It’s almost axiomatic…
“THE PRESIDENT CONVINCED the country with a mixture of documents that turned out to be forged and blatantly false assertions that Saddam was in league with al Qaeda,” claimed former Vice President Al Gore last Wednesday.
“There’s absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever,” declared Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism official under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, in an interview on March 21, 2004.
The editor of the Los Angeles Times labeled as “myth” the claim that links between Iraq and al Qaeda had been proved. A recent dispatch from Reuters simply asserted, “There is no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.” 60 Minutes anchor Lesley Stahl was equally certain: “There was no connection.”
And on it goes. This conventional wisdom–that our two most determined enemies were not in league, now or ever–is comforting. It is also wrong.
When that many people -especially in the press- saying something controversial is true then it is almost universally false. (and vice versa)
The of above is from a compelling story in the Weekly Standard titled, The Connection: The Collaboration of Iraq and al Qaeda by Steven Hayes.
Hayes, who has recently released a book on the connections between Hussein and al Qaeda, chronicles those connections starting well BEFORE 9/11. He also takes notice of the changing stories from the those who should know better.
THERE WAS A TIME not long ago when the conventional wisdom skewed heavily toward a Saddam-al Qaeda links. In 1998 and early 1999, the Iraq-al Qaeda connection was widely reported in the American and international media. Former intelligence officers and government officials speculated about the relationship and its dangerous implications for the world. The information in the news reports came from foreign and domestic intelligence services. It was featured in mainstream media outlets including international wire services, prominent newsweeklies, and network radio and television broadcasts.
Newsweek magazine ran an article in its January 11, 1999, issue headed “Saddam + Bin Laden?” “Here’s what is known so far,” it read:
Saddam Hussein, who has a long record of supporting terrorism, is trying to rebuild his intelligence network overseas–assets that would allow him to establish a terrorism network. U.S. sources say he is reaching out to Islamic terrorists, including some who may be linked to Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa last summer.
Four days later, on January 15, 1999, ABC News reported that three intelligence agencies believed that Saddam had offered asylum to bin Laden:
Intelligence sources say bin Laden’s long relationship with the Iraqis began as he helped Sudan’s fundamentalist government in their efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. . . . ABC News has learned that in December, an Iraqi intelligence chief named Faruq Hijazi, now Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey, made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad.
NPR reporter Mike Shuster interviewed Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, and offered this report:
Iraq’s contacts with bin Laden go back some years, to at least 1994, when, according to one U.S. government source, Hijazi met him when bin Laden lived in Sudan. According to Cannistraro, Iraq invited bin Laden to live in Baghdad to be nearer to potential targets of terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. . . . Some experts believe bin Laden might be tempted to live in Iraq because of his reported desire to obtain chemical or biological weapons. CIA Director George Tenet referred to that in recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee when he said bin Laden was planning additional attacks on American targets.
By mid-February 1999, journalists did not even feel the need to qualify these claims of an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. An Associated Press dispatch that ran in the Washington Post ended this way: “The Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against Western powers.”
Where did journalists get the idea that Saddam and bin Laden might be coordinating efforts? Among other places, from high-ranking Clinton administration officials.
Indeed, the fact Saddam helped, even funded, Islamic terrorists was well documented long before 9/11. It was common knowledge before Susan Sarandon ran a commercial that said otherwise and started the myth rolling.
The people claiming Bin Laden and Hussein would not cooperate base it on the sole fact that bin Laden is more devout than Hussein. The whole idea that the two men would not help each other because of that, is quite frankly, bizarre. Would these same people argue that a devout Pro-Life Catholic voter would never vote for a Pro-Life, non-practicing Catholic? It’s absurd.
The whole story is well worth the read especially if you believe the myth. It does NOT PROVE the case that Saddam was involved in the exact workings of the 9/11 conspiracy nor does it attempt to. It does lay out some of the numerous times Iraq helped al Qaeda in the past, some of which may have contributed to 9/11 in however a tangental way. Hayes does however, prove the idiocy of the blanket statement that there were no connections.
It also shows the media for being the tools many of them are. Reporting one thing as fact when the political winds supported it, then changing their tunes when the political winds changed. As they say, read the whole thing.