U.S. public opinion shift detected
Half of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when
the United States invaded the country in 2003 -- up from 36 percent last year,
a Harris poll finds. Pollsters deemed the increase both "substantial"
and "surprising" in light of persistent press reports to the contrary
in recent years.
The survey did not speculate on what caused the shift in opinion, which supports
President Bush's original rationale for going to war. Respondents were questioned
in early July after the release of a Defense Department intelligence report
that revealed coalition forces recovered 500 aging chemical weapons containing
mustard or sarin gas nerve agents in Iraq.
"Filled and unfilled pre-Gulf War chemical munitions are assessed to still
exist," said Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, during a June
21 press conference detailing the newly declassified information.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
who shared the podium, said, "Iraq was not a WMD-free zone."
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