Trickery continues on reasons for war

By Derrick Z. Jackson | September 13, 2006

THREE AND A HALF years and tens of thousands of bodies after the Great False War began , Vice President Dick Cheney still tells us it ``was the right thing to do, and if we had it to do over again, we'd do exactly the same thing."

Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts Tim Russert of NBC's ``Meet the Press" asked Cheney, ``Exactly the same thing?"

Cheney said, ``Yes, sir."

In his address to the nation to note the fifth anniversary of 9/11, President Bush added his thoughts on why the Great False War was the right thing. ``I am often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks," Bush said. ``The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat."

They still are trying to bamboozle us about the threat. These latest attempts came despite last week's report from the Senate Intelligence Committee that destroyed with exactitude every last major, hair-raising reason the White House gave to launch the invasion. The report said in punishing repetition that ``postwar findings do not support" prior assertions or assessments that Iraq:

was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program in general or acquiring uranium from Africa or high-strength aluminum tubes in particular;

had biological weapons and that its biological weapons program was larger and more advanced than before the 1991 Gulf War;

possessed or developed mobile facilities for making biological agents for war;

had chemical weapons or was expanding its chemical industry for weapons production.

That was not even the most important part of the report. Cheney and Bush long ago conceded that the weapons of mass destruction did not exist. But they to this day still call Iraq the ``central front" of the so-called war on terror on scary notions that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had dangerous ties to Al Qaeda. The Senate Intelligence Committee report said:

``No postwar information suggests that the Iraqi regime attempted to facilitate a relationship with [Osama] bin Laden."

``No postwar information has been found that indicates CBW [chemical and biological weapons] training" to Al Qaeda .

``No postwar information indicates that Iraq intended to use Al Qaeda or any other terrorist group to strike the United States homeland before or after Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Not only did Saddam Hussein not try to facilitate a relationship with bin Laden, according to the report, but it said that Saddam distrusted both bin Laden and the late Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The report said Saddam's mistrust of Zarqawi ran so high that at one point, Saddam unsuccessfully tried to have Zarqawi captured.

Yet, Zarqawi was a cornerstone of justifying the Great False War.

In his infamous February 2003 United Nations presentation, then-secretary of state Colin Powell said, ``Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network, headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Powell said Zarqawi and his poison weapons training camp represented a ``potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda network." He said, ``We are not surprised that Iraq is harboring Zarqawi and his subordinates. This understanding builds on decades long experience with respect to ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

In June 2004, Cheney and Bush trumped up the sinister nexus in tag-team style. Cheney said Saddam had ``long-established ties with Al Qaeda." Bush was asked a day later what was the best evidence to back up Cheney's assertion. Bush responded, ``Zarqawi. Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to Al Qaeda affiliates and Al Qaeda."

That very same week, the 9/11 Commission announced it found ``no credible evidence" of ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Last week's Senate report was a brutally ironic reaffirmation of that finding, given Powell's choice of words at the UN. The report said, ``The regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi."

In all this desperation to maintain credibility on the Great False War, bin Laden himself is slipping through America's fingers. The Washington Post reported this week that the trail to bin Laden himself has been ``stone cold" for more than two years, in the words of one counterterrorism official. With disapproval ratings for the handling of war running up to 65 percent in recent major polls, it is clear that Americans are growing cold to Cheney when he says, ``we'd do exactly the same thing." The only thing left is the manner in which Americans will throw a figurative stone.