It's 'No al Qaeda Ties,' Stupid!

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“Can you just picture what would have happened if al Qaeda attacked
America with deadly weapons acquired from Baghdad, and had President
Bush rejected intelligence reports about WMDs?” TV/Radio personality
Bill O'Reilly spun in a July
22 column
. “My God! President Bush would have gone down in history
as the biggest incompetent of all time.”

O'Reilly wrote that he came to this conclusion because “At this
point, we have four independent sources that say there was no lying
by President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair regarding weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq.” This last sentence is at least true
as far as it goes; the 9/11 Commission report and the Senator Select
Intelligence Committee (and foreign sources) reported that intelligence
agencies had given the Bush administration incorrect information
that the Hussein regime in Iraq maintained huge chemical and biological
weapons stockpiles (WMD) before the war.

The O'Reilly all spin zone

O'Reilly's problem is that there were no al Qaeda ties with Hussein
and that his nightmare scenario was pure spin. The Senate Select
Intelligence Committee report concluded the CIA had repeatedly informed
the administration that Hussein “generally viewed Islamic extremism,
including the school of Islam known as Wahhabism, as a threat to
his regime, noting that he had executed extremists from both the
Sunni and Shi'a sects to disrupt their organizations. The CIA provided
two specific HUMINT [Human Intelligence] reports that support this
assessment, both of which indicated that Saddam Hussein's regime
arrested and in some cases executed Wahhabists and other Islamic
extremists that opposed him. The CIA also provided a HUMINT report
… that indicated the regime sought to prevent Iraqi youth from joining
al Qaeda.”

In addition, the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002
concluded that Iraq wouldn't cooperate with al Qaeda because they
feared “Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger case
for making war.”

This means the Bush administration listened to erroneous intelligence
on WMD, but ignored accurate intelligence that there was no relationship
between al Qaeda and Hussein's Iraq.

Worse, evidence from the Senate committee report revealed that
the Bush administration willingly put the U.S. in greater danger
by attacking Iraq. Intelligence Committee member Senator Ron Wyden
(D-Ore.) summed up the terrorist threat from Iraq: “The Intelligence
Community did not believe that Saddam Hussein was likely to use
his own forces or an outside group like al Qaeda to attack the United
States — with one important caveat. The Intelligence Community believed
that an impending U.S.-led attack to remove Hussein from power would
increase the likelihood of a terror attack.” In other words, the
U.S. invasion put American citizens at risk for a terror attack,
when there was no threat of an attack from Iraq before the invasion.

O'Reilly may claim to have a “no spin zone,” but his column was
nothing but pure spin that misled the public. Millions of Americans
have already heard the same foolish arguments made on Sean Hannity,
Rush Limbaugh and any number of other radio talk shows. “Oh, but
there were ties,” the talk show hosts tell us. “Gee, such and such
an Iraqi intelligence officer met with a member of al Qaeda in 1998.
Bush was right, don't you know.” The word “ties” is used with such
weak evidence by talk show hosts these days that the wildest fantasies
of the left about Joe McCarthy's communist accusations now look
like iron-clad cases by comparison.

Since even Secretary of State Colin Powell has admitted, in a January
8, 2004 press conference, that “I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete
evidence about the connection,” O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity are
increasingly looking like the pet shop owner in Monty Python's pet
shop skit. The “al Qaeda ties” parrot, they tell us, isn't dead
— it's just sleeping. Forget the fact that our intelligence agencies
reported categorically that Iraq and al Qaeda were enemies (the
Brits' intelligence agency said the same), and that Hussein and
bin Laden hated each other. Forget the fact that the recently released
Senate intelligence report on the war said that Hussein had ordered
(and carried out) the execution of al Qaeda members in the past.
All of these reported contacts together don't amount to anything
more than the fact that Iraqi intelligence had a real intelligence
agency that — shocker of all shockers — kept tabs on enemies of
the state. (Would that we had such an intelligence agency.) “Oh,
but they did have u2018ties.'” Yeah, right.

In fact, none of the assertions of al Qaeda contacts by the CIA
amounted to anything even close to the ties other Middle Eastern
nations had with al Qaeda, including nuclear power Pakistan.

The lack of any meaningful ties to al Qaeda is the elephant under
the table no one on the Establishment right is talking about. Certainly,
you won't find it on talk radio today, or on war-mongering neo-con
“conservative” magazines like National Review. I've heard
that National Review founder William F. Buckley now regrets
he backed the recent Iraq war. “Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of
extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration
one year ago,” Buckley told the New York Times. “If I knew
then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in,
I would have opposed the war.”

I confess that I was never a partisan of Bill Buckley. The Buckley
I've read since the mid-1980s had all of the condescending sarcasm
and vanity of Erasmus with none of the wit or clarity. If his columns
were readable at one time, they long since ceased to be so. The
last time I was able to stomach reading one of his columns a few
years ago, Buckley praised himself no fewer than five times in the
space of 500 words. I blurted out to a colleague that I had never
read such a self-absorbed column, and wondered if he had typed it
out one-handed after downing a double dose of Viagra. Nevertheless,
Buckley's mea culpa puts him a step above the talk show robots who
spew out undigested Republican Party talking points.

But there are sources of truth on the Internet for those who seek
it. LewRockwell.com is one of those sources of truth.

I wrote
on this website before the war
that Hussein and bin Laden “hate
each other because one is a radical Islamic militant and the other
is an atheist” and the two “are traditional and long-standing enemies.”
These statements were not based upon any crystal ball I possessed,
or any access to secret government intelligence, but upon publicly
leaked information available to everyone before the war. I also
had the benefit of the fact that the Bush administration didn't
leak any credible intelligence about al Qaeda ties (though they
did leak some “ties” that were quickly proven to be fraudulent information),
even though it would have strongly buttressed their public case
for the war.

The truth is now out: We were lied into war, and the vain repetition
of spinmeisters to the contrary won't change this fact. Now that
you know this, what are you going to do about it?

July
27, 2004

Thomas
R. Eddlem

[send him mail] is a
freelance writer in Taunton, Mass.

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