Former VP Darth Cheney made his Sunday morning appearance (along with a number of other CIA defenders on various morning news shows) on Meet the Press. And of course the MSM is howling for his head and calling him a liar.
Cheney made mention that Saddam had a 10-year relationship with al Qaeda. PolitFact rates the claim as “false”:
The 9-11 Commission, an independent, bipartisan body created by Congress and Bush, had the job of writing a complete account of the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among its tasks: Examine the ties between al-Qaida and Hussein’s regime.
The commission found isolated contacts over the years between Iraq and al-Qaida terrorists but nothing more.
“To date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship,” the report, released in 2004, said. “Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al-Qaida in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”
Citing from the 9/11 Commission Report is a problem: It’s dated. We know more now than we did at the time; and the Report itself wasn’t claiming that there were no operational ties- it’s claim was more that there was not enough evidence gathered at the time of the Commission investigation to make a definitive conclusion.
PolitiFact (mis)references the findings of the 2007-8 Iraqi Perspectives Project:
In 2007, the Institute for Defense Analyses, a nonprofit research branch of the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command, completed its assessment based on over half-a-million captured Iraqi documents.
That study “found no ‘smoking gun’ (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam’s Iraq and al-Qaida,” the analysts wrote.
When McClatchy’s reporter, Warren Strobel, first “reported” on the Pentagon-funded Iraqi Perspectives Project in 2008, he misreported the content. It’s pretty much the opposite of what he described about the Report. The Report itself hadn’t been released at the time that the article came out. So Strobel hadn’t seen it. Other media outlets then began citing from this one source of misrepresentation.
Because MSM was getting it wrong, one of the researchers involved in the Report recommended releasing the full 1600, 5-volume report immediately. Which they did (ABC News published it).
“Study: Iraq had no link to al-Qaida
Pentagon finds the ‘bulletproof’ prewar evidence turned out bogus”
By WARREN P. STROBEL
March 10, 2008, 11:46PM
WASHINGTON — An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.
-The opening line is false for two reasons. First it describes it as “exhaustive” which typically means complete, and it’s not. In fact the report itself says in every single area of study that more research is needed; i.e. the intelligence has not been exhausted. Second, it claims that there is no evidence of “operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network,” but in fact the report itself is packed with evidence of operational ties between Saddam’s regime and various groups that are components/participants/elements/members of the network. For example the report confirms that Egyptian Islamic Jihad was supported by Saddam’s regime at a time when 2/3 of the al-Qaida network’s leadership (2/3 of the leadership prior to 2003 was comprised of members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The report is also packed with examples of Saddam’s regime recognizing, supporting, and working with Egyptian Islamic Jihad; i.e. with 2/3 of al-Qaida leadership.
EIJ was Zawahiri’s group. There’s a reason why over the years you often read a media report about a terrorist group, describing it as “….an al Qaeda affiliate” or “….with ties to al Qaeda”. They are all part of the same network. The lines between these various jihadi groups become blurred, with cross-over funding, training, shared ideology, mutual goals and interests, and merging. Sometimes they are in competition (ISIS and al Qaeda); but ultimately, they are all “branches of the same poisonous tree”, as PM Netanyahu described them.
“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
-President Bush in an address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People, United States Capitol, Washington D.C., September 20, 2001.
It’s not just al Qaeda. It’s a whole jihadi network. Zubaydah is sometimes defended with claims that he was not al Qaeda; yet it’s clear he had a strong operational role within the terror organization. KSM did not swear bayat to OBL until after he was sure his 9/11 plot would be carried out by al Qaeda. Yet no one would argue that KSM was not at war with the U.S or separate from al Qaeda. Zarqawi did not swear allegiance to OBL until after OIF; yet he was also an enemy of the U.S. and part of the same network of jihadis.
Prior to OIF, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters poured into Iraq, seeking refuge after their OEF defeat.
Ray Robison’s “Both in One Trench” also corrects the myth that a supposed “secular” Saddam would not cooperate with religious fanatics. It’s true that he did not trust them; and it’s true that al Qaeda despised secularized Muslim apostate governments like Saddam’s regime; but both were willing to cooperate for short-term, mutual interests.
The other issue I have with PolitiOpinion’s hitpiece is that Cheney is not overstating the Iraq-a-Qaeda connection. Timelines are important, and if one reads the transcripts to his Meet the Press interviews, he’s very careful in what he says; and it evolved over time, as intelligence information came to him (I have the Prague-Atta controversy in mind, here).
Final peeve: President Bush never said Saddam’s Iraq had an operational link to the events of 9/11. Any responsible administration would have been derelict in its duty had they not turned over that stone and examined it thoroughly after a decade of deceit and defiance on the part of Saddam. However, that angle never became an official part of the case for the Iraq War. Nowhere will you find a quote from Bush saying that Iraq attacked us on 9/11. So that tiresome strawman talking point (“Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11″…..”….invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11”, etc.) needs to die.