How The Lies About WMD Continue To Work

Fully half of Americans now believe something that is plainly, objectively and demonstrably untrue.
07/25/2006 05:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

This story may be one of the most depressing I've seen in a while:


Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 -- up from 36 percent last year, a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both "substantial" and "surprising" in light of persistent press reports to the contrary in recent years.

Fully half of Americans now believe something that is plainly, objectively and demonstrably untrue. This make anyone else want to cry?

Not Glenn Reynolds, apparently. The Instapundit, commenting on this story, flippantly remarked, "Apparently, trust in 'persistent press reports' isn't what it used to be."

Reynolds' analysis is, as usual, 180 degrees off the mark. I'd argue instead that it's precisely the "persistent press reports" that have been so effective in convincing half the public that an out-and-out lie is somehow truthful.

Just look at the Washington Times article promoting the poll:

The survey did not speculate on what caused the shift in opinion, which supports President Bush's original rationale for going to war. Respondents were questioned in early July after the release of a Defense Department intelligence report that revealed coalition forces recovered 500 aging chemical weapons containing mustard or sarin gas nerve agents in Iraq.

"Filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still exist," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, during a June 21 press conference detailing the newly declassified information.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who shared the podium, said, "Iraq was not a WMD-free zone."

Unsurprisingly, both the Moonie Times and Reynolds allow this line of bull to go unchallenged. But, as those of us who pay attention to reality know, Santorum and Hoekstra are full of it.

From a previous post, here's Keith Olbermann quoting a statement by David Kay, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group:

Senator Santorum's comments are, quote, "wrong to the facts and exaggerated beyond all reason as to the interpretation of the facts."

He continued, "There is no surprise that very small numbers of chemical canisters from the Iran-Iraq war have been found. The ISG found them. And in my testimony in 2004, I said that I expected that we would continue to find them for a very long time. These are in very small numbers and are scattered. The nerve agents have long since degraded to the point that they no longer pose any substantial threat. In most cases, the mustard agent has substantially degraded but will burn your skin--burn you," rather, "if skin comes in contact with it."

Of course, the Department of Defense has also debunked Santorum and Hoekstra -- for God's sake, even Fox News reported that.

But it doesn't matter. Because shills like Reynolds, Sean Hannity and the Times will keep up their "persistent press reports," making sure the lie is repeated often enough that, sadly, people begin to buy it.

This post originally appeared on my new blog for the online magazine Dragonfire. You can check out the blog at http://dfiremedia.org.