Skip to comments.The Al Qaeda Connection AND The Al Qaeda Connection, cont.
Posted on 07/11/2003 4:39:50 PM PDT by BCrago66
The Al Qaeda Connection: Saddam's links to Osama were no secret.
OOPS. In what could go down as the Mother of All Copyediting Errors, Babil, the official newspaper of Saddam Hussein's government, run by his oldest son Uday, last fall published information that appears to confirm U.S. allegations of links between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. It adds one more piece to the small pile of evidence emerging from Iraq that, when added to the jigsaw puzzle we already had, makes obsolete the question of whether Saddam and Osama bin Laden were in league and leaves in doubt only the extent of the connection.
In its November 16, 2002, edition, Babil identified one Abd-al-Karim Muhammad Aswad as an "intelligence officer," describing him as the "official in charge of regime's contacts with Osama bin Laden's group and currently the regime's representative in Pakistan." A man of this name was indeed the Iraqi ambassador to Pakistan from the fall of 1999 until the fall of the regime.
Aswad's name was included in something Babil called an "honor list." Below that heading, in boldface type, came a straightforward introductory comment: "We publish this list of great men for the sons of our great people to see." Directly beneath that declaration came a cryptic addendum--included by accident?--in regular type: "This is a list of the henchmen of the regime. Our hands will reach them sooner or later. Woe unto them. A list of the leaders of Saddam's regime, as well as their present and previous posts."
Then comes the list of regime officials. It is in alphabetical order until, halfway down the page, it starts over with officials whose names begin with the letter "A." It includes Baath party leaders, military heroes, ambassadors, intelligence chiefs, the commander of the "Saddam Cubs Training Center," governors of Iraqi provinces, chemical and biological weapons experts, and so on.
U.S. intelligence experts have not conclusively determined what the list means. One possible explanation they have entertained is that part of the list came from an opposition source, and that Babil republished it as a gesture of defiance. This would account for the reference to "henchmen of the regime" whom "our hands will reach"--to say nothing of the candid description of Aswad's duties.
Sounds plausible. But that explanation leaves unanswered one important question: Why would the regime, at a time when it was publicly denying any link to al Qaeda, publish anything admitting such a link?
Even if the identification of Aswad in the Babil list was nothing more than an embarrassing editorial oversight, several recent developments have bolstered the Bush administration's case that Saddam Hussein had connections to the al Qaeda leader.
On April 28, senior administration officials announced that the United States had captured an al Qaeda terrorist operating in Baghdad. The operative is believed to have been an associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a top al Qaeda figure who plotted the assassination of Laurence Foley, an American diplomat gunned down in Jordan last fall. Zarqawi is also believed to have received medical treatment in Baghdad after he was wounded fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
That arrest came shortly after U.S. troops patrolling the Syrian border captured Farouk Hijazi, long believed to have been an outreach coordinator of sorts between the Iraqi government and al Qaeda. Hijazi, formerly a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence official, has confirmed to U.S. officials that he met Osama bin Laden in Sudan in 1994. He denies meeting with al Qaeda officials in 1998, but U.S. officials don't believe him. At that time, a leading newspaper in Rome reported that Hijazi traveled to Afghanistan on December 21, 1998, to offer asylum to bin Laden. The Corriere della Sera described Hijazi as "the person who has been responsible for nurturing Iraq's ties with the fundamentalist warriors since 1994."
Back then, reports about a budding Hussein-bin Laden partnership were not limited to the foreign press. Newsweek magazine, in its January 11, 1999, issue, ran the headline "Saddam + Bin Laden." The subhead declared, "America's two enemies are courting." The article was written by Christopher Dickey, Gregory Vistica, Russell Watson, and Joseph Contreras. The authors cited reports from an "Arab intelligence source" about the alliance.
According to this source, Saddam expected last month's American and British bombing campaign to go on much longer than it did. The dictator believed that as the attacks continued, indignation would grow in the Muslim world, making his terrorism offensive both harder to trace and more effective. With acts of terror contributing to chaos in the region, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait might feel less inclined to support Washington. Saddam's long-term strategy, according to several sources, is to bully or cajole Muslim countries into breaking the embargo against Iraq, without waiting for the United Nations to lift it formally.
(Interestingly, after Colin Powell's presentation last month to the U.N. Security Council linking Hussein and al Qaeda, Dickey reversed course and referred to the evidence of these links as "egregious smokescreens.")
