Reposted: Anniversary of a lie

New blogger's note: Re-posted again, as it was last year. The only difference that matters is that hundreds of more Americans and thousands of more Iraqius have died since then. When a war is based on lies, one death is too many:

[Old] Blogger's note: There are some things in life that are perennials, and for good (and happy) reasons, like watching the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special" with my kids, just like my parents watched it with me. This, on the other hand, is a blog post that I wrote on March 19, 2005, in the very first month of Attytood.

Sadly, it is becoming a perennial -- I reposted it last year on this date, and now I am reposting it again. It was called "Anniversary of a Lie," and it shows the deliberate misinformation that not only clouded the run-up to war but its very first hours. Since I wrote this on March 19, 2005, about 2,000 more American troops and countless Iraqi civilians have died, in a war that started with a lie and won't end until people begin to confront the truth.

I hope and pray that I never have to post this again:

There's a number of moments that, as a journalist, we will never forget. Some of them we shared with most of the rest of you, like the horror of watching a plane strike the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Others were unique -- running into an emptying newsroom at 3:30 a.m. as the final raw votes for Al Gore trickled in from Florida, literally (and successfully) yelling, "Stop the presses."

One of the most memorable moments will mark its two-year anniversary around 10:15 p.m. tomorrow night. It happened on March 19, 2003 (Philadelphia time), the bloody opening salvo of the war in Iraq. Our newsroom at the Daily News was already on proverbial pins and needles, since President Bush had been making it pretty clear since early 2002 that there would be a war in Iraq, come hell or high water.

But the question was when, and how. On March 19, 2003, we were ready to head home for the night when the first bulletins leaked out. Bush had authorized a strike on Baghdad -- not the massive "shock and awe" we were all expecting, though that would come later, but a supposed pinpoint strike on a "target of opportunity." That undoubtedly meant Saddam Hussein, and maybe his two sons.

The "kill shot" was the kind of thing that electrified those of us who were still in the newsroom, since it wasn't at all the conventional move we were expecting. Odd as it sounds when viewed through the haze of everything that's happened in the 731 days since then, but we also felt a strange kind of hope that night -- hope that an undeniably repulsive dictator might be killed, and that a ground and air war that would kill many Americans and innocent Iraqi civilians could be avoided.

Here's what we wrote that night:

THE UNITED STATES last night launched a daring opener to its war on Iraq by going for all the marbles in just one shot.

U.S. cruise missiles and F-117A Stealth bombers directly targeted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in what officials called a "decapitation attempt" to kill him and his top aides in Baghdad in one surgical strike.

Military officials said there had been a "target of opportunity."

In the next few hours and over the next few days, there were all kind of reports and rumors. The target was a heavily fortified bunker called Dora Farm where Saddam often slept. Some said that Saddam was badly wounded, and maybe taken away in an ambulance. Some reports suggested that one or both of the dictator's sons had been killed.

Here's a BBC article that captures the essence of the reports, many peddled by "senior administration officials":

Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said on Thursday he had been told that intelligence officials do think some of the Iraqi military leadership were killed in the bombing.

Officials told the Washington Post they believe the Iraqi leader, and possibly one or both of his sons, Qusay and Uday, were inside a compound in southern Baghdad when it was bombed.

"The preponderance of the evidence is he was there when the building blew up," the newspaper quoted one official as saying.

....Several reports describe the target as a residential site where the Iraqi president and his sons may have been sleeping.

But the Washington Post quoted "a knowledgeable official" as saying the location was an underground bunker, which was part of a secure compound guarded by the Special Security Organisation, which protects the president and is commanded by his younger son Qusay.

Yes, it was an "exciting" moment -- but with two years of hindsight, we now know that the start of war in Iraq was exactly like so much of what came both before and after March 19, 2003. It was wrong, at best, and an out-and-out baldfaced lie, at worst...100 percent, unadulterated Grade A baloney, and one of the worst batches at that.

If Saddam was even at Dora Farms -- and there's no evidence he was -- he obviously was not seriously wounded. We now know that the dictator's odious sons, Uday and Qusay, lived to fight another day, as did the regime's military leadership.

A bunker was not destroyed.

There was no bunker at Dora Farm.