Thursday, June 24, 2004

Well, this New York Times story is going to make right-wingers feel smug, but it shouldn't:

Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

American officials described the document as an internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization. He was based in Sudan from 1992 to 1996, when that country forced him to leave and he took refuge in Afghanistan.

The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration....

Just what the 9/11 Commission said -- no collaboration on terrorism, attempts to forge a real working relationship rebuffed.

Oh, and this document came from Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

A translation of the new Iraqi document was reviewed by a Pentagon working group in the spring, officials said....

The task force concluded that the document "appeared authentic," and that it "corroborates and expands on previous reporting" about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force's analysis.

It is not known whether some on the task force held dissenting opinions about the document's veracity.

Recall one of the more delicious details from Jane Mayer's New Yorker portrait of Chalabi:

In 1994, [CIA agent Robert] Baer said, he went with Chalabi to visit "a forgery shop" that the I.N.C. had set up inside an abandoned schoolhouse in Salahuddin, a town in Kurdistan. "It was something like a spy novel," Baer said. "It was a room where people were scanning Iraqi intelligence documents into computers, and doing disinformation. There was a whole wing of it that he did forgeries in." Baer had no evidence that Chalabi forged any of the disputed intelligence documents that were used to foment alarm in the run-up to the war. But, he said, "he was forging back then, in order to bring down Saddam."

But hey, maybe this document is authentic. It's such small beer, it might be.

Imagine you're working for the street-gang unit of a big-city police force. Your worst gang is doing really nasty, violent things and has to be stopped. You know who the gang leaders are. You want to conduct a major operation to bring the gang down. But the mayor, for reasons of his own, keeps insisting that you should focus your attention on arresting someone who keeps trying to join the gang -- someone who's no angel, but who's never been part of the big gang's inner circle. And on the mayor's orders, the entire gang task force is redirected toward the arrest of that guy.

That's the Iraq war.

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