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McCain's Anthrax Pretext for War with Iraq

August 1, 2008

Republican presidential nominee John McCain is fond of claiming, "I know how to win wars." Apparently, he also has ideas about how to start them. In the fall of 2001, McCain suggested the recent anthrax attacks that so terrified Americans might be a perfect pretext for war with Iraq.
That revelation comes via ThinkProgress in the wake of this morning's revelations about the suicide of Bruce Ivins, the Fort Detrick biodefense researcher about to be indicted for the 2001 attacks. As it turns out, McCain like other conservatives was quick - and only too happy - to point the finger at Saddam Hussein. Appearing on the David Letterman show on October 18, 2001, McCain suggested that the anthrax attacks augured a "second phase" in the war on terror, this time against Baghdad:

LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?
MCCAIN: I think we're doing fine...I think we'll do fine. The second phase - if I could just make one, very quickly - the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may - and I emphasize may - have come from Iraq.
LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?
MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that's when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.

Whether or not Ivins was guilty of the allegations remains to be seen and may never be known. But thanks in part to spurious government leaks abetted by media outlets like ABC, John McCain and his allies in the Bush administration looked to that mysterious white powder as magic pixie dust for starting a war with Iraq seven years ago.
The timing of McCain's 2001 jaw-dropping attempt to manufacture a casus belli with Baghdad couldn't be more ironic. Only yesterday, ThinkProgress detailed Seymour Hersh's assertion that Vice President Cheney hoped to start a shooting war with Tehran by deploying bogus Iranian PT boats manned by Navy SEALS who would in turn trigger an incident in the Persian Gulf. And Kevin Drum reminded us, British memos revealed that in January 2003 President Bush proposed disguising U.S. aircraft flying over Iraq in UN colors to lure Saddam to fire on them.
As I noted earlier this week, John McCain's record on Iraq disqualifies him using the very commander-in-chief test he touts. Now we can add ham-handed efforts to gin up a conflict with Saddam over the 2001 anthrax attacks to list of reasons why John McCain must never occupy the White House.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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