Yesterday morning Secretary of State Colin Powell masterfully presented the United Nations Security Council with evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs and efforts to hide those programs from U.N. inspectors.
Faced with an obvious impending plethora of evidence showing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the form of ballistic missiles, chemical agents and biological weaponry, foes of toppling Saddam will no doubt change tactics. They will now focus on what they claim is a lack of evidence linking Iraq to the September 11th terrorist attacks and Al Qaida.
First of all, links to Al Qaida are not the question. Our enemies in this conflict are Islamic militants ("Jihadists") from several groups, including Hizbullah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Al Qaida who have been at war with the United States since at least 1982.
An odd alliance of Buchannanite neo-isolationists and radical Hollywood leftists, such as Susan "What did Iraq do to us?" Sarandon, would have you believe that Saddam Hussein has virtually nothing to do with terrorism and is an arch-enemy of the Jihadists. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Investigative reporters, intelligence operatives, authors and politicians from both the left and right for years have documented Saddam Hussein's ties to terrorist groups. In fact, only recently have neo-isolationists and Hollywood radicals called his ties to terrorism into question.
As part of the cease-fire agreement that stopped the Gulf War in 1991, as contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (April 3, 1991), Iraq agreed that it must not commit or support terrorism or allow terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Along with virtually every other condition in that resolution, Iraq has violated this one early and often.
Despite what you may read in your newspaper or see on television news, Iraq has a long history as a state sponsor of terrorism. In fact, Iraq has been included on our State Department's list of terrorist sponsoring nations for two decades-long before the Gulf War. Now, suddenly, critics of U.S. policy are all but claiming that Saddam Hussein has no ties to terrorism. Their mantra seems to be: "Where is the proof?'
Why are the neo-isolationists and Hollywood radicals asking for "proof" of Saddam Hussein's ties to Al Qaida and other terrorist groups? Because they know that it will be virtually impossible to produce. As former CIA director James Woolsey once said: "Hearsay is not admissible as evidence and almost all intelligence is hearsay. Evidentiary standards are the wrong standards."
Had we insisted upon hard, courtroom evidence, the Taliban regime would still be in power in Afghanistan today.
The fact is, Iraq shelters known, wanted terrorists, allows terrorist groups to maintain offices within its borders and operates a terrorist training camp at Salman Pak, complete with the fuselage of an airliner for practicing hijacking.
According to the State Department, among the terrorist groups that continue to maintain offices in Baghdad are the Arab Liberation Front, Abu Abbas' Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and, at least until the recent suicide (?) of its leader, the Abu Nidal Organization.
It has also been reported that members of the Jihadist Palestinian terror group Hamas trained at Salman Pak and that Saddam has paid large sums of money to surviving family members of suicide bombers.
One indisputable terror crime that Iraq was involved in was the attempted assassination in 1993 of former President George H. W. Bush during his visit to Kuwait. In fact, President Bill Clinton ordered a cruise missile strike in retaliation for that failed plot, which was put together by Iraqi intelligence.
In the past few years, two independent investigators have uncovered evidence that would seem to indicate Iraqi involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Dr. Laurie Mylroie published a book entitled "Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America." That book details evidence of Iraqi involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The book has been updated and republished as "The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks." William F. Buckley, Jr. said that Mylroie's book "reports persuasively that Saddam Hussein was the sponsor of the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center." Lest you believe that Mylroie is just an arch-conservative ideologue writing in support of the Bush administration, you may want to know that this book was published in 2000, before George W. Bush was even elected. Furthermore, Mylroie is a former adviser to none other than Bill Clinton. Most importantly, however, in her book, Dr. Mylroie reveals that Jim Fox, the director of the New York FBI at the time of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, concluded that Iraq was behind the bombing. Moreover, one of the suspects still wanted in the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Abdul Yasin, is known to have fled the country and is now in Baghdad. That fact alone puts Iraq in violation of UNSCR 687.
We here at Nationalsecurityonline think Susan Sarandon should pick up a copy of Dr. Mylroie's book to find an answer to her favorite question ("what did Iraq DO to us?").
Investigative reporter Jayna Davis uncovered evidence of Iraqi complicity in the Oklahoma City bombing. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has asked the FBI to reopen the Oklahoma City case based on the evidence Davis provided.
