Friday, March 14, 2008

The Connection

Looks like initial media reports about no links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda are all wrong.

Andy McCarthy over at the The Corner points us to three important pieces by Stephen Hayes, Eli Lake and Capt. Ed Morrissey who analyzed that actual report, which comes to the exact opposite conclusion that ABC and the New York Times reported. Although, the report found no "smoking gun" direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam, the opening paragraph of the executive summary of the report says:

The Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism. Despite their incompatible long-term goals, many terrorist movements and Saddam found a common enemy in the United States. At times these organizations worked together, trading access for capability. In the period after the 1991 Gulf War, the regime of Saddam Hussein supported a complex and increasingly disparate mix of pan-Arab revolutionary causes and emerging pan-Islamic radical movements. The relationship between Iraq and forces of pan-Arab socialism was well known and was in fact one of the defining qualities of the Ba'ath movement.

Lest you think I am cherry picking from the summary, deep in the substance of the report it says this:
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist-operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam's security organizations and Osama bin Laden's terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some way, a "de facto" link between the organizations. At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.

As Ed Morrissey noted in talking about Egyptian Islamic Jihad and its ties to both Al Qaeda and Saddam:

Saddam Hussein provided funding for EIJ for the same reasons. And when one starts to consider the differences between Afghanistan’s Taliban after 9/11 and Saddam, the gaps narrows considerably. The Taliban gave AQ shelter while probably not realizing the extent to which it made them a target; Saddam funded their main leadership source and at least one of their subsidiaries in order to help them succeed in their mission against the US. That’s at least arguably an act of war, attempting to use terrorists as a proxy to fight it — and it very clearly fell within the post-9/11 Bush doctrine.

There is an argument to be made that this is not enough to go to war in 2003 and our experience in Iraq has been a hard lesson in that the costs may outweigh the benefits, but history will make that judgement. However, the claims of "no links" and no connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda is simply untrue.

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