History-like hindsight-is supposed to be 20:20, but the deliberate partisan, political divide regarding the invasion of Iraq makes that hard.
It’s not a new phenomenon. Long ago it was said that the true story of a war can’t be told until the last of its veterans has passed away, and only a few months ago did the last World War One veteran go to his great reward. For decades after the Civil War (and some would argue even today) the debate raged on, and the healing of Southern Reconstruction didn’t really start culturally until the unity of the Spanish-American War turned foes into brothers-in-arms.
Conspiracy theories-often fueled by politics-still rage over the 911 attacks, the invasion of Iraq, whether or not Roosevelt deliberately allowed the Pearl Harbor attack to happen, whether or not the U.S. Navy knew the U.S.S. Maine had a boiler explosion and wasn’t sunk by a mine. People still think that the Lusitania was set on a suicide mission to get the United States into World War One. These myths will always remain, and it’s good that they do because they spark investigation and a search for understanding of these world changing events. The relationship between the 911 attacks and the invasion of Iraq is interesting in that both have a long list of conspiracy theories attacked to each, and yet the abstract, more indirect relationship between the two events is dismissed out of hand. To that end, even if one believes the relationship between Iraq War and 911 attacks is a conspiracy theory, it’s worthwhile to examine if for no other reason than harvesting a better understanding.
Opponents of President Bush and of the invasion of Iraq often claim, “Iraq did not attack the United States on Sept 11, 2001,” but Germany, Italy, and the rest of the Axis didn’t attack Pearl Harbor either and yet the U.S. went to war with them as well as the Japanese. Why? Because those Axis powers had an alliance, an agreement to help the Japanese. It was a paper only agreement (history shows us that there were no battles with uber-racist NAZI S.S. troops fighting alongside Japanese troops), but it was an agreement none-the-less. Additionally, the Axis nations declared war on the United States after the Pearl Harbor attacks. Similarly, we know from Clinton Administration claims, from captured documents, from pre-war and post-war intelligence that Saddam’s intelligence agencies had relationships with various groups in the Al Queda terrorist network of groups. We know from the 1998 Clinton Administration indictment of Osama Bin Laden that the two had reached an agreement to get WMD into the hands of the Al Queda network of terrorist groups.
the indictment states that Al Qaeda reached an agreement
with Iraq not to work against the regime of Saddam Hussein and that
they would work cooperatively with Iraq, particularly in weapons
We also know from 1990-2003 Saddam’s government considered itself at war with the United States and from 1992-today Osama Bin Laden’s Al Queda network of terrorist groups has been at war with the United States.
Why did Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda go to war with the United States in 1992? According to the 911 Commission’s final report, the reason that the Al Queda network went to war with the United States, and ultimately the reason for the September 11, 2001 attacks was 4 different things (pg48-49)
He [Osama Bin Laden] inveighed against the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest sites.
He spoke of the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War, and
he protested U.S. support of Israel.
Why were American forces in Saudi Arabia from 1992-2001? They were there for one reason: to enforce no-fly-zones over Iraq which were there to protect Iraqis from Saddam. If the United States had removed Saddam in 1991, then the U.S. forces wouldn’t have been needed in Saudi Arabia, and Osama Bin Laden’s first casus belli wouldn’t exist.
Why was Osama concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people? He was concerned-like many around the globe-because the U.S. led sanctions were starving tens of millions of people as a failed means of influencing Saddam. Again, had the United States removed Saddam in 1991, Osama Bin Laden’s second casus belli against the United States-his second reason for the 911 attacks-wouldn’t have existed.
Why was Osama Bin Laden so concerned about the United States support for Israel in the 1992-2001 period when Al Queda went to war with the United States? What was unique about that period in America’s support for Israel? In much of the Arab World (and in anti-Semitic circles around the world as well), America’s continued pressure on Saddam Hussein’s regime was viewed as an American shield for Israel; as the United States protecting Israel from Saddam and other aggressive Arab regimes.
The historical lesson and inescapable fact is that if the United States had chosen to remove Saddam from power in 1991, OR if the United States had simply walked away from Iraq in 1991 and washed their hands of Saddam’s regime without trying to compel compliance with United Nations resolutions, then Saddam’s regime would have remained in power, BUT the reasons for Osama Bin Laden and the Al Queda terrorist networks’ war on the United States simply would not exist; i.e. the reasons for the Sept 11, 2001 attacks wouldn’t have existed.
