Friday, July 23, 2004
Saddam and al-Qaeda (Separate Stories). The 9/11 Commission Report, released today (and available in its entirety on the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/911/index.html), puts to bed the Republican Right's lie that Saddam Hussein was in on the WTC attack. It states plainly that the Iraqi government had occasional contacts with al-Qaeda but did not participate in any way in the attacks upon the U.S. Why, then, you may ask, did Iraq have any contacts with al-Qaeda at all?
Al-Qaeda has many targets. Intelligence services gather information from many sources. To the extent that al-Qaeda might have programs that targeted enemies of Iraq within Iraq's region (e.g., Iran, Kuwait), Saddam would of course want to know about them. Whether Iraq would participate in any subversion, covert operation, terrorist plot, or concerted series of attacks on any given target is a separate question. But any intelligence service wants to know what's going on.
The mere fact that Iraq may have conversed with al-Qaeda operatives no more demonstrates collusion with Usama bin Laden than do police interrogations of known Mafiosi and dealings with Mafia informants indicate that the police are in concert with the Mafia.
Saddam Hussein had many enemies, some of whom were also Bin Laden's enemies. We have an expression in English that everyone knows: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." It is that premise that caused the United States to ally itself with Stalin's Soviet Union in World War II, to our enormous harm. Saddam didn't make the same mistake but kept his distance from Bin Laden. Because tho Bin Laden may have been the enemy of Saddam's enemy the United States, Bin Laden was also an enemy of Saddam himself, for being intent on replacing all secular Arab governments, like Saddam's, with Islamist governments.
I have looked at every single reference to Iraq in the 9/11 Commission's Final Report. To the extent you want to know what that Report says about Iraq's involvement, I have done the homework for you, but provide above the link to the full text if you wish to do the same search yourself. Here are the salient points. Anything in boldface type is my emphasis, not the Commission's. (Aside: I thank the Commission for using the proper form of Bin Laden's name, Usama. There is no O in the Arabic alphabet.)
Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda—save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against “Crusaders” during the Gulf War of 1991. Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan,and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.53
To protect his own ties with Iraq,Turabi reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremists operating in part of Iraq (Kurdistan) outside of Baghdad’s control. In the late 1990s, these extremist groups suffered major defeats by Kurdish forces. In 2001, with Bin Ladin’s help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam.There are indications that by then the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al Islam against the common Kurdish enemy [not against the United States].54
With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request.55As described below,the ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish connections. [p. 61]
* * *
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.
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. [That is, military attacks drove Saddam to consider an alliance with Bin Laden; thus 'military pressure', far from moderating Saddam's behavior, actually moved him to consider a more extreme position.]
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. [p. 66]
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With UN sanctions [against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan] set to come into effect in November, [Richard] Clarke ["a special assistant to the president long involved in counterterrorism"] wrote [Samuel ("Sandy") Berger [Clinton's national security advisor] that “the Taliban appear to be up to something.” Mullah Omar had shuffled his “cabinet”and hinted at Bin Ladin’s possible departure. Clarke’s staff thought his most likely destination would be Somalia; Chechnya seemed less appealing with Russia on the offensive. Clarke commented that Iraq and Libya had previously discussed hosting Bin Ladin, though he and his staff had their doubts that Bin Ladin would trust secular Arab dictators such as Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhafi. Clarke also raised the “remote possibility” of Yemen, which offered vast uncontrolled spaces. In November, the CSG discussed whether the sanctions had rattled the Taliban,who seemed “to be looking for a face-saving way out of the Bin Ladin issue.” [p. 125]
As it happened, the Taliban did not expel Bin Laden after all.
