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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Half in U.S. Believe Iraq Had WMD

A Harris Poll released last month found that 50 percent of U.S. respondents believe Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction when the U.S.-led invasion began in 2003, the Associated Press reported yesterday (see GSN, July 31).

A 2005 poll placed the figure at 36 percent.

Experts said that talk radio, bloggers, continued insistence from the Bush administration and a need for people to justify the war in Iraq for themselves contributed to the increase.

“As perception grows of worsening conditions in Iraq, it may be that Americans are just hoping for more of a solid basis for being in Iraq to begin with,” said the Harris Poll’s David Krane.

“I’m flabbergasted,” said media critic Michael Massing. “This finding just has to cause despair among those of us who hope for an informed public able to draw reasonable conclusions based on evidence.”

Two weeks before the poll, Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) released an intelligence report saying 500 chemical munitions had been collected in Iraq since the invasion, according to AP (see GSN, June 30).

“I think the Harris Poll was measuring people’s surprise at hearing this after being told for so long there were no WMD in the country,” said Hoekstra spokesman Jamal Ware.

However, the Defense Department and independent experts said the abandoned arms, found scattered throughout Iraq, were at least 15 years old and could no longer be used as artillery ordnance.

“These are not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction,” said Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector. “They weren’t deliberately withheld from inspectors by the Iraqis.”

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll found that 70 percent of the U.S. population perceives the Bush administration as continuing to insist that Iraq had an unconventional weapons program. Coupled with news of WMD “finds,” this causes people — particularly Republicans — to “assume the issue is still in play,” said analyst Steven Kull. “For some it almost becomes independent of reality and becomes very partisan” (Charles Hanley, Associated Press/Washington Post, Aug. 6).
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