Would Osama Bin Laden and his network still have found other reasons to wage war on the United States? One cannot tell for certain, but it does seem that their nature and their destiny has been to fight superpowers, and with the United States as the sole superpower in the 1990’s, it seems more than likely other excuses for casus belli would have been claimed.
Would Saddam Hussein have still been a threat to the United States if he had been left in power in 1991, and if the United States didn’t pursue compliance with U.N. Resolutions? Absolutely. In 1992 U.N. inspectors found that Saddam’s regime had actually built a nuclear bomb, but lacked enriched uranium for it. From 1992-1995 U.N. inspectors found vast amounts of WMD. Saddam had invaded or attacked every single one of his neighbors during his reign, he’d used WMD in the past, had ordered them used against U.S. troops in the 1991 Gulf War (Iraq Survey Group Report, transcript of recording, vol II). Few reasonable leaders would argue that Saddam was not a threat, and no one would argue that a Saddam Hussein who still had ballistic missiles, WMD, and more in 1992 was not a regional or even global threat. Determined that he was a threat, Saddam either had to be removed in 1991 by the United States, in the 1991-2003 period by internal forces (multiple attempts at which all failed with increasing futlity), or by the United States in 2003.
The abstract, and more indirect relationship between the 911 attacks and the invasion of Iraq is simple: the war with Al Queda and their attacks on the United States (including the 911 attacks) were blowback, consequences, fragmentary effects of the 1991 invasion of Kuwait and Iraq.
The DIRECT relationship between the 911 attacks and Saddam’s regime is far more debated. To be clear, the hijackers were no more Iraqi than the pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor were German and Italian. However, the question of direct Iraqi ties to the 911 attacks go back to that very day when-as the attacks were happening-Iraq shot down an unarmed Predator drone over Iraq that was searching for WMD etc. On that day, after getting sparse, scattered, and chaotic information about the attacks-while they were happening, and while getting 2-3x as many false reports and rumors of attacks, members of the Bush Administration were not at all culpable or irresponsible for asking if Saddam’s regime was behind the attacks.
In fact, at the time it had become a common cultural expectation. During the 1990’s the Clinton Administration repeatedly claimed that Saddam’s regime and the Al Queda network worked together. Mass media reports of the time carried this theme fully and without question. It was even showing up in movies where characters would claim anything-even meteor showers on New York City were the result of Saddam (Armaggeddon ffwd to 1:40).
Unfortunately, on Sept 11, 2001 there was no way to tell if the attacks were directly or just indirectly related to the on-going American war against Saddam (a war that was so poorly reported that most Americans even today fail to realize it even happened, but conversely was so burned into the minds of the Arab Street at the time that it still conjures up bitter memories in the region).
The question of direct Iraqi involvement in the 911 attacks was investigated first by the Bush Administration, and they found no evidence to make a conclusion. Subsequent investigations by the CIA, FBI, the House and Senate intelligence committees, the entire intelligence community, the 911 Commission and more all ran into the same problem: there was no evidence. For political partisans opposed to President Bush and/or the invasion of Iraq that was enough to support their argument that the invasion was somehow not necessary. The conclusion they promoted-that there was “no evidence” of a direct involvement was but 1/3 of the truth. Another 1/3 was the reason that there was “no evidence’ was because almost none had been collected or analyzed, and the reason for that (almost always ignored by political opponents of the Iraq invasion) was that from December 1998-December 2002 the United States had not a single spy inside Iraq. For four years there was no evidence collected, and thus there was “no evidence.”
Most alarmingly, after 1998 and the exit of the U.N. inspectors, the CIA had no human intelligence sources inside Iraq who were collecting against the WMD target.
– Senator Pat Roberts 070904 SIC Release of WMD investigation report
Press Conference transcript
The last 1/3 is the most obvious, and the most deliberately ignored for political purposes: every single investigation that looked at the question of direct regime ties to the 911 attacks and/or the Al Queda network of terrorist groups ALWAYS pointed out that because so little evidence had been collected, the issue was to remain open-not closed or concluded.
After the invasion, innumerable direct ties between the Al Queda network of terrorist groups and Saddam’s regime have been uncovered. These ties are shown in captured and authenticated documents, in the interrogation of former regime leaders, and in the capture of Al Queda operatives. In fact, the relationship between the regime and the network was far far more involved than any relationship between Germany and Japan or Mussolini and Tojo.
