At the time, more than two months after the Iraq
invasion, George W. Bush was getting edgy because the promised
stockpiles of banned weapons hadn't materialized. So, on May 29, 2003,
he hailed the discovery of the supposed mobile “biological laboratories”
as conclusive proof that “we have found the weapons of mass
destruction,” a claim that would be repeated by administration officials
for the next several months.
But any careful reading of the published
intelligence reports about the trailers cars would have shown Bush's
assertion to be just the latest exaggeration of WMD evidence about Iraq.
Even the evidence marshaled in a “white paper” by the Central
Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency fit much better
with the explanation that the trailers were designed to produce
hydrogen for battlefield weather balloons.
Now, nearly three years later, the Washington Post
has published an article revealing that Bush made his flat assertion
about the trailers two days after a Pentagon-sponsored mission
informed Washington that the trailers had nothing to do with producing
biological weapons. Those findings from a nine-member team of U.S. and
British scientists and engineers were in a three-page field report --
followed three weeks later by a 122-page final report -- but the
contrary information was stamped “secret” and shelved.
As senior administration officials, including the
President and Secretary of State Colin Powell, continued to make false
claims about the “biological laboratories,” the nine-member team
disbanded. “I went home and fully expected that our findings would be
publicly stated,” one team member told the Post. “It never happened. And
I just had to live with it.” [Washington Post, April 12, 2006]
Back in spring 2003, however, the readiness of the
Bush administration to mislead the American people and the readiness of
the U.S. news media -- and many citizens -- to go along led me to
compare what was happening in the United States to the false reality of
the Matrix movies. (The second film in the trilogy, “The Matrix
Reloaded,” had just been released.)
In a slightly edited form, we are reprinting our
June 1, 2003, story below:
and its sequels offer a useful analogy for anyone
trying to make sense of the chasm that has opened between what’s real
and what Americans perceive is real. Like the science-fiction world of
the trilogy, a false reality is being pulled daily over people’s
eyes, often through what they see and hear on their TV screens. Facts
have lost value. Logic rarely applies.
Some living in this “American Matrix” are like the
everyday people in the movies, simply oblivious to what’s going on
beneath the surface, either too busy or too bored to find out. Others
appear to know better but behave like Cipher, the character in the
original movie who chooses the fake pleasures of the Matrix over what Morpheus calls “the desert of the real.”
Many Americans so enjoyed the TV-driven nationalism
of the Iraq War, for instance, that they didn’t want it spoiled by
reality. During the conflict, they objected to news outlets showing
mangled bodies or wounded children or U.S. POWs. Presenting the ugly
face of war was seen as unpatriotic or somehow disloyal to “the troops.”
Only positive images were welcome and dissent was deemed almost
Now, even as U.S. forces in Iraq slide closer to
the guerrilla-war quagmire that some skeptics predicted, Americans
continue to say they trust George W. Bush to handle the situation. Some
military analysts close to the Bush administration are beginning to feel
differently, however. “We’re hanging on by our fingernails,” one told me.
But Americans still prefer to feel good about the
war. They want to believe that the U.S. invasion was just, and that
Saddam Hussein really was poised to use weapons of mass destruction. By
large majorities, Americans either believe that these weapons have
already been found or they don’t care that the Bush administration may
have misled the world.
The Disputed Labs
For its part, the U.S. news media – from Fox News
to the New York Times – repeatedly trumpeted supposed weapons
discoveries, only to play down later stories showing that the original
reports were bogus. The only evidence Bush now cites is the discovery of
two mobile labs that the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency insist
could be used for producing biological weapons.
“Those who say we haven’t found the banned
manufacturing devices or banned weapons are wrong,” Bush declared,
referring to the mobile labs. “We found them.”
Yet, the U.S. intelligence analysis of these labs
is more a piece of the American Matrix than a dispassionate examination
of the evidence. The report reads like one more example of selective
intelligence, which spurns plausible alternatives if they don’t fit
Bush’s political needs.
