Former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell has been making his rounds in the media, promoting his new book. Earlier this week, he appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews; and the Iraq war critics have been salivating over this “Aha! Gotcha!” moment:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqOat2wDitQ
Host Chris Matthews asked Morell about a statement Cheney made in 2003: “We know he [Saddam Hussein] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Here’s the conversation that followed:
MATTHEWS: Was that true?
MORELL: We were saying—
MATTHEWS: Can you answer that question? Was that true?
MORELL: That’s not true.
MATTHEWS: Well, why’d you let them get away with it?
MORELL: Look, my job Chris—
MATTHEWS: You’re the briefer for the president on intelligence, you’re the top person to go in and tell him what’s going on. You see Cheney make this charge he’s got a nuclear bomb and then they make subsequent charges he knew how to deliver it…and nobody raised their hand and said, “No that’s not what we told him.”
MORELL: Chris, Chris Chris, what’s my job, right? My job—
MATTHEWS: To tell the truth.
MORELL: My job—no, as the briefer? As the briefer?
MATTHEWS: Okay, go ahead.
MORELL: As the briefer, my job is to carry CIA’s best information and best analysis to the president of the United States and make sure he understands it. My job is to not watch what they’re saying on TV.
The discussion went on:
MATTHEWS: So you’re briefing the president on the reasons for war, they’re selling the war, using your stuff, saying you made that case when you didn’t. So they’re using your credibility to make the case for war dishonestly, as you just admitted.
MORELL: Look, I’m just telling you—
MATTHEWS: You just admitted it.
MORELL: I’m just telling you what we said—
MATTHEWS: They gave a false presentation of what you said to them.
MORELL: On some aspects. On some aspects.
So did Morrell admit to what the BDSers have known and been claiming for the last 12 years? Or did he misspeak? Or was it Cheney? Or was it an intentional lie? Did Chris Matthews feel that thrill going up that leg again, during his grill?
Given how often I’ve found gotcha quotes cherry-picked and isolated out of context by Iraq War critics, I decided to go back and take a look at Dick Cheney’s March 16, 2003 MtP interview. As it relates to nuclear weapons, here’s more of what he had to say:
MR. RUSSERT: The Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial about the administration and its rationale for war. And let me read it to you and give you a chance to respond: “The Bush administration’s months of attempts to justify quick military action against Iraq have been confusing and unfocused. It kept giving different reasons for invasion. First, it was to disarm Hussein and get him out. Then, as allies got nervous about outside nations deciding ‘regime change,’ the administration for a while rightly stressed disarmament only.
Next, the administration was talking about ‘nation-building’ and using Iraq as the cornerstone of creating democracy in the Arab/Muslim world. And that would probably mean U.S. occupation of Iraq for some unspecified time, at open-ended cost. Then, another tactic: The administration tried mightily, and failed, to show a connection between Hussein and the 9/11 perpetrators, Al Qaeda. Had there been real evidence that Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, Americans would have lined up in support of retaliation.”
What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I’ve just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.
MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree. Let’s talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We’ve got, again, a long record here. It’s not as though this is a fresh issue. In the late ’70s, Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear reactors from the French. 1981, the Israelis took out the Osirak reactor and stopped his nuclear weapons development at the time. Throughout the ’80s, he mounted a new effort. I was told when I was defense secretary before the Gulf War that he was eight to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon. And we found out after the Gulf War that he was within one or two years of having a nuclear weapon because he had a massive effort under way that involved four or five different technologies for enriching uranium to produce fissile material.
We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.
Oops. There it is. Shortly after this, though, Cheney replies in this manner on the nuclear weapons question:
We’re now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons. And in light of that, we have to be prepared, I think, to take the action that is being contemplated. Doesn’t insist that he be disarmed and if the U.N. won’t do it, then the United States and other partners of the coalition will have to do that.
A bit perplexing. Perhaps Cheney in his statement seconds earlier really meant “reconstituted nuclear weapons” programs and gaffed and oversold. “Lie” if you will.
As it stood, at the time, the CIAs assessment (which you can find in Morrell’s own book) and that expressed in the 2002 NIE was that Saddam’s Iraq “has continued its weapons of mass destruction programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions.” The NIE noted active chemical and biological weapons programs; and that Iraq was indeed reconstituting its nuclear weapons programs. Only the State Department dissented on one aspect of the nuclear issue. Anyone who cites this as proof that the Administration “lied” is cherry-picking to listen to the 1 dissent out of 16 other views. The NIE is also not written up by the White House.
Morrell writes in “The Great War of Our Time”, pg 89-90:
The view that hard-liners in the Bush administration forced the intelligence community into its position on WMD is just flat wrong. No one pushed. The analysts were already there and they had been there for years, long before Bush came to office.