Yet it remains a political issue more than a historical one today. six years after the second invasion of Iraq, eight years after the 911 attacks, 17 years after Osama and the Al Queda network declared war on the United States, and 18 years after the United States and Saddam’s regime went to war over Kuwait.
Perhaps, now that President Bush is gone, and there is no more need to use the invasion of Iraq as a draw issue for his opposition…perhaps now people can be mentally brave enough to recognize the undeniable blowback/more-indirect relationship between the Ignored War on Saddam’s regime (1991-2001) and the 911 attacks. There certainly is no more reason to deny this fact, and there’s no more reason to avoid a conclusive investigation into the depth of regime ties to the Al Queda network of terrorist groups.
And yet our current PotUS could not help himself in bringing up Iraq in his Wednesday healthcare speech.
LTC Ralph Peters USA Ret. has some words on that.
Betraying our dead. Forgetting the vows we made.
It may sound harsh to some but it is an informed perspective that should serve as a warning.
Forgetting History brings very hard lessons. Bear in mind that I am not a Republican or a Democrat…
I’m just a guy that deployed anywhere in the world in 72 hours every time an American Administration forgot and a failed Foreign Policy fell on its ass.
“Eight years ago today, our homeland was attacked by fanatical Muslims inspired by Saudi Arabian bigotry. Three thousand American citizens and residents died.
We resolved that we, the People, would never forget. Then we forgot.
We’ve learned nothing.
Instead of cracking down on Islamist extremism, we’ve excused it.
Instead of killing terrorists, we free them.
Instead of relentlessly hunting Islamist madmen, we seek to appease them.”
“Instead of confronting Saudi hate-mongers, our president bows down to the Saudi king.
Instead of recognizing the Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi cult as the core of the problem, our president blames Israel.
Instead of asking why Middle Eastern civilization has failed so abjectly, our president suggests that we’re the failures.
Instead of taking every effective measure to cull information from terrorists, the current administration threatens CIA agents with prosecution for keeping us safe.”
Where is Bin Laden? Why did Bush and friends never locate him? Saddam is dead.
PS. Bush bowed at the Saudi king too and even kissed his cheek.
Is there an argument in there somewhere?
Bin Laden’s in Pakistan
Bush and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who work hard every day to get Bin Laden didn’t because the territory is the roughest on the planet, and the people there regard him as Robin Hood.
Obama bowed before the Saudi King and kissed his cheek, and he’s President now. If there’s a problem w that custom, then please let Obama know
Ummmm Holly, Bush did not bow to the saudi king.
You see I saw that same pic where he supposedly did. Turns out it was a screen cap from a video where Bush was bending over to receive a medal from the king. Leftists deliberately took that moment to spread a lie and defend obama thru moral equivalency.
You might want to correct this, as (CPL) Frank Buckles (the last surviving WWI American Veteran) is still alive.
As to the rest of your post, Curt, you are correct there was no evidence of Saddam being involved with 9/11, (and same with WMD’s). Could there have been tenuous connection with AQ and Saddam?, could there have been some clandestine WMD programs that still are undetected, sure. There are a lot of guess there could be’s, but in the final analysis history will add up the cost to our country for the war.
Not paying for the war, juicing the economy post 9/11 (the FED) to stave off a recession and diverting attention from Afghanistan will all be factored into history’s judgment as well. Folks who are not fans of President Obama could also conclude he would have never been elected if not for the lack of trust towards the Republican Party and their previous leader President Bush. I think Obama probably would never had a chance to be elected if the country was not so completely turned off to spin from the Republicans and conservative movement.
Thanks Blast. Wonder which WWI veteran just passed away then?
Too bad you didn’t feel like reading my whole article.
I believe a it was in France, they made it a national day of remembrance, which I hope we do here as well. Mr Buckles met with President Bush (last year I believe) and pressed for a national monument to WWI veterans.
I read your commentary (although I called you Curt by accident), I feel the issues of the war and our economic problems and the zig-zag of our politics due to the fall out from the war will be the story history will tell.
Spin from the Republicans? Another delusional post by blasted.
“Would Osama Bin Laden and his network still have found other reasons to wage war on the United States? One cannot tell for certain, but it does seem that their nature and their destiny has been to fight superpowers, and with the United States as the sole superpower in the 1990’s, it seems more than likely other excuses for casus belli would have been claimed.”
