By Dan Froomkin Special to washingtonpost.com
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Unless the economy disintegrates entirely, President Bush's chief legacy will almost certainly be the war in Iraq -- or, more accurately, the violent occupation of Iraq -- that enters its sixth year later this week.
John F. Burns writes in the New York Times: "At the fifth anniversary, the conflict's staggering burden is a rebuke to any who hoped [Saddam] Hussein's removal might be accomplished at acceptable cost. Back in 2003, only the most prescient could have guessed that the current 'surge' would raise the American troop commitment above 160,000, the highest level since the invasion, in the war's fifth year, or that the toll would include tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, as well nearly 4,000 American troops; or that America's financial costs, by some recent estimates, would rise above $650 billion by 2008, on their way to perhaps $2 trillion if the commitment continues for another five years. Beyond that, there are a million or more Iraqis living as refugees in neighboring Arab countries, and the pitiful toll of fear and deprivation on Iraqi streets."
Warren P. Strobel writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "Thanks in part to the Iraq war, the next U.S. president -- Republican or Democrat, black or white, man or woman -- will take office with America's power, prestige and popularity in decline, according to bipartisan reports, polls and foreign observers.
"'The winner of the 2008 elections will command U.S. forces still at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and against elusive terrorists with a deadly reach. The U.S. economy will remain burdened. . . . America's moral leadership and decision-making competence will continue to be questioned,' begins a study of foreign-policy choices for the next president, which a Georgetown University task force released last month.