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Security politics

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The chief US military spokesman in Iraq said yesterday that the effort to end the insurgency in Baghdad has fallen short and that "the United States is rethinking its strategy" to end the violence there, the AP says.  Also yesterday, the military announced the deaths of three US troops, "raising the death toll for October to 74" and keeping the month "on course to be the deadliest for U.S. forces in nearly two years."  Vice President Cheney tells Time magazine that "we're not looking for an exit strategy." 

A New York Times analysis says this leaves Bush "with some of the ugliest choices he has yet faced in the war" -- he can order another arrangement of US troops, he can redefine what "victory" means, or he could deploy more troops to Iraq.  "But whatever choices he makes… will be forced by a series of events, in Iraq and at home, that now seems largely out of Mr. Bush's control, in Iraq and at home." 

The messages coming from Republicans in Washington on whether or not there will be a change of course in Iraq are getting even more mixed.  As Bush and Cheney continue to insist at campaign events and in interviews that US troops are staying put, the Washington Post reports that "growing doubts among GOP lawmakers" and "the prospect of Democratic wins" next month will soon force the Administration to "abandon its open-ended commitment" in Iraq.  Possible options include dividing Iraq "along regional lines," "a gradual withdrawal of troops over a set period of time," and/or "a dramatic scaling-back of U.S. ambitions." 

The Washington Times writes up how the White House is distancing itself from reports that it hopes for a "course correction." 

Bush talked so tough on staying the course in Iraq at his fundraiser for GOP Sen. George Allen last night that Allen afterward "seemed to distance himself" from some of the rhetoric, the Post also says. 

The Los Angeles Times observes that GOP incumbents and candidates across the country -- even in red states -- are beginning to break with the Administration on the war. 

For example, per the Houston Chronicle: "Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said in a televised debate Thursday night that if she had known in 2003 that Saddam Hussein did not harbor weapons of mass destruction, she would not have voted to go into Iraq 'the way we did.'" 

Cheney, who parachutes into Indiana to make remarks at a rally for the state Air and Army National Guard, reasserted in an interview with a South Bend radio station yesterday that "there are connections" between al Qaeda and Iraq.  "Mr. Zarqawi, who was the lead terrorist in Iraq for three years, fled there after we went into Afghanistan.  He was there before we ever went into Iraq.  The sectarian violence that we see now, in part, has been stimulated by the fact of al Qaeda attacks intended to try to create conflict between Shia and Sunni."

Democratic Reps. John Murtha and Ike Skelton, who is the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, will hold a press conference call today "to discuss a letter sent by House and Senate Democratic Leaders and ranking members from the key national security committees about the continued deterioration of the security situation in Iraq and lack of an effective plan for improvement," per the release.

The Republican National Committee is putting its stark new web ad on CNN and FOX starting this weekend.  Titled "The Stakes," the ad seeks to flat-out scare people into voting Republican.  It features images of Osama bin Laden and other known Islamic terrorists, along with quotes from them threatening attacks on the United States.  The only audio is the sound of a ticking clock, which gets louder as the web ad reaches its conclusion with images of gun-toting terrorists and explosions.  "What is yet to come will be even greater."