Recent polls indicating a precipitous decline in popular support for the Iraq war reveal a mounting distrust in the Bush administration's motivation for launching the invasion of Iraq in the first place, and growing unease with character and the conduct of the occupation.

Two distinct, but related factors help to explain these changing public attitudes.

First, the administration's case for war has been undermined by a spate of reports that challenge the credibility of the White House's rationale for war. Failure to find tangible evidence of an Iraqi WMD capability tops the list of reasons to question the Bush Administration's trustworthiness.

Ongoing reports of ill-equipped troops, systemic prison abuse, and the politicization of pre-war intelligence, manifest by the Downing Street Memo, likewise challenge the administration's claims. And in the midst of ongoing violence across the country, the prospects of democracy taking root in the bloodstained soil of Iraq grows more remote with each passing day.

Second, despite all their wishful thinking, neither the Bush Administration nor a subservient White House press corps can ignore the "facts on the ground" both in Iraq and here at home. Contrary to administration's spin, the insurgency is growing ever more sophisticated and lethal. Indeed, ever since the January election, the Iraqi insurgents have exacted a horrific toll on US troops, Iraqi security forces and, perhaps most tragically, innocent civilians.

Similarly, neither the White House nor the press corps can any longer ignore the growing number of returning soldiers, reservists, and conscientious objectors who are speaking out against what they perceive to be an illegal and immoral war. Not surprisingly, then, as the number of US dead and wounded mounts, opposition to the war grows more vocal and widespread. Small wonder, then, that the US armed forces are facing ever-greater obstacles to their recruitment efforts.

In short, the toll of the war here at home is hard to miss and, with good reason, the American people are articulating their fear, their shame, and their unease with what was cheerfully described by administration officials and an all too deferential press as a "cakewalk."

If there is a bright side in any of this, it is this: the shift in public opinion demonstrates the limits of the White House's propaganda efforts. With every moderate politician, courageous journalist, and so-called "ordinary" American who refuses to uncritically accept the administration's line and speaks out against this calamity, the Bush Administration might at long last be held accountable for its manipulation of pre-war intelligence, its tragic miscalculation of the economic and human costs of a protracted occupation, and its arrogant refusal to observe the precepts of international law.

Kevin Howley can be reached at .