BYRD: They were misled. I’m confident of that, and I have a feeling that that is why they voted as they did.
RUSSERT: Misled by whom?
BYRD: Misled by this administration, misled by this president, misled by Mr. Rumsfeld, misled by the CIA. Mostly, though, however ?
BYRD: I — I — I can’t say it was intentional, but it was — it was what caused many senators, I’m sure, to vote as they did. We have to remember that this was in the atmosphere where to be — to vote against this and to speak out against this administration took courage, and many senators were fearful that they would be called unpatriotic if they did not vote with the administration.
RUSH: Do you know what would be fun to do? It would be fun to call Senator Byrd and read him some quotes from John Kerry and Bill Clinton in 1998 and Jay Rockefeller and not tell him who said this, and just say, “Is this an example of what you’re talking about, this reckless misleading?” Read the quotes, because they’re identical to everything Bush and Rumsfeld said. These guys all got their information from the same place. Clinton got his from the CIA, from the world intelligence in 1998, all this weapons of mass destruction stuff, just read these quotes to him and, senator, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.” Well, John Kerry said that. Was he misleading you there? I mean, because this is folly. To say these guys were misled, this is my complaint about the Senate intelligence committee in the first place. These guys knew what was going on. They had the briefings and they want is sit here and act like that they knew nothing, that they just found out all this as a result of their committee’s investigation.
It’s not true. So, you know, Byrd — this is interesting because he’s considered the dean of the Senate, but he’s just descended fully now into the pit of pure partisanship that has over taken his party. There’s no reason to it, there’s nothing — this is just pure partisanship ruling the day. It’s nothing but an ongoing campaign. So Russert says, “All right, let me show you another excerpt from your book. We keep a hearing the refrain stay the course.” Well, what’s the course? Is it that we continue sending American troops to be used as sitting ducks in an Iraqi shooting gallery? How long we going to be fed that path, fighting the terrorists on the streets of Baghdad saves us from fighting terrorists on the street of New York City or Washington? Russert says, “What would you do, pull all the American troops out immediately?”
BYRD: No. We made a mistake. It was wrong to enter this war. There were two wars going on. One in Afghanistan, which I fully supported. That was a war that was begun by the – those who destructed the world towers [sic]. That was an attack on America. I was a hundred percent behind the president in his reaction to that war. But then a second war has come along in which another country did not attack us, there was not an imminent danger from Iraq, this was Mr. Bush’s war. I was against it, it was a mistake I said at the time, I say now that it is a mistake. I’ve never said that we should pull our troops out. I think we should work having entered into this to bring about an honorable way to bring our troops home.
RUSH: Senator, if I may say, you’re not helping come up with an honorable way when you rip the president and rip the mission and rip the whole premise. You want an honorable way to bring ’em home, but your not allowing the honorable way to happen if there is one because you’re out there trashing the whole effort and misrepresenting it.
It is not “Bush’s war.” Bush never said, “There’s an imminent threat.” He said: There’s a clear and gathering danger, and in the aftermath of 9/11, how often do we have to go through this in the aftermath of 9/11 when it’s been demonstrated that terrorists will do anything to attack this country and knowing what we thought we knew about the acquisition of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons and the fact inspectors to find those have been thrown out. How could we not take the chance? How could we take the chance that it was all bogus after 9/11 happened? This is just beyond my ability to — well, not beyond my ability to comprehend.
I know what these guys are doing and why. It’s purely an election year. You see, he said it here: “There are two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.” It’s like saying after Germany attacks Poland and Japan attacks us, we ought to go into Germany — which is what we did. Japan attacked us we went into Germany. Two wars, huh, senator? I thought it was all the same war, called World War II? The terrorists are everywhere. Need I go through this? Al-Qaeda was everywhere. Al-Qaeda was in south Florida but no, they weren’t in Iraq. Why, hot damn! Imagine what geographical talents these people have. They were everywhere in the world except the one place that would help you Democrats! One more bite, Russert says, “Would that, however, make Iraq a haven for terrorists if we were just to abandon it?”
BYRD: It was already a haven for terrorists. It was not before Mr. Bush attacked this country that had want provoked — had not provoked this country by an attack. We attacked Iraq. We’d never done that. This is part of the Bush Doctrine of —
BYRD: — preemptive attack.
RUSH: Hold it a minute. What do you mean we’ve never attacked Iraq. You ever heard of the Gulf War? They invaded Kuwait. This is — I’m going to pull back. I’m going to respect my elders. We’ll just listen to the rest of this, ladies and gentlemen. We’ll reserve our comment.
BYRD: That’s a dangerous doctrine, and I simply say that we have to do what we have to do, and we have to have a plan to bring our men home with honor. But it’s very hard, because the Bush administration insulted some of our friends. They referred to old Europe, and they turned the back of their hands to the UN.
RUSH: All right, that’s enough of this. Zip it. Zip it. Look, here’s the way to deal with this two-wars business in this Afghanistan thing. Senator Byrd, you know, you guys want to beat your chests and say, “Hey, look how tough we are. We recognize a threat. We went into Afghanistan.” Yeah, well, when? You went into Afghanistan, you supported the war in Afghanistan only because we had already lost 3,000 fellow citizens. You couldn’t very well oppose that. The question is, “Senator Byrd, would you and your fellow senators have supported a war in Afghanistan five seconds before we were attacked on 9/11?” That would be preemption. If we’d had intelligence that training missions had taken place in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda had trained, and they’re going to blow us up on 9/11, and we learned this on 9/10 or 9/9 and Bush says, “We are going to Afghanistan,” would you have supported it, senator?
