Stephen F. Hayes has another article detailing the connection between Saddam and Al-Qaeda:
“In August 1998, the detainee traveled to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi Intelligence for the purpose of blowing up the Pakistan, United States and British embassies with chemical mortars.”
U.S. government “Summary of Evidence” for an Iraqi member of al Qaeda detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
FOR MANY, the debate over the former Iraqi regime’s ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network ended a year ago with the release of the 9/11 Commission report. Media outlets seized on a carefully worded summary that the commission had found no evidence “indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States” and ran blaring headlines like the one on the June 17, 2004, front page of the New York Times: “Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie.”
But this was woefully imprecise. It assumed, not unreasonably, that the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion was based on a firm foundation of intelligence reporting, that the intelligence community had the type of human intelligence and other reporting that would allow senior-level analysts to draw reasonable conclusions. We know now that was not the case.
John Lehman, a 9/11 commissioner, spoke to The Weekly Standard at the time the report was released. “There may well be–and probably will be–additional intelligence coming in from interrogations and from analysis of captured records and so forth which will fill out the intelligence picture. This is not phrased as–nor meant to be–the definitive word on Iraqi Intelligence activities.”
Lehman’s caution was prescient. A year later, we still cannot begin to offer a “definitive” picture of the relationships entered into by Saddam Hussein’s operatives, but much more has already been learned from documents uncovered after the Iraq war. The evidence we present below, compiled from revelations in recent months, suggests an acute case of denial on the part of those who dismiss the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship.
There could hardly be a clearer case–of the ongoing revelations and the ongoing denial–than in the 13 points below, reproduced verbatim from a “Summary of Evidence” prepared by the U.S. government in November 2004. This unclassified document was released by the Pentagon in late March 2005. It details the case for designating an Iraqi member of al Qaeda, currently detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an “enemy combatant.”
1. From 1987 to 1989, the detainee served as an infantryman in the Iraqi Army and received training on the mortar and rocket propelled grenades.
2. A Taliban recruiter in Baghdad convinced the detainee to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban in 1994.
3. The detainee admitted he was a member of the Taliban.
4. The detainee pledged allegiance to the supreme leader of the Taliban to help them take over all of Afghanistan.
5. The Taliban issued the detainee a Kalishnikov rifle in November 2000.
6. The detainee worked in a Taliban ammo and arms storage arsenal in Mazar-Es-Sharif organizing weapons and ammunition.
7. The detainee willingly associated with al Qaida members.
8. The detainee was a member of al Qaida.
9. An assistant to Usama Bin Ladin paid the detainee on three separate occasions between 1995 and 1997.
10. The detainee stayed at the al Farouq camp in Darwanta, Afghanistan, where he received 1,000 Rupees to continue his travels.
11. From 1997 to 1998, the detainee acted as a trusted agent for Usama Bin Ladin, executing three separate reconnaissance missions for the al Qaeda leader in Oman, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
12. In August 1998, the detainee traveled to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi Intelligence for the purpose of blowing up the Pakistan, United States and British embassies with chemical mortars.
13. Detainee was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Khudzar, Pakistan, in July 2002.
Interesting. What’s more interesting: The alleged plot was to have taken place in August 1998, the same month that al Qaeda attacked two U.S. embassies in East Africa. And more interesting still: It was to have taken place in the same month that the Clinton administration publicly accused Iraq of supplying al Qaeda with chemical weapons expertise and material.
But none of this was interesting enough for any of the major television networks to cover it. Nor was it deemed sufficiently newsworthy to merit a mention in either the Washington Post or the New York Times.
The Associated Press, on the other hand, probably felt obliged to run a story, since the “Summary of Evidence” was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the AP itself. But after briefly describing the documents, the AP article downplayed its own scoop with a sentence almost as amusing as it is inane: “There is no indication the Iraqi’s alleged terror-related activities were on behalf of Saddam Hussein’s government, other than the brief mention of him traveling to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi intelligence.” That sentence minimizing the importance of the findings was enough, apparently, to convince most newspaper editors around the country not to run the AP story.
It’s possible, of course, that the evidence presented by military prosecutors is exaggerated, maybe even wrong. The evidence required to designate a detainee an “enemy combatant” is lower than the “reasonable doubt” standard of U.S. criminal prosecutions. So there is much we don’t know.
Indeed, more than two years after the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was ousted, there is much we do not know about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. We do know, however, that there was one. We know about this relationship not from Bush administration assertions but from internal Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) documents recovered in Iraq after the war–documents that have been authenticated by a U.S. intelligence community long hostile to the very idea that any such relationship exists.
We know from these IIS documents that beginning in 1992 the former Iraqi regime regarded bin Laden as an Iraqi Intelligence asset. We know from IIS documents that the former Iraqi regime provided safe haven and financial support to an Iraqi who has admitted to mixing the chemicals for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. We know from IIS documents that Saddam Hussein agreed to Osama bin Laden’s request to broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda on Iraqi state-run television. We know from IIS documents that a “trusted confidante” of bin Laden stayed for more than two weeks at a posh Baghdad hotel as the guest of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
We have been told by Hudayfa Azzam, the son of bin Laden’s longtime mentor Abdullah Azzam, that Saddam Hussein welcomed young al Qaeda members “with open arms” before the war, that they “entered Iraq in large numbers, setting up an organization to confront the occupation,” and that the regime “strictly and directly” controlled their activities. We have been told by Jordan’s King Abdullah that his government knew Abu Musab al Zarqawi was in Iraq before the war and requested that the former Iraqi regime deport him. We have been told by Time magazine that confidential documents from Zarqawi’s group, recovered in recent raids, indicate other jihadists had joined him in Baghdad before the Hussein regime fell. We have been told by one of those jihadists that he was with Zarqawi in Baghdad before the war. We have been told by Ayad Allawi, former Iraqi prime minister and a longtime CIA source, that other Iraqi Intelligence documents indicate bin Laden’s top deputy was in Iraq for a jihadist conference in September 1999.
All of this is new–information obtained since the fall of the Hussein regime. And yet critics of the Iraq war and many in the media refuse to see it. Just two weeks ago, President Bush gave a prime-time speech on Iraq. Among his key points: Iraq is a central front in the global war on terror that began on September 11. Bush spoke in very general terms. He did not mention any of this new information on Iraqi support for terrorism to make his case. That didn’t matter to many journalists and critics of the war.
CNN anchor Carol Costello claimed “there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was connected in any way to al Qaeda.” The charitable explanation is ignorance. Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, knows better. Before the war he pointed to Zarqawi’s presence in Iraq as a “substantial connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.” And yet he, too, now insists that Saddam Hussein’s regime “had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, it had nothing to do with al Qaeda.”
Such comments reveal far more about politics in America than they do about the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship.