The address continued a shift in the administration's emphasis as it has justified the Iraq war, beginning with the threat posed by Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction, continuing to the need to promote democracy in the Middle East and now suggesting a more seamless link to the [9/11] attacks on American soil.
--Peter Baker and Dana Milbank in The Washington Post
"Now suggesting"? "Now suggesting"?
What planet have Baker and Milbank been on for the past three years?
Bush speech to the United Nations, September 12, 2002:
Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq....
With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.
Bush's State of the Union address, January 28, 2003:
Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.
Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on board the Abraham Lincoln, May 1, 2003:
The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on....
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding.
Oh, well -- I guess what this really means is that it's now politically acceptable for everyone in the Beltway to notice and acknowledge that Bush is doing this. I'm reminded of what Alexander Cockburn, in a subscriber-only Nation column about the Downing Street Memo, says about how the political class determines what does and doesn't constitute a "smoking gun":
Fairly early in the game, it was clear to about 95 percent of the population that Nixon was a liar, a crook and guilty as charged. But the committee rooms on Capitol Hill and the Sunday talk shows were still filled with people holding up guns with smoke pouring from the barrel telling one another solemnly that no, the appearance of smoke and stench of recently detonated cordite notwithstanding, this was not yet the absolute, definitive smoking gun.
So it became clear that the great smoking-gun hunt was really about timing, about gauging the correct temperature of the political waters. Then suddenly, in the late summer of 1974, that impalpable entity known as elite sentiment sensed that the scandal was becoming subversive of public order, that it was time to throw Nixon overboard and move on. A "new" tape--though hundreds of others had already made Nixon's guilt plain--was swiftly identified as "the smoking gun" and presto! Nixon was on the next plane to California.
I guess that impalpable entity known as elite sentiment has now sensed that it's time to be shocked, shocked, at Bush's evocation of 9/11 to justify war in Iraq.