I think not, because you opposed it because you don’t think you would have thought it’s Bush making up a reason for a war. You would have said, “Bush is trying to gather his presidency because he knows he’s illegitimate. He’s down there reading books to school kids. He’s not a real president he doesn’t have the brains for it so now he wants to start a war.” I know that’s what you would have said. This is where we can’t count on you people to defend this country. I hate to put it that bluntly, but we can’t because we all know that had we learned what was going to happen before 9/11, and stopped it. We’d be in lawsuit. Mohamed Atta would probably be worth 120 million today by the time the trial lawyers successful sued the United States of violating his civil rights, and the problem is we’d have never known what he was going to do because we would have stopped it. So we find out we’re going to stop it. Will you support us in stopping it or it’s going to happen? I don’t think you would have, senator. So this is a baseless, worthless argument.
RUSH: Fort Wayne, Indiana. Tony, hi. Nice to have you on the program, sir.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Hey, keeping on this Iran thing and the Katie Couric montage you had at the end of the first hour.
CALLER: If Bush had decided to go into Iran, does Katie Couric and her sycophants in the media really think that they would not have jumped all over him for not going into Iraq —
RUSH: Well, see that’s —
CALLER: — given all the evidence for weapons of mass destruction that they would have said existed?
RUSH: Excellent question. You’re asking the same premise that I ask of Senator Byrd. He supports Afghanistan after 3,000 people are dead. What choice do they have? But would he have supported going into Afghanistan five seconds earlier, if it would have stopped 9/11 from happening? No.
RUSH: And so if we’d have gone to Iran under whatever pretext, what about the weapons? They’d have been quoting Clinton to us, and they would have been quoting the Democrats in 1998. “Look at what was said about Saddam’s weapons. How can you ignore this? Look what the CIA said! Look at what the UN said!” Of course, there’s a no-win here. This is why, by the way, your question is very good. This is why you follow your instincts and this is why leaders are leaders. It’s why you don’t do things to mute criticism. It’s why you don’t do things to respond to critics. It’s why you don’t do things so critics won’t criticize you. You do things because you think they’re the right thing to do. If you’re a leader the chips fall where they may, and Bush is exactly that, and he’s willing to take the heat on this because he’s being guided by what he thinks is best and right for the country, and your question is well posed. I must congratulate you for that.
CALLER: Well, thank you very much, I appreciate that.
RUSH: Okay, Tony, have a good day out there.
CALLER: You, too.
Facts on Saddam’s Links to Al-Qaeda…
Headline: ‘?Saddam Hussein had link with Al Qaeda?’
Date: Thursday, July 15, 2004
LONDON: Saddam Hussein had links with terrorists like Carlos the Jackal and Abu Nidal and groups connected to Al Qaeda, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said on Wednesday.
?The record of Saddam shows very well his connections to international terrorists, like Carlos and Abu Nidal,? Allawi told BBC radio. ?We know for sure that he had established links with chieftains in Sudan, to work closely with Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda style organisations,? he said.
Allawi also defended the US-led coalition?s move to go to war against Saddam, describing it as ?a moral decision taken on ethical grounds.? Speaking on the day an inquiry is due to report on the use of Britain?s intelligence to justify the invasion, Allawi thanked British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush.
?The Iraqi people, we are deeply appreciative of both the role of Tony Blair and President Bush in helping Iraq to liberate itself,? he said.
Headline: The Clinton View of Iraq-al Qaeda Ties
Subhead: Connecting the dots in 1998, but not in 2003.
By: Stephen F. Hayes
Date: December 29, 2003
ARE AL QAEDA’S links to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq just a fantasy of the Bush administration? Hardly. The Clinton administration also warned the American public about those ties and defended its response to al Qaeda terror by citing an Iraqi connection.
For nearly two years, starting in 1996, the CIA monitored the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan. The plant was known to have deep connections to Sudan’s Military Industrial Corporation, and the CIA had gathered intelligence on the budding relationship between Iraqi chemical weapons experts and the plant’s top officials. The intelligence included information that several top chemical weapons specialists from Iraq had attended ceremonies to celebrate the plant’s opening in 1996. And, more compelling, the National Security Agency had intercepted telephone calls between Iraqi scientists and the plant’s general manager.
Iraq also admitted to having a $199,000 contract with al Shifa for goods under the oil-for-food program. Those goods were never delivered. While it’s hard to know what significance, if any, to ascribe to this information, it fits a pattern described in recent CIA reporting on the overlap in the mid-1990s between al Qaeda-financed groups and firms that violated U.N. sanctions on behalf of Iraq.
The clincher, however, came later in the spring of 1998, when the CIA secretly gathered a soil sample from 60 feet outside of the plant’s main gate. The sample showed high levels of O-ethylmethylphosphonothioic acid, known as EMPTA, which is a key ingredient for the deadly nerve agent VX. A senior intelligence official who briefed
reporters at the time was asked which countries make VX using EMPTA. “Iraq is the only country we’re aware of,” the official said. “There are a variety of ways of making VX, a variety of recipes, and EMPTA is fairly unique.”
That briefing came on August 24, 1998, four days after the Clinton administration launched cruise-missile strikes against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan (Osama bin Laden’s headquarters from 1992-96), including the al Shifa plant. The missile strikes came 13 days after bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 257 people–including 12 Americans–and injured nearly 5,000. Clinton administration officials said that the attacks were in part retaliatory and in part preemptive. U.S. intelligence agencies had picked up “chatter” among bin Laden’s deputies indicating that more attacks against American interests were imminent.
The al Shifa plant in Sudan was largely destroyed after being hit by six Tomahawk missiles. John McWethy, national security correspondent for ABC News, reported the story on August 25, 1998:
Before the pharmaceutical plant was reduced to rubble by American cruise missiles, the CIA was secretly gathering evidence that ended up putting the facility on America’s target list. Intelligence sources say their agents clandestinely gathered soil samples outside the plant and found, quote, “strong evidence” of a chemical compound called EMPTA, a compound that has only one known purpose, to make VX nerve gas.
