"The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 9-11. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger. ...
"Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk, " Byrd said.
"But the Bush team 's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a pre-emptive invasion has become more than embarrassing, " the aging West Virginia senator continued. "It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world? "
In May 2003, a far more vigorous examination of these questions was underway in Europe, where leading politicians and journalists questioned the pre-war claims of Bush and British Prime Minster Tony Blair.
"We were told that Saddam had weapons ready for use within 45 minutes, " declared former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, who resigned over Blair 's pro-war policies. "It 's now 45 days since the war has finished and we have still not found anything. "
Paul Keetch, defense spokesman for a British opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, said, "No weapons means no threat. Without WMD, the case for war falls apart. It would seem either the intelligence was wrong and we should not rely on it, or the politicians overplayed the threat. " [Independent, May 29, 2003]
The world 's press also pounced on admissions by senior U.S. officials conceding that the pre-war WMD claims may have been hyped.
In a speech in New York, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said it is "possible that they [the Iraqis] decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict and I don 't know the answer. " In an interview with Vanity Fair, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz said the WMD allegation was stressed "for bureaucratic reasons " because "it was the one reason everyone could agree on. "
Lt. Gen. James Conway, who commanded the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told reporters that "it remains a surprise to me that we have not uncovered (chemical) weapons ... in some of the forward dispersal areas " where U.S. intelligence claimed they were ready for use by Iraq 's Republican Guards. "We were simply wrong, " Conway said.
As with the Matrix of the movies, the first step toward destroying this American Matrix will be for the people to get a fuller understanding of the truth, even if that truth is difficult and unpleasant. Why that first step has been so difficult, however, is that there exist too few U.S. news outlets that will challenge the powers-that-be.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at www.secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'