In this case, the Bush administration, which said
for months that the Iraqi weapons secrets would be revealed once U.S.
forces captured and questioned Iraq’s top scientists, now doesn’t like
what those scientists are saying. When questioned, the captured
scientists said the labs were used to produce hydrogen for artillery
In the CIA-DIA report, U.S. analysts agreed that
hydrogen production was a plausible explanation for the labs. “Some of
the features of the trailer – a gas collection system and the presence
of a caustic – are consistent with both bio-production and hydrogen
production,” the CIA-DIA report said. “The plant’s design possibly could
be used to produce hydrogen using a chemical reaction.”
The report also noted that “preliminary sample
analysis results are negative for five standard BW agents, including
bacillus anthracis, and for growth media for those agents.” Also
missing are companion mobile labs that would be needed “to prepare and
sterilize the media and to concentrate and possibly dry the agent,
before the agent is ready for introduction into a delivery system, such
as bulk-filled munitions,” the CIA-DIA report said.
In other words, U.S. intelligence analysts found no
evidence that these labs had been used to make biological weapons or
that the two labs alone could produce weaponized BW agents. But that was
obviously the wrong answer.
Arguing the Issue
So the CIA-DIA analysis veered off into an
argumentative direction. The report asserted that the labs would be
“inefficient” for producing hydrogen because their capacity is “larger
than typical units for hydrogen production for weather balloons.” Better
systems are “commercially available,” said the CIA-DIA report, dated May
But the U.S. analysts don’t assess whether those
more efficient systems would have been “commercially available” to Iraq,
which has faced a decade of trade sanctions. What may be considered
“inefficient” to U.S. scientists might be the best home-made option
available to Iraqis.
Having made the inefficiency argument, the CIA-DIA
analysis concluded that hydrogen production must be a “cover story” and
that “BW agent production is the only consistent, logical purpose for
these vehicles.” In the American Matrix, pretty much any argument can
work if the guys in charge want it to.
Tom Tomorrow’s “This Modern World” captured this aspect of what he called “The Republican
Matrix” in a cartoon that also uses the analogy of the Matrix movies.
In the cartoon’s drawings, clueless Americans
parrot back Bush administration messages as the cartoon asks, “What is
the Republican Matrix? It is an illusion that engulfs us all…a steady
barrage of images which obscure reality. It is a world born anew each
day…in which there is nothing to be learned from the lessons of the past
…a world where logic holds no sway…where up is down and black is
white…where reality itself is a malleable thing…subject to constant
revision. In short, it’s their world.”
The cartoon ends with a frame showing Bush, Vice
President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in
sunglasses like those worn by the anti-human “agents” in the Matrix.
“What should we do today, fellas?” Bush asks. “Any damn thing we want,
George,” answers Cheney.
Indeed, Bush and his advisers grasped that
they faced few limits on how far they could push their political/media
advantage. Protected by an army of media allies, who either shared a
conservative ideology or saw financial gain in playing along, Bush
learned that he stood little risk no matter how over-the-top his
imagery or assertions. Many Americans, too, seemed to enjoy the process of
their own manipulation.
The administration was so confident about this
control that Bush dared dress up in a Top Gun outfit for an unnecessary
jet flight to a U.S. aircraft carrier on May 1 to declare victory over
The USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been at sea for
10 months, was within helicopter range but that didn’t offer the
exciting visuals of a carrier landing and Bush in a flight suit. So, the
ship slowed its pace and circled idly in the Pacific Ocean to guarantee
favorable camera angles while servicemen and women delayed their
Though Bush’s father made great fun of Democrat
Michael Dukakis when he rode in a tank in 1988 and the national news
media had a field day in 1993 when President Bill Clinton got a haircut
while Air Force One waited at a Los Angeles airport, the tone was
different when Bush pulled off his Top Gun performance.