Then, the connection:
The U.S. had been suspicious for months, partly because of Osama bin Laden’s financial ties, but also because of strong connections to Iraq. Sources say the U.S. had intercepted phone calls from the plant to a man in Iraq who runs that country’s chemical weapons program.
The senior intelligence officials who briefed reporters laid out the collaboration. “We knew there were fuzzy ties between [bin Laden] and the plant but strong ties between him and Sudan and strong ties between the plant and Sudan and strong ties between the plant and Iraq.” Although this official was careful not to oversell bin Laden’s ties to the plant, other Clinton officials told reporters that the plant’s general manager lived in a villa owned by bin Laden.
Several Clinton administration national security officials told THE WEEKLY STANDARD last week that they stand by the intelligence. “The bottom line for me is that the targeting was justified and appropriate,” said Daniel Benjamin, director of counterterrorism on Clinton’s National Security Council, in an emailed response to questions. “I would be surprised if any president–with the evidence of al Qaeda’s intentions evident in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the intelligence on [chemical weapons] that was at hand from Sudan–would have made a different decision about bombing the plant.”
The current president certainly agrees. “I think you give the commander in chief the benefit of the doubt,” said George W. Bush, governor of Texas, on August 20, 1998, the same day as the U.S. counterstrikes. “This is a foreign policy matter. I’m confident he’s working on the best intelligence available, and I hope it’s successful.”
Wouldn’t the bombing of a plant with well-documented connections to Iraq’s chemical weapons program, undertaken in an effort to strike back at Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network, seem to suggest the
Clinton administration national security officials believed Iraq was working with al Qaeda? Benjamin, who has been one of the leading skeptics of claims that Iraq was working with al Qaeda, doesn’t want to connect those dots.
Instead, he describes al Qaeda and Iraq as unwitting collaborators. “The Iraqi connection with al Shifa, given what we know about it, does not yet meet the test as proof of a substantive relationship because it isn’t clear that one side knew the other side’s involvement. That is, it is not clear that the Iraqis knew about bin Laden’s well-concealed investment in the Sudanese Military Industrial Corporation. The Sudanese very likely had their own interest in VX development, and they would also have had good reasons to keep al Qaeda’s involvement from the Iraqis. After all, Saddam was exactly the kind of secularist autocrat that al Qaeda despised. In the most extreme case, if the Iraqis suspected al Qaeda involvement, they might have had assurances from the Sudanese that bin Laden’s people would never get the weapons. That may sound less than satisfying, but the Sudanese did show a talent for fleecing bin Laden. It is all somewhat speculative, and it would be helpful to know more.”
It does sound less than satisfying to one Bush administration official. “So, when the Clinton administration wants to justify its strike on al Shifa,” this official tells me, “it’s okay to use an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. But now that the Bush administration and George Tenet talk about links, it’s suddenly not believable?”
The Clinton administration heavily emphasized the Iraq link to justify its 1998 strikes against al Qaeda. Just four days before the embassy bombings, Saddam Hussein had once again stepped up his defiance of U.N. weapons inspectors, causing what Senator Richard Lugar called another Iraqi “crisis.” Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, one of those in the small circle of Clinton advisers involved in planning the strikes, briefed foreign reporters on August 25, 1998. He was asked about the connection directly and answered carefully.
Q: Ambassador Pickering, do you know of any connection between the so-called pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum and the Iraqi government in regard to production of precursors of VX?
PICKERING: Yeah, I would like to consult my notes just to be sure that what I have to say is stated clearly and correctly. We see evidence that we think is quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq. In fact, al Shifa officials, early in the company’s history, we believe were in touch with Iraqi individuals associated with Iraq’s VX program.
Ambassador Bill Richardson, at the time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, echoed those sentiments in an appearance on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer,” on August 30, 1998. He called the targeting “one of the finest hours of our intelligence people.”
“We know for a fact, physical evidence, soil samples of VX precursor–chemical precursor at the site,” said Richardson. “Secondly, Wolf, direct evidence of ties between Osama bin Laden and the Military Industrial Corporation–the al Shifa factory was part of that. This is an operation–a collection of buildings that does a lot of this dirty munitions stuff. And, thirdly, there is no evidence that this precursor has a commercial application. So, you combine that with Sudan support for terrorism, their connections with Iraq on VX, and you combine that, also, with the chemical precursor issue, and Sudan’s leadership support for Osama bin Laden, and you’ve got a pretty clear cut case.”
If the case appeared “clear cut” to top Clinton administration officials, it was not as open-and-shut to the news media. Press reports brimmed with speculation about bad intelligence or even the misuse of intelligence. In an October 27, 1999, article, New York Times reporter James Risen went back and reexamined the intelligence. He wrote: “At the pivotal meeting reviewing the targets, the Director of Central Intelligence, George J. Tenet, was said to have cautioned Mr. Clinton’s top advisers that while he believed that the evidence connecting Mr. Bin Laden to the factory was strong, it was less than ironclad.” Risen also reported that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had shut down an investigation into the targeting after questions were raised by the department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (the same intelligence team that raised questions about prewar intelligence relating to the war in Iraq).
Other questions persisted as well. Clinton administration officials initially scoffed at the notion that al Shifa produced any pharmaceutical products. But reporters searching through the rubble found empty aspirin bottles, as well as other indications that the plant was not used exclusively to produce chemical weapons. The strikes came in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, leaving some analysts to wonder whether President Clinton was following the conspiratorial news-management scenario laid out in “Wag the Dog,” then a hit movie.
