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MONDAY, JANUARY 10, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Iraq war's toll trying patience of Americans

"Bleak" is an interesting word, especially if it comes from the mouth of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the Iraq war.

While bleak may not be a strong enough word to describe what's going on in Iraq, it is a

turn around for Mr. Rumsfeld, who up to now has claimed that America's war strategy hasn't been off base.

Bleak also gets added meaning when Mr. Rumsfeld speaks of an exit strategy that would pull American soldiers out of Iraq and turn the country's security over to the duly-elected officials there.

For perhaps the first time, Washington is acknowledging that the war is taking a heavy toll, both in American soldiers' lives and the financial burden that Americans are almost solely bearing.

At least 1,350 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the war started more than a year and a half ago. The numbers are increasing by about 70 a month as insurgents learn newer and better ways to set off bigger bombs and develop more sophisticated military moves.

The war cost has escalated to more than $1 billion a week, money we must spend as we continue to give our troops as much support as possible. We also must strive to help them keep up their morale, another problem Washington is beginning to recognize.

President Bush hasn't used the "draft" word, and he has promised he won't use it. But with deaths climbing and troops being recycled to Iraq at a quickened pace, he may not have other options.

Mr. Rumsfeld urges us to exercise patience and fortitude. The fortitude is easy, the patience harder.

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