President Bush may still believe in the pre-war Iraq-al Qaida connection as much as a 5-year old does in Santa Claus, but the editorial boards of several major newspapers are no longer deluded -- thanks in large part to this week's revelation by the 9/11 commission that Iraq and al-Qaida had no working relationship.
The Financial Times: "Whether the Osama and Saddam thesis was more the result of self-delusion or cynical manipulation, it -- along with Washington's mismanagement of the whole Iraqi adventure -- has been enormously damaging."
"The Bush administration has misled the American people. It has isolated the US, as American diplomats and commanders pointed out this week. And its bungling in Iraq has given new and terrifying life to the cult of death sponsored by Osama bin Laden. Above all, it inspires little confidence it is capable of defeating the spreading al-Qaeda franchise, which always was the clear and present danger."
The New York Times: "It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11. Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different."
The Los Angeles Times: "Though Zarqawi may be directing attacks against Americans in Iraq, and Baghdad may now be Terror Central, it is a consequence of the war itself."
The Miami Herald: "As long as the administration insists on the 9/11 connection, its solution to the Iraqi problem will be based on false assumptions. The 9/11 panel's report, based on the findings of U.S. intelligence and unencumbered by political considerations, should be the last word on the subject."
Finally, proving that disillusion with Bush exists even deep in Red State country, the Salt Lake Tribune published this gem: "No matter what the Bush administration did or did not say about it, it is now clear that Saddam Hussein was not involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that any support for the Iraqi war based on the assumption that he was involved was misplaced. Misplaced, widely held and, most disturbingly, still given life by the president himself."
Whether any of this changes the minds of those Americans who still believe Iraq was involved in 9/11 is yet to be seen. A poll released today by Harris Interactive shows almost half of all adults 48 percent -- believe there is clear evidence that Iraq was supporting al-Qaida. The survey took place before the 9/11 commission issued its staff statement on the topic, however.