Monday, August 14, 2006

Americans believe spin, not facts (poll)

WHAT is truth? Pontius Pilate's infamous question may be worth asking again, in light of responses to a recent Harris Poll on the war in Iraq. Given the poll's surprising findings, truth has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with the version of reality you choose to subscribe to.

Half of those polled said Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion in 2003. That's up from 36 percent a year ago. And it's despite the fact that after the invasion, U.S. inspectors took 16 months and spent $900 million to conclude that Saddam had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons leading up to the invasion. He had dismantled them more than a decade before.

But why let inconvenient facts get in the way? Almost two-thirds of the Harris Poll respondents also said Saddam had "strong links" to al-Qaida. That's another Bush administration line that has been repeatedly debunked in the past three years -- along with the persistent implication that Saddam had something to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

If you believe all that, it's a lot easier to support a war that has taken more than 2,500 American lives. Maybe that's why some Republican senators have been pointing recently to hundreds of unearthed chemical weapons containers in Iraq as the long-awaited evidence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

The containers are abandoned munitions at least 15 years old. Even the Pentagon says so.

But facts, evidence and truth apparently can't hold a candle to spin. Bush administration officials did a masterful job of selling Congress and the American people on the need to invade Iraq. They used shameless scare tactics like hyped intelligence, terrorism and the specter of "mushroom clouds."

They were so successful that three years later, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, fully half of the American people still believe the weapons existed.

And that's the truth.



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