“U.S. television coverage ranged from respectful to
gushing,” observed New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. “Nobody seemed
bothered that Mr. Bush, who appears to have skipped more than a year of
the National Guard service that kept him out of Vietnam, is now
emphasizing his flying experience.” [NYT, May 6, 2003]
Indeed, the likes of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews used
the occasion of Bush strutting about the carrier’s deck to praise Bush’s
manliness in contrast to Democratic presidential candidates, including
Sen. John Kerry who earned a Silver Star in Vietnam.
“Imagine Joe Lieberman in this costume, or even
John Kerry,” Matthews said on MSNBC on May 1. “Nobody looks right in the
role Bush has set for the presidency-commander-in-chief, medium height,
medium build, looks good in a jet pilot’s costume or uniform, rather has
a certain swagger, not too literary, certainly not too verbal, but a guy
who speaks plainly and wins wars. I think that job definition is hard to
match for the Dems.”
Bush got the images he wanted in his carrier
landing while his aides mounted a mini-cover-up of the facts. In the
days after the photo op, the White House first lied about the reasons
for the jet flight, insisting that it was necessary because the ship was
outside helicopter range. That story fell apart when it became clear
that the ship was only 30 miles offshore and slowing up to give Bush an
excuse to use the jet.
A later New York Times article revealed that Bush
had personally collaborated on the jet landing idea and that the imagery
was choreographed by a White House advance team led by communications
specialist Scott Sforza, who arrived on the carrier days earlier. The
carrier landing was just one scene in a deliberate pattern of images
sought by the White House, the article said.
At an economic speech in Indianapolis, people
sitting behind Bush were told to take off their ties so they’d look more
like ordinary folks, WISH-TV reported. At a speech at Mount Rushmore in
South Dakota, cameramen were given a platform that offered up Bush’s
profile as if he were already carved into the mountain with Washington,
Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. [NYT, May 16, 2003]
But the TV media and the American people shrugged
off concerns about whether Bush had used the USS Abraham Lincoln and its
crew as a political prop. A New York Times/CBS
News poll found 59 percent of the American people agreeing that use of
the carrier was appropriate and saying that Bush was not seeking
So how did the American people reach this point
where a majority didn’t mind being manipulated no matter how obvious or
absurd the trickery?
Part of the answer, of course, relates to the
trauma of Sept. 11 when the nation felt victimized and concluded that
“united we stand” was the right strategy even if that meant giving Bush
a blank check to do whatever he wanted, no matter how reckless.
The Matrix's Origin
But a fuller explanation for this American Matrix
goes back much farther – and like the Matrix in the movie – we know some
but not all the facts.
The American Matrix grew out of Republican anger in
the 1970s. That anger followed the leaking of the Pentagon Papers which
described the secret the history of the Vietnam War and the revelations
about President Richard Nixon’s political abuses known as Watergate.
Those two disclosures helped force U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and
drove Nixon from office.
For leading Republicans, the trauma was extreme as
the party was pummeled in congressional elections in 1974 and lost the
White House in 1976. An influential core of wealthy conservatives
decided that they needed to assert tighter control over what information
reached and influenced the people.
Led by former Treasury Secretary Bill Simon and
enlisting the likes of right-wing philanthropist Richard Mellon Scaife,
these Republicans began pouring tens of millions of dollars into
building a conservative media infrastructure to challenge the mainstream
press, which the conservatives labeled “liberal.” [For more background,
see Consortiumnews.com's “Democrats'
This political/media strategy gained momentum in
the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan’s image-savvy team worked closely
with the emerging conservative media, such as Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s
Washington Times which Reagan called his “favorite” newspaper.
Meanwhile, a host of conservative attack groups, such as Accuracy in
Media, went after journalists who exposed embarrassing facts about
Reagan’s secret operations, such as the Iran-Contra scandal and
drug-trafficking by the Nicaraguan contras, Reagan's beloved “freedom
Conservative activists worked hand-in-glove with
Reagan’s “public diplomacy” apparatus, which borrowed psychological
operations specialists from the U.S. military to conduct what was termed
“perception management.” Their goal was to manage the perceptions of the
American people about key foreign-policy issues, such as Central America
and the threat posed by the Soviet Union.