But the media failed to understand the case, according to Daniel Benjamin, who was a reporter himself before joining the Clinton National Security Council. “Intelligence is always incomplete, typically composed of pieces that refuse to fit neatly together and are subject to competing interpretations,” writes Benjamin with coauthor Steven Simon in the 2002 book “The Age of Sacred Terror.” “By disclosing the intelligence, the administration was asking journalists to connect the dots–assemble bits of evidence and construct a picture that would account for all the disparate information. In response, reporters cast doubt on the validity of each piece of the information provided and thus on the case for attacking al Shifa.”
Now, however, there’s a new wrinkle. Bush administration officials largely agree with their predecessors. “There’s pretty good intelligence linking al Shifa to Iraq and also good information linking al Shifa to al Qaeda,” says one administration official familiar with the intelligence. “I don’t think there’s much dispute that [Sudan’s Military Industrial Corporation] was al Qaeda supported. The link from al Shifa to Iraq is what there is more dispute about.”
According to this official, U.S. intelligence has obtained Iraqi documents showing that the head of al Shifa had been granted permission by the Iraqi government to travel to Baghdad to meet with Emad al-Ani, often described as “the father of Iraq’s chemical weapons program.” Said the official: “The reports can confirm that the trip was authorized, but the travel part hasn’t been confirmed yet.”
So why hasn’t the Bush administration mentioned the al Shifa connection in its public case for war in Iraq? Even if one accepts Benjamin’s proposition that Iraq may not have known that it was arming al Qaeda and that al Qaeda may not have known its chemicals came from Iraq, doesn’t al Shifa demonstrate convincingly the dangers of attempting to “contain” a maniacal leader with WMD?
According to Bush officials, two factors contributed to their reluctance to discuss the Iraq-al Qaeda connection suggested by al Shifa. First, the level of proof never rose above the threshold of “highly suggestive circumstantial evidence”–indicating that on this question, Bush administration policymakers were somewhat more cautious about the public use of intelligence on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection than were their counterparts in the Clinton administration. Second, according to one Bush administration source, “there is a massive sensitivity at the Agency to bringing up this issue again because of the controversy in 1998.”
But there is bound to be more discussion of al Shifa and Iraq-al Qaeda connections in the coming weeks. The Senate Intelligence Committee is nearing completion of its review of prewar intelligence. And although there is still no CIA team assigned to look at the links between Iraq and al Qaeda, investigators looking at documents from the fallen regime continue to uncover new information about those connections on a regular basis.
Democrats who before the war discounted the possibility of any connection between Iraq and al Qaeda have largely fallen silent. And in recent days, two prowar Democrats have spoken openly about the relationship. Evan Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana who sits on the Intelligence Committee, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD, “the relationship seemed to have its roots in mutual exploitation. Saddam Hussein used terrorism for his own ends, and Osama bin Laden used a nation-state for the things that only a nation-state can provide.”
And Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat and presidential candidate, discussed the connections in an appearance last week on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Said Lieberman: “I want to be real clear about the connection with terrorists. I’ve seen a lot of evidence on this. There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein’s government and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I never could reach the conclusion that [Saddam] was part of September 11. Don’t get me wrong about that. But there was so much smoke there that it made me worry. And you know, some people say with a great facility, al Qaeda and Saddam could never get together. He is secular and they’re theological. But there’s something that tied them together. It’s their hatred of us.”
Headline: The Iraq — Al Qaeda Connections
By: Richard Miniter
Date: September 25, 2003
Every day it seems another American soldier is killed in Iraq. These grim statistics have become a favorite of network news anchors and political chat show hosts. Nevermind that they mix deaths from accidents with actual battlefield casualties; or that the average is actually closer to one American death for every two days; or that enemy deaths far outnumber ours. What matters is the overall impression of mounting, pointless deaths.
That is why is important to remember why we fight in Iraq — and who we fight. Indeed, many of those sniping at U.S. troops are al Qaeda terrorists operating inside Iraq. And many of bin Ladens men were in Iraq prior to the liberation. A wealth of evidence on the public record — from government reports and congressional testimony to news accounts from major newspapers — attests to longstanding ties between bin Laden and Saddam going back to 1994.
Those who try to whitewash Saddams record dont dispute this evidence; they just ignore it. So lets review the evidence, all of it on the public record for months or years:
* Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddams hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary.
* Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq’s Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam’s son Qusay, and met with officials from Saddams mukhabarat, its external intelligence service, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was speaking before the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003.
* Sudanese intelligence officials told me that their agents had observed meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and bin Laden starting in 1994, when bin Laden lived in Khartoum.
* Bin Laden met the director of the Iraqi mukhabarat in 1996 in Khartoum, according to Mr. Powell.
* An al Qaeda operative now held by the U.S. confessed that in the mid-1990s, bin Laden had forged an agreement with Saddams men to cease all terrorist activities against the Iraqi dictator, Mr. Powell told the United Nations.
* In 1999 the Guardian, a British newspaper, reported that Farouk Hijazi, a senior officer in Iraqs mukhabarat, had journeyed deep into the icy mountains near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 1998 to meet with al Qaeda men. Mr. Hijazi is “thought to have offered bin Laden asylum in Iraq,” the Guardian reported.
* In October 2000, another Iraqi intelligence operative, Salah Suleiman, was arrested near the Afghan border by Pakistani authorities, according to Janes Foreign Report, a respected international newsletter. Janes reported that Suleiman was shuttling between Iraqi intelligence and Ayman al Zawahiri, now al Qaedas No. 2 man.
(Why are all of those meetings significant? The London Observer reports that FBI investigators cite a captured al Qaeda field manual in Afghanistan, which “emphasizes the value of conducting discussions about pending terrorist attacks face to face, rather than by electronic means.”)
