New Hampshire Thursday site of the nation's first presidential primary early next year.