SADDAM = OSAMA: IT'S BACK
It seems like ages ago, but it was only last month that President Bush, his poll ratings falling, gave a gung-ho speech at Fort Bragg in which he said yet again that Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. Remember what happened the next day? A little-known Republican congressman named Robin Hayes declared that "Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11."
And now we have this in a Wall Street Journal column by Claudia Rossett, which almost takes your breath away:
...there's another speech Mr. Bush still needs to give. That would be the one in which he says: I told you so--there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
...If anything, Mr. Bush in recent times has not stressed Saddam's ties to al Qaeda nearly enough.
Rossett's column goes on to cite our old friend Stephen Hayes, author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, who has chosen this moment to publish yet another article in The Weekly Standard on Saddam and bin Laden.
Hayes declares that much of what he's writing about is fresh, but a good deal of it is recycled (in the current article we're told that al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri received $300,000 from the Iraqi regime after a 1998 trip to Baghdad, "[a]s first reported in U.S. News & World Report"; in 2003, Hayes made the same claim, insisting that, according to "an administration official familiar with briefings the CIA has given President Bush, the Agency has 'irrefutable evidence'" that the payment was made. "'It's a lock,' says this source").
Hayes's lead is a Pentagon report on the interrogation of an Iraqi prisoner at Guantanamo (yeah, that sounds likely to be 100% reliable, doesn't it?). He suggests that a March 30 AP report on the prisoner's interrogation was buried by the liberal media, but here it is, to pick two examples, in The Boston Globe and The Houston Chronicle. (From the report we learn, amusingly, that the Iraqi prisoner's "identity is being concealed by the Pentagon on privacy grounds.")
The Hayes article, was, inevitably, followed by an appearance on Fox.
Look, I'm perfectly comfortable with what the Senate Intelligence Committee said in 2004: that there were
several instances of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida throughout the 1990s, but ... these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship.
But if you're saying that Iraq was Jihad Central, where's the evidence? We've been holding prisoners from the war in Afghanistan for nearly four years. We've been holding Iraqis and poring over Saddam-era Iraqi documents for more than two years. Yet Hayes gives us stuff like this:
Recently, Ayad Allawi, the first post-Saddam prime minister of Iraq, stated that Iraqi intelligence documents show that Zarqawi was in Saddam-controlled parts of Iraq in late 1999. The documents, according to Allawi, also show that Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells with the full knowledge of Saddam's intelligence services. If the documents are authentic, and we cannot offer a judgment one way or another, then they will put to rest any doubts about Zarqawi's involvement with Saddam's regime prior to the war.
Wow -- a document we can't authenticate held by someone on our side who apparently won't show it to us.
(And by the way, Allawi is a guy who's been known to fall for phony documents on this subject.)
But, as Claudia Rossett explains in her Wall Street Journal piece, it's important not to let this flame go out:
More than ever, as we now discuss the bombings in London, or, to name a few others, Madrid, Casablanca, Bali, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, or the many bombings in Israel--as well as the attacks on the World Trade Center in both 1993 and 2001--it is important to understand that terrorist connections can be real, and lethal, and portend yet more murder, even when they are shadowy, shifting and complex. And it is vital to send the message to regimes in such places as Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran that in matters of terrorist ties, the Free World is not interested in epistemological debates over what constitutes a connection. We are not engaged in a court case, or a classroom debate. We are fighting a war.
I'll summarize that in plain English: It doesn't matter how weak the connections are between this and that raghead -- they're all the same and they're thick as thieves. So let's run down the list of countries we hate and gin up a few more wars -- preferably starting in time for the midterm elections in '06.
(OK, I added that last part.)