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President Bush Calls Iraq Violence a ‘Serious Concern’

President Bush announced in a press conference that violence in Iraq is a "serious concern," as the death toll of U.S. troops neared 100 for the month of October. Analysts discuss the administration's evolving Iraq policy.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And with us now, as they have been since the start of the Iraq war, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, now a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Walter Russell Mead, senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He's the author of "Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World."

    In general, Dr. Brzezinski, what did you see as the president's message today on Iraq?

    ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, Former National Security Adviser to President Carter: I was impressed by what I felt to be the beginning of the end of the state of denial in which I felt the administration — in particular, the president — has been for quite some time.

    He spoke in the written statement that he read much more candidly about the difficulties, the discouragement, the concerns that he shares with the American people, and I thought that was a positive development because it shows that the realities of Iraq are beginning to penetrate into the inner counsels of government.

    I thought there was a slight change of tone when he began to answer spontaneously, and when he spoke not from his script — prepared, I assume, by the National Security Council — but more from his inner gut. But nonetheless, it may be the beginning of the process, which at this stage has not crystallized an alternative policy, but which may be open after the elections to a more diversified decision-making process, perhaps admit some leading Republicans, such as Scowcroft, Baker, General Zinni, into the process so that serious options are then assessed.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Walter Mead, first of all, do you agree it's the beginning of the end of the state of denial?

    WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, I think this is certainly a time when the president has been a little bit more candid than he's been. I agree with most of what Dr. Brzezinski said there. I think the gulf between the Brzezinski position and the Bush position continues to narrow.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Is that a good thing?

  • WALTER RUSSELL MEAD:

    I'd also add that…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you see that as a good thing?

  • WALTER RUSSELL MEAD:

    I'm glad to — I agree with Dr. Brzezinski. This was a very, very good statement by the president, and I think it does advance — and I was going to add that…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Sure.

  • WALTER RUSSELL MEAD:

    … I think there's been some movement among some Democrats, too. I thought that the Joe Biden op-ed that appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday was also a very sober and thoughtful approach.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    For those who didn't read that, capsulize it for us.

  • WALTER RUSSELL MEAD:

    Well, they were basically talking about a way forward in Iraq that would have some bipartisan support, and something that the administration could work with. And I think what we're seeing now is a sense that the country does need to try to move as united as possible.

    We probably won't move toward a timetable, a specific set of dates for some of the reasons the president laid out in his press conference, but at the same time we are going to be taking advantage of the opportunity to have a little bit more flexibility in Iraq, given the changing military situation, which we've talked about before on this program.

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