Clift: Haditha Could Hurt GOP In November genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Eleanor Clift reflects on the possibility that the alleged murder of innocent Iraqis in Haditha may have an impact on the Republican Party in the upcoming midterm elections. Read the full Newsweek article here.

The administration has a stake in convincing the public that what happened in Haditha was an isolated incident and that it does not reflect a broader message about a war gone bad—or a war that should never have been waged in the first place. It will be an important turning point if Marines are actually indicted, and if it is found that there was complicity within the Marine Corps. It makes it harder to look at this war as a moral enterprise.

Whether the Haditha rampage is an understandable occurrence in war, however horrific, or whether the administration bears some blame in overstressing the troops will be debated. The Third Battalion, First Marine Division was on its third tour in Iraq and had lost 30 members in the battle of Fallujah.

As part of the military’s damage control, Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, ordered Thursday that all troops would undergo a round of sensitivity training called “core values" to remind them how to treat civilians in a battle zone.

The single biggest factor in how well the president’s party does in the midterm elections is the popularity of the chief executive. It’s been a year since Vice President Dick Cheney said the insurgency was in its last throes. A Pentagon report released this week says the insurgency is likely to remain strong through at least ’06. It’s said that Karen Hughes is such a good spinner that she can sell sand in the Sahara. Policies built on sand are a harder sell.

It seems to me that the biggest hurdle faced by this administration is the steady stream of bad news from Iraq. Despite occasional positive events like the recent formation of a new government, the prevailing tone of the news continues to be negative. For the administration to expect the American public to focus on the good news is no longer realistic and may be a direct result of countless misstatements and miscalculations that included the initial reason for invading Iraq, the subsequent difficulties with securing the country, the numerous assertions that we have turned the corner, and the continued deaths of American soldiers. The American public may have simply reached a point of no return.

Daniel DiRito | June 3, 2006 | 7:51 AM
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