Jun 28, 2006
While the Bush administration focuses on the elimination of the
terrorist threat in Iraq, the Saddam-was-no-threat left has remained
obsessed with the pre-war months, not only harping on the failures of
Western intelligence, but more importantly, advancing a hardened
historical narrative. They would have the world believe the Bush
administration was not only wrong about the existence of weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq, but also lied intentionally and went to war
for some unstated cynical reason -- oil, enriching war profiteers,
avenging Daddy Bush.
To a large degree, they are succeeding with their revisionist
history lesson, and the proof is in the pudding of the polls. Not only
does a majority declare that the war wasn't worth the cost to our
troops and our treasury, but a majority believes George W. Bush is not
honest or trustworthy. When the USA Today-Gallup poll asked if the
words "honest" and "trustworthy" applied to Bush in February of 2001,
64 percent said he was honest, while 29 percent said the words did not
apply. By April of 2006, the numbers were 41 percent honest, 56 percent
dishonest. It's an easy guess that a lot of that turnaround is our
failure to find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
So it was surprising to Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Rep. Peter
Hoekstra, R-Mich., who were investigating whispers that weapons of mass
destruction have actually been found by American troops in Iraq, to
learn the rumors were true. After badgering administration officials
for several months, the government gave the legislators a declassified
memo stating that some 500 weapons of mass destruction have been found
by coalition forces in Iraq, mostly sarin and mustard-gas agents, some
of which "remain hazardous and potentially lethal."
But when the legislators released this information, some Bush
administration officials poor-mouthed the findings, noting that these
old WMDs were hardly evidence of an ongoing post-Gulf War WMD program
by Saddam, the fearful scenario that dominated the pre-war debate.
Others, like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, emphatically declared
that this was hard evidence. Regardless, this memo packs an important
rhetorical punch. How many hundreds of times have our major media told
us there were "no weapons of mass destruction" found? And how many
thousands of times have leftists jumped off that springboard to an
elaborate Bush-lied-people-died jeremiad?
This discovery should be a crucial, corrective turning point to
the stuck-in-2003, pre-war obsessives. The hardened historical
narrative needs to be amended. There were WMDs in Iraq that could have
been used against our troops or acquired by terrorists.
An honest, nonpartisan news media that cared about the facts
without political calculation would have taken care to correct the
record, even if the findings were comparatively underwhelming to the
pre-war scenarios. A fair and balanced story could be done. But the
reception of this declassified memo shows we do not have an honest,
nonpartisan news media, and political calculation is everything.
Here's how the news of the WMD finds in Iraq was filtered by the
so-called "mainstream media." Fox News treated it as an important
story. NBC reported on it with one "Nightly News" story, with pros and
cons, noting that unnamed sources at the Pentagon "poured cold water"
on the scoop's importance. ABC and CBS did nothing. CNN mentioned it in
passing, heavy on the skepticism. On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann howled at
the moon, mocking the find as "weapons of minor discomfort" and
suggesting Sen. Santorum was like Sen. Joe McCarthy, holding up a
"blank page" of supposed communists in the government.
Our major newspapers were also foot-draggers. The Washington Post
ran five paragraphs of dismissive tone on page A-10. The New York Times
skipped it for a day, then put it on A-20 with the headline "For
Diehards, Search for Iraq's WMD Isn't Over." (The liberal diehards at
the Times were saving Page One for their infamous scoop disclosing to
the public, including terrorists, our government's financial tracking
methods for terrorist groups.) The news magazines weren't interested in
the WMD scoop, either. Time and U.S. News ran nothing, and Newsweek
dismissed it with another headline about "trumped-up threats" in Iraq.
The largest remaining mystery is why Team Bush seems allergic to
releasing more information on the missing weapons in Iraq, and more
facts out of the archives of Hussein's heinous regime. If they are
acting, or better put, not acting out of intimidation by the media, who
don't want any new information to change their tilted first draft of
history, the polls suggest that inaction has damaged them dramatically.