Kevin Drum's Amnesia

By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in Comments (16) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

In this rather snarky post, Kevin Drum dismisses this ABC News video detailing contacts between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda by saying that "this is nothing new." Well, it doesn't have to be "new" to have value, of course. The value comes in reminding people that once upon a time, there was a powerful consensus on the belief that Saddam and Osama had ties and that said consensus helped formulate policy on Iraq in both the Clinton and the Bush Administrations.

Kevin then snarkily offers up the 9/11 Commission Report "for those with short memories." Here is what Kevin excerpts:

Around [March 1997] Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response.

....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....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.

....But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship.

Quoth Kevin, "And that's it."

Well, no. That's not "it."

Consider what Dan Darling wrote about the Senate Intelligence Committee Report. Be sure to read the whole thing for all of the information, but here is just a teaser:

In general, this document is a lot better than that Staff Statement No. 15 that was churned out by the 9/11 commission. One other thing to be mentioned, incidentally, is that this report specifically undercuts some of the 9/11 Commission's key findings with respect to Iraq and al-Qaeda. It cites post-1999 contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda, which the 9/11 commission claims to possess no information on. Perhaps someone should hand the commission members a copy of the Senate Intelligence Committee report?

Also, this demolishes 2 of Richard Clarke's key claims with respect to Iraq: that there was no Iraqi involvement in terrorism post-1993, and that there is no evidence whatsoever of Iraqi support for al-Qaeda. Both of these claims, to put it quite simply, can now be shown to be factually untrue.

Consider what Lee Hamilton, the Democratic Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission himself said about Iraq-al Qaeda ties:

Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission Lee Hamilton blasted the mainstream press yesterday for distorting the Commission's findings on links between Iraq and al-Qaida, saying those findings actually support Bush administration contentions.

"The sharp differences that the press has drawn [between the White House and the Commission] are not that apparent to me," Hamilton told the Associated Press, a day after insisting that his probe uncovered "all kinds" of connections between Osama bin Laden's terror network and Iraq.

Hamilton's comments followed a deluge of mainstream reports falsely claiming that the 9/11 Commission had discredited the Bush administration's claim of longstanding links between Baghdad and bin Laden.

But the Indiana Democrat said the press accounts were flat-out wrong.

"There are all kinds of ties," he told PBS's "The News Hour" late Wednesday, in comments that establishment journalists have refused to report.

"There are all kinds of connections. And it may very well have been that Osama bin Laden or some of his lieutenants met at some time with Saddam Hussein's lieutenants."

Consider what James Joyner wrote, making clear that while there is little to no evidence that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attacks, there is plenty of evidence linking him and his regime to al Qaeda on other operational matters.

And consider as well the 1998 Justice Department indictment of al Qaeda, which includes the following passage:

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.

Once more: While the case cannot be made that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11, there is plenty of evidence to show that there was an operational relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda on a whole host of other matters. And "a subscription to Nexis" is not necessary to find all of this information. Just access to Google.

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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 Hezballah 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.

Google is your friend.  Don't be mean to it, or ignore it.  It's your friend, after all.

Pre-War Intelligence Report. Here are some of its conclusions.

(U) Conclusion 96. The Central Intelligence Agency's assessment that to date there was no evidence proving Iraqi complicity or assistance in an al-Qaida attack was reasonable and objective. No additional information has emerged to suggest otherwise.

(U) Conclusion 93. The Central Intelligence Agency reasonably assessed that there were likely several instances of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida throughout the 1990s, but that these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship.

(U) Conclusion 97. The Central Intelligence Agency's judgment that Saddam Hussein, if sufficiently desperate, might employ terrorists with a global reach - al-Qaida - to conduct terrorist attacks in the event of war, was reasonable. No information has emerged thus far to suggest that Saddam did try to employ al-Qaida in conducting terrorist attacks.

Saddam had no real relationship with al Qaeda.  The CIA had concluded that there was no operational relationship and that the training relationship was based on unreliable sources.  The report actually says there was not a consensus in either the CIA, State Department, DoD or any other department that had an intelligence arm that there was a connection.  Indeed the closest thing to that incorrect conclusion in the report is:

(U) Some analysts concur with the assessment that intelligence reporting provides "no conclusive evidence of cooperation on specific terrorist operations," but believe that the available signs support a conclusion that Iraq has had sporadic, wary contacts with al-Qaida since the mid- 1990s, rather than a relationship with al-Qaida that has developed over time. These analysts would contend that mistrust and conflicting ideologies and goals probably tempered these contacts and severely limited the opportunities for cooperation. These analysts do not rule out that Baghdad sought and obtained a nonaggression agreement or made limited offers of cooperation, training, or even safehaven (ultimately uncorroborated or withdrawn) in an effort to manipulate, penetrate, or otherwise keep tabs on al-Qaida or selected operatives.

After that this minority of analysts reviewed the report's evidence and then for the most part concurred.