While the evidence these two investigators uncovered may not stand up to the standard of a court of law, it is convincing enough to prompt former CIA Director Woolsey to call for a reopening of the official investigations into both incidents.
The Al Qaida connection
Not only does Saddam Hussein have active and long-standing ties to international terrorist organizations, he has ties to Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida network.
There have been various reports of contact and meetings between Al Qaida members and Iraqi officers, including a 1998 meeting in Afghanistan between Osama Bin Laden himself and the deputy chief of Iraqi intelligence.
Even though CIA director George Tenet has downplayed the Iraq-Al Qaida link, investigative reporters provided detailed accounts from different eyewitnesses of close cooperation between Al Qaida and Iraq. In March 2002, the New Yorker published a 16,000 word article by Jeffrey Goldberg, which cited Iraqi-Al Qaida joint operations in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Goldberg wrote a follow-up article for the February, 2003 edition of the magazine and had some startling quotes from an October 2002 letter from CIA Director George Tenet (a Clinton appointee) to Florida Senator Bob Graham (then Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee). That same letter was referred to in a February 3, 2003 Wall Street Journal article written by journalist Robert L. Bartley:
"We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaida going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression. We have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaida members, including some who have been in Baghdad. We have credible reporting that Al Qaida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs. Iraq's increased support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with Al Qaida, suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action."
Goldberg reports that C.I.A. theories on Jihadism and state sponsors of terrorism are evolving. Not long ago, the C.I.A. insisted that the ideological differences between secular leaders like Saddam and Islamic radicals like Al Qaida and Hezbullah would make alliances between them unlikely. It was also widely believed within the agency that Sunni Muslim extremists like Al Qaida and Shi'ite Muslim extremists like Hizbullah would not be likely to form alliances. All of that is changing. Evidently, interrogation of high-level Al Qaida operatives captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere has caused the C.I.A. to rethink. More and more intelligence analysts now subscribe to the notion that the existence of a common enemy in the United States overrides religious differences.
On September 5th, 2002, Micah Morrison provided another, shorter account of Iraqi-Al Qaida ties in The Wall Street Journal. Eight days later, on September 13, 2002, Stephen F. Hayes provided more evidence in The Weekly Standard.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal on October 7, 2002, Senator Joseph Lieberman informed us that "we have evidence of meetings between Iraqi officials and leaders of Al Qaida, and testimony that Iraqi agents helped train Al Qaida operatives to use chemical and biological weapons. We also know that Al Qaida leaders have been, and are now, harbored in Iraq."
In dual articles in the December issue of Vanity Fair magazine and the December 9, 2002 edition of the London Evening Standard, investigative journalist David Rose discloses that CIA files actually contain information on 100 separate meetings between Iraqi officials and Al Qaida operatives dating all the way back to 1992, before anyone in the West even heard of Al Qaida. This includes two meetings between three of the 9-11 hijackers and officers of Iraqi intelligence in the United Arab Emirates and Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Rose has investigated the Iraqi terrorist angle as thoroughly as anyone and wrote a related piece for The Guardian entitled "The Iraqi Connection." In that article, Rose makes a startling revelation about the 2001 anthrax attacks in the U.S.:
"Many still suspect the anthrax which has so far killed four people in America has an ultimate Iraqi origin: in contrast to...denials made by senior FBI officials, CIA sources say there simply is not enough material to be sure. However, it does not look likely that the anthrax sample sent to a newspaper in Karachi can have come from the source posited by the FBI-a right wing U.S. militant. 'The sophistication of the stuff that has been found represents a level of technique and knowledge that in the past has been associated only with governments,' former vice-chairman of the UNSCOM, the U.N. weapons inspection team, Charles Duelfer said. 'If it's not Iraq, there aren't many alternatives.'"
More linkage between Saddam and Al Qaida comes to us from the U.S. Congress' top terrorism adviser, Yossef Bodansky, who recently published a book, "The High Cost of Peace," in which he reports that Iraq has provided training in the use of weapons of mass destruction to Al Qaida terrorists. As we shall see, others, including the Director of the CIA confirm that assertion.