The answer is yes. In the 80s when Al Qaeda as formed , they viewed both the US and USSR as the enemies of Islam. They made the strategic decision to attack what they viewed as their more dangerous and powerful enemy, the USSR. To then go to war with the US afterwards. It was inevitable.
In the end, all terrorist groups seek the reestablishment of the only legitimate Islamic government, the Caliphate. And they know the US stands in their way.
Blast, For his service during World War I, Buckles received (from the U.S. Government) the WWI Victory Medal and the Army of Occupation Medal. In addition, French president Jacques Chirac awarded him France’s Légion d’honneur.
Buckles currently lives in Charles Town, West Virginia.
There certainly IS a connection. Good article Scott. Thank you
Iraq? Try Saudi Arabia for significantly closer links with Al-Qaeda including 9/11
Strange how these links don’t appear to be so well known or investigated….
The Saudi royals number in the thousands, I had read that about half are pro-America and half are rabidly anti-America, that half being those that support radical Wahabism, fund the radical charities and terrorist organizations. The reason why all our administrations walk a fine line is because they support the present pro-American Saudis in power, those being the ones that have cracked down on the terrorists within the country and have made efforts to modernize.
The clips you included do not mention what faction of the Saudi royals urged the report to be made public or supported the charity. Perhaps President Bush was in consultation with those in power and was advised against making the report public. Being as though all family members are in the Saudi government, it is my opinion that American cooperation with the present rulers is the wiser road to travel.
Going along with Missy,
There is also a difference between Saddam and the Saudi government: The former offered not one act of cooperation in the war on terror; the Saudis have. They are a target of al Qaeda plots; and in return, the Saudi government has been fighting for its own survival against Islamic terror, killing and capturing al Qaeda operatives and arresting and convicting thousands without trial.
From your NYTimes link:
That is troubling; wahhabism has strong roots in Saudi Arabia, and you have appeasers and sympathizers to the extremists; but it also remains true that the Saudis have also aligned with the U.S. against the common threat of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. This is also happening and this.
The Saudis through the 80’s appeased jihad extremists through funding, so long as their attention was turned away from attacking Saudi Arabia. Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars:
Support pretty much ended for bin Laden’s group (at least officially) once bin Laden began ranting against the United States and its presence on the Arabian peninsula (he was snubbed by the Saudi government from helping evict Saddam out of Kuwait and told foreign presence would leave soon after). He began funding Saudi dissidents. The Saudis stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 and seized bin Laden’s personal fortune.
bin Laden is at war with the House of Saud.
More from your NYTimes piece, highlighting what I find relevant in terms of timeline:
@Wordsmith & Missy
Let’s remember it was the US and it’s allies who saved Saudi Arabia’s ass back in the Gulf War when Saddam could of kept going and invaded their under-populated country. How does Saudi Arabia thank the US? By allowing the continued funding of Al Qaeda – before and after 9/11 – a terrorist organisation aimed at getting the US out of the middle east. And Al Qaeda wasn’t created because of US troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia – it was formed before the Gulf War. And no doubt if the Gulf War hadn’t of happened I suspect Bin Laden would just centered on the Israeli-Palestanian conflict and still blamed the US for that.
No matter how many peoples heads Saudi Arabia chops off – they haven’t bent over backwards to help the US over 9/11. Indeed instead of parroting the very dubious and discredited theories about Atta meeting Iraqi agent in Prague in April and going to Baghdad – as some have on here – they should stop drinking Cheney’s Kool-Aid and start looking at the real connections and funding of the 9/11 plotters. There was a Saudi Agent in San Diego, al-Bayoumi in contact with two of the 9/11 hijackers! Funny how the last US admin was desperate to show, highlight and declassify any intel of any relationship with Iraq but yet seems to keep links with Saudi Arabia hidden.
