This really shouldn’t be a surprise, but I was a bit surprised. The official British investigation into those trailers decided they weren’t WMD labs. They were, apparently, hydrogen gas producing units, which is exactly what the Iraqis claimed they were. The Brits may have had an easier time figuring this out, since Iraq’s original artillery balloon systems were sold to Iraq by a British company.
So let’s go back to the surprise. Why was I surprised? Because I can’t help believing, on some level, that there are WMD in Iraq. Despite the fact that no Iraqi official has decided to let us know where they are, and despite the fact that we can’t find the tens of thousands of tons of WMD that Bush claimed, and despite the fact that Iraq didn’t use ‘em even at the 11th hour — some of me says “Well, they must be there.”
Thus, you can point at me and say “Look! There’s someone who was against the war, yet he believed in WMD!” However, it might be instructive to think about why I sorta believe in WMD. (On a gut level, let me emphasize. My brain strongly suspects we won’t find any, and it’s right.)
I thought there were WMD in Iraq because I didn’t think the President of the United States of America would mislead us about that kind of thing.
Truly. If Bush had gotten up and said “We’re pretty sure there aren’t any of those in Iraq,” I would have said “Oh… OK.” I mean, why wouldn’t I buy that? Doesn’t the President have access to better intelligence than I do? He absolutely does. So when he beat the drums so passionately and warned us in such uncertain terms that Iraq had WMD — I bought into it. I believed it because he said so, and I still have a little part of me that believes it because it’s so hard to wrap my mind around such a grievous lack of accuracy.
I don’t feel too bad about this. The technique known as the Big Lie works, and whether or not Bush consciously lied he used that technique. I’d use a better name for it if I had one. It comes down to someone in a position of authority saying something with absolutely no doubt in his or her tone; people believe that, because the consequences of thinking that the authority figure is lying loom large in our hindbrain.
Bush may well not have meant to mislead us. (Josh Marshall has a great piece on this, by the by.) But the effect was certainly misleading.