Still No Connection

It's been just shy of two years since our last installment of evidence on the relationship between Saddam Hussein and jihadist terror groups. The Pentagon just released a report on its analysis of 600,000 documents found in Iraq and found that, in spite of expert opinion that secular Saddam could never make common cause with Islamic radicals, in fact throughout the 1990s Saddam was funding al-Zawahiri (who was to become bin Laden's #2 man). From the abstract of the study:
At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam's use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime."
The intrepid Stephen Hayes reports other findings:

  • 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.
  • For more than two decades, the Iraqi regime trained non-Iraqi jihadists in training camps throughout Iraq.
  • 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 the 1990s, Iraq's military intelligence directorate trained and equipped "Sudanese fighters."
  • In 1998, the Iraqi regime offered "financial and moral support" to a new group of jihadists in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
  • In 2002, the year before the war began, the Iraqi regime hosted in Iraq a series of 13 conferences for non-Iraqi jihadist groups.
  • 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 Bahrain, 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."

And if you don't trust a reporter for the Standard, read the report yourself. The Pentagon's 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.
Naturally all this is reported as confirming "no connection," sealing forever the impression that the Iraq war was a rash, foolish, unnecessary thing. This deceptive --outright false-- impression is accepted by the White House, as Bill Kristol notes:
talk to people in the Bush administration... they'll tell you (off the record) it's too hard to try to set the record straight. Any reengagement on the case for war is a loser, they'll say. ...And as for trying to prevent misleading summaries and press leaks in the first place--that's hopeless.
I get so frustrated with the Administration about this. From David Kaye to backing off the imminently defensible "16 words" to today, it's been a relentless surrender on the information battlefield. They're confident they can defeat al-qaeda, but hopeless about al-media and al-public opinion. I agree with Kristol's conclusion:
Bush can still override his cautious aides and tell the American people the whole truth about the situation we faced in 2003 and would face today if Saddam were still in power. This is more than a matter of political advantage. It is a requirement of war leadership.
He should call Congress back from recess with a new State of The Union Address on foreign policy and the response to the jihadist war on us.