Yes Osama was at war with the royalty of Saudi Arabia but he was also at war with Saddam. That doesn’t mean that Osama didn’t get help from people very high up in Saudi Arabia’s government/royalty in the same way it doesn’t negate that Saddam tried to reach out to Bin Laden. However the links with Saudi Arabia to 9/11 are by far deeper than they are in Iraq. Bin Laden wanted to fight with Saudi Arabia against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. It was clear enough in the 90s that he was targetting the US by his actions and rhetoric and yet Saudi Arabia still didn’t clamp down nearly enough. In fact what they did in one hand was contradicted by what the other hand did. I’m not saying that the whole Saudi Arabian government was behind the 9/11 plot – but the links to some of it’s people within it’s government & royalty and it’s dealings with Al Qaeda don’t seem to be fullt investigated or brought to light – to those families of the 9/11 victims – who deserve the full truth – compared to the thorough investigation and distorted spin we have got from the tenative connections with Iraq.
I think that is a lot more than ‘troubling’
If you want to point to a government that has connections with our enemies, then Pakistan and Yemen are the worst. Pakistan’s intelligence services are completely infiltrated and Yemen openly allies itself with Al Qaeda linked groups.
Al Qaeda’s main grievance was the U.S. occupation of Saudi Arabia, which was bogged down in an endless containment of Saddam Hussein.
One million Iraqis died during the sanctions and 100s of thousands died in Saddam’s wars. We have installed the first truly democratic government in Iraqi history, one that will no longer invade its neighbors. Please support democracy. Obama won’t do that even in Iran. Its a crying shame…
bin Laden at war with Saddam? Let’s see, al Qaeda attacks in Riyadh, Mogadishu, two embassies in Africa, Spain, Great Britain, Bali and the US, etc., but, nothing against Saddam in Iraq…..ever.
You can’t look at the characters in power in SA as a lock step group and make blanket statements about how the country deals with the US, bin Laden, al Qeada or the Taliban. They are divided, have always been.
Journalists and think tanks started writing about the division shortly after 911, here are a few sites that can give you an idea of what’s been happening within that country.
The Split in the Saudi Royal Family
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Saudi Arabia and the Future of Afghanistan
Author: Greg Bruno, Staff Writer
Who pays for struggle for power in Saudi Arabia?
September 14, 2009
And, last but not least:
Saudi prince escapes assassination attempt
August 28, 2009
Shhhh….the “Blunder from down Under” sleeps quietly in his very own corner of his rather colorful alternate reality.
Let’s not disturb him with facts since he will just ignore them anyway.
Gaffa’s proof that Al Qaeda was at war with Saddam is based on Bin Laden’s offer to help kick out Saddam from Kuwait. That is enough evidence for a leftist or paleoconservative, actual fighting or violence between the two is not necessary…
Just like the evidence provided to prove that Saddam and Al Qaeda couldnt get along… “Saddam was secular so Al Qaeda couldnt work with him, bla, bla, bla…”
Hmmm… while Saddam was once a more secular leader, during the sanctions he began a “Faith Campaign” to booster his Islamic credentials. He banned alcohol, built many mosques like the Mother of All Battles Mosque and CALLED FOR A JIHAD AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. During his trial he often brought a Koran and lectured about Islam, but dont let evidence dissuade you.
(“SADDAM HUSSEIN has unveiled the latest weapon in his cynical campaign to use religion to bolster his dictatorship: the Mother of all Battles mosque.”:
Using leftwing/paleobat logic the U.S. never could ally itself with the Soviet Union because it was anti-Communist!!!!! Hitler could never ally itself with the Soviet Union either, it was also anti-Communist, but the evidence says otherwise.
In any case, Al Qaeda operated both in Northern Iraq and Saddam’s Iraq.
The only time that Saddam’s government interfered with Al Qaeda was when low-level Iraqi intelligence officers arrested an Al Qaeda operative (Abu Yasim Sayyem) AT JORDAN’S REQUEST. Saddam personally intervened to free the Al Qaeda operative.
That was the extent of Gaffa’s war between Saddam and Al Qaeda. As always, no evidence is needed for leftwing/paleobat activists.
The media continually ignored Jordan’s insistence that the Iraqi government knew where Al Qaeda operatives were, but did nothing to arrest them. The King of Jordan complained that they requested the arrest of Al Qaeda operatives, but Saddam’s government did not comply and often ignored them. INSTEAD THEY FOCUS ON ANTI-AMERICAN JORDANIAN LAWMAKERS WHO SAY WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR.
It requires a suspension of disbelief to view how Saddam regime elements cooperated with Al Qaeda after the removal of the dictatorship and believe that it was impossible for there to be any cooperation before the liberation. This is solely due to the effects of partisan politics.