* As recently as 2001, Iraqs embassy in Pakistan was used as a “liaison” between the Iraqi dictator and al Qaeda, Mr. Powell told the United Nations.
* Spanish investigators have uncovered documents seized from Yusuf Galan — who is charged by a Spanish court with being “directly involved with the preparation and planning” of the Sept. 11 attacks — that show the terrorist was invited to a party at the Iraqi embassy in Madrid. The invitation used his “al Qaeda nom de guerre,” Londons Independent reports.
* An Iraqi defector to Turkey, known by his cover name as “Abu Mohammed,” told Gwynne Roberts of the Sunday Times of London that he saw bin Ladens fighters in camps in Iraq in 1997. At the time, Mohammed was a colonel in Saddams Fedayeen. He described an encounter at Salman Pak, the training facility southeast of Baghdad. At that vast compound run by Iraqi intelligence, Muslim militants trained to hijack planes with knives — on a full-size Boeing 707. Col. Mohammed recalls his first visit to Salman Pak this way: “We were met by Colonel Jamil Kamil, the camp manager, and Major Ali Hawas. I noticed that a lot of people were queuing for food. (The major) said to me: Youll have nothing to do with these people. They are Osama bin Ladens group and the PKK and Mojahedin-e Khalq.”
* In 1998, Abbas al-Janabi, a longtime aide to Saddams son Uday, defected to the West. At the time, he repeatedly told reporters that there was a direct connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
*The Sunday Times found a Saddam loyalist in a Kurdish prison who claims to have been Dr. Zawahiris bodyguard during his 1992 visit with Saddam in Baghdad. Dr. Zawahiri was a close associate of bin Laden at the time and was present at the founding of al Qaeda in 1989.
* Following the defeat of the Taliban, almost two dozen bin Laden associates “converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there,” Mr. Powell told the United Nations in February 2003. From their Baghdad base, the secretary said, they supervised the movement of men, materiel and money for al Qaedas global network.
* In 2001, an al Qaeda member “bragged that the situation in Iraq was good,” according to intelligence made public by Mr. Powell.
* That same year, Saudi Arabian border guards arrested two al Qaeda members entering the kingdom from Iraq.
* Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi oversaw an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, Mr. Powell told the United Nations. His specialty was poisons. Wounded in fighting with U.S. forces, he sought medical treatment in Baghdad in May 2002. When Zarqawi recovered, he restarted a training camp in northern Iraq. Zarqawis Iraq cell was later tied to the October 2002 murder of Lawrence Foley, an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in Amman, Jordan. The captured assassin confessed that he received orders and funds from Zarqawis cell in Iraq, Mr. Powell said. His accomplice escaped to Iraq.
*Zarqawi met with military chief of al Qaeda, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai (aka Saif al-Adel) in Iran in February 2003, according to intelligence sources cited by the Washington Post.
* Mohammad Atef, the head of al Qaedas military wing until the U.S. killed him in Afghanistan in November 2001, told a senior al Qaeda member now in U.S. custody that the terror network needed labs outside of Afghanistan to manufacture chemical weapons, Mr. Powell said. “Where did they go, where did they look?” said the secretary. “They went to Iraq.”
* Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi was sent to Iraq by bin Laden to purchase poison gases several times between 1997 and 2000. He called his relationship with Saddams regime “successful,” Mr. Powell told the United Nations.
* Mohamed Mansour Shahab, a smuggler hired by Iraq to transport weapons to bin Laden in Afghanistan, was arrested by anti-Hussein Kurdish forces in May, 2000. He later told his story to American intelligence and a reporter for the New Yorker magazine.
* Documents found among the debris of the Iraqi Intelligence Center show that Baghdad funded the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan terror group led by an Islamist cleric linked to bin Laden. According to a Londons Daily Telegraph, the organization offered to recruit “youth to train for the jihad” at a “headquarters for international holy warrior network” to be established in Baghdad.
* Mullah Melan Krekar, ran a terror group (the Ansar al-Islam) linked to both bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Mr. Krekar admitted to a Kurdish newspaper that he met bin Laden in Afghanistan and other senior al Qaeda officials. His acknowledged meetings with bin Laden go back to 1988. When he organized Ansar al Islam in 2001 to conduct suicide attacks on Americans, “three bin Laden operatives showed up with a gift of $300,000 to undertake jihad,” Newsday reported. Mr. Krekar is now in custody in the Netherlands. His group operated in portion of northern Iraq loyal to Saddam Hussein — and attacked independent Kurdish groups hostile to Saddam. A spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told a United Press International correspondent that Mr. Krekars group was funded by “Saddam Husseins regime in Baghdad.”
* After October 2001, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters are believed to have holed up in the Ansar al-Islams strongholds inside northern Iraq.
Some skeptics dismiss the emerging evidence of a longstanding link between Iraq and al Qaeda by contending that Saddam ran a secular dictatorship hated by Islamists like bin Laden.
In fact, there are plenty of “Stalin-Roosevelt” partnerships between international terrorists and Muslim dictators. Saddam and bin Laden had common enemies, common purposes and interlocking needs. They shared a powerful hate for America and the Saudi royal family. They both saw the Gulf War as a turning point. Saddam suffered a crushing defeat which he had repeatedly vowed to avenge. Bin Laden regards the U.S. as guilty of war crimes against Iraqis and believes that non-Muslims shouldn’t have military bases on the holy sands of Arabia. Al Qaedas avowed goal for the past ten years has been the removal of American forces from Saudi Arabia, where they stood in harms way solely to contain Saddam.
The most compelling reason for bin Laden to work with Saddam is money. Al Qaeda operatives have testified in federal courts that the terror network was always desperate for cash. Senior employees fought bitterly about the $100 difference in pay between Egyptian and Saudis (the Egyptians made more). One al Qaeda member, who was connected to the 1998 embassy bombings, told a U.S. federal court how bitter he was that bin Laden could not pay for his pregnant wife to see a doctor.
