July 18, 2005
WAR: Saddam and Abu Sayyaf
A question for my left-leaning readers, who I can usually count on to be vocal. I am inspired by this Pejman post disputing this Kevin Drum post, both of which discuss the Saddam-Al Qaeda relationship mainly at the level of conclusions from reports. But the relationship is, to my mind, better understood by the conclusions that can be drawn from specific facts.
In reading Stephen Hayes' book "The Connection," one of the more striking and telling facts, to me, was the expulsion of an Iraqi embassy official named Hisham Hussein from the Philippines following an October 2002 suicide bombing by Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf terrorists at a cafe/bar frequented by US soldiers from a nearby base. The bombing killed one American soldier and wounded another. Phone records and surveillance tied the Iraqi official directly to Abu Sayyaf leaders (including records of calls on a captured cell phone that was to have been used for another bombing). And one Abu Sayyaf leader claimed that Iraq had been financing them to the tune of about $20,000 per year.
Now, you can argue that one bombing and one dead soldier do not make a casus belli, and that Abu Sayyaf was, in and of itself, a pretty local actor. But Hayes' presentation of this incident (echoed in other reports) makes pretty clear that the connection to Abu Sayyaf demonstrated the Saddam regime's willingness - even after September 11 - to continue to support, finance and associate with Al Qaeda-linked militant Islamic suicide bombers whose only conceivable connection to Saddam's regional interests was their attacks on Americans wherever they might be found. And that willingness - denied so heatedly by so many bloggers and pundits on the Left - was, after, all, at the very core of the case for war with Iraq.
So here's the question. So far as I can tell, no liberal blogger or pundit has ever attempted to grapple with Iraq's involvement in financing and associating with Abu Sayyaf. (This mostly fact-free Media Matters broadside against Hayes, for example, mainly attacks Douglas Feith and Rupert Murdoch). Have I missed something?
Are you telling me that on the claim of a known terrorist that Iraq funded them $20,000/year (you don't believe any of the claims of the imprisoned Arabs at Gitmo) we started a multi-hundred billion dollar war? If this is the big "Connection" it is pretty freaking lame. Again the question would be "Even if you take this as gospel why don't we apply the same standard to Saudi Arabia and Afghanastan?" Could it be that the business is too good there with the Taliban in Afghanistan and the terrorist breeders in Saudi Arabia?
If you really believe that Iraq's connection to Al Qaeda was at the heart of this push to war you choose to ignore multiple facts citing the opposite/other reasons and give no weight to the well documented lies the Bush Admin has told the public regarding this ill-conceived war.
Didn't answer the first question and the $43 million we gave to the Taliban and the billions of debt S.A. owns on us are, in GOP Inc thought, apparently nothing in comparison to $20K/year. Nice.
People like "jim" are examples of the failure of the public school system.
Well, apparently there are frauds who make up, and endlessly repeat, their own "facts", thereby creating their own virtual reality. And then there are liberal bloggers or pundits (excepting Hitchens) that don't look into any of Saddam's connections with terrorism because in their heart they cannot side with the US, therefore, by default, they side with Saddam and his despotic regime. Opinions may differ, and your results may vary.
Hey, jackass I went to a private school so nice try but apparently you are dumber than I am. And I have no doubt of this because I look at facts and am actually concerned about things like the leadership of our govenrnment doing lots of business with families that have ties to terrorists. I never have said that I don' t think that there are $ connections between Iraq and terrorists. In fact, I think it would be silly to think otherwise. However, if a $20K/year connection is the best that can be done, well, that is just lame. Especially when you consider the FAR greater involvement of governments like Saudi Arabia and Afghanastan.
Don't you think it the least bit coincidental that there is all sorts of government $ flowing between the US and those 2 countries and the fact that we do little to nothing to control those 2 areas of the world vis a vis our unreal commitment (especially financially) to Iraq? How many of those 9/11 terrorists were Iraqi? Do you even know the answer, Richard?
See, being smart makes you question things. Accepting what GOP Inc feeds you makes you either stupid, gullible or both. At the least, the failure to question your own government, especially given the volumes of evidence that contradict their statement, is not a very American tradition.
