However a government may try to hide them, there are ways to measure the costs of war, and last week people could take their pick. You could see, for the first time, the coffins of dead soldiers, wrapped tight like a gift in the flag for which they fought. You could mourn the one whose name was familiar, the football star who took a million-dollar pay cut to defend his country after 9/11. You could listen, for the first time, to the Pentagon leaders admitting that they would need both more troops and more money to get the job done. A year ago, the war planners figured that 200 armored humvees would be enough for the invasion and occupation of Iraq; now they want 20 times that many. The U.S. death toll in April 2003, the month Baghdad fell, was 37; the number killed in hostilities in April 2004 climbed to 107 last week, a reminder that winning a war can be deadlier than fighting it in the first place. "There's a rumor that Bush is going to redeclare war here. Have you heard it?" asks a 1st Cavalry Division private on patrol as he mans a machine gun in a Baghdad slum. "It's a good idea. Right now we drive around just enough to get people really angry and let them take shots at us. We should just roll over Sadr City and take out all the bad guys."
If the commentariat supposed that all the bad news on the ground would bring political costs, the polls held surprises too. As the U.S. returns to a war footing and braces for what comes next, people are paying close attention. In surveys last week, twice as many listed the war among their top concerns as did just a month ago. But the escalating bloodshed seemed, if anything, to make people lean forward and dig in for the fight. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 51% of Americans still believed the war was worth fighting--3 percentage points higher than in February. According to a USA Today poll, support for sending more troops has tripled since January, to 33%.
In interviews from Georgia to California, TIME heard voters expressing a sober mix of resignation and resolution. Hindsight is 20/20, people say of the failures in war planning. We made this mess, and we have to clean it up, they say of the task ahead. They'll hate us no matter what we do, they say of the enemy. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes, they say of the President. Even as voters fault George W. Bush's judgment, many praise his instincts. "I don't think he has the faculties of his father," says Steve Guest, a computer engineer in Cincinnati, Ohio, "but he has the resolve, and that's what matters." A less admiring observer, Matt Streng, a health-care teacher in Chapel Hill, N.C., sees the public's mood a little differently: "They have blind faith in a President who has blind faith in his cause," he says.
--HOW MANY SOLDIERS WILL IT TAKE?