Bin Ladens personal wealth alone simply is not enough to support a profligate global organization. Besides, bin Ladens fortune is probably not as large as some imagine. Informed estimates put bin Laden’s pre-Sept. 11, 2001 wealth at perhaps $30 million. $30 million is the budget of a small school district, not a global terror conglomerate. Meanwhile, Forbes estimated Saddams personal fortune at $2 billion.
So a common enemy, a shared goal and powerful need for cash seem to have forged an alliance between Saddam and bin Laden. CIA Director George Tenet recently told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Iraq has in the past provided training in document forgery and bomb making to al Qaeda. It also provided training in poisons and gasses to two al Qaeda associates; one of these [al Qaeda] associates characterized the relationship as successful. Mr. Chairman, this information is based on a solid foundation of intelligence. It comes to us from credible and reliable sources. Much of it is corroborated by multiple sources.”
The Iraqis, who had the Third World’s largest poison-gas operations prior to the Gulf War I, have perfected the technique of making hydrogen-cyanide gas, which the Nazis called Zyklon-B. In the hands of al Qaeda, this would be a fearsome weapon in an enclosed space — like a suburban mall or subway station.
Headline: Iraq & al Qaeda
Subheadline: The 9/11 Commission raises more questions than it answers.
Date: June 17, 2004
By: Andrew C. McCarthy
The 9/11 Commission’s staff has come down decidedly on the side of the naysayers about operational ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network. This development is already being met with unbridled joy by opponents of the Iraq war, who have been carping for days about recent statements by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that reaffirmed the deposed Iraqi regime’s promotion of terror.
The celebration is premature. The commission’s cursory treatment of so salient a national question as whether al Qaeda and Iraq confederated is puzzling. Given that the panel had three hours for Richard Clarke, one might have hoped for more than three minutes on Iraq. More to the point, though, the staff statements released Wednesday ? which seemed to be contradicted by testimony at the public hearing within minutes of their publication ? raise more questions than they answer, about both matters the staff chose to address and some it strangely opted to omit.
The staff’s sweeping conclusion is found in its Statement No. 15 (“Overview of the Enemy”), which states:
Bin Laden also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein’s secular regime. Bin Laden had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Laden to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.
Just taken on its own terms, this paragraph is both internally inconsistent and ambiguously worded. First, it cannot be true both that the Sudanese arranged contacts between Iraq and bin Laden and that no “ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq.” If the first proposition is so, then the “[t]wo senior Bin Laden associates” who are the sources of the second are either lying or misinformed.
In light of the number of elementary things the commission staff tells us its investigation has been unable to clarify (for example, in the very next sentence after the Iraq paragraph, the staff explains that the question whether al Qaeda had any connection to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing or the 1995 plot to blow U.S. airliners out of the sky “remains a matter of substantial uncertainty”), it is fair to conclude that these two senior bin Laden associates may not be the most cooperative, reliable fellows in town regarding what bin Laden was actually up to. Moreover, we know from press reports and the administration’s own statements about the many al Qaeda operatives it has captured since 9/11 that the government is talking to more than just two of bin Laden’s top operatives. That begs the questions: Have we really only asked two of them about Iraq? If not, what did the other detainees say?
The staff’s back-of-the-hand summary also strangely elides mention of another significant matter ? but one that did not escape the attention of Commissioner Fred Fielding, who raised it with a panel of law-enforcement witnesses right after noting the staff’s conclusion that there was “no credible evidence” of cooperation. It is the little-discussed original indictment of bin Laden, obtained by the Justice Department in spring 1998 ? several weeks before the embassy bombings and at a time when the government thought it would be prudent to have charges filed in the event an opportunity arose overseas to apprehend bin Laden. Paragraph 4 of that very short indictment reads:
Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. In addition, al Qaeda 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.
(Emphasis added.) This allegation has always been inconvenient for the “absolutely no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda” club. (Richard Clarke, a charter member, handles the problem in his book by limiting the 1998 indictment to a fleeting mention and assiduously avoiding any description of what the indictment actually says.)
It remains inconvenient. As testimony at the commission’s public hearing Wednesday revealed, the allegation in the 1998 indictment stems primarily from information provided by the key accomplice witness at the embassy bombing trial, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl. Al-Fadl told agents that when al Qaeda was headquartered in the Sudan in the early-to-mid-1990s, he understood an agreement to have been struck under which the jihadists would put aside their antipathy for Saddam and explore ways of working together with Iraq, particularly regarding weapons production.
On al Qaeda’s end, al-Fadl understood the liaison for Iraq relations to be an Iraqi named Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. “Abu Hajer al Iraqi”), one of bin Laden’s closest friends. (There will be a bit more to say later about Salim, who, it bears mention, was convicted in New York last year for maiming a prison guard in an escape attempt while awaiting trial for bombing the embassies.) After the embassies were destroyed, the government’s case, naturally, was radically altered to focus on the attacks that killed over 250 people, and the Iraq allegation was not included in the superseding indictment. But, as the hearing testimony made clear, the government has never retracted the allegation.
Neither have other important assertions been retracted, including those by CIA Director George Tenet. As journalist Stephen Hayes reiterated earlier this month, Tenet, on October 7, 2002, wrote a letter to Congress, which asserted:
Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank. We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad. We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs. Iraq’s increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad’s links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.
Tenet, as Hayes elaborated, has never backed away from these assessments, reaffirming them in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee as recently as March 9, 2004.
