Al Qaeda in Iraq?

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Recently the theory of the Al Qaeda/Saddam Hussein connection has
been trotted out, once again, like a lame trick pony at the circus.
Those who seek to advance this thoroughly discredited and unproven
point are, once again, falsely claiming they have at last got the
smoking gun. I presume they believe that if they repeat a lie often
enough, it will become truth, a sort of arrogant "create your
own reality".

But, as with so much of the other "proof" for our invasion
of Iraq, it is nothing more than a string of allegations,
accusations, rumors, deceitful
, half truths and unproven theories all very short
of anything remotely resembling evidence. Most of these allegations
rely on unconfirmed meetings that allegedly took place between Iraqi
officials and Al-Qaeda operatives. None of these allegations offer
substantial proof, such as the actual exchange of WMD between the
two parties or even the faintest symbol of tacit support from Saddam’s
regime and Al Qaeda operatives.

This oft repeated tactic, of throwing politically partisan handfuls
of fairy dust in the air, labeling it proof positive and then smugly
proclaiming "case closed" has become rather shopworn.
These arguments, devoid of critical analysis, study or review should
serve only to discredit those who offer such faux logic, as well
as those who deceive themselves into believing that this in some
way is a reasonable substitute for supporting ones case with hard
facts. Fantastically, those who would dare to challenge these outright
lies and disinformation with the truth are accused of re-writing
history, as though the partisan self-serving statements of politicians
not only create their own reality but serve as the official account
of our nation.

One of the many unsubstantiated justifications for our rush to
invade Iraq is the mythical Al-Qaeda/Iraq connection. This wholly
unproven canard is advanced without evidence as proof that Saddam
was in collusion
with terrorists, wanted to give them WMD (which
he no longer had) and was probably involved in the terror attacks
against America on 9/11 (which he of course was not).

There is no Saddam Hussein/Al Qaeda link, as I shall prove.

Although Al Qaeda members were indeed operating in Iraq, there
is no
actual evidence
that they were invited
by Saddam. In fact, every indication of their conduct and
operations strongly suggest otherwise, that they were operating
independently to advance their fundamentalist agenda, not to support
the secularist Baathist regime. Baathism
and Al Qaeda
fundamentalism are radically opposed to one another.

To de-construct this fable we must review briefly the recent history
of the Kurdish area of Iraq or Kurdistan as it relates to this partisan
political myth.

Traditional Kurdistan spreads across Turkey,
Iraq, Iran and Syria
as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia with
a total population of about 30 million, 6 million of which live
in the Iraqi portion. The Kurdish people have long sought to be
re-united and autonomous, believing their freedom and independence
lie in the establishment of a free Kurdish nation or Kurdistan.

During their struggle for independence against the recently deposed
regime of Saddam Hussein, their activities were somewhat subdued,
remaining this way until the late 1980's. During the period of the
Iran/Iraq war (1980 — 1988), the Kurds received some support
from the Iranians in an effort to open another front against the
Iraqi government. In one uprising, 16 March, 1988, referred to by
the Kurds as bloody Friday, Saddam’s military used chemical weapons
on the citizens in the town of Halabja
in an effort to quell the Kurdish rebellion.

In March 1991, Kurdish people rose up against Saddam in Kurdistan
on assurances that the Gulf War allies would support them. Tragically
the support did not come and Saddam engaged in retribution against
the Kurds. In April 1991, responding in part to Saddam’s aggression
against the Kurds, the US and France interpreted UN
Resolution 688
to allow the use of force north of the 36th
parallel which roughly covers the Kurdish area of Iraq (see map).
In addition to this zone in the north, a second zone was declared
in the south covering most of Iraq to a point just south of Baghdad.
These countries established combat air patrols to prevent any Iraqi
aircraft from entering these zones.

The northern no-fly zone negated Iraqi air support for Saddam’s
conventional forces in the Kurdish area. Without air superiority,
Saddam’s forces were unable to operate in the Kurdish region of northern
Iraq in an area above the green line. Saddam’s government unofficially
retreated from the region and lost effective control there.

Stepping into this power vacuum were the Kurdish Democratic Party
or KDP, the Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan or PUK and the now
defunct Islamic Movement of Kurdistan or IMK. The IMK Headquarters
were in Halabja. All three parties were dedicated to the creation
of a separate and independent Kurdish homeland but had different
views on how they would be governed, especially in the case of the
IMK who sought radical Islamist goals.

