Whenever I discuss the colossal mistake that was and is the Iraq war and the embarrassing lack of WMDs, some defender of that war always insists that “everyone” thought Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Well, no, not everyone did, including the weapons inspectors. But the “everyone” who counts the most are those who wield the most power, or as Vice President Dick Cheney said in 2002: “Stated simply, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

Cheney was wrong. “Everyone” was wrong.

And “everyone” is wrong today about Iran and their supposed WMDs. You might be asking, “How does some minor league columnist from Charleston, S.C., possess the proper intel to refute what Washington leaders and our national media are all saying about Iran’s nuclear capabilities?”

That’s easy. They’re all full of crap.

In hindsight, virtually everything our leaders told us about the supposed threat posed by Iraq was either a lie or a drastic exaggeration to garner public support for a war that was unnecessary. These are the same leaders who lied about or exaggerated the immediate need for the $787 billion TARP bill, a criminal piece of legislation that recently passed its one-year mark having accomplished nothing.

I opposed the war in Iraq and TARP for the same reason — politicians tell any lie necessary to get what they want. In Iraq, I knew the neoconservatives who ran the Bush administration had been aching to invade that country long before 9/11, something they made clear on numerous occasions. I watched them manipulate facts, twist logic, and shamelessly use the terrorist attacks as their public excuse for their war, knowing full well their true motives lie elsewhere.

Since Iraq, this same crowd has had their hearts set on invading Iran. When Iran recently admitted the existence of a second uranium enrichment facility, it quickly — and predictably — became 2002 all over again. (“Oh no, WMDs!)

The duplicity of our leaders is staggering. Just this summer, dissidents in Iran took to the streets, posing a serious challenge to the ruling regime. American neoconservatives chastised Obama for not coming out strongly in their support. Why did they want our government to support Iran’s dissidents? Because if things worsened, the U.S. would have assumed a degree of moral responsibility for the deteriorating conditions, creating a stronger case for an American invasion of Iran.

Now the same leaders who pretended to support the opposition to Iran’s ruling regime are the staunchest endorsers of sanctions, which would punish the very same dissidents. Or as opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi told The Washington Post: “Sanctions would not affect the government but would impose many hardships upon the people, who suffer enough as a result of the calamity of their insane rulers.”

We’ve heard this all before. WMDs? Iraq is behind 9/11? Saddam is the “next Hitler?” It was all bogus. Today it’s, Iran has nuclear weapons? Tehran poses a threat to the U.S.? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the “next Hitler?” Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …

Ex-CIA officer Philip Giraldi puts it best: “The real question for the United States and its citizens should be whether or not Iran constitutes a serious danger and whether the threat level mandates Washington’s launching of another war on the heels of two unsuccessful forays into the Muslim world. Many Americans might also observe that the cost of such a journey into darkness would have a catastrophic effect on a crumbling U.S. economy. One could reasonably ask why Congress and the media seem intent on setting the U.S. on a path that can only lead to war, a conflict that could easily have consequences that would gravely damage the United States and its people. Remember the WMD, pilotless drones, chemical weapon labs, and mushroom clouds? The same song is being sung again, but this time everyone should recognize a con job when they see it coming.”

But I fear too few will see it. Conservatives who see a socialist conspiracy behind every move Obama makes are still incapable of believing our government could ever conspire to take us to war, and liberals who were once antiwar will give their hero Obama the benefit of the doubt, as both parties dish out the same crap that got us into Iraq.

In 2002, I was called a fool or worse for saying Iraq posed no threat to the U.S. In 2009, I have no qualms saying that Americans have far more to fear from their government leaders who get more excited over the idea that Iran might have WMDs than the existence of any actual WMDs in Iran.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.