The most serious dissent came from the Department of Energy. While DOE analysts agreed that the Iraqis werein t he process of reconstituting their nuclear weapons program, they did not buy the argument that aluminum tubes being purchased by Iraqis overseas were for centrifuges.
The CIA analysts and the U.S. Army’s NGIC (National Ground Intelligence Center) held an opposing view from that of DOE because they couldn’t understand why Iraq would purchase them for rockets and not centrifuges for producing highly enriched uranium because if it were us, we would not use such high-end expensive aluminum for mere rockets. The mistake was in the assumption that the Iraqis would think like us.
In the end, the NIE got a lot of stuff wrong; but this was not due to the White House “cooking the books”. Their policymaking was guided by the best intelligence assessments that they were being given at the time.
In mentioning earlier how Bush critics on a number of occasions have taken half-quotes out of context or misremember the exact wording, the reason for this is because the power of a phrase is picked up and takes on a life of its own. There’s a dishonesty there; but it can also be the fault of the ones being criticized who- intentional or otherwise- have given a strong impression of what they mean, even if they technically hadn’t said what their listeners think they heard. Examples of this is why we end up with “imminent threat” rather than President Bush expressing that we must act before a threat becomes imminent because then we would have acted too late (the line was used by others, including Democrats and journalists, thereby cementing in the public consciousness the belief that this is what Bush was saying).
We also get “Saddam attacked us on 9/11”. Bush never said it. This angle was vigorously explored (i.e., the Saddam-al Qaeda connection/ties/links/contacts vs. collaborative/operational links)- especially by the office of the Vice Presidency- but it (al-Qaeda relationship to Saddam) never became an official part of building the case for OIF. Given our history with Saddam, in a post-9/11 world, any Administration in power at the time- be it Al Gore who was VP when “regime change” for Iraq became official U.S. policy in ’98- would have been derelict in duty not to have turned over every rock, examining the possibility of a connection, given Saddam was an open state-sponsor of exported terrorism.
It is Morrell’s belief- and the position of the CIA- that the links between al Qaeda and Iraq were thin. Douglas Feith- the dreaded neocon- believes that while the CIA oversold the WMD angle (position shared by Morrell), it under-examined looking at possible connections due to the prejudicial belief by analysts that a secular Saddam who did not trust religious fanatics would ever cooperate with them. I stand in the middle on this. The Administration never said Iraq collaborated with al Qaeda on 9/11; but by vigorously drawing links (and not making the stronger case that the GWoT involved a global jihad movement larger than just simply “al Qaeda”), in the minds of most Americans, it became as good as stating “Iraq involved in 9/11”.
War critics like to derisively bring up “mushroom cloud”. Well, look back at the text of all the things President Bush actually said in his 2002 Cincinnati speech and not the one imagined:
Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror against its own people.
Many Americans have raised legitimate questions about the nature of the threat, about the urgency of action. Why be concerned now? About the link between Iraq developing weapons of terror and the wider war on terror.
First, some ask why Iraq is different from other countries or regimes that also have terrible weapons. While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place.
Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same tyrant has tried to dominate the Middle East, has invaded and brutally occupied a small neighbor, has struck other nations without warning and holds an unrelenting hostility toward the United States. By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique.
As a former chief weapons inspector of the UN has said, “The fundamental problem with Iraq remains the nature of the regime itself.” Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction.
Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today – and we do – does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?
In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq’s military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 litres of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for and is capable of killing millions.
We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, Sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. Saddam Hussein also has experience in using chemical weapons. He’s ordered chemical attacks on Iran and on more than 40 villages in his own country. These actions killed or injured at least 20,000 people: more than six times the number of people who died in the attacks of September 11.
And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons. Every chemical and biological weapon that Iraq has or makes is a direct violation of the truce that ended the Persian Gulf War in 1991.Yet Saddam Hussein has chosen to build and keep these weapons, despite international sanctions, UN demands and isolation from the civilized world.
Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles; far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations in a region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members live and work.
We’ve also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas. We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States.
And, of course, sophisticated delivery systems aren’t required for a chemical or biological attack. All that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it. And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein’s links to international terrorist groups.
Over the years Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans.
Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who is responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger. And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror and gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace.
We know that Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al-Qaida have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.
Some al-Qaida leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al-Qaida leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks.
We’ve learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September 11 Saddam Hussein’s regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.
Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror.
When I spoke to Congress more than a year ago, I said that those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, the instruments of mass death and destruction, and he cannot be trusted. The risk is simply too great that he will use them or provide them to a terror network.
Terror cells and outlaw regimes building weapons of mass destruction are different faces of the same evil. Our security requires that we confront both, and the United States military is capable of confronting both.
