Do you believe in Iraqi "WMD"? Did Saddam Hussein's government have weapons of mass destruction in 2003?
Half of America apparently still thinks so, a new poll finds, and experts see a raft of reasons why: a drumbeat of voices from talk radio to die-hard bloggers to the Oval Office, a surprise headline here or there, a rallying around a partisan flag, and a growing need for people, in their own minds, to justify the war in Iraq.
Despite this, a Harris Poll released July 21 found that a full 50 percent of U.S. respondents � up from 36 percent last year � said they believe Iraq did have the forbidden arms when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003, an attack whose stated purpose was elimination of supposed WMD. Other polls also have found an enduring American faith in the WMD story.
"I'm flabbergasted," said Michael Massing, a media critic whose writings dissected the largely unquestioning U.S. news reporting on the Bush administration's shaky WMD claims in 2002-03.
"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," Massing said.
Timing may explain some of the poll result. Two weeks before the survey, two Republican lawmakers, Pennsylvania's Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record) and Michigan's Rep. Peter Hoekstra (news, bio, voting record), released an intelligence report in Washington saying 500 chemical munitions had been collected in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.
"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.