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Saturday, November 15, 2003

More on Iraq - al Qaeda Linkage

I wrote below that I didn't "have any clue one way or the other" regarding Bush and his administration alleged "lies" regarding links between Iraq and al Qaeda. There are two reasons for that. First, as I've pointed out several times, I seriously distrust all media. That's why I find the pair of NY Times quotes via Sullivan both amusing (to me) and tragic (for that once venerable old paper).

The second reason is that there is plenty of public information that corroborates those quotes in Jim's entry. For example, here are some excerpts from a recent article from The Weekly Standard:
OSAMA BIN LADEN and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda--perhaps even for Mohamed Atta--according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of America's most determined and dangerous enemies.

According to the memo--which lays out the intelligence in 50 numbered points--Iraq-al Qaeda contacts began in 1990 and continued through mid-March 2003, days before the Iraq War began. Most of the numbered passages contain straight, fact-based intelligence reporting, which in
some cases includes an evaluation of the credibility of the source. This reporting is often followed by commentary and analysis.

The relationship began shortly before the first Gulf War. According to reporting in the memo, bin Laden sent "emissaries to Jordan in 1990 to meet with Iraqi government officials." At some unspecified point in 1991, according to a CIA analysis, "Iraq sought Sudan's assistance to establish links to al Qaeda." The outreach went in both directions. According to 1993 CIA reporting cited in the memo, "bin Laden wanted to expand his organization's capabilities through ties with Iraq..."

The Weekly Standard is a right wing publication and supportive of Bush. I don't trust them either. They could easily made up the leaked "top secret" memo. I'm always particularly suspicious when only one journalist (or at least journal) gets to see some inside information and nobody else has access to it. Who leaked it? Why can't we see the memo itself? What evidence is there that it's real?

But the same goes for those providing "evidence" that Bush lied. It always seems to be some unnamed intelligence official providing that information. Again, who is said intelligence official? Why should we consider what they say authoritative? How do we know they had access to all pertinent information (intelligence is usually distributed on a "needs-to-know" basis so few people have access to all information)? How do we know they just weren't anti-Bush and made it up?

That's why, in my mind, the case is not yet closed whether or not Bush lied about links between Iraq and al Qaeda. The same is true regarding weapons of mass destruction, including the African enriched uranium story. If someone believes the media, the evidence is conflicting. If someone doesn't believe the media, there's virtually no evidence. If someone only believes the portion of the media that conveniently aligns with that person's views, then that person is biased.

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