“The most critical special operations mission we
have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to
get us,” explained deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, J.
Michael Kelly, at a National Defense University conference.
In the 1980s, the Republicans were helped by news
executives in mainstream publications who favored Reagan’s hard-line
foreign policy, including New York Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal.
Some of these executives turned their news organizations away from the
tough reporting that was needed to expose the foreign policy abuses that
were occurring under Reagan.
That averting of eyes was one of the key reasons
major newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post,
largely missed the Iran-Contra scandal and attacked the reporting of
other journalists who uncovered foreign-policy crimes such as cocaine
trafficking by Nicaraguan contra forces. A false reality was being
created that covered up the ugly side of U.S. foreign policy. [For
details, see Robert Parry’s
In the 1990s, the interests of the maturing
conservative news media and the mainstream news media merged even more
fully as both groups found common cause in exaggerating misconduct by
President Bill Clinton. Mainstream journalists discovered that they
could report sloppily about Clinton and gain the praise – rather than
the opprobrium – of the well-financed conservative attack groups. [For
details, see The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene
Lyons, or Sidney Blumenthal’s The Clinton Wars.]
Though many key facts about Clinton’s Whitewater
investments and other “scandals” were misrepresented by the national
press, there were no punishments for the reporters involved, only
rewards. By contrast, the few reporters who still had the audacity to
dig up evidence of past crimes from the Reagan-Bush era found themselves
under attack and their livelihoods threatened.
For instance, when San Jose Mercury News reporter
Gary Webb revived the contra-drug story in the mid-1990s, he was
denounced by the New York Times and other leading newspapers that had
pooh-poohed the scandal when it was unfolding in the 1980s.
Even when a
1998 CIA report verified that the contras were implicated in the drug
trade and that the Reagan-Bush administration had hidden the evidence,
the major newspapers continued to concentrate their wrath on Webb, who
was driven out of the profession (and committed suicide in December
2004). [See Consortiumnews.com's "America's
Debt to Journalist Gary Webb."]
The same patterns carried over into the 2000
election in which Democrat Al Gore faced withering attacks on his
credibility – often from made-up or exaggerated examples of his supposed
lying – while Republican George W. Bush got pretty much a free pass.
[For details, see the Consortiumnews.com’s "Protecting
Again, the conservative and mainstream media
outlets often worked in tandem, with the New York Times joining the
Washington Times in misquoting Gore about “inventing” the Internet or
claiming that “I was the one that started” the Love Canal toxic-waste
cleanup. Again, there were no consequences for reporters who got the
facts wrong. [For details, see the Consortiumnews.com’s "Al
Gore v. the Media."]
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only
deepened these tendencies.
The following month, for instance, a group of news
organizations completed a press recount of all legally cast votes in the
pivotal presidential election in Florida. The original purpose of the
recount had been simple: to determine which candidate the voters of
Florida actually had picked for president based on votes considered
legal under Florida law.
But the recount’s outcome presented a challenge.
Regardless of what standard was used for the famous chads – whether
perforated, hanging or fully punched through – Al Gore was the winner by
a narrow margin. In other words, if the state of Florida had been
allowed to count all its legally cast ballots, George W. Bush would not
be President. That finding, however, would have certainly drawn the
wrath of the administration and many Americans who were rallying around
Bush in the wake of Sept. 11.
The decision of the news executives was to simply
misrepresent the results. For the leads of their stories, the New York
Times, CNN and other news organizations arbitrarily ignored the legal
Florida ballots in which voters both marked and wrote in their choice,
the so-called “over-votes.”
By claiming, incorrectly, that these ballots would
not have been counted in the state-court-ordered recount, which was
stopped by Bush’s allies on the U.S. Supreme Court, the media outlets
kept up the pretense that Bush was the legitimate winner of Florida and
thus the White House. Though this manipulation of the vote tally was
noted by a few publications at the time, including this Web site, the
false reality of Bush’s Florida victory has become part of the American
Matrix. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s "So
Bush Did Steal the White House."]
