Okay, follow my procession here.

#1: Here’s Colin Powell in March of 2001, stating the current Conventional Wisdom of US Intelligence: “[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbors of Iraq.”

#2: Here’s George W Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Speech, which will forever be known as the “Axis of Evil” speech. It is here that the W Administration formerly launched the Iraq War project.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

Leave aside the “kicked out the inspectors” — common misrepresentation — when confronted, Clinton-Bush officials haved called the “misrepresentation”ness a “technicality”. And leave aside the sentence that marks the fallback rationale for the war … the decade old mass graves and the torture of the Hussein regime. Let’s even allow the meaning of the first sentence and the implied meaning to fall by the wayside.

The only sentence that matters here is: The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. Really, this is not too unreasonable.

#3: The Office of Special Plans. And, yes. Enter here Ahmad Chablabi as numero uno… on a two-front assault — one front with the gummint, the other front with the media. (Let’s pretend they’re not the same thing.)

#4: The 2003 State of the Union Speech. Here, things get interesting. At times he can pass the list off to the UN, in one infamous example he can pass it off to the British, and other times he’s holding the bag.

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard, and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents also could kill untold thousands. He has not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them. U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq’s recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them. From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon, and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving. From intelligence sources, we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the UN inspectors – sanitizing inspection sites, and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. And intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with UN inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks, to build and keep weapons of mass destruction – but why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack. With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East, and create deadly havoc in the region. And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

#5: Colin Powell’s UN Speech. Colin Powell sells his soul, and in retrospect we have to say that that’s what happened. Perhaps this is a case of office politics at work: if it weren’t for him, the presentation would come out even further from the reality on the ground. This fact check looks rather conservative these days.

#6: Now, we get to the anticlimax as we skiddadle to the 2004 State of the Union Speech.

Already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.

Yes, I remember rolling on the floor laughing when he actually used the phrase “DOZENS OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION RELATED PROGRAM ACTIVITIES.”

(An important aside is this phrase: Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats. We had weapons inspectors on the ground, because we acted, and then … the US told them to go because they weren’t uncovering anything. If some things had broken down, we’d have ended up at the Kerry position — one I disagree with, but would be more understandable.) The rest on Iraq involves the, you know, cutting out tongues and such.

#7: Things really deflate with W’s Convention speech.

Everything he had to say about the central purpose of the war:

In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat. Members of both political parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat, and voted to authorize the use of force. We went to the United Nations Security Council, which passed a unanimous resolution demanding the dictator disarm, or face serious consequences. Leaders in the Middle East urged him to comply. After more than a decade of diplomacy, we gave Saddam Hussein another chance, a final chance, to meet his responsibilities to the civilized world. He again refused, and I faced the kind of decision that comes only to the Oval Office a decision no president would ask for, but must be prepared to make. Do I forget the lessons of Sept. 11th and take the word of a madman, or do I take action to defend our country? Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time.

The rest I deem meaningless until that day comes our policy toward Uzbekistan changes. Otherwise: a lie, more dishonest than the discrepency in the official version of events with the reality of what happened when the inspection program broke down in 1998. I have a haunting feeling that the official lie will become standard history. Like it or not, the dictator of Iraq, the brutal tyrant, complied. There were inspectors on the ground. Which brings us to the quiet and desperate crescendo, the haunting question there is no answer to: what would have happened if, at the end of the day, Hans Blix had delivered the same report that David Kay eventually ended up delivering? It’s an eerie question, and one where the US would have held steadforth to discredit the Blix/Kay Report and other UN Members would have thought “Well then. Let’s lift the sanctions! Jolly good!” This… is not… acceptable… is it?

Never mind, though. My point? My agnosticity over the central question of which the war was based on came from the discreprency between points #1 and #2 and points #4 and #5, with a full awareness of the meaning of points #3. The cognitive dissonance that I felt watching the bash of hot air amongst a bipartisan grouping of politicos and talking head figures moving along with the conventional wisdom… while, added pieces that were even then obviously false were added to the mix. Today, we have a contigency of Americans who don’t believe David Kay, and believe everything in Points #4 and #5 (and the hot air muddled water that was brought up between those points by the Dick Cheneys [ “mushroom cloud” ] and — even more hilariously the Oliver Norths of the world) has been moved to Syria: cognitive dissonance to the max.

In the realm of the Democratic contenders in the primary, the only ones who bothered questioning the conventional wisdom were, with all due respect to the former and less respect to the latter, two candidates considered on the fringe: David Kucinich and Al Sharpton. The only candidate who made a respectable showing for himself when questioned on the matter was Howard Dean, who shrugged and said “while some Clinton people advised me on the matters.” In the realm of the Republican party — we have backbenchers such as Ron Paul. A cynic would say that the fact that the frontbencher Doug Bereuter made his mea culpa on the war after retiring shows the facade of Democracy, and the lack of power supposed powerful figures actually have…

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