by R. Cort Kirkwood by R. Cort Kirkwood
"Facts," John Adams said, "are stubborn things," and this week, we heard two of them.
American investigators have found no evidence of smallpox germ bombs in Iraq, and the president admitted Iraq was not behind the mass murder of Sept. 11, 2001. Sounds a lot like what we learned, much too late, about North Vietnam's attack on the US Navy at the Gulf of Tonkin, which launched the Vietnam war. It never happened.
You'd think this latest news would suck the wind from the war Party's martial sails. Yet with good reason, the party cheerily tacks on. Once troops are committed, retreat is nearly impossible.
Cobwebs And WMD
The smallpox revelation is unsurprising.
Reports the Associated Press, "a three-month search by u2018Team Pox,'" a military unit looking for the fatal germ, "turned up only signs to the contrary: disabled equipment that had been rendered harmless by U.N. inspectors, Iraqi scientists deemed credible who gave no indication they had worked with smallpox and a laboratory thought to be back in use that was covered in cobwebs."
Recall last February, when Secretary of State Colin Powell swore up and down that Hussein "has the wherewithal to develop smallpox." The deadly germ was a key component of Iraq’s ballyhooed "weapons of mass destruction."
The hysteria over Hussein’s imagined smallpox arsenal had everyone running thither and yon for vaccinations, including the president.
Well, seven months into a war begun because the United States was in "imminent danger," we can’t find one, not one, such weapon. And smallpox? "We found no physical or new anecdotal evidence," an official told AP, "to suggest Iraq was producing smallpox or had stocks of it in its possession."
As late as Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney, again suggested that trailers were "mobile biological facilities" making smallpox. Totally false, but you know what they say about the big lie.
At least he admits Hussein wasn't connected to the terror raids of Sept. 11. And now, finally, so does the President: "We've had no evidence," Bush confessed on Wednesday, "that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."
Poof went the raisons de guerre. Now, the War Party has just one thin reed on which to hang the war. It's a war against terror and Sept. 11, 2001 was the first shot.
Is The Die Cast?
No smallpox. No WMD. No connection to Sept. 11.
And, of course, no "imminent danger." But none of it's a problem for the War Party. When and if the American people wake up, it will be too late and the party's propaganda line will be well established.
Indeed, it already is: Forget about WMD, and smallpox and whether Hussein helped plot Sept. 11. This is a war against terror. And we're there. We destroyed a brutal tyrant. OK, a few troops get killed every day. That means the terror has yet to be destroyed. We can't just quit. Buck up! We must win. Otherwise, all will have died in vain.
For the average American, the argument rings true. And the War Party knows it.
Stubborn facts belie its black propaganda, but they can neither undo the damage nor alter the near future. The fictive Gulf of Tonkin attack launched a costly, divisive 10-year war. By the time Americans learned they'd been had, the die was cast. We were committed … to 58,000 dead.
What is our commitment in Iraq?
Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.