The American Matrix grew, too, with the altering of
U.S. intelligence to buttress the case for war against Iraq.
As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh discovered,
a small group of neo-conservative ideologues, calling themselves the
Cabal and stationed at the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, reworked
U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to help justify
a U.S. invasion. The Cabal was organized by Deputy Defense Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of Bush’s policy of pre-emptive attack
against perceived American enemies, Hersh wrote in an article for The
“Special Plans was created in order to find
evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld, believed to be true – that Saddam Hussein had close ties to
al-Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological,
and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and,
potentially, the United States,” Hersh wrote, citing a Pentagon adviser
who supported the Cabal’s work.
Hersh also quoted a former Bush administration
intelligence official as saying he quit because “they were using the
intelligence from the CIA and other agencies only when it fit their
agenda. They didn’t like the intelligence they were getting, and so they
brought in people to write the stuff. They were so crazed and so far out
and so difficult to reason with – to the point of being bizarre.
Dogmatic, as if they were on a mission from God.”
Hersh found, too, that Wolfowitz and other key
neo-conservatives at the Pentagon were disciples of the late political
philosopher Leo Strauss, who believed that some deception of the
population is necessary in statecraft. “The whole story is complicated
by Strauss’s idea – actually Plato’s – that philosophers need to tell
noble lies not only to the people at large but also to powerful
politicians,” said Stephen Holmes, a law professor at New York
University. [The New Yorker, May 12, 2003]
While the post-Sept. 11 period was creating these
new openings for the Pentagon’s Straussians to manipulate the American
people, it was also offering enticing opportunities for the U.S. cable
news networks to “brand” themselves in red, white and blue.
While unapologetic flag-waving journalism on cable
news had been pioneered by Rupert Murdoch’s conservative Fox News
network, third-ranked MSNBC seized the new opportunity with the most
obvious zeal. The network, a Microsoft-General Electric collaboration,
dumped war critic Phil Donahue, adopted the administration’s title for
the war – “Operation Iraqi Freedom” – and emblazoned an American flag on
the corner of its screens, just like Fox.
During the war, MSNBC flooded its programming with
sentimental salutes to the troops, including mini-profiles of U.S.
soldiers in a feature called “America’s Bravest.” The network also
broadcast Madison Avenue-style promos of the war that featured images of
heroic U.S. troops and happy Iraqis, without any blood-stained images of
overflowing hospitals, terrified children or grieving mothers. The
promos carried messages, such as “Home of the Brave” and “Let Freedom
Reporting about U.S. military reversals during the
early days of the war also brought swift reprisals. When veteran war
correspondent Peter Arnett observed accurately to an Iraqi TV
interviewer that Iraqi military resistance was stiffer than U.S.
military planners had expected, he was fired by NBC and kicked off its
Web sites, such as this one, were hit with angry
e-mails from readers furious at any suggestion that the war was not a
total success or that the Bush administration had colored its
war-fighting scenarios with dangerous wishful thinking. Even taking note
of obvious facts, such as the failure of the administration’s initial
“shock and awe” bombing strategy, was controversial.
Ironically, while telling these truths real-time
could bring reprisals, Bush himself acknowledged their accuracy later.
“Shock and awe said to many people that all we’ve
got to do is unleash some might and people will crumble,” Bush said in
an interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw. “And it turns out the fighters were
a lot fiercer than we thought. …The resistance for our troops moving
south and north was significant resistance.” [NBC Nightly News
interview, released April 25, 2003]
As craven as the U.S. media’s behavior may have
been, flag-waving journalism worked where it counted – in the ratings
race. While MSNBC remained in third place among U.S. cable news outlets,
it posted the highest ratings growth in the lead-up to war and during
the actual fighting, up 124 percent compared with a year earlier. Fox
News, the industry leader, racked up a 102 percent gain and No. 2 CNN
rose 91 percent. [WSJ, April 21, 2003]
Though some Americans switched to BBC or CNN’s
international channels to find more objective war coverage, large
numbers of Americans clearly wanted the “feel-good” nationalism of Fox
News and MSNBC. Images of U.S. troops surrounded by smiling Iraqi
children were more appealing than knowing the full truth.
