This is a sore subject with me. The constant claims that there were no ties between Iraq and al Qaeda simply won't stand up to scrutiny. No reasonable
person can come to this conclusion. Yet this sophism is repeated in the press and by the Democrats like a mantra. Now that we have access to the 9/11 Commission report (and the ability to search easily), we can address the issue using the facts.
One argument that has been made is that al Qaeda would never have worked with Sadaam because they are radical Islamists and Sadaam was a secularlist whom they despised. It doesn't take much reading of the report to destroy that claim. On pgs 65 & 66 we read (referring to bin Laden)
He also stresses grievances against the United States widely shared in the Muslim world. He inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam's holiest sites. He spoke of the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and he protested U.S.support of Israel.
I won't waste a lot of time on this. Anyone could google for links prior to 2000 and see that the Clinton administration and the press in general saw bin Laden's invoking the suffering of the Iraqi people as a reason to attack America. Here's one link
. Many more are available.
Rather than quoting the report copiously, I will simply provide the page numbers and the facts of the ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. All these events either involve bin Laden or al Qaeda representatives directly and are known with varying degress of certainty. (Read the report yourself.)
Page 78 - sponsored anti-Sadaam Islamists in Kurdistan in the early 90's
met with an Iraqi intelligence agent to request the establishment of training camps in Iraq in 1994 or 95
agreed to no longer support anti-Sadaam activities in 1998
reformed the group as Ansar al Islam in 2001 with the support of Sadaam to oppose the Kurds
Page 83 - attempted to establish a relationship with Sadaam when pressure mounted in Sudan in 1997
were approached by Iraqi intelligence agents in 1998, two meetings took place, one in Bagdhad, another in Afghanistan, were bin Laden was present
Iraqi officials offered bin Laden safe haven in Iraq in 1999
Page 142 - Richard Clarke reported that "the Taliban appear to be up to something" in November 1998 - this coincides with the time when meetings took place between Iraq and al Qaeda both in Baghdad and Afghanistan
Clarke also commented at that time that "Iraq and Libya had previously discussed hosting Bin Ladin"
Page 145 - mentions the indictment of bin Laden, which included these words, penned by the Clinton Justice Department, that bin Laden 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"
Clarke also told Berger, based on intelligence reports, that "a large Iraqi presence at chemical facilities in Khartoum was 'probably a direct result of the Iraq-Al Qida agreement.' Clarke added that VX precursor traces found near al Shifa were the 'exact formula used by Iraq.'" (This is the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant bombed by the Clinton administration in the supposed "wag the dog" incident.
Page 151 - cites intelligence reports from a "reliable source" that bin Laden met with "Iraqi officials" who "may have offered asylum" in Iraq.
This next I must quote in its entirety. "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. Better to get Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, Clarke declared. 134 Berger suggested sending one U-2 flight, but Clarke opposed even this. It would require Pakistani approval, he wrote; and "Pak[istan's] intel[ligence service] is in bed with" Bin Ladin and would warn him that the United States was getting ready for a bombing campaign: "Armed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad." 135 Though told also by Bruce Riedel of the NSC staff that Saddam Hussein wanted Bin Ladin in Baghdad, Berger conditionally authorized a single U-2 flight. Allen meanwhile had found other ways of getting the information he wanted. So the U-2 flight never occurred." This reveals that there were multiple sources for this intelligence.
Page 351 - a Polish intelligence report stated 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."
Were there ties between Iraq and al Qaeda? The evidence is certainly strong enough to raise concerns in government and spur people to action. To argue that there were none
when so much evidence exists that there were
reveals an insidious bias against the obvious.
Iyad Allawi has stated on the record
"I believe very strongly that Saddam had relations with al-Qaida. And these relations started in Sudan. We know Saddam had relationships with a lot of terrorists and international terrorism. Now, whether he is directly connected to the September -- atrocities or not, I can't -- vouch for this. But definitely I know he has connections with extremism and terrorists."
Furthermore, the 9/11 Commission never even investigated the report
of a meeting between Mohammed Atta and Habbash al Tikriti, the head of the Mukhabarat, in Baghdad, in the summer of 2001. According to Iyad Illawi, "In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta 'displayed extraordinary effort' and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be 'responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy'. Is this a reference to 9/11? We may never know, because no one has investigated it. The Iraqis insist the document is geniune, and several claim to recognize Habbush's handwriting. The document is dated July 1, 2001.
According to the report, Atta traveled in the US in late June and was in New Jersey on July 4, 2001. He purchased tickets to Spain at a travel agency there. Is it possible he could have been in Baghdad earlier in the year? In mid-June? Or May? Not all of his time is accounted for in the report.