Asked about a recent poll showing that 70 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney replied laconically, "It's not surprising people make that connection."
Not surprising indeed.
"Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida," Bush declared in this year's State of the Union Address.
Bush spoke of "outlaw regimes" that could use weapons of mass destruction for "blackmail, terror and mass murder" and "could also give or sell those weapons to their terrorist allies."
The administration repeatedly has cited war on Iraq as crucial in winning the war on terror. While evidently never saying explicitly that Saddam was directly involved in 9/11, the administration allowed millions of Americans to infer such a connection.
After all, the most compelling reason given Americans to justify war -- and the attendant sacrifice in life and treasure -- was that Iraq possessed and was developing weapons of mass destruction that it might hand over to our terrorist enemies.
Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday that Iraq had probably gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction at least 10 years ago. Blix said that Saddam merely pretended otherwise to deter any attack. "I'm certainly more and more to the conclusion that Iraq has, as they maintained, destroyed almost all of what they had in the summer of 1991," Blix said.
Yesterday, too, The Associated Press reported that a team of top American scientists had found no evidence that Saddam's regime was making or stockpiling smallpox.
It's doubly troubling to see the WMD dearth in Iraq go on and on and to hear top administration officials suddenly marveling at Americans' too-literal linking of al-Qaida with Iraq.
Were we misled on the very justifications for war? If so, the administration should face a stern reckoning, as will those in Congress who had the power to question -- if not stop -- the rush to war. We may yet recognize the wisdom of those who stood against the tide: West Virginia's Sen. Robert Byrd, Washington's Sen. Patty Murray and Reps. Jim McDermott, Jay Inslee, Brian Baird and Rick Larsen.
©1996-2003 Seattle Post-Intelligencer