Is the commission staff saying that the CIA director has provided faulty information to Congress? That doesn’t appear to be what it is saying at all. This is clear ? if anything in this regard can be said to be “clear” ? from the staff’s murky but carefully phrased summation sentence, which is worth parsing since it is already being gleefully misreported: “We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.” (Italics mine.) That is, the staff is not saying al Qaeda and Iraq did not cooperate ? far from it. The staff seems to be saying: “they appear to have cooperated but we do not have sufficient evidence to conclude that they worked in tandem on a specific terrorist attack, such as 9/11, the U.S.S. Cole bombing, or the embassy bombings.”
The same might, of course, be said about the deposed Taliban government in Afghanistan. Before anyone gets unhinged, I am not suggesting that bin Laden’s ties to Iraq were as extensive as his connections to Afghanistan. But as is the case with Iraq, no one has yet tied the Taliban to a direct attack on the United States, although no one doubts for a moment that deposing the Taliban post-9/11 was absolutely the right thing to do.
I would point out, moreover, that al Qaeda is a full-time terrorist organization ? it does not have the same pretensions as, say, Sinn Fein or Hamas, to be a part-time political party. Al Qaeda’s time is fully devoted to conducting terrorist attacks and planning terrorist attacks. Thus, if a country cooperates with al Qaeda, it is cooperating in (or facilitating, abetting, promoting ? you choose the euphemism) terrorism. What difference should it make that no one can find an actual bomb that was once in Saddam’s closet and ended up at the Cole’s hull? If al Qaeda and Iraq were cooperating, they had to be cooperating on terrorism, and as al Qaeda made no secret that it existed for the narrow purpose of inflicting terrorism on the United States, exactly what should we suppose Saddam was hoping to achieve by cooperating with bin Laden?
Of course, we may yet find that Saddam was a participant in the specific 9/11 plot. In that regard, the commission staff’s report is perplexing, and, again, raises ? or flat omits ? many more questions than it resolves.
Don’t Forget Shakir
For one thing, the staff has now addressed the crucial January 2000 Malaysia planning session in a few of its statements. As I have previously recounted, this was the three-day meeting at which Khalid al Midhar and Nawaf al Hazmi, eventual hijackers of Flight 77 (the one that hit the Pentagon), met with other key 9/11 planners. The staff’s latest report, Statement Number 16 (“Outline of the 9/11 Plot”), even takes time to describe how the conspirators were hosted in Kuala Lampur by members of a Qaeda-affiliated terror group, Jemaah Islamiah. But the staff does not mention, let alone explain, let alone explain away, that al Midhar was escorted to the meeting by Ahmed Hikmat Shakir.
Shakir is the Iraqi who got his job as an airport greeter through the Iraqi embassy, which controlled his work schedule. He is the man who left that job right after the Malaysia meeting; who was found in Qatar six days after 9/11 with contact information for al Qaeda heavyweights ? including bin Laden’s aforementioned friend, Salim ? and who was later detained in Jordan but released only after special pleading from Saddam’s regime, and only after intelligence agents concluded that he seemed to have sophisticated counter-interrogation training. Shakir is also the Iraqi who now appears, based on records seized since the regime’s fall, to have been all along an officer in Saddam’s Fedayeen.
Does all this amount to proof of participation in the 9/11 plot? Well, in any prosecutor’s office it would be a pretty good start. And if the commission staff was going to get into this area of Iraqi connections to al Qaeda at all, what conceivable good reason is there for avoiding any discussion whatsoever of Shakir? At least tell us why he is not worth mentioning.
One thing the staff evidently thought it was laying to rest was the other niggling matter of whether 9/11 major domo Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed al-Ani in Prague in April 2001. The staff’s conclusion is that the meeting is a fiction. To say its reasoning is less than satisfying would be a gross understatement. Here’s the pertinent conclusion, also found in Statement Number 16:
We have examined the allegation that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague on April 9 . Based on the evidence available ? including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting ? we do not believe that such a meeting occurred. The FBI’s investigation places him in Virginia as of April 4, as evidenced by this bank surveillance camera shot of Atta withdrawing $8,000 from his account. Atta was back in Florida by April 11, if not before. Indeed, investigation has established that, on April 6, 9, 10, and 11, Atta’s cellular telephone was used numerous times to call Florida phone numbers from cell sites within Florida. We have seen no evidence that Atta ventured overseas again or re-entered the United States before July, when he traveled to Spain under his true name and back under his true name.
This is ground, again, that I’ve recently covered. To rehearse: Czech intelligence has alleged that Atta was seen in Prague on April 8 or 9, 2001. Atta had withdrawn $8,000 cash from a bank in Virginia on April 4 and was not eyeballed again by a witness until one week later, on April 11. The new detail added by the staff is that Atta’s cell phone was used in Florida on three days (April 6, 9 and 10) during that time frame. Does this tend to show he was in Florida rather than Prague? It could, but not very convincingly. Telling us Atta’s cell phone was used is not the same as telling us Atta used the cell phone.
Atta almost certainly would not have been able to use the cell phone overseas, so it would have been foolish to tote it along to the Czech Republic ? especially if he was traveling clandestinely (as the large cash withdrawal suggests). He would have left it behind. Atta, moreover, had a roommate (and fellow hijacker), Marwan al-Shehhi. It is certainly possible that Shehhi ? whom the staff places in Florida during April 2001 ? could have used Atta’s cell phone during that time.
Is it possible that Atta was in Florida rather than Prague? Of course it is. But the known evidence militates strongly against that conclusion: an eyewitness puts Atta in Prague, meeting with al-Ani; we know Atta was a “Hamburg student” and represented himself as such in a visa application; it has been reported that the Czechs have al-Ani’s appointment calendar and it says he was scheduled to meet on the critical day with a “Hamburg student”; and we know for certain that Atta was in Prague under very suspicious circumstances twice in a matter of days (May 30 and June 2, 2000) during a time the Czechs and Western intelligence services feared that Saddam, through al-Ani, might be reviving a plot to use Islamic extremists to bomb Radio Free Europe (a plot the State Department acknowledged in its annual global terror report notwithstanding that the commission staff apparently did not think the incident merited mention).
