If wishful thinking fails, hawks can always fall back on blaming the messenger. In a June 10 op-ed in the New York Post, the Heritage Foundation's Peter Brookes suggested that if intelligence analysts felt bullied by the Bush administration to cook the evidence, it was their fault for not resisting the pressure. The same day, the Post's John Podhoretz weighed in with the warning that anyone who accuses Bush of planting WMD evidence will be exceeding the bounds of "taste, logic, good sense or reason."
The most cynical strategy involves expressing disbelief that our leaders are capable of lying. "Does anybody believe that President Bush [and his military brass] ordered U.S. soldiers outside Baghdad to don heavy, bulky chemical-weapon suits in scorching heat . . . to maintain a charade?" wrote Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post on June 13. On June 4, Brookes explained why Bush and company are too smart to lie: If they intentionally deceived the public, "not finding the weapons would then spell big trouble for administration officials. Why tell a lie they knew would eventually come to light?" The New York Post's Deroy Murdock chimed in on June 14 with the opposite argumentthese guys are actually too dumb to lie. "Were Bush and Blair clever enough [to have hyped WMD]," wrote Murdock, "they should be crafty enough by now to have 'discovered' enough botulinum to have justified hostilities."
In retrospect, the Bush administration's most publicized war stories have all been the products of smoke and mirrors. Contrary to the initial hype, the Hussein "decapitation strike" turned up no bodies and no bunkers. Chemical Ali walked out alive. Jessica Lynch was never shot, stabbed, or tortured by Iraqis. And despite all the hot tips Ahmad Chalabi spoon-fed to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, the WMD search teams have not found a single silver bullet or smoking gun. The war on Iraq is a Byzantine puzzle that begins and ends with a lie. The media have an obligation to expose it.