The primary source for the training claim was a single detainee whose identity was blacked out.  Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who has been cited in the media as the blacked-out source.  He later recanted his claims that were made under controversial interrogation techniques.

Saddam was scumbag, but he wasn't an al Qaeda-allied scumbag.

Sort of ignored the introduction and discussion and totally ignore Conclusion 94

Conclusion 94. The Central Intelligence Agency reasonably and objectlvely assessed in Iraqi Support for Terrorism that the most problematic area of contact between Iraq and al-Qaida were the reports of training in the use of non-conventional weapons, specifically chemical and biological weapons.

Minor oversight there on Pants's part.  That's probably why my high school English teachers taught me that any good paper has both an introduction and a conclusion.  Good save, streiff.

While Iraq does not appear to be involved in 9/11, I find it very hard to believe after reading Stephen Hayes that Hussein had no clue what Bin Laden was up to.

And, as Hayes points out, there are thousands of IIS documents yet to be translated. The 9/11 Commission report was completed before all the evidence was in.

Stop posting this, as it's not appropriate to this site.


I don't recall any "powerful consensus" for the notion that there was a connection between Saddam and Osama BL.  What I do remember is a very effective publicity campaign by the Bush administration and their lackeys in the media to get the world to buy into that falsehood.  There has never been solid evidence for the Saddam/Bin Laden relationship, or the uranium from Niger, or the mobile biological weapons labs, or the ability of Iraq to strike the Western world with WMD's.  ALL of the above have since been proven to be a pack of lies, and if a Democratic administration had put forth the same amount of garbage you would be purple with rage.

Just filtered back through your old comments, and it's perfectly clear that you're nothing but a muckracking Kossack over here to stir up trouble. Clean up your act, or find yourself on The Pile™.

For the record, dissent is fine. THe usage of terms like "wingnut," "conservative jihad," and as many Known Facts™ as this post is peppered with are not.

If you let these people's spam posts stay up, that provides an incentive for them to continue doing it.

So I suggest removing the links from the posts.

Color me stupid, but I was (characteristically) slow to believe that the Libs would have any success in framing the argument as whether or not Saddam and Bin Laden were golfing buds. I also didn't think it mattered whether WMD were found. And it matters not to me that they were, in fact, found - albeit not at the easily recognizable stage of actually loaded and pointing at us, which Libs could only then acknowledge.

No, to me the whole argument for taking out Saddam was what it was originally sold to me as being: get rid of a supporter of terrorism (rewards to Palestinian suiciders, host to various high-profile terrorists, etc.) and double the number of middle east democracies.

Other middle eastern states would have qualified equally as being the target - Syria, Iran, the West Bank, Saudi Arabia... But Iraq was the weakest link. And, oh yeah, there were also some outstanding UN resolutions and US mandates making it legal and required.

So, to me, every discussion regarding a Saddam / Bin Laden or Iraq / 9-11 connection is just another brick added to the Libs' foundation in framing the argument erroneously, fallaciously and fraudulently. that by just going after a dictator in the middle east, middle easterners would see the tide shifting in their favor, and start to effect change from within. U.S. involvement has a way of sparking that sort of thinking internally. Everyone wants to be on the winning side.

In reading Steven Hayes' book "The Connection," one of the more striking facts, to me, was the expulsion of an Iraqi embassy official from the Philippines following an October 2002 suicide bombing by Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists at a cafe/bar frequented by US soldiers at a nearby base.  The bombing killed one American soldier and wounded another.  Phone records and surveillance tied the Iraqi official directly to Abu Sayyaf leaders (including records of calls on a captured cell phone that was to have been used for another bombing).  And those leaders claimed that Iraq had been financing them to the tune of about $20,000 per year.

Now, you can argue that one bombing and one dead soldier do not make a casus belli, but Hayes' presentation of this incident (as well as other reports) makes pretty clear that it demonstrated the Saddam regime's willingness - even after September 11 - to support, finance and associate with Al Qaeda-linked militant Islamic suicide bombers whose only conceivable connection to Saddam's regional interests was their willingness to kill Americans.

So far as I can tell - and correct me if I have missed some convincing debunking of Hayes' charge - no liberal blogger or pundit has ever attempted to grapple with Iraq's involvement in financing and associating with Abu Sayyaf.

on a conclusion that Al Queda and Iraq were training each other in the use of non-conventional weapons when Iraq didn't have any in years and Al Queda has yet (key word) to be able to obtain/use them?

Saddam's link if there is is insignificant in terms of the link of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran to Al Queda.

How many hijackers, suicide bombers in Madrid and London, gone to Pakistan to study and be radicalized?

Where is the majority of funding of this radical mosques and madrastas coming from?

Do you think we have done enough to stand up to Saudis and Pakistanis to stop the funding and stop these radical schools and mosques?

The link should be significant enough like Afghanistan to warrant a costly invasion.

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