We agree with the president we have not lost and cannot lose this war. But it is also becoming increasingly clear, we cannot win. There is a difference. We have to pull out before that line disappears.

President Bush must learn that it is not finger-in-the-wind politics to put into action a plan to end the Iraq War that the vast majority of Americans and an increasing number of his own party support.


In presenting his administrationís interim report on progress in that war-torn country Thursday, Bush said a withdrawal will begin "because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say itíll be good politics."


Hopefully, someone will counsel the president that a statement like that is not political courage - it is stubbornness.


Like many initiatives with this administration, they tagged the interim report and plan with a catchy phrase in an effort to play the public relations game. But calling this the "New Way Forward" does little more than put lipstick on a pig.


It has become increasingly clear that this administration's critics-be-damned attitude is costing the United States far too much in money and lives. What once may have been a sincere and noble effort to drive a stake through the heart of terrorists and extremists has turned into a quagmire that is polarizing the nation in a way reminiscent of Vietnam.


On Thursday, Bush touted the fact the Iraqi government is funding part of the war effort with $7.3 billion of their own money "this year." That is about what we are spending every three weeks.


And while tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have died, more than 3,000 American soldiers and citizens have perished in that country as well. Those are costs that are becoming increasingly tough for this country to bear.


Congress set up 18 benchmarks for Bush to assess with the final report due in September. It left the assessment up to the administration so by some accounts, despite the optimism Bush tried to attach to the report, the effort is failing. Only eight benchmarks received satisfactory grades in Thursday's interim report, eight were unsatisfactory and two had mixed reviews.


But a deeper look at the report finds some of the most key elements to a safe Iraq are in the negative columns.


The report found that Iraqi commanders are still hamstrung by the government's political turmoil.


Security forces are still administering justice unevenly among the religious factions.


No plan is in place to distribute the country's oil profits to its suffering populace and restart the economy.


The report said there has been satisfactory progress made in reducing sectarian violence but that is hard to fathom when daily reports tell of bombings killing 40 to 60 people at a time and American casualties are climbing by the month.


The report also should set off some alarms with the Bush administration pointing fingers at Iran and Syria as aiding and abetting Iraqi insurgents, including Syria's sending suicide bombers into the country. While there is no reason to doubt the truth of those statements, we have to be cautious about expanding our targets in the region.


Bush said the benchmarks are showing signs of improvement less than a month after the new surge of troops landed in Iraq. What, then, of the previous five years? Is that saying we were only treading water in the years before?


Bush said he understands the growing sentiment against the battle for Iraq, saying Americans are suffering from "war fatigue." And he is right. After five years on the ground, we are the only ones who have remained committed and steadfast in this fight.


But also after five years, we are the only ones with a constant and exacting toll being taken on our troops and our psyche.


We agree with the president we have not lost and cannot lose this war. But it is also becoming increasingly clear, we cannot win. There is a difference. We have to pull out before that line disappears.