Where is the weapons story?

Brent Bozell
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Posted: Jun 28, 2006 12:01 AM
Where is the weapons story?

While the Bush administration focuses on the elimination of the terrorist threat in Iraq, the Saddam-was-no-threat left has remained obsessed with the pre-war months, not only harping on the failures of Western intelligence, but more importantly, advancing a hardened historical narrative. They would have the world believe the Bush administration was not only wrong about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but also lied intentionally and went to war for some unstated cynical reason -- oil, enriching war profiteers, avenging Daddy Bush.

To a large degree, they are succeeding with their revisionist history lesson, and the proof is in the pudding of the polls. Not only does a majority declare that the war wasn't worth the cost to our troops and our treasury, but a majority believes George W. Bush is not honest or trustworthy. When the USA Today-Gallup poll asked if the words "honest" and "trustworthy" applied to Bush in February of 2001, 64 percent said he was honest, while 29 percent said the words did not apply. By April of 2006, the numbers were 41 percent honest, 56 percent dishonest. It's an easy guess that a lot of that turnaround is our failure to find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

So it was surprising to Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., who were investigating whispers that weapons of mass destruction have actually been found by American troops in Iraq, to learn the rumors were true. After badgering administration officials for several months, the government gave the legislators a declassified memo stating that some 500 weapons of mass destruction have been found by coalition forces in Iraq, mostly sarin and mustard-gas agents, some of which "remain hazardous and potentially lethal."

But when the legislators released this information, some Bush administration officials poor-mouthed the findings, noting that these old WMDs were hardly evidence of an ongoing post-Gulf War WMD program by Saddam, the fearful scenario that dominated the pre-war debate. Others, like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, emphatically declared that this was hard evidence. Regardless, this memo packs an important rhetorical punch. How many hundreds of times have our major media told us there were "no weapons of mass destruction" found? And how many thousands of times have leftists jumped off that springboard to an elaborate Bush-lied-people-died jeremiad?

This discovery should be a crucial, corrective turning point to the stuck-in-2003, pre-war obsessives. The hardened historical narrative needs to be amended. There were WMDs in Iraq that could have been used against our troops or acquired by terrorists.

An honest, nonpartisan news media that cared about the facts without political calculation would have taken care to correct the record, even if the findings were comparatively underwhelming to the pre-war scenarios. A fair and balanced story could be done. But the reception of this declassified memo shows we do not have an honest, nonpartisan news media, and political calculation is everything.

Here's how the news of the WMD finds in Iraq was filtered by the so-called "mainstream media." Fox News treated it as an important story. NBC reported on it with one "Nightly News" story, with pros and cons, noting that unnamed sources at the Pentagon "poured cold water" on the scoop's importance. ABC and CBS did nothing. CNN mentioned it in passing, heavy on the skepticism. On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann howled at the moon, mocking the find as "weapons of minor discomfort" and suggesting Sen. Santorum was like Sen. Joe McCarthy, holding up a "blank page" of supposed communists in the government.

Our major newspapers were also foot-draggers. The Washington Post ran five paragraphs of dismissive tone on page A-10. The New York Times skipped it for a day, then put it on A-20 with the headline "For Diehards, Search for Iraq's WMD Isn't Over." (The liberal diehards at the Times were saving Page One for their infamous scoop disclosing to the public, including terrorists, our government's financial tracking methods for terrorist groups.) The news magazines weren't interested in the WMD scoop, either. Time and U.S. News ran nothing, and Newsweek dismissed it with another headline about "trumped-up threats" in Iraq.

The largest remaining mystery is why Team Bush seems allergic to releasing more information on the missing weapons in Iraq, and more facts out of the archives of Hussein's heinous regime. If they are acting, or better put, not acting out of intimidation by the media, who don't want any new information to change their tilted first draft of history, the polls suggest that inaction has damaged them dramatically.

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