Antiwar forces distribute outrageous disinformation

Wednesday, March 19, 2003 at 1:00am

Hiram Johnson, the great California senator, famously remarked: "When war comes, the first casualty is truth." And so it is with the coming war against Iraq.

But it is not the Bush administration that is speaking untruth to justify military force against Saddam Hussein's rogue regime; it's the antiwar minority. But no lies are more outrageous than the following:

That President Bush is rushing to war, needlessly placing America's troops in harm's way. One year and one day after the Sept. 11 attacks, the president went to the United Nations and laid out the case for action against Saddam's regime. The U.N. Security Council responded this past November by unanimously approving Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam's regime "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations."

Well, four months after the U.N. Security Council issued its ultimatum to Iraq, Saddam still has not complied with those disarmament obligations. He has had more than enough time.

That the war is about oil. Robert Fisk, The London Independent's Middle East correspondent, is one of more than a few conspiracy theorists who has concluded that America's beef with Saddam "isn't about chemical warheads or human rights," but about black gold.

"Along with the concern for 'vital interests' in the Gulf," he wrote in a recent commentary piece, "this war was concocted five years ago by oil men such as Dick Cheney."

But Fisk, and other antiwar types like him, have turned logic on its head. For if the United States were interested in increasing its access to Iraqi oil, the best way to accomplish that is not by going to war with Saddam. It's by advocating that the U.N. Security Council lift economic sanctions on Baghdad

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