Skip to comments.MELANIE PHILIPS: There was a link between Saddam and al-Qa'eda
Posted on 06/19/2004 4:22:18 PM PDT by MadIvan
To the anti-war lobby, it was cause for jubilation. "No Qa'eda-Iraq tie" crowed The New York Times. "White House misled the world over Saddam" exulted our own Independent. And presidential candidate Senator John Kerry claimed that the Bush administration had "misled America over the need for war".
The excitement was over a preliminary assessment of evidence about al-Qa'eda by the US commission investigating September 11. The only problem was that the press coverage was untrue. The report does not rule out links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'eda. On the contrary, as the commission's chairman, Thomas Kean, confirmed: "There were contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'eda, a number of them, some of them a little shadowy. They were definitely there."
As so often in the coverage of Iraq, those who make the (illogical) claim that there was no such contact and therefore no cause for war saw in this report only what they wanted to see.
They read the words: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qa'eda co-operated", and claimed official confirmation that no links had existed. But the report actually says: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qa'eda co-operated on attacks upon the United States" - not that they never dealt with each other. On the contrary, it says they did deal with each other, particularly in Sudan.
In any event, the report is hardly authoritative. For it also quotes two bin Laden associates denying any ties between al-Qa'eda and Iraq. It thus contradicts itself. It also dismisses the suspicion that the September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague, simply because his mobile phone was then being used Florida. But clearly, someone else might have been using it.
The main question, though, is why it devoted only one paragraph to the Saddam/al-Qa'eda link and ignored most the evidence amassed by Stephen Hayes in his recent book, The Connection. For while none of this is conclusive, it makes a powerful case.
Take, for example, the original indictment of bin Laden by the US Justice Department in spring 1998, which stated: ". . . al-Qa'eda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al-Qa'eda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al-Qa'eda would work co-operatively with the Government of Iraq."
Pretty authoritative, you might think? Yet it is not even mentioned. Or take this evidence from the former CIA director George Tenet: "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qa'eda going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qa'eda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression. We have credible reporting that Al Qa'eda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. Iraq has provided training to Al Qa'eda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs."
Clearly, the credibility of intelligence reports is a minefield. Given the cloud over the CIA, there are obviously suspicions that Iraqi sources may have told it what it wanted to hear. But these reports go back to the Clinton administration, well before Iraq became such a political inferno. And their volume and detail are impressive. Hayes quotes an intelligence summary about one informant which said "the information and level of detail is so specific that this source's reports read almost like a diary".
The book quotes a "well-placed" intelligence source saying: "Bin Laden was receiving training on bomb making from the IIS's [Iraqi Intelligence Service's] principal technical expert on making sophisticated explosives, Brigadier Salim al Ahmed. Brigadier Salim was observed at bin Laden's farm in Khartoum in Sep-Oct 1995 and again in July 1996, in the company of the director of Iraqi Intelligence Mani-abd-al-Rashid-al-Tikriti [to discuss] bin Laden's request for IIS technical assistance" in making bombs.
Hayes quotes another "regular and reliable" intelligence source who said that bin Laden's top deputy Ayman al Zawahiri "visited Baghdad and met with the Iraqi vice-president on 3 February 1998. The goal of the visit was to arrange for co-ordination between Iraq and bin Laden and establish camps in al-Falluja, an-Nasiriya and Iraqi Kurdistan under the leadership of Abdul Aziz." Hayes says that visit coincided with a $300,000 payment from Iraqi intelligence to Zawahiri's Egyptian Islamic jihad, which merged with al-Qa'eda.
Recently, yet more evidence has emerged. The Wall Street Journal reported that captured documents listed one Ahmed Hikmat Shakir as a senior officer in the elite paramilitary Saddam Fedayeen. By an amazing coincidence, an Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was present at the January 2000 al-Qa'eda "summit" in Kuala Lumpur at which the September 11 attacks were planned.
It is of course possible that this was a different Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. However, Hayes reveals subsequent events showed this man was very important indeed to Iraq. Four days after September 11, he was arrested in Qatar and found to possess phone numbers of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombers' safe houses and contacts, as well as information about an al-Qa'eda plot to blow up airliners. But he was released, re-arrested in Jordan and released again (with CIA collusion) - following pressure from Iraq at the highest level. What is the point of an inquiry into al-Qa'eda that doesn't even consider such evidence?
Bill Clinton's administration was absolutely certain that Saddam was in cahoots with al-Qa'eda. It was a given. That is surely why, after September 11, Pentagon officials were obsessed with Iraq. Whether Saddam was personally involved in 9/11 was irrelevant; if he was aiding al-Qa'eda's terror, he had to be stopped. But this has been obliterated from the collective memory in order to place the most malign interpretation possible on the motives of the Bush administration.
Of course, one should be wary of intelligence. But the volume and specificity of these claims surely mean they should be addressed. Yet journalists for whom such nuggets would normally trigger a feeding frenzy astonishingly fail to report them and mislead the public instead. That is because the only story in town is that George W Bush and Tony Blair lied - a blinding certainty that cannot be disturbed by anything so inconvenient as the facts.
Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist.
Woo Hoo! I love the smell of melting leftists! It's going to be an amazing year, watching the Dem party implode on itself. Heheheh!
Melanie writes good stuff and lots of it! She has an excellent mind. I'm a real fan of hers.
Don't everyone get too excited. The lib'rals will stick to this one like they do to "tax cuts for the rich".
...high regards for Lord Conrad Black, too. He owned the Telegraph until recently, IIRC. He's a great man with a huge and just sense of morality. I've enjoyed the work of his journalists since his early Canadian publications.
"Don't everyone get too excited. The lib'rals will stick to this one like they do to 'tax cuts for the rich.'"
Yes, but if more of the portion of British conservatives who were misled by left/liberals about the War on Terror learn from thinkers and writers like Melanie, I'll be very happy with that.
Thanks, Ivan. Great article!
This won't be reported in the US except by the small circle of conservatives news sources.
Another terrific post -- boy am I glad you are back! I missed the British perspective of what is going on and this article nailed the NY Times for one!
thanks for the post!!!!!
John Kerry has made his biggest mistake so far in this campaign by supporting this lie that there was no connection between Saddam regime and AL Qaeda, and he further implied that the war in Iraq was a misleading action and it is no part of the war on terror. The Bush campaign was waiting for such a statement from John Kerry and they are going to destroy him very bad because of this.
Yep. This excellent article won't clam the left up one iota.
You're right there, BigSky.
This morning's Columbus DISPATCH published an editorial parroting the "no connection... more Bush lies... no reason for war...yadayada" position, They didn't even mention the warnings from Russia Putin acknowledged this week.
The press has a well-known agenda. I think they are going to eat their words before election day. Whether they do or not, I also feel the majority of Americans don't have any problem seeing the connections between Iraq and alQaeda.