Many people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear weapon. Well, we don’t know exactly, and that’s the problem. Before the Gulf War, the best intelligence indicated that Iraq was eight to 10 years away from developing a nuclear weapon. After the war, international inspectors learned that the regime had been much closer. The regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.
The inspectors discovered that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a workable nuclear weapon and was pursuing several different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites.
That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that, despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue.
The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists . . . his “nuclear mujaheddin,” his nuclear holy warriors.
Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of his nuclear program in the past.
Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, he could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year.
And if we allow that to happen, a terrible line would be crossed. Saddam Hussein would be in a position to blackmail anyone who opposes his aggression. He would be in a position to dominate the Middle East. He would be in a position to threaten America. And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists.
Some citizens wonder, “After 11 years of living with this problem, why do we need to confront it now?”
And there’s a reason. We have experienced the horror of September 11. We have seen that those who hate America are willing to crash airplanes into buildings full of innocent people. Our enemies would be no less willing, in fact they would be eager, to use biological or chemical or a nuclear weapon.
Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.
As President Kennedy said in October of 1962, “Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world,” he said, “where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril.”
Understanding the threats of our time, knowing the designs and deceptions of the Iraqi regime, we have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring.
Some believe we can address this danger by simply resuming the old approach to inspections and applying diplomatic and economic pressure. Yet this is precisely what the world has tried to do since 1991.
The UN inspections program was met with systematic deception. The Iraqi regime bugged hotel rooms and offices of inspectors to find where they were going next. They forged documents, destroyed evidence and developed mobile weapons facilities to keep a step ahead of inspectors. Eight so-called presidential palaces were declared off-limits to unfettered inspections. These sites actually encompass 12 square miles, with hundreds of structures both above and below the ground where sensitive materials could be hidden.
The world has also tried economic sanctions and watched Iraqi’s billions of dollars in illegal oil revenues to fund more weapons purchases rather than provide for the needs of the Iraqi people.
The world has tried limited military strikes to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities, only to see them openly rebuilt while the regime again denies they even exist.
The world has tried no-fly zones to keep Saddam from terrorizing his own people, and in the last year alone the Iraqi military has fired upon American and British pilots more than 750 times.
After 11 years during which we’ve tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
There is no easy or risk-free course of action. Some have argued we should wait, and that’s an option. In my view, it’s the riskiest of all options, because the longer we wait, the stronger and bolder Saddam Hussein will become. We could wait and hope that Saddam does not give weapons to terrorists or develop a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. But I’m convinced that is a hope against all evidence.
HH: A couple of pages later, you write that the CIA’s judgment about Saddam and WMD was nothing new, nor was it unique. The perception that the Bush administration pushed the intelligence community toward believing that Saddam had WMD is just wrong. No one pushed us. We were already there. The notion that we were telling the White House wanted to hear can easily be debunked. Look at the question of Saddam’s connections to al Qaeda. We held our ground, the Agency held its ground, and refused to go where the intelligence did not take us. On WMD, if we’d believed it was likely Saddam had none, it would have been an act of madness to take the position we did. Following an invasion, a stockpile would either turn up or not. To go to war knowing you’re going to be proving wrong would be insane. That’s the kind of airtight analysis that has been missing from a lot of this hyper-politicized debate.
MM: So for years, for years, there’s been the view out there, Hugh, that CIA, the U.S. intelligence community, was pushed into this judgment by the Bush White House or hardliners in the Bush administration. It’s complete nonsense, as I walk through in the book. You know, I’ll tell you, the only thing you really need to know is that the CIA believed this about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction before George Bush ever came to office. We were telling the same story to President Clinton.
— – – — –
HH: The reason WMD were believed by the Agency there, you put down to analytic creep, hindsight bias, historical bias, confirmation bias, all sorts of biases, and the fact, I added in my notes, Saddam threw out the inspectors, he shot at our planes. But mostly, it was our failure to penetrate Saddam’s inner circle. Are we in the same position right now vis-à-vis Tehran, Michael Morell?
MM: Yeah, so I really, Hugh, for obvious reasons, can’t get into sort of what our capabilities are and our access are against Iran. I’m sure you understand. I can talk about Iraq now, because the war is over and Saddam’s gone. But one of the really important lessons here is that collection, intelligence collection, right, recruiting other human beings to spy for the United States, is really, really important to our country. And the analysts have taken a big, big hit on Iraq WMD. But we never penetrated Saddam’s inner circle to find out what he was really doing and really thinking. And it turns out that what he was doing was getting rid of his weapons of mass destruction program, believing that the CIA was good enough to see it, believing that U.S. policymakers would get rid of the sanctions as a result of being told by the CIA that he had gotten rid of these programs, but not wanting to be so open about it that the Iranians would find out, because he saw those weapons programs as a big deterrent against Iran. So he gave us, at the end of the day, the great irony is he gave us way too much credit.
