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Breaking News: No Operational Relationship Between Iraq and Al Qaeda

By Brian | March 14, 2008 | Share on Facebook

News flash! The Pentagon will release a report on Wednesday that shows that there was no operational link between Iraq and Al Qaeda:

Sponsored by the Pentagon, the report found no “direct operational link” between Saddam’s government in Iraq and bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terror ring before the U.S. invasion, an official told McClatchy.

The Bush administration put forth the argument that there was a connection between Saddam and bin Laden when it made the case to go to war with Iraq after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Ah ha! We’ve got ‘em now! This is big news! They LIED to us! Rumsfeld himself said there was “bulletproof evidence” that Al Qaeda were in Iraq. And now, six years and 600,000 documents later, we finally find out that it’s all untrue! What shocking, shocking news!

At least it was back in July of 2004, when the 9/11 Commission Report was released.

Here is the first half of Page 66 of that report:

There is also evidence that around this time Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein’s efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin.[74]In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative.

In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December.[75]

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides’ hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.[76]

The sources cited above are unnamed intelligence reports from 1998, 1999 and 2001, as well as a CIA report called “Ansar al-Islam:Al Qa’ida’s Ally in Northeastern Iraq,” CTC 2003-40011CX, Feb. 1, 2003. An Al Qaeda operative also claimed that the two sides discussed chemical weapons and explosives training, but then later recanted that testimony (Report footnotes: p. 470).

OK, so two things:

First, it continues to amaze me that people can’t understand the difference between “no relationship” and “no operational relationship.” Back in 2002-2003, here’s what we knew: Meetings in Iraq in March of 1998, meetings in Afghanistan in July of 1998, and similar meetings in 1999. And so, when asked, the President and the SecDef both claimed evidence of a relationship. After interrogating prisoners, capturing documents in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continued intelligence gathering, we reached the conclusion that this relationship never blossomed into anything operational.

So, like the weapons of mass destruction, we got it wrong. Evidence existed on both sides, and Bush/Rumsfeld picked the wrong side. Were they cherry picking to put the nation on a war footing? Probably. Were they knowingly lying to the American people to line the pockets of Haliburton? Well, that’s quite a leap, given what we’ve read above. But, for reasons that continue to mystify me, it’s simply not good enough to stand up and shout, “Bush was wrong!” It has to be “Bush lied!”

Of course, I’m screaming into the wind here. “Bush lied” has been printed, spoken and repeated so many times, that the above three paragraphs read like some Limbaugh/Hannity One Act play, rather than the careful result of the most respected bi-partisan commission in the country’s history. C’est la guerre, I guess…

Second thing: why is this considered shocking news in March of 2008? I know not everyone has read the 9/11 Commission report, but surely someone in the news media has, no? Hasn’t anyone realized that this “shocking news” is four years old? I mean they even use the same term – “operational relationship.” It’s like the media is plagiarizing itself.

Now, there’s a scandal…

Topics: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Breaking News: No Operational Relationship Between Iraq and Al Qaeda”

  1. jason says at March 14th, 2008 at 12:56 pm :
    I think the reason why this is news, why we keep needing reports to restate what was known years ago is that so many people still believe exactly the opposite. I know individuals who are still convinced that Saddam signed papers giving the 9/11 terrorists their “go orders,” even after the 9/11 Commission Report, and probably this new report will do little to change their minds. And the reason these people believe this is because the Bush administration did such a fine job of creating a link between Saddam and Osama in the public mind.

    “Bush lied” may not be literally correct — I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he was merely mistaken rather than willfully misleading us — but the bottom line is that he got his war by saying things we now know to be untrue — and by continuing to say them even after the 9/11 Commission Report disproved them. I think that’s what really gives the “liar” meme its traction; it would probably evaporate if he could simply bring himself to admit to the public that the reasons he gave for going to war were wrong, but that’s obviously not going to happen. As those reasons have been disproved and the war has dragged on, but Bush and Cheney have continued to say the same old things, people have simply stopped trusting this president. And they’ve also gotten angry about what the war is costing us with little apparent benefit for us back home in return.

    You mix anger and distrust, and it’s not really that far of a logical leap from “the Saddam-Osama connection does not exist” to “what the president is saying is untrue” to “it is a lie.” Nothing mystifying about that in my mind…

  2. Brian says at March 16th, 2008 at 8:59 am :
    Jason – that may be the most cogent, well-stated criticism I’ve read of our President in the seven years he’s been in office. I agree with you 110%.

    That said, stubbornness is not the same as lying, and this kind of intellectual laziness (or, as is more often the case, journalistic laziness) has real impact on the people’s ability to truly impact the direction of our leaders.

    Statements like “Al Qaeda and Saddam were linked before 9/11″ should be met with “yes, but we now know that it was a series of introductory meetings that went nowhere,” as opposed to “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

    I’m not mystified at the reaction of the casual observer; I’m mystified at the willful ignorance (and dare I say, lies?) of those who purport to follow politics closely, and yet still insist on speaking in talking points, rather than have serious conversations like this one.


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