Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard has written an article about links between the former Iraqi government, al Qaeda, and other anti-American terrorist groups, as well as how many in the American media have misrepresented those links. I recommend reading the entire article, but here are some excerpts:
This ought to be big news. Throughout the early and mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein actively supported an influential terrorist group headed by the man who is now al Qaeda's second-in-command, according to an exhaustive study issued last week by the Pentagon….
In 1993, as Osama bin Laden's fighters battled Americans in Somalia, Saddam Hussein personally ordered the formation of an Iraqi terrorist group to join the battle there….
According to a 1993 internal Iraqi intelligence memo, the regime was supporting a secret Islamic Palestinian organization dedicated to "armed jihad against the Americans and Western interests."…
In 2002, the year before the war began, the Iraqi regime hosted in
a series of 13 conferences for non-Iraqi jihadist groups. Iraq
That same year, a branch of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) issued hundreds of Iraqi passports for known terrorists….
Documents reveal that the regime stockpiled bombmaking materials in Iraqi embassies around the world and targeted Western journalists for assassination. In July 2001, an Iraqi Intelligence agent described an al Qaeda affiliate in
, the Army of Muhammad, as "under the wings of bin Laden." Although the organization "is an offshoot of bin Laden," the fact that it has a different name "can be a way of camouflaging the organization." The agent is told to deal with the al Qaeda group according to "priorities previously established."… Bahrain
In describing the relations between the Army of Muhammad and the Iraqi regime, the authors of the Pentagon study come to this conclusion: "Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda--as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision."
As I said, this ought to be big news. And, in a way, it was. A headline in the New York Times, a cursory item in the Washington Post, and stories on NPR and ABC News reported that the study showed no links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
How can a study offering an unprecedented look into the closed regime of a brutal dictator, with over 1,600 pages of "strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism," in the words of its authors, receive a wave-of-the-hand dismissal from America's most prestigious news outlets? All it took was a leak to a gullible reporter, one misleading line in the study's executive summary, a boneheaded Pentagon press office, an incompetent White House, and widespread journalistic negligence….
Again, at precisely the same time Zawahiri was "joining with bin Laden," the spring of 1993, he was being funded by Saddam Hussein's
. As Zawahiri's jihadists trained in al Qaeda camps in Iraq Sudan, his representative to was planning "commando operations" against the Egyptian government with the IIS. Iraq
Another captured Iraqi document from early 1993 "reports on contact with a large number of terrorist groups in the region, including those that maintained an office or liaison in
." In the same folder is a memo from Saddam Hussein to a member of his Revolutionary Council ordering the formation of "a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil, especially Iraq ."… Somalia
More recently, captured "annual reports" of the IIS reveal support for terrorist organizations in the months leading up the
invasion in March 2003…. U.S.
The third section of the Pentagon study is called "
and Terrorism: Three Cases." One of the cases is that of the Army of Muhammad, the al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq . A series of memoranda order an Iraqi Intelligence operative in Bahrain to explore a relationship with its leaders. On July 9, 2001, the agent reports back: "Information available to us is that the group is under the wings of bin Laden. They receive their directions from Bahrain . Their objectives are the same as bin Laden."… Yemen
A separate memo reveals that the Army of Muhammad has requested assistance from
. The study authors summarize the response by writing, "the local IIS station has been told to deal with them in accordance with priorities previously established. The IIS agent goes on to inform the Director that 'this organization is an offshoot of bin Laden, but that their objectives are similar but with different names that can be a way of camouflaging the organization.'"… Iraq
When bin Laden left
Sudanfor in May 1996, the Iraqis sought "other channels through which to handle the relationship, in light of his current location." The IIS memo directs that "cooperation between the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and agreement."… Afghanistan
What's happening here is obvious. Military historians and terrorism analysts are engaged in a good faith effort to review the captured documents from the Iraqi regime and provide a dispassionate, fact-based examination of Saddam Hussein's long support of jihadist terrorism. Most reporters don't care. They are trapped in a world where the Bush administration lied to the country about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, and no amount of evidence to the contrary--not even the words of the fallen Iraqi regime itself--can convince them to reexamine their mistaken assumptions.
Bush administration officials, meanwhile, tell us that the
war is the central front in the war on terror and that American national security depends on winning there. And yet they are too busy or too tired or too lazy to correct these fundamental misperceptions about the case for war, the most important decision of the Bush presidency. Iraq
What good is the truth if nobody knows it?