July 11, 2005

Battling The CW

The more it becomes the conventional wisdom that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the al Qaeda terror network, the more important it is to keep reminding, informing and hitting people over the head with the evidence if necessary. That is what Stephen Hayes did in his book The Connection, and that is what he continues to do in three recent articles at The Weekly Standard.

In "Rolling Rockefeller", Hayes feeds the Senator's own words back at him to make the point.

Few people have been more critical of the Iraq war than Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia.

He has over the past two years repeatedly accused the Bush administration of deliberately deceiving the American public to take the nation to war. It's hard to imagine a more serious charge. And Rockefeller makes it perhaps more credibly than most Iraq War critics--as the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

It's no surprise then that reporters sought out Rockefeller for his reaction to George W. Bush's address to the nation Tuesday night. The junior senator from West Virginia minced no words. Iraq, he said, "had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, it had nothing to do with al-Qaida, it had nothing to do with September 11, which he managed to mention three or four times and infer three or four more times."

But two years ago the Senator had other ideas...

...In some interviews Rockefeller did say that he hadn't seen evidence of close ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. But asked about an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on February 5, 2003, Rockefeller agreed with Republican Senator Pat Roberts that Abu Musab al Zarqawi's presence in Iraq before the war and his links to a poison camp in northern Iraq were troubling. Rockefeller continued: "The fact that Zarqawi certainly is related to the death of the U.S. aid officer and that he is very close to bin Laden puts at rest, in fairly dramatic terms, that there is at least a substantial connection between Saddam and al Qaeda."

Is this really the same person who now says Iraq "had nothing to do with al Qaeda" and who finds it somehow improper to mention the Iraq war and 9/11 in the same speech?

And as for CNN, Hayes demonstrates that they just continue to present a picture that is 180 degrees removed from the facts, and he calls for an on-air retraction. Fat chance.

"There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was connected in any way to al Qaeda."

So declared CNN Anchor Carol Costello in an interview yesterday with Representative Robin Hayes (no relation) from North Carolina.

Hayes politely challenged her claim. "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you're mistaken. There's evidence everywhere. We get access to it. Unfortunately, others don't."

CNN played the exchange throughout the day. At one point, anchor Daryn Kagan even seemed to correct Rep. Hayes after replaying the clip. "And according to the record, the 9/11 Commission in its final report found no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein."

The CNN claims are wrong. Not a matter of nuance. Not a matter of interpretation. Just plain incorrect. They are so mistaken, in fact, that viewers should demand an on-air correction.

But such claims are, sadly, representative of the broad media misunderstanding of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. Richard Cohen, columnist for the Washington Post, regularly chides the Bush administration for presenting what he calls fabricated or "fictive" links between Iraq and al Qaeda. The editor of the Los Angeles Times scolded the Bush administration for perpetuating the "myth" of such links. "Sixty Minutes" anchor Lesley Stahl put it bluntly: "There was no connection."

Conveniently, such analyses ignore statements like this one from Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission. "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda." Hard to believe reporters just missed it--he made the comments at the press conference held to release the commission's final report. And that report detailed several "friendly contacts" between Iraq and al Qaeda, and concluded only that there was no proof of Iraqi involvement in al Qaeda terrorist attacks against American interests. Details, details.

And finally, from the new issue of TWS, Hayes' piece "The Mother of All Connections", mines new information gleaned from documents discovered after the liberation of Iraq and from prisoner interrogations. I'm excerpting below, but there's no way to do it justice here, so please just go read it all. It is long, detailed and persuasive. It will be interesting to see the response, if any, from the "Bush lied" gang.

...more than two years after the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was ousted, there is much we do not know about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. We do know, however, that there was one. We know about this relationship not from Bush administration assertions but from internal Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) documents recovered in Iraq after the war--documents that have been authenticated by a U.S. intelligence community long hostile to the very idea that any such relationship exists.

We know from these IIS documents that beginning in 1992 the former Iraqi regime regarded bin Laden as an Iraqi Intelligence asset. We know from IIS documents that the former Iraqi regime provided safe haven and financial support to an Iraqi who has admitted to mixing the chemicals for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. We know from IIS documents that Saddam Hussein agreed to Osama bin Laden's request to broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda on Iraqi state-run television. We know from IIS documents that a "trusted confidante" of bin Laden stayed for more than two weeks at a posh Baghdad hotel as the guest of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

We have been told by Hudayfa Azzam, the son of bin Laden's longtime mentor Abdullah Azzam, that Saddam Hussein welcomed young al Qaeda members "with open arms" before the war, that they "entered Iraq in large numbers, setting up an organization to confront the occupation," and that the regime "strictly and directly" controlled their activities. We have been told by Jordan's King Abdullah that his government knew Abu Musab al Zarqawi was in Iraq before the war and requested that the former Iraqi regime deport him. We have been told by Time magazine that confidential documents from Zarqawi's group, recovered in recent raids, indicate other jihadists had joined him in Baghdad before the Hussein regime fell. We have been told by one of those jihadists that he was with Zarqawi in Baghdad before the war. We have been told by Ayad Allawi, former Iraqi prime minister and a longtime CIA source, that other Iraqi Intelligence documents indicate bin Laden's top deputy was in Iraq for a jihadist conference in September 1999.

All of this is new--information obtained since the fall of the Hussein regime. And yet critics of the Iraq war and many in the media refuse to see it.

Related:

Links to Stephen Hayes' reporting on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection.

Posted by dan at July 11, 2005 11:04 PM