Around the Defense Tech dinner table in the 1980's, there was a common theme (other than would my brother finally eat his vegetables): Was Ronald Reagan a conniving genius, a guy who willfully ignored the facts, or just a complete idiot?I find myself asking the same questions after reading this L.A. Times story about Dick Cheney today.

Vice President Dick Cheney revived two controversial assertions about the war in Iraq on Thursday, declaring there was "overwhelming evidence" that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Al Qaeda and that two trailers discovered after the war were proof of Iraq's biological weapons programs...U.S. intelligence officials agree that there was contact between Hussein's agents and Al Qaeda members as far back as a decade ago and that operatives with ties to Al Qaeda had at times found safe haven in Iraq. But no intelligence has surfaced to suggest a deeper relationship, and other information turned up recently has suggested that significant ties were unlikely.Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is in custody, has told American interrogators that Al Qaeda rejected the idea of any working relationship with Iraq, which was seen by the terrorist network as a corrupt, secular regime. When Hussein was captured last month, he was found with a document warning his supporters to be wary of working with foreign fighters."There's nothing I have seen or read that backs [Cheney] up," said Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who called Cheney's remarks Thursday "perplexing."Cheney also argued that the main thrust of the administration's case for war the claim that Iraq was assembling weapons of mass destruction had been validated by the discovery of two flatbed trailers outfitted with tanks and other equipment."We've found a couple of semi-trailers at this point which we believe were in fact part of [a WMD] program," Cheney said. "I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did in fact have programs for weapons of mass destruction."That view is at odds with the judgment of the government's lead weapons inspector, David Kay, who said in an interim report in October that "we have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile [biological weapons] production effort."
THERE'S MORE: "Given enough time, Iraq certainly could have and probably would have developed CBW weaponry, and probably would have formed closer ties with Al Qaeda. By going into Iraq we pre-empted those possibilities," writes Defense Tech dad (and dinner table talk leader) Tom Shachtman. "Cheney could have said that, and been more believable. We really need to get beyond the seeming imperative, in our culture, that politicians must not admit to having been wrong."AND MORE: "How about conniving genius liar?" asks Defense Tech reader MB. "All you have to do is look at the numbers of people the polls show still believe in the Al Qaida connection and WMD. These claims have been completely debunked, so Bush can no longer tell such bald lies to continue to reinforce these ideas among the rubes, but Cheney as VP is not subject to the same rules. So he keeps telling the lies, and the rubes keep falling for them, but Bush keeps his hands squeaky clean."AND MORE: "David Kay, who stepped down as leader of the U.S. hunt for weapons of mass destruction, said on Friday he does not believe there were any large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq," according to Reuters."I don't think they existed," Kay tells the wire service. "What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the last (1991) Gulf War and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s."
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