In November 1998,the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) issued an indictment of Usama bin Laden for planning attacks on U.S. defense installations, which asserted that al-Qaeda had “reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects,specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq." The Report adds, tellingly, "This language about al Qaeda’s 'understanding'with Iraq had been dropped, however, when a superseding indictment was filed in November
1998." (p. 128)
In February 1999, "one reliable source reported Bin Ladin’s having met with Iraqi officials, who 'may have offered him asylum.' Other intelligence sources said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Omar, had urged Bin Ladin to go to Iraq. If Bin Ladin actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke,his network would be at Saddam Hussein’s service,and it would be 'virtually impossible' to find him." (p. 134) ONE "reliable source" made that assertion. One ANONYMOUS source. In fact, of course, Bin Laden did NOT move to Iraq.
The 9/11 Commission Report examines the claim that Muhammed Atta, one of the WTC hijackers, met with an Iraqi diplomat in Prague, central Europe, on April 9, 2001. However, (a) a bank surveillance camera clearly showed Atta to be in Virginia Beach, VA on April 4th, and Atta rented an apartment in Coral Springs, FL on April 11th. (b) The diplomat he was supposed to have met in the city of Prague was firmly established to have been 70 miles outside the city at the time. "No evidence has been found that Atta was in the Czech Republic in April 2001." (p. 228)
Asked by Dubya on 9/12 to find out whether Iraq was involved in any way in the 9/11 attacks, Clarke investigated, then submitted a memo on 9/18 that
found no “compelling case” that Iraq had either planned or perpetrated the attacks. It passed along a few foreign intelligence reports, including the Czech report alleging an April 2001 Prague meeting between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer ... and a Polish report that personnel at the headquarters of Iraqi intelligence in Baghdad were told before September&11 to go on the streets to gauge crowd reaction to an unspecified event. Arguing that the case for links between Iraq and al Qaeda was weak, the memo pointed out that Bin Ladin resented the secularism of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Finally, the memo said, there was no confirmed reporting on Saddam cooperating with Bin Ladin on unconventional weapons." (p. 334)
Even before that, at Camp David on 9/15, the decision was made not to assume that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks but to focus on Afghanistan:
Secretary [of State Colin] Powell recalled that [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz—not [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld—argued that Iraq was ultimately the source of the terrorist problem and should therefore be attacked.66 Powell said that Wolfowitz was not able to justify his belief that Iraq was behind 9/11. “Paul was always of the view that Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with,” Powell told us.“And he saw this as one way of using this event as a way to deal with the Iraq problem.” [p. 335]
The Radical Zionist Paul Wolfowitz kept trying to use 9/11 to promote an attack upon Iraq:
Within the Pentagon, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz continued to press the case for dealing with Iraq.Writing to Rumsfeld on September 17 in a memo headlined “Preventing More Events,”he argued that if there was even a 10 percent chance that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack, maximum priority should be placed on eliminating that threat. [pp. 335-36]
Think about that. In civil trials, juries are instructed to decide on a clear preponderance of the evidence, not a 10 percent possibility; in criminal trials, the standard is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But Wolfowitz wanted us to go to war against a sovereign country on the basis of a "10 percent chance". Astounding. And appalling.
At page 336, the Report says that General Tommy Franks was eager to go to war against Iraq too. I know that Wolfowitz is Jewish and Radical Zionist. What is Franks's religion and attitude toward Zionism? We have the right to know the motives behind people's advice to the President.
Having dispensed with the drivel about Saddam being in on the 9/11 attacks, the Commission addresses the lessons of 9/11 and makes some recommendations, among them these:
We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors. ... That vision of the future should stress life over death: individual educational and economic opportunity. This vision includes widespread political participation and contempt for indiscriminate violence.It includes respect for the rule of law,openness in discussing differences,and tolerance for opposing points of view.
Recommendation:Where Muslim governments [but not Israel???], even those who are friends, do not respect these principles, the United States must stand for a better future. One of the lessons of the long Cold War was that short-term gains in cooperating with the most repressive and brutal governments were too often outweighed by long-term setbacks for America’s stature and interests.
American foreign policy is part of the message. America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.That does not mean U.S. choices have been wrong. It means those choices must be integrated with America’s message of opportunity to the Arab and Muslim world. Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger. [pp. 376-77]
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