Within months, the IMK splintered over political differences and
religious interpretations and formed groups named Soran, Al Tawhid
and Hamas. Many members of these three groups later rejoined into
Jund-al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam) on September 1, 2001 and promptly
declared a Jihad.

Additionally, some members of Jund-al-Islam had in the past been
trained as Mujahideen
(holy warriors) in Afghanistan by the Taliban and al-Qaida. Many
Kurds also served in Afghanistan during the period when the US was
supporting and training mujahedeen against the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan (1979 — 1989).

These members are part of the so called "al-Qaeda connection,"
falsely held up as "proof positive" that Saddam was involved
with the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers carried out by Al
Qaeda members from Saudi Arabia. There are numerous problems with
this theory however:

  1. If these al-Qaeda members were in Iraq with Saddam's permission
    (which they were not), why were they operating in Kurdistan with
    the goal of seceding and rebelling from Iraq? Why were they not
    set up in a camp or camps just south of the 36th parallel
    so that Saddam could equip, train and support them to run operations
    against his enemies?
  2. If these al-Qaeda members were in Iraq with Saddam's permission,
    (which they were not) why were they not receiving any monetary,
    military or technical support from Saddam?
  3. If Saddam intended to give WMD to terrorists (which he did not),
    why did he not give it to these al-Qaeda members to use against
    Saddam’s enemies, the PUK and the KDP?

The fact is, all evidence indicates that Saddam and al-Qaeda were
not in collusion but were in fact at odds with one another although
due to the sanctions against him, Saddam's ability to deal with
the Kurds and other insurgents deteriorated increasingly over time
causing him to effectively lose control over the Kurdish north and
threatened to also sweep away the southern portions as well.

Saddam was a Baathist, a secularist whereas al-Qaeda are fundamentalist
Muslims with a radically different set of goals. The only way this
rumor appears to have taken flight is by partisan political manipulation
of intelligence that blatantly disregards facts, evidence and history.

Jund-Al-Islam had Taliban type goals, i.e. women would now wear
burkas, segregation of the sexes, crackdowns on religious sects,
etc. During this time, the PUK and Jund-al-Islam fought against
each other; although both desired an independent state, PUK wanted
a free and more traditional Kurdistan whereas Jund-al-Islam wanted
a Talib style Islamic enclave formed within Iraq. This latter goal
put them at odds with not only the PUK but also with the official
Iraqi government, Baathists who were decidedly secularist.

Jund-al-Islam's (which later became Al-Ansar) Taliban orientation
put them at odds with the secularist regime of Saddam who allowed
and encouraged the very things that Al-Ansar sought to stamp out.
As such they received no support from Saddam and were unable to
control or affect Kurdistan in any significant fashion. Saddam was
merely content to allow these rival groups to fight one another,
allowing his dwindling power projection to be concentrated on other
troubles within his borders.

There were other reasons why Al-Qaeda and Taliban sought to assert
control via Al-Ansar. First, Kurdistan, specifically inside the
Kurdish green line, was outside of Saddam's control. Second, the
Kurds were not an autonomous part of Iraq and were already rebelling
against Saddam Hussein with the stated goal of establishing their
own homeland of Kurdistan.

Throughout history, terrorist groups have sought to establish enclaves
or save havens in de-stabilized areas lacking a strong central government
and the ability to root them out. For this reason, the north of
Iraq in the Kurdish zone presented just such an opportunity. Kurdish
intelligence and military forces were much weaker and less well
established than those of Iraq which, it was believed, would allow
Al Qaeda to flourish. Fortunately the Kurds were against such radical
Islamist goals and fought themselves against Al Qaeda and Jund-al-Islam.

Sadly though, Al Qaeda are now in the central regions of Iraq thanks
to the power vacuum created by the war and ongoing combat operations
there. Due to the presence of an army of occupation, Al Qaeda and
other groups with divergent and conflicting goals appear to now
have a common enemy. The unavoidable conflict between an army of
occupation and the civilians of that nation creates anger and hostility.
This animosity provides recruits and support for radical organizations
who would normally not enjoy any such aid and comfort.

In conclusion it is very apparent that there was no al-Qaeda to
Saddam Hussein link but that will not stop those to whom logic,
facts and proof are irrelevant. To build any sort of logical foreign
policy or problem solution one must establish a solid foundation
of hard evidence, logic and proof. Apparently some people are incapable
of doing anything that might cause them to actually admit they made
a mistake, much less take the necessary steps to correct their error.

13, 2005

Al Lorentz [send him mail]
served in Iraq as an Army reservist. He is the former state chairman
of the Constitution Party of Texas and is a small business owner.

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