Misinformation and the “war on terror”: When memory turns fiction into fact

Stephan Lewandowsky, Werner G K Stritzke, Klaus Oberauer, Michael Morales

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. (Descartes, Principles of Philosophy (1644)) “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction”; “we know where they are.” These statements, made in 2002 and 2003 by the US Vice President, Dick Cheney, and the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, respectively, turned out to have no basis in fact when the post-invasion search for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq failed to turn up any tools of chemical or biological warfare, let alone the massive stockpiles that US officials insisted had been hidden by the Iraqi regime. Notwithstanding, polls conducted in the United States for up to a year after the invasion, by which time the absence of WMDs had become fully evident and made public, continued to reveal a persistent belief in their existence among 20% to 40% of respondents (Kull et al., 2004; PIPA, 2004). Indeed, for several months after President Bush declared the war to have ended (May 1, 2003), some 20% of respondents additionally believed that Iraq had in fact used chemical or biological weapons on the battlefield during the immediately preceding conflict (Kull et al., 2004.) Lest one think that these figures merely represent some inertia of opinion, with those erroneous beliefs inexorably fading over time, polls conducted in March, 2006, revealed that nearly a quarter of Americans continued to believe that Iraq possessed WMDs just before the invasion (PIPA, 2006).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTerrorism and Torture: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages179-203
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9780511581199, 9780521898195
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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