Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Friday, June 25, 2004

Relevant Connections

So, the 9/11 commission essentially found that there were ties between Al-Qaeda and Iraq but no credible evidence that Iraq participated in 9/11. Which is exactly what the Bush administration has been saying, alleging ties/contact between the two going back to the mid to late 90's.

This 1998 U.S. indictment of Osama bin-Laden certainly supports those allegations:

According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah with the goal of working together against their 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," the indictment said.
It was in fact that kind of intelligence that in 1998 led Clinton to strike a chemical weapons factory (or pharmaceuticals depending on who you believe) in Sudan.

(via InstaPundit) Then there is this report from CNN from February 1999
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.

Despite repeated demands from Washington, the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden after the August 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, demanding proof of his involvement in terrorist activities.
However, in recent weeks, both the United States and Britain have renewed their pressure on the Taliban to expel bin Laden.
And this report from The Guardian, also from February 1999
Saddam Hussein's regime has opened talks with Osama bin Laden, bringing closer the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to US intelligence sources and Iraqi opposition officials.

The key meeting took place in the Afghan mountains near Kandahar in late December. The Iraqi delegation was led by Farouk Hijazi, Baghdad's ambassador in Turkey and one of Saddam's most powerful secret policemen, who is thought to have offered Bin Laden asylum in Iraq.

The Saudi-born fundamentalist's response is unknown. He is thought to have rejected earlier Iraqi advances, disapproving of the Saddam Hussein's secular Baathist regime. But analysts believe that Bin Laden's bolthole in Afghanistan, where he has lived for the past three years, is now in doubt as a result of increasing US and Saudi government pressure.

News of the negotiations emerged in a week when the US attorney general, Janet Reno, warned the Senate that a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction was a growing concern. "There's a threat, and it's real," Ms Reno said, adding that such weapons "are being considered for use."
You could argue that this does not prove a Hussein/Osama connection and you would be correct. It does prove, however that the Bush administration did not conjure up the connection out of thin air, indeed when Clinton was in office it was conventional wisdom.

The Bush administration has always chosen its words very carefully on this issue. They never asserted that Saddam Hussein had any involvement in carrying out the 9/11 attacks. Only that he supports terrorism and had more than enough incentives and means to enable it further. The danger was not so much that Al-Qaeda had Iraqi support, but that they may get it. Given Husseins open support of terrorism and his obstruction of weapons inspectors, this was an intolerable risk.

If that isn't enough today comes this report from the New York Times:
Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.
It's a pretty detailed article, and it supports the above linked media reports from that time. Read the whole thing.

Overall I tend to think of this as all pretty trivial. Both Hussein and bin-Laden unabashedly declared their hostilities towards the U.S. and both of course have attacked U.S. interests, and we are going to split hairs over the relative strength of their ties? Even if Saddam Hussein never had any contact with Al-Qaeda he still gave sanctuary to other terror organizations. One's with the same ideology as Al-Qaeda, does it matter that they do not share the name? If Al-Qaeda officially changed its name would the war on terror be over because they no longer exist? Would the threat be gone?


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