10 September 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

There is a must-read article in today’s LA Times about the
just-released Senate Intelligence report that once and for
all destroys the myth that Saddam Hussein was an ally of
Al Qaeda -- a myth the Bush Administration continues to
sell to the American public
as fact.

In one of its main conclusions, the report said
that "postwar findings indicate that Saddam
Hussein was distrustful of Al Qaeda and viewed
Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime,
refusing all requests from Al Qaeda to provide
material or operational support."

According to the report, Hussein has told U.S.
interrogators that "if he wanted to cooperate
with the enemies of the U.S., he would have
allied with North Korea or China." His former
deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, told U.S.
interrogators that "Saddam only expressed
negative sentiments about Bin Laden."

The report's disclosures include a classified
assessment by the CIA last year that Hussein's
regime "did not have a relationship, harbor or
turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his

The committee, made up of eight Republicans
and seven Democrats, said U.S. intelligence
agencies before Sept. 11 "accurately
characterized" Bin Laden's intermittent interest
in pursuing assistance from Iraq, but were
largely wrong about Hussein's attitudes.

The Iraqi leader, according to the report, was so
wary of the terrorist network that he "issued a
general order that Iraq should not deal with Al

* * *

The CIA and other intelligence agencies were
generally skeptical that Hussein had significant
links to the terrorist group. But Vice President
Dick Cheney and other senior administration
officials have persistently highlighted isolated
intelligence reports suggesting a relationship
between Hussein and Bin Laden. The Senate
report contradicts many of those assertions.

The report concludes, for instance, that it is true
that Zarqawi was in Baghdad for about seven
months in 2002. But Hussein was initially
unaware of his presence in the country and later
ordered his intelligence services to capture
Zarqawi, according to the report.

The attempt was unsuccessful, and Zarqawi
escaped to Iran. He also hid in areas of northern
Iraq beyond Hussein's reach. After Hussein was
overthrown, Zarqawi led the deadly insurgency
against U.S. forces before he was killed by a
U.S. airstrike in June.

Even as administration officials insisted on a
Hussein-Al Qaeda link, they steered clear of
alleging a direct role by the Iraqi strongman in
the Sept. 11 attacks.

And at a news conference last month, Bush said
flatly that Hussein had "nothing" to do with the
assaults. Still, a CNN poll released this week
found that 43% of U.S. residents said they
believed Hussein was personally involved in the
attacks; 52% said he was not.