In his book, "The War Against the Terror Masters," American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael A. Ledeen, a noted Middle East expert details Saddam Hussein's links to Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. In fact, he documents that links between Al Qaida and Iraq date back to the early 1990s when Al Qaida was based out of Sudan and Iraqi intelligence was active there. He also completely debunks the theory that Saddam could never and would never form an alliance with Jihadists:
"For Iraq, the network offered a way to defeat America. It would be a grave mistake to imagine that Saddam's animus against Saudi Arabia or his secular disposition would prevent him from working with the Wahhabi religious establishment. Saddam's regime has lately encouraged the rise, in Iraq's northern safe haven, of Salafism, a puritanical sect tied to Wahhabism that hitherto had been alien to Iraq...one of these Salafi movements turns out to be a front for bin Laden."
Ledeen goes on to say:
"Saddam uses terrorists to intimidate other countries near him, to demonstrate that he is a major player in the Arab world and in the struggle against Israel, and above all to avenge personal affronts. By far the most important of these is the Gulf War...That is why he ordered his intelligence service to kill the elder Bush...and he continued to seek revenge thereafter.
That he played a role in the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 is highly likely,...and a relationship with bin Laden is as close to certain as you can get in the world of clandestine operations. His intelligence service certainly had contacts with Al Qaida in Sudan, and Saddam has recently embraced extremist Islam, another element that points to a working relationship with Osama."
And, finally, with regard to Al Qaida, Ledeen reports:
"Iraq, along with Syria and Iran, helped Al Qaida fighters relocate to Lebanon after their defeat in Afghanistan."
Former CIA Persian Gulf analyst and staff member of the Clinton National Security Council, Kenneth M. Pollack, makes the most exhaustive case for the forcible overthrow of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime. Dr. Pollack is the author of "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." In his book, Dr. Pollack actually downplays the significance of Saddam Hussein's terrorist ties in light of his other crimes and threats. However, Pollack does identify Saddam's long-standing ties to terrorism and Al Qaida in particular:
"Iraq is now, and has been throughout Saddam's reign, a state sponsor of terrorism."
Pollack reports that Saddam granted safe haven to the murdering Palestinian terrorists of the Arab Liberation Front who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro and that Saddam began giving support to Hamas in 2000. Pollack writes that there have been connections between Iraq and Al Qaida and he also quotes CIA Director George Tenet on Saddam's ties to the terrorist group:
"Iraq has also had contacts with Al Qaida. Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides' mutual antipathy toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggests that tactical cooperation between them is possible..."
Ominously, Pollack identifies the potential advantages for Saddam of using terrorists to carry out attacks with weapons of mass destruction (WMD):
"Under present circumstances, Saddam's ability to employ his WMD to pursue foreign policy ends, let alone do massive damage with them is fairly circumscribed. But if Saddam were willing to give WMD to terrorists to employ against cities in the region or the United States, he might be able to do far more damage."
More recent reports of the Iraqi-Al Qaida connection have surfaced:
- On December 12, 2002, the Washington Post reported credible intelligence indicated that Iraq had delivered the highly lethal chemical nerve agent VX to an Al Qaida cell in Lebanon, presenting the U.S. and our allies with an unprecedented, ominous threat.
- On January 29 of this year, British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon declared that his government was aware of strong links between Iraq and terrorist groups. And Prime Minister Tony Blair of the Labor Party specifically stated that "we do know of links between Al Qaida and Iraq.
- During his recent trip to Switzerland, Secretary of State Colin Powell told an audience that "Iraq has clear ties to terrorist groups, including Al Qaida."
So much for the argument that Saddam Hussein is not tied to terrorists.
To summarize, we have statements from politicians, authors, journalists and intelligence analysts from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Atlantic which all support the belief that Saddam Hussein is up to his eyeballs in international terrorism.
Do we have a "smoking gun" that points to Iraqi involvement in the 9-11 attacks? Of course not. We'll never find a smoking gun for 9-11. That prompts us to close with a telling quote from another former CIA Director, Robert Gates:
"I have always argued, in light of my fairly detailed knowledge of the shortcomings of our intelligence capabilities, that the fact that we don't have reliable human intelligence that proves something conclusively is happening is no proof at all that nothing is happening. In these situations, the evidence is almost always ambiguous. On capabilities, it's not ambiguous. Can Saddam produce these weapons of mass destruction? Yes."
Christopher W. Holton is a member of WorldTribune.com's Board of Advisors. He can be reached through his non-profit web site, http://www.nationalsecurityonline.com.