The full story of the Iraq War demanded unsettling
judgments about the slaughter of thousands of Iraqis and the maiming of
children, like the 12-year-old boy who lost both his arms and his family
to a U.S. bombing attack. Balanced coverage would have recognized that
many Iraqis reacted with coldness and hostility to U.S. forces, a
harbinger of the Iraqi resistance that was soon killing an average of one
or two U.S. soldiers a day.
To some foreigners, the uniformity in the U.S. war
coverage had the feel of a totalitarian state.
“There have been times, living in America of late,
when it seemed I was back in the Communist Moscow I left a dozen years
ago,” wrote Rupert Cornwell in the London-based Independent. “Switch to
cable TV and reporters breathlessly relay the latest wisdom from the
usual unnamed ‘senior administration officials,’ keeping us on the
straight and narrow. Everyone, it seems, is on-side and on-message. Just
like it used to be when the hammer and sickle flew over the Kremlin.”
Cornwell traced this lock-step U.S. coverage to the
influence of Fox News, which “has taken its cue from George Bush’s view
of the universe post-11 September – either you’re with us or against us.
Fox, most emphatically, is with him, and it’s paid off at the box
office. Not for Fox to dwell on uncomfortable realities like collateral
damage, Iraqi casualties, or the failure of the U.S. troops to protect
libraries and museums.” [Independent,
April 23, 2003]
But the U.S. cable news networks and talk radio
went beyond simply boosting the war. They often served as the Bush
administration’s public enforcers, seeking out and destroying Americans
who disagreed with the war policy.
Because one of the Dixie Chicks criticized Bush,
the music group faced an organized campaign to boycott their music
and destroy their careers. MSNBC offered up a program hosted by
Republican commentator Joe Scarborough asking why actors Sean Penn and
Tim Robbins, who criticized the war, were whining about retaliation.
“Sean Penn is fired from an acting job and finds
out that actions bring about consequences. Whoa, dude!” chortled
As justification for depriving Penn of work,
Scarborough cited a comment that Penn made while on a pre-war trip to
Iraq. Penn said, “I cannot conceive of any reason why the American
people and the world would not have shared with them the evidence that
they [Bush administration officials] claim to have of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” [MSNBC, May 18, 2003]
As it turned out, Penn’s pre-war comments were
equally valid after the invasion, as the U.S. and Great Britain desperately sought
confirmation of their WMD claims.
Many news executives might argue
that their jobs go beyond simply telling the American people the truth.
They also are concerned about national unity, especially at a time of
crisis. And they don’t want to be accused of undercutting U.S. troops at
Yet, there is a grave danger to both troops and
civilians when the news media sanitizes war. By keeping unpleasant
images from the American people, the news media feeds the illusion that
war is painless, even fun, something to be engaged in easily over slight
or imagined provocation. This sort of lazy thinking gets people killed
and can squander the wealth of the most powerful nations.
Among U.S. politicians, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.,
was the most forceful in addressing the dangers to democracy and to
U.S. troops that comes from pervasive government lying.
“No matter to what lengths we humans may go to
obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out
through the cracks, eventually,” Byrd said on the Senate floor on May
21. “But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The
danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized. The
reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts
and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue.”
Byrd continued, “Regarding the situation in Iraq,
it appears to this senator that the American people may have been lured
into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in
violation of long-standing international law, under false pretenses.
…The run-up to our invasion of Iraq featured the president and members
of his Cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from
mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to
deliver germ-laden death in our major cities. …
“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
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
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