On the aside, also from the March 16, 2003 MtP:
Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.
Like the “Mission Accomplished” carrier banner, this statement has been much ballyhooed. However, it’s a fact that we were greeted as liberators.
During the Hardball segment, the Mohommed Atta and Prague issue also came up. It’s a bit much to demand of Mike Morrell to know what Cheney said 12 years ago on MtP; frankly, it’s a bit much to ask it of Chris Matthews to understand it. But I covered this in my Did President Bush Link Saddam Hussein to 9/11? post, where I bring up how timelines are important.
In late 2001, Vice President Cheney said it was “pretty well confirmed” that attack mastermind Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cheney was referring to a meeting that Czech officials said took place in Prague in April 2000. That allegation was the most direct connection between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks. But this summer’s congressional report on the attacks states, “The CIA has been unable to establish that [Atta] left the United States or entered Europe in April under his true name or any known alias.”
I’ve already gone through a number of Cheney’s MtP interviews for those “gotcha” statements that the vice president is alleged to have made, and have yet to see the damning evidence that Dick Cheney misled the American public.
RUSSERT: The plane on the ground in Iraq used to train non-Iraqi hijackers.
Do you still believe there is no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?
[in a previous appearance on MTP, the Sunday following 9/11, when directly asked if there was evidence that Iraq had a part in 9/11, Cheney flat out said “No.” So much for the theory that since day one the Bushies had war in Iraq on their collective minds- wordsmith]
CHENEY: Well, what we now have that’s developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that’s been pretty well confirmed, that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.
Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don’t know at this point. But that’s clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.
RUSSERT: What we do know is that Iraq is harboring terrorists. This was from Jim Hoagland in The Washington Post that George W. Bush said that Abdul Ramini Yazen (ph), who helped bomb the World Trade Center back in 1993, according to Louis Freeh was hiding in his native Iraq. And we’ll show that right there on the screen. That’s an exact quote.
If they’re harboring terrorist, why not go in and get them?
CHENEY: Well, the evidence is pretty conclusive that the Iraqis have indeed harbored terrorists. That wasn’t the question you asked the last time we met. You asked about evidence involved in September 11.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: With respect to the connections to al-Qaida, we haven’t been able to pin down any connection there. I read this report with interest after our interview last fall. We discovered, and it’s since been public, the allegation that one of the lead hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had, in fact, met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, but we’ve not been able yet from our perspective to nail down a close tie between the al-Qaida organization and Saddam Hussein. We’ll continue to look for it.
Mr. RUSSERT: One year ago when you were on MEET THE PRESS just five days after September 11, I asked you a specific question about Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Let’s watch:
(Videotape, September 16, 2001):
Mr. RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to this operation?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No.
Mr. RUSSERT: Has anything changed, in your mind?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I want to be very careful about how I say this. I’m not here today to make a specific allegation that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9/11. I can’t say that. On the other hand, since we did that interview, new information has come to light. And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the al-Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years. We’ve seen in connection with the hijackers, of course, Mohamed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center. The debates about, you know, was he there or wasn’t he there, again, it’s the intelligence business.
Mr. RUSSERT: What does the CIA say about that and the president?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: It’s credible. But, you know, I think a way to put it would be it’s unconfirmed at this point. We’ve got…
Mr. RUSSERT: Anything else?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: There is-again, I want to separate out 9/11, from the other relationships between Iraq and the al-Qaeda organization. But there is a pattern of relationships going back many years. And in terms of exchanges and in terms of people, we’ve had recently since the operations in Afghanistan-we’ve seen al-Qaeda members operating physically in Iraq and off the territory of Iraq. We know that Saddam Hussein has, over the years, been one of the top state sponsors of terrorism for nearly 20 years. We’ve had this recent weird incident where the head of the Abu Nidal organization, one of the world’s most noted terrorists, was killed in Baghdad. The announcement was made by the head of Iraqi intelligence. The initial announcement said he’d shot himself. When they dug into that, though, he’d shot himself four times in the head. And speculation has been, that, in fact, somehow, the Iraqi government or Saddam Hussein had him eliminated to avoid potential embarrassment by virtue of the fact that he was in Baghdad and operated in Baghdad. So it’s a very complex picture to try to sort out.
Mr. RUSSERT: But no direct link?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can’t-I’ll leave it right where it’s at. I don’t want to go beyond that. I’ve tried to be cautious and restrained in my comments, and I hope that everybody will recognize that.
Timelines are important. And it’s one of those things that Bush-haters conveniently ignore when they criticize a statement made in the past, based upon the best available information at the time, and “debunk” it, with more recent information that makes the old beliefs obsolete.