Sunday, June 01, 2003

How they’ll get away with it
This is sort of the flip side of my last post on WMDs.
"We found the weapons of mass destruction," Bush asserted in the Thursday interview, released Friday. "We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."

Though it’s clear to many that the whole WMD causus belli was so much smoke, there is every reason to believe the administration will keep things confused enough that they will get away with it. Here’s why we’re in trouble:

It makes me sound like a liberal elitist intellectual to say that the TV mesmerized public is too easily led astray by lazy journalists, but I am and they are. In the lead up to the war all Fox News and the administration needed to do was juxtapose images of 9/11 and Saddam often enough and people believed Saddam caused 9/11. Now they just need to keep announcing possible discoveries of WMDs louder than they retract them and soon people will believe we have found the smoking gun. On Monday they announce the discovery of a deadly chemical toxin on page one; on Wednesday they follow up on page eighteen by saying it was an empty can of Off!® left by Peter Arnett. Which story does the public remember?

Furthermore, keep in mind that Saddam did have programs for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons going before1991. He kicked and screamed and cheated as much as possible on disarmament all through the nineties. There are bound to be some authentic relics of the old program out there just waiting to be discovered. How well prepared is the average swing voter to discern the difference between a relic of the ten-year old program and evidence of a robust active program last year?

When the administration refused to led UN inspectors back into the country to complete the investigations, they set up a further erosion of the US’s credibility in the world. Opponents of the war and even some supporters will find it easy to be cynical when the administration refuses oversight and finds just what it said it would. It doesn’t matter whether the evidence is real, planted, or misinterpreted, everyone will go on believing the same things they believed before.

The only hope for something resembling the truth to get a proper airing and be believed, is for an independent investigation to be made of the intelligence leading up to the war, the process by which that intelligence was prepared for decision makers and the public, and the post-invasion evidence supporting that intelligence. If the current muttering in the intelligence community leads to a serious review, the final evidence for WMDs needs to be part of that review.

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