The timing here is critical. Operation "Desert Fox" began on December 16, 1998, and ended after just 70 hours, on December 19, 1998. Two days later, Hijazi was dispatched to meet with al Qaeda leaders. And the Newsweek report detailing the increased collaboration appeared shortly thereafter. And it wasn't just Newsweek.
In fact, Time magazine, in an issue also out January 11, 1999, one-upped its competitor by quoting bin Laden himself on the Iraq issue. "There is no doubt that the treacherous attack has confirmed that Britain and America are acting on behalf of Israel and the Jews, paving the way for the Jews to divide the Muslim world once again, enslave it and loot the rest of its wealth. A great part of the force that carried out the attack came from certain Gulf countries that have lost their sovereignty."
U.S. intelligence officials who have expressed skepticism about a Hussein-bin Laden relationship often point to religious differences as the reason for their doubts. Hussein was secular, they say, bin Laden a fundamentalist. True enough. But, as bin Laden's comments suggest, there were bigger concerns--that America and "the Jews" might "divide the Muslim world once again"--that would trump these differences and unite the two men against a common enemy.
The Hijazi meeting wasn't the only Iraq-al Qaeda around that time. Eleven months before bin Laden spoke to Time, then-President Bill Clinton traveled to the Pentagon, where he gave a speech preparing the nation for war with Iraq. Clinton told the world that Saddam Hussein would work with an "unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals." His warning was stern.
We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century. . . . They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein.
The timing, once again, is critical. Clinton's speech came on February 18, 1998. The next day, according to documents uncovered earlier this week in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein reached out to bin Laden. A document dated February 19, 1998, and labeled "Top Secret and Urgent" tells of a plan for an al Qaeda operative to travel from Sudan to Iraq for talks with Iraqi intelligence. The memo focused on Saudi Arabia, another common bin Laden and Hussein foe, and declared that the Mukhabarat would pick up "all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden." The document further explained that the message "would relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The document also held open the possibility that the al Qaeda representative could be "a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden."
There is certainly much more to learn about the "contacts with bin Laden" after this meeting. What is clear, though, is that it is no longer defensible to claim there were no contacts. The skeptics, including many at the CIA, who argued that previous evidence of such links was not compelling, ought to be convinced now. They may well argue that, given the timing of the contacts, Saddam reached out to al Qaeda only when he felt threatened. The facts as we know them today are consistent with such a conclusion. But as journalists continue to pore over documents, and military analysts begin to do the same, it would be hasty to imagine that we've already uncovered everything there is to find on the bin Laden-Saddam tie.
Whatever the differences between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, the two shared a hatred of America. One Iraqi official, some weeks after the September 11 attacks, publicly criticized the United States for rooting out al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The official was quoted in a report in broken English carried on The Pakistan Newswire of October 29, 2001, which said: "He stressed the US to stop bombardment on Afghanistan resulting in death of innocent children, women and elderly people." The official, who had been in his job since 1999, also expressed doubt that bin Laden was even a terrorist and responsible for 9/11. He "said the US President Bush should knock the door of international court of justice to address the situation because only court had authority to declare Prime suspect of September 11 tragedy 'Osama Bin Laden' terrorist or not.'"
You might recognize the official's name. It was published in Babil last fall: Abd-al-Karim Muhammad Aswad, "intelligence officer, official in charge of regime's contacts with Osama bin Laden's group and currently the regime's representative in Pakistan."
The Al Qaeda Connection, cont. More reason to suspect that bin Laden and Saddam may have been in league.
by Stephen F. Hayes 07/11/2003 5:45:00 PM
THE INDISPENSABLE Glenn Reynolds has linked to an article in the Nashville Tennessean written by a Tennessee judge who believes he is in possession of documents linking Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
The judge is Gilbert S. Merritt, a federal appeals court judge invited to help Iraqis construct a legal system in postwar Iraq. He is, according to Reynolds, "a lifelong Democrat and a man of unimpeachable integrity."
Here is an excerpt of his account:
The document shows that an Iraqi intelligence officer, Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, assigned to the Iraq embassy in Pakistan, is ''responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.''
The document shows that it was written over the signature of Uday Saddam Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein. The story of how the document came about is as follows.
Saddam gave Uday authority to control all press and media outlets in Iraq. Uday was the publisher of the Babylon Daily Political Newspaper.