Please, please, no insulting the regulars.
Jim - That said, I haven't responded in detail, and won't, as some of your points veer off course here. But my point is not that a $20K stipend is itself a danger; the point, rather, is that this and various other things we know and can prove about Saddam's regime and its eagerness to lend aid and comfort to non-state-actor jihadi terrorists should quite properly color our view of the areas in which the evidence is sketchier. Drum thinks we can look at the on-off nature of the available evidence of Saddam-bin Laden contacts and conclude that that must be all there was. Leaving aside the fact that he gives short shrift to the actual evidence - more on that another day, but Pejman's post is a start - the whole "Saddam wouldn't work with Al Qaeda" meme is fatally undermined by connections like his connection with Abu Sayyaf.
Sometimes, the devil really is in the details.
There are two questions that must be considered separately in judging this Administration’s decision to invade Iraq: a) why did the Bush administration want so desperately to take out Saddam; and b) what reasons did the Bush administration give Congress and the American people for going to war?
The first question lends itself more to our host’s revisionist history. Many folks in the Bush administration wanted to take Saddam out well before September 11, and afterwards they became obsessed with his removal. Why? Well there are lots of reasons. Some obvious: he invaded Kuwait; he gassed the Kurds; he and his monstrous sons raped and tortured Iraqis at will; he tried to assassinate George H.W. Bush; he violated UN sanctions; Congress and President Clinton had declared his removal to be the official goal of the United States. Some reasons were more abstract: the reverse domino theory, spreading freedom, etc. And some reasons could never be spoken of, but were certainly considered: oil, Israel, Iraq’s strategic location, etc.
Impressive as this list may be, it was not enough to convince Congress and the American people to send our soldiers into harm’s way. To sway them, two final reasons had to be relied upon: 1) weapons of mass destruction; and 2) support of terrorism. Hence, Dick Cheney went on Meet the Press and spoke of the warning shot from Iraq coming in the form of a mushroom cloud. Colin Powell went to the UN and declared aluminum tubes in Iraq’s possession could only be used for WMDs. George Bush spoke in his State of Union Address about Saddam purchasing nuclear materials in Niger. And so on, and so on.
The support of terrorism card was never played that strongly. The President would often conflate September 11 and Iraq, but more through symbols and patriotic speeches. When confronted directly about any ties between the two, the Administration usually conceded there was not a lot of evidence. Though, Saddam had apparently rewarded families of some Palestinian suicide bombers, and William Safire would on a weekly basis pair Saddam and Osama Bin Laden.
So, if what Messr. Crank states is true, my question is so what? Is he saying the Administration knew of this tie but decided not to publicize it, so we should give them a break? Is he saying the administration didn’t know of this tie, but it’s an added benefit of taking out Saddam that we may not have considered, so we should cheer up.
I don’t know, but I’d be interested in hearing why this is important in judging this Administration’s decision to invade Iraq.
Why so defensive, Jimmy? Oh well. I'm sorry that I questioned your clearly substantial intellect.
Crank, I feel the need to point out that the much-debated point has not been whether or not Saddam supported terrorists - I consider this a fact that is not in dispute. For example, it's well documented that he paid stipends to the families of suicide bombers in Israel.
The point that has been debated - and never even slightly substantiated by BushCo - is the connection between Saddam and 9/11. I'd happily discuss any evidence you'd care to roll out on that point.
No, no, no, no, no. The Bush Administration has not accused Saddam of complicity in 9/11, except for Dick Cheney noting the existence of some scattered and uncertain evidence on the point. The point is Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda, and more specifically the future threat of him working either with Al Qaeda or with some similar group. His ties to other terrorist groups are both probative of his propensity to be involved with a group like Al Qaeda - and thus informative of the strength of the case on that point - and probative of his willingness more generally to affiliate with the very thing we're at war with. Hence, these are key pieces to the puzzle as far as they reveal his intent to affiliate with jihadi/suicide bomber terrorist groups operating outside of Iraq.
