The official search for WMDs in Iraq has ended. The most dangerous weapons we were told to fear two years ago weren't found.

This news is actually not new. Dafna Linzer of Washingtonpost.com reported last week that Charles A. Duelfer, the CIA's top weapons hunter, submitted a report to Congress four months ago that contradicted nearly every pre-war assertion by top Bush administration officials. This report will now stand as final and will be published later this spring.

Slandered liberals would have every right to roll their eyes at unflappable Bush/War supporters and sigh, "Told you so!" Little good it would do anyway. They'd have to brace for a bombardment of newspeak.

"Saddam was a ruthless tyrant who killed his own people."

Tyranny was, and is, not limited to Iraq. We should certainly care, but will we go to war everywhere tyranny occurs? Saddam's removal is more likely about Iraq's oil resources and its strategic importance to those with military, political and corporate interests than altruism.

"Saddam would've given WMDs to Al Qaeda."

The Sept. 11 Commission found no proof to validate this assumption. Although Al Qaeda did contact Iraq for possible cooperation over 10 years ago, Iraq did not respond meaningfully. There was no collaborative relationship established. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Unfortunately too many people now make little distinction between the Muslims involved with that attack and Muslims everywhere.

"Even if Saddam didn't have weapons, he would have eventually."

Preemptive means don't justify an end based on selective paranoia. To assume we have the right to start wars based on "maybe" is arrogant, irrational and shows lack of caring for those caught up in "collateral damage."

"We couldn't afford to wait for an attack."

True enough, but only when it's clear and necessary. We did not have to go to war with Iraq. The "intelligence" that presented Iraq as an imminent, next-day threat was overstated. The one man who would know, Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector, said as much two years ago.

"Iraq wants democracy."

Not if Fallujah, a city of historic mosques and over 250,000 residents, is demolished in the process. Democracy is still an intangible idea, at best, to them. It's safe to assume they'd prefer their homes intact, fresh drinking water and jobs first.

"We have to bring the fight to the terrorists."

That was plausible for Afghanistan, not Iraq. The invasion, if anything, invited the possibility of more terrorism to Iraq. The jingo for it now is "insurgency." Those called insurgents probably include people traumatized and angered by seeing another woman or child caught up in "collateral damage."

The estimated number of civilian casualties since the war began ranges wildly. Iraq Bodycount, an organization that tabulates deaths reported in the news since the start of the war, came up with a figure close to 15,000. A respected British medical journal called Lancet published, last October, a number closer to 98,000 (deaths and injuries) based on random sampling of population. Their report also claims that civilian deaths are more likely the result of U.S. air strikes than terrorism.

The Economist recently reported a number over 40,000. We know that, as of Jan. 14, there have been 1,366 U.S combat deaths and over 10,000 wounded.

Whatever this administration's goal, how much death and injury to human beings, with jobs and families, are worth the reason of the moment? How does one quantify such a thing? Imagine losing a loved one to a smart bomb that failed calculus or for reasons that morph as they crumble apart.

To ask questions is being called treason by many. Sometime, somewhere, this has happened before.

Many Americans have been completely deluded by this administration. In turn they delude themselves, not wanting to face the pride-crushing possibility that they misplaced their trust in someone who, at best, was himself duped by faulty intelligence, or, at worst, willfully misled us. Incompetence, deception or good intentions gone awry: take your pick. Clinton faced impeachment for less.

The campaign to garner support for war, based on the wounds of 9/11, was so effective that many are still willing to regurgitate excuse after excuse to explain away the fact that the original justification for war was exaggerated. It's the political version of an abused spouse who continues to make excuses for his or her abuser.

A leader with real integrity would own up to what happened on his watch, like a captain who's responsible for the conduct of his troops. Mistakes were made and there is no explaining that away.

The right thing to do would be to leave and let a sovereign country deal with its own affairs. Naturally, Iraq's interim government doesn't want that now. There'd be no barrier between them and the wrath of their countrymen upset at their collaboration with foreign invaders, which continues to result in the destruction of their country and injury to their loved ones, all for reasons that were exaggerated.

Those with sincere compassion for other human beings are not wrong for questioning whether the suffering inflicted on us and Iraq is necessary for our protection.

The case for preemptive war has failed thus far.

Keep this in mind if talk of war with Iran ever gathers steam.

Ronnie Wright is an ElmCity editor.