May 13, 2007

Seeing The Light

From The Scrapbook

Whatever its flaws, George Tenet's new book seems to be prompting a modest rethinking of the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. A stark example last week was this comment from the Washington Post's lefty military analyst William Arkin, a harsh critic of the Iraq war who remains skeptical of much of the intelligence the Bush administration used to justify removing Saddam Hussein:

Tenet's explanation of the workings of the U.S. government and the "intelligence" on Iraq's connection to terrorism provides the most compelling argument yet as to why we should be sympathetic to the decisions of President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding Iraq. . . . Tenet reveals a string of verified intelligence reports showing a suspicious and potentially frightening connection between Baghdad and various terrorist operatives:

* "There were, over a decade, a number of possible high-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida, through high-level and third-party intermediaries."

* Iraq, Sudan and Osama bin Laden may have cooperated on chemical weapons during the mid-1990s.

* "There were solid reports from senior al-Qa'ida members that raised concerns about al-Qa'ida's enduring interest in acquiring chemical and biological expertise from Iraq." . . .

* In the spring and summer of 2002, "more than a dozen al-Qa'ida-affiliated extremists converged on Baghdad."

* At least one "senior" Zarqawi operative "maintained some sort of liaison relationship with the Iraqis."

* "Credible information" indicated that an Islamic Jihad leader in Iraq was "willing to strike U.S., Israeli, and Egyptian targets sometime in the future."

Concludes Arkin: "That's just the credible and validating reporting that Tenet describes from 9/11 through the Iraq war."

Arkin is not the only person to see it this way. Here's GOP presidential not-quite-candidate Fred Thompson in his regular ABC Radio commentary:

On the issue of al Qaeda's relationship with Iraq, for example, Tenet said that the CIA had proof of al Qaeda contact with Saddam's regime; that the regime had provided safe haven for al Qaeda operatives and that Saddam had provided training assistance for al Qaeda terrorists. He went on to say that the CIA had no proof that the relationship was operational or that they had any ongoing working relationship--that it could have been that each side was just using the other. Maybe my recollection is faulty on this, but that doesn't seem to be inconsistent with what folks in the administration said. In other words, there was clearly contact and a relationship, but no one knew exactly what it meant.

Thompson is right. And the risk posed by that relationship was plainly one reason Iraq was--and remains--a central front in the war on terror.

Incredibly, Arkin writes the above as if the statements about Iraq-al Qaeda ties in Tenet's book are a revelation of some sort. This is precisely the information that has been systematically ignored or mockingly denied by the liberal media since well before the 2003 invasion. It's amusing that a liberal Post columnist is now coming around to "be sympathetic to the decisions of President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding Iraq". But didn't his Post colleague Robert Kagan document here much of the alarmist rhetoric about the dangerous Saddam Hussein on the op-ed pages of the Post and the New York Times? Oh yes, that was all prior to January, 2001, wasn't it? What was received media wisdom in 1998 became something "cooked up in Texas" somewhere in 2001.

Well before 9/11- but inconveniently for BDS sufferers, also well before Bush - the U.S. government had good reason to fear and suspect Saddam's eventual willingness to cooperate with terrorist groups against the United States. That Arkin is just now mustering some sympathy for the difficult decisions a President has to make is indeed sad.

What may be sadder is that after five or so years of the Bush administration making this case (or not) against Iraq, Arkin is ultimately persuaded by someone with the credibility of George Tenet.

Related:

Andrew McCarthy - Iraq and Militant Islam - June, 2004

Posted by dan at May 13, 2007 9:09 PM