I am perfectly prepared to accept the staff’s conclusion about Atta not being in Prague ? if the commission provides a convincing, thoughtful explanation, which is going to have to get a whole lot better than a cell-phone record.
What is the staff’s reason for rejecting the eyewitness identification? Is the “Hamburg student” entry bogus? Since the staff is purporting to provide a comprehensive explanation of the 9/11 plot ? the origins of which it traces back to 1999 ? what is their explanation for what Atta was doing in Prague in 2000? Why, when the staff went into minute detail about the travels of other hijackers (even when it conceded it did not know the relevance of those trips), was Atta’s trip to Prague not worthy of even a passing mention? Why was it so important for Atta to be in Prague on May 30, 2000 that he couldn’t delay for one day, until May 31, when his visa would have been ready? Why was it so important for him to be in Prague on May 30 that he opted to go despite the fact that, without a visa, he could not leave the airport terminal? How did he happen to find the spot in the terminal where surveillance cameras would not capture him for nearly six hours? Why did he go back again on June 2? Was he meeting with al-Ani? If so, why would it be important for him to see al-Ani right before entering the United States in June 2000?
And jumping ahead to 2001, if Atta wasn’t using cash to travel anonymously, what did he do with the $8000 he suddenly withdrew before disappearing on April 4? If his cell phone was used in Florida between April 4 and April 11, what follow-up investigation has been done about that by the 9/11 Commission? By the FBI? By anybody? Whom was the cell phone used to call? Do any of those people remember speaking to Atta at that time? Perhaps someone would remember speaking with the ringleader of the most infamous attack in the history of the United States if he had called to chat, no?
Are these questions important to answer? You be the judge. According to the 9/11 Commission staff report, bin Laden originally pressed the operational supervisor of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), “that the attacks occur as early as mid-2000,” even though bin Laden “recognized that Atta and the other pilots had only just arrived in the United States to begin their flight training[.]” Well I’ll be darned: mid-2000 is exactly when Atta made his two frenetic trips to Prague immediately before heading to the United States to begin that flight training.
The commission staff next says, “[i]n 2001, Bin Laden apparently pressured KSM twice more for an earlier date. According to KSM, Bin Laden first requested a date of May 12, 2001,” and then proposed a date in June or July. Well, what do you know: all those dates are only weeks after Atta may have had some reason to drop everything and secretly run to Prague for a meeting with al-Ani.
Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.
Headline: More Connections Between Saddam and Osama
Source: Weekly Standard
By: Stephen F. Hayes
Date: June 8, 2004
Saddam Hussein “always had links with international terrorist organizations.”
On the face of it, this is not a controversial statement. It comes from a CNN interview of Iyad Allawi, recently chosen as the interim prime minister of Iraq. Allawi expanded on this assessment in a December 31, 2003, interview with CNN’s Bill Hemmer, when he estimated that more than 1,000 al Qaeda terrorists were operating in Iraq. But his more interesting comment came moments later. The al Qaeda fighters, he said:
were present in Iraq, they came and they were active in Iraq before the war of liberation. They were inflicting a lot of problems on the–and inflaming the situation in northern Iraq, in Iraq Kurdistan. They killed once about a year and a half ago 42 worshipers in one of the mosques in Harachi [ph] in a very ugly way.
Again, on the surface, this was not a particularly revealing statement. After all, Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council that al Qaeda was operating in Iraq–almost certainly with the knowledge and approval of the Iraqi regime–before the war. CIA Director George Tenet has testified to the presence of al Qaeda in Iraq on several occasions. Allawi went on:
Those people have had the backing of Saddam prior to liberation, and they remained in Iraq after the collapse, and after the vacuum was created. After the way, they remained in Iraq. Many joined them since then.
Allawi’s declaration that the Iraqi regime supported al Qaeda terrorists before the war in Iraq is intriguing not because of the claim itself, but because of the man making it. Allawi for years ran an Iraqi exile group called the Iraqi National Accord. In recent years, he was the Iraqi exile closest to the CIA. And although George Tenet has spoken repeatedly about the prewar Iraq-al Qaeda connection, he has been at odds with many in the bureaucracy beneath him.
Allawi’s claims about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection–claims he has made for several years–have not always been solid. In December, Allawi provided journalists with a document indicating that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta trained in Iraq weeks before the 9/11 hijackings. That same three-page document also claimed that Iraq had–as President Bush claimed in his State of the Union Address–sought uranium from Niger. The report was a bit too politically convenient and was quickly dismissed as a forgery.
But Allawi isn’t the only prominent member of the new Iraqi government to have suggested Iraq-al Qaeda connections. His deputy, Barham Salih, has also repeatedly alleged that Saddam’s regime supported Ansar al Islam, al Qaeda-linked Islamists in Kurdistan. “Yes, they hate each other, but they’re very utilitarian,” said Salih. “Saddam Hussein, a secular infidel to many jihadists, had no problem giving money to Hamas. This debate [about whether Saddam worked with al Qaeda] is stupid. The proof is there.”
ABC News’ outstanding Pentagon reporter, Martha Raddatz, also reported on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection last week. But her May 25, 2004, report on Abu Musab al Zarqawi, an al Qaeda associate who joined forces with Ansar al Islam terrorists, buried an important detail. “In late 2002, officials say, Zarqawi began establishing sleeper cells in Baghdad and acquiring weapons from Iraqi Intelligence officials.” (emphasis added).
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