On the front page of the paper's four-page edition for Nov. 14, 2002, there was a picture of Osama bin Laden speaking, next to which was a picture of Saddam and his ''Revolutionary Council,'' together with stories about Israeli tanks attacking a group of Palestinians.
On the back page was a story headlined ''List of Honor.'' In a box below the headline was ''A list of men we publish for the public.'' The lead sentence refers to a list of ''regime persons'' with their names and positions.
The list has 600 names and titles in three columns. It contains, for example, the names of the important officials who are members of Saddam's family, such as Uday, and then other high officials, including the 55 American ''deck of cards'' Iraqi officials, some of whom have been apprehended.
Halfway down the middle column is written: ''Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.''
The story Judge Merritt relates is similar to an account reported in The Weekly Standard last May. Splashed across the front page of the November 16, 2002, edition of Uday Hussein's Babil newspaper were two "honor" lists, one of which included Aswod (spelled "Aswad") and identified him as the "official in charge of regime's contacts with Osama bin Laden's group and currently the regime's representative in Pakistan."
I stumbled upon this passage doing research for another piece. So I brought the article to the attention of administration officials, who hadn't yet seen it, and asked for comment. Intelligence analysts were perplexed, particularly because of a passage in the text preceding the list. It read: "We publish this list of great men for the sons of our great people to see." And below that: "This is a list of the henchmen of the regime. Our hands will reach them sooner or later. Woe unto them. A list of the leaders of Saddam's regime, as well as their present and previous posts."
The second description was clearly hostile in tone--"henchmen of the regime" and "woe unto them." Analysts weren't sure what to make of the introduction or the list, but suggested Uday Hussein may have simply republished a list of "henchmen" distributed by an Iraqi opposition group without realizing he was publicly linking his father to Osama bin Laden.
That still seems like the most plausible explanation to me. (Although Judge Merritt's report that the front page of the four-page newspaper carried side-by-side photographs of bin Laden and Saddam is interesting.) Still, some intelligence officials believe that Aswad--who publicly raised doubts after September 11 about whether Osama bin Laden is a terrorist--was an important link between Iraq and al Qaeda.
If the newspaper reports are interesting but inconclusive, two other recent reports are more compelling. Jessica Stern, a Harvard professor and Clinton administration national security official, discusses the links in a fascinating and sober analysis of the Al Qaeda threat in the current issue of Foreign Affairs.
Under the subheading, "Friends of Convenience," she writes:
Meanwhile, the Bush administration's claims that al Qaeda was cooperating with the "infidel" (read: secular) Saddam Hussein while he was still in office are now also gaining support, and from a surprising source. Hamid Mir, bin Laden's "official biographer" and an analyst for al Jazeera, spent two weeks filming in Iraq during the war. Unlike most reporters, Mir wandered the country freely and was not embedded with U.S. troops. He reports that he has "personal knowledge" that one of Saddam's intelligence operatives, Farooq Hijazi, tried to contact bin Laden in Afghanistan as early as 1998. At that time, bin Laden was publicly still quite critical of the Iraqi leader, but he had become far more circumspect by November 2001, when Mir interviewed him for the third time.
Hijazi has acknowledged meeting with al Qaeda representatives, perhaps with bin Laden himself, even before the outreach in 1998. According to news reports and interviews with intelligence officials, Hijazi met with al Qaeda leaders in Sudan in 1994.
Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, a member of the congressional commission investigating the September 11 attacks, added to the intrigue this week when he flatly declared, "there is evidence" of Iraq-al Qaeda links. Lehman has access to classified intelligence as a member of the commission, intelligence that has convinced him the links may have been even greater than the public pronouncements of the Bush administration might suggest. "There is no doubt in my mind that [Iraq] trained them in how to prepare and deliver anthrax and to use terror weapons."
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I was especially intrigued to read about all of these Saddam-Bin Laden connection articles which were written in the mainstream press around 1999. I find that especially odd because nothing in the mainstream media in the past year or two - even in the actual magazines where those 1999 articles were published - would have given anyone the idea that a Saddam-bin Laden connection is anything other than some kind of wild-speculation pipe dream that "the Bush Administration works really hard to argue for based on no evidence at all" and whatnot. This is weird because you'd think all these magazines would love to be screaming out, "we were warning about this four years ago! Here's the proof: we published articles about it, in such-and-such issue page X!" And yet, for some reason, they haven't. I can't figure out why!
