The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks has hammered one more nail in the credibility of the Bush administration.
The commission's staff reported last week that there was no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks and no evidence of a terrorist collaboration between Saddam and al-Qaida.
Such an alliance was one of two contentions at the heart of the Bush administration's pro-war spin in the months before the invasion of Iraq.
Of course, the other administration claim -- that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction -- was shown previously to be phony, though national security affairs adviser Condoleezza Rice was saying Friday that the elusive weapons merely had not been found "yet."
Before the war, President Bush and other administration officials spoke of Saddam and 9/11 in the same breath nearly every day in an apparent effort to spread the subliminal message of linkage.
Is it any wonder that a Washington Post poll last year found that 69 percent of Americans believed Saddam was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks?
Asked about that poll soon after it was published, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "I think it's not surprising that people make that connection."
Well, of course it wasn't surprising, given that Cheney and his colleagues had made every rhetorical effort to converge Saddam and al-Qaida in the public mind.
Now, faced with the non-partisan findings of the 9/11 commission staff that shoot down such a connection, Bush and company are lashing out from the corner they've been forced into.
After a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Bush -- on the defensive -- said, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida -- because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida."
An irate Cheney said in a CNBC broadcast "the evidence is overwhelming" of a link between Saddam and al-Qaida.
No matter the facts, the president's fallback position is that "the world is better off and America is more secure without Saddam Hussein in power."
The human and financial price of such an undertaking has never been fully addressed by Bush. The entire Iraq debacle makes it extremely unlikely that Bush -- or any future president -- would be able to wage "pre-emptive war" in the future. The concept is discredited with every passing day.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan hung the albatross firmly around Secretary of State Colin Powell's neck. At a news briefing Thursday, he reminded reporters that Powell had told the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, that there was a "sinister nexus" between Saddam and the terrorist networks.
Somehow, McClellan failed to mention that Powell has been backing away from that discredited testimony ever since.
Bush is clinging to a rapidly shrinking fig leaf, loudly repeating his contention about Saddam and al-Qaida as if mere repetition were proof. It's an old propaganda adage: Repeat it enough and they'll believe it.
In the latest chapter in the administration's constantly shifting rationale for war, McClellan, speaking for the White House Thursday, said Saddam had the "intention" of attacking the United States and it would be foolhardy to wait for that to happen.
The facts that are tumbling out should arouse public anger about the flaky basis for the U.S. invasion. However, few Americans appear willing to challenge the administration while U.S. troops are still in harm's way in Iraq.
One has to wonder what it takes for Americans to demand an accounting from the president when faced with the fact that they were deluded into going to war.
The burden of demanding a White House accounting falls on Congress, which defaulted on its sole constitutional right to declare war in the first place.
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