Richard, I never claimed great intellect. All I said was you were likely dumber than me. Given that your posts contain no intellectual material and mine do it was the only conclusion at which I could arrive.
The Bush Administration has done far more to subtlely link Saddam to 9/11 on numerous occasions. Have they ever said, "Saddam was the backbone of 9/11"? No. But they have done far more in the press, in press conferences, speeches, talk shows, etc. to play this point up without ever actually coming right out and saying it.
Still, if this information is the best we can do to link Saddam to terrorism it is pretty weak given the body of evidence against other governments that we are completley willing to play footsie with and, well, actual freaking terrorists. We are spending capital of many natures in Iraq when the battle lies in more fertile grounds elsewhere. You cannot seriously believe that Saddam was the Number 1 terrorist/terrorist supporter threat in the entire world. Yet we created a situation in which he was (and a situation that needed to be sold to Congress, the public, etc.). And if he was Numero Uno, hell, we got him.
Our "mission" in Iraq had little to nothing to do with Saddam's support of terrorist groups. On a list of supporters of terrorists he would have been way down on it. Why do we not spend our resources actually trying to ferret out the actual terrorists and their hardcore supporters? Why will no right winger even talk about Saudi Arabia? Why did we pull 99.99% of our resources out of Afghanastan when we knew Bin Laden was there and move it all to Iraq?
I am all for getting the bad guys. This war in Iraq was not about getting them though.
Messr Crank: Saddam was a ruthless, despicable, god-awful thug. The stories of his brutality are infinite. Yes, he was EVIL!!! Now did someone as smart as yourself have to read in a book of his willingness to work with terrorists. I am sure if he thought it would help solidify his power he'd work with the devil himself. In fact, according to reliable sources, the devil was his spurned lover (see South Park, episodes 114-123, 130)
As Americans, however, we were primarily concerned with whether he was actively assisting Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda, and no evidence exists to support this.
You may reply that well, if he's that awful and willing to support terrorists, well the sooner we remove him the better, 'cause eventually that SOB would come after us or assist someone who came after us.
But, as were finding out, invading a soverign nation is not something to take lightly, even by the greatest superpower in the history of the world. So like the standard for abridging the first amendment, we need to be in imminent danger, and we weren't!!
(by the way, great research on the Espionage Act, I'd love to send it to Fitzgerald, seriously!)
The point in documenting these contacts and exchanges between Saddam and OBL is that it gives additional credibility to the concern that we all had - but some have forgotten - that al-Qaeda would acquire WMD from Iraq and attack us.
That was a REAL and legitimate concern.
If - admittedly a large qualifier - Bush had not liberated Iraq and if al-Qaeda had acquired chemical weapons from Iraq and killed large numbers of Americans with them, Bush would have been impeached post 9/11.
Impeached and convicted.
And Kennedy et al. would have authored the charges.
This was the situation that Bush faced right after 9/11. Real intelligence showing contacts between OBL and Saddam. Real intelligence showing that Iraq had at least chemical weapons. And real intelligence showing that OBL was interested in acquiring WMD from Iraq.
Bush had no other choice, really, but to invade.
SteveMG: What color is the sky in your world? Not only do you still beilieve Saddam had WMD, but you also still believe Al Qaeda was working with Saddam. I don't know where to begin.
Before the war, intelligent people agreed their was a possibility Saddam could have some sort of weapons program - though he did allow inspectors into his country. After the war, all intelligent people agree he had no weapons program.
Before the war, everyone including the President acknowledged there were no ties between Al Qaeda, a radical, militant Muslim organization, and Saddam - a secular thug. After the War, everybody still agrees on this.
Since you're operating under premises different than the rest of the world, please enlighten us - or do us a favor and stick it all in your pipe and smoke it!
I would like to know why Saddam Hussein had to be removed because "he was a bad man that killed his own people," blah blah blah... And yet there is no talk about removing worse dictators that have killed and continue to kill many more people. There are about six of them in Africa alone.
To me, this indicates that altruism was not the reason why we went to Iraq. So we can cross off that one along with the several others that didn't pan out.