I do start to fear though that by now the bar on words like "connection" has been raised so high that there's no possible way to prove any single human has any hard-and-fast "connection" to any other human. To some people, I'm not even sure I could prove that I'm "connected" to my family or friends. I mean, let's even assume that 9/11 was a joint Saddam/bin Laden operation, and then just try to imagine the best conceivable evidence which could possibly prove it (say, a video of them talking about doing it). The leftist response to it practically writes itself:
You have a video of Saddam and bin Laden talking and hugging? So grainy, who's to say, maybe they're frowning at each other! It's digital? Probably edited by CIA! You say that's Saddam now french-kissing bin Laden? Could be his double, remember all his doubles! Got DNA of this guy you say is "Saddam" on that video? Thought not! The audio has them talking about destroying America? Betcha paid CIA hacks did the translation! On the audio Saddam said "I really want you to help me kill Americans"? How do you know he's not being sarcastic, like "I *really* want you to help me kill Americans, yeah sure"!
If you ask me, the endless focus over the past six months about whether "connections" are "proved" or "smoking guns" for this or that are found has set up a bunch of red herrings. We are not prosecuting attorneys and this is not a court of law, we are fighting a war of national defense against people who wish ill towards American citizens.
Saddam wished ill towards American citizens. That is not in dispute. We have been in a state of war with his country since 1991. That is a cold, hard fact.
Al Qaeda wishes ill towards American citizens. That is their raison d'etre. They had declared war against America, even back when few Americans had heard the phrase "Al Qaeda". That is a documentable fact.
With both groups of people, we are and have been in a state of war. So I can't figure out why the idea that they would seek each other out and at least loosely try to help each other achieve their common aims is supposed to be so far-fetched. It seems to all boil down to the supposedly ironclad law of humanity, "SECULAR and RELIGIOUS people can't possibly interact!!" in which it is now fashionable to pretend to believe, among certain circles. But unless they're idiotic and naive enough to actually believe that theory, then I have a hard time figuring out why stuff like this, or the Atta meeting in Prague are so quickly poo-pooed by some people.
But even if there's no "connection" whatsoever, both groups of people (Al qaeda and Husseinists) are and have been our enemies. It is difficult to fathom why certain people have such a problem with fighting our overt, stated enemies, whether they're "proved" to be "connected" (if that's possible) or not.
"We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." -- From a letter signed by Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara A. Milulski, Tom Daschle, & John Kerry among others on October 9, 1998
"Saddam's goal ... is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed." -- Madeline Albright, 1998
"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved nuclear capability." -- Robert Byrd, October 2002
"What is at stake is how to answer the potential threat Iraq represents with the risk of proliferation of WMD. Baghdad's regime did use such weapons in the past. Today, a number of evidences may lead to think that, over the past four years, in the absence of international inspectors, this country has continued armament programs." -- Jacques Chirac, October 16, 2002
"The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow." -- Bill Clinton in 1998
"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security." -- Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002
"I am absolutely convinced that there are weapons...I saw evidence back in 1998 when we would see the inspectors being barred from gaining entry into a warehouse for three hours with trucks rolling up and then moving those trucks out." -- Clinton's Secretary of Defense William Cohen in April of 2003
"Iraq is not the only nation in the world to possess weapons of mass destruction, but it is the only nation with a leader who has used them against his own people." -- Tom Daschle in 1998
"I share the administration's goals in dealing with Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction." -- Dick Gephardt in September of 2002
"Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power." -- Al Gore, 2002
"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." -- Bob Graham, December 2002
"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." -- Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002
"As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." -- Nancy Pelosi, December 16, 1998
"Even today, Iraq is not nearly disarmed. Based on highly credible intelligence, UNSCOM [the U.N. weapons inspectors] suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, and clostridium perfringens in sufficient quantity to fill several dozen bombs and ballistic missile warheads, as well as the means to continue manufacturing these deadly agents. Iraq probably retains several tons of the highly toxic VX substance, as well as sarin nerve gas and mustard gas. This agent is stored in artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads. And Iraq retains significant dual-use industrial infrastructure that can be used to rapidly reconstitute large-scale chemical weapons production." -- Ex-Un Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in 1998
A remarkable combination, indeed.
All in black and white.
Newsweek will deny they ever published such a story. Any presentation to the contrary will be called a complete fabrication -- and abuse of copyright.
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