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Thursday, June 17, 2004

Muddying the waters 

Today's New York Times editorial page pretends to speak the Plain Truth:

It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.

Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.
First, the President did not lead the American people to believe that Saddam was linked to 9/11. No serious person believes such a link existed, and the administration never said such a link existed. Demanding an apology for something that never happened is just a cheap and shameful partisan dig on the part of the Times editorial board. Unfortunately, such behavior from the "newspaper of record" is expected these days by a large portion of the public.

More astounding is the Times' assertion that "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

I assume the people who make this claim base it upon the widely discredited report of a meeting between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent in the Czech Republic.

If that were the only alleged meeting between Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda terrorists, that would be the end of the story, and the Times would be justified in claiming that no link existed.

It's not the only meeting, though. Several meetings are believed to have taken place between Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda leaders while Osama bin Laden was in Sudan, and to have continued thereafter.

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet told Senator Bob Graham in October, 2002,

"We have solid reporting of senior level contact between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade. Credible information exists that Iraq and al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression. . . . We have credible reporting that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities."
Those senior level contacts began in March 1998.

Whatever these meetings were about, and whatever came of them, it's pretty irresponsible to conclude that they don't represent a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Does the Times think the two sides met for coffee and idle chit-chat?

UPDATE: The NY Post has more, including some inconvenient excerpts from the actual 9/11 commission report.

Indeed, it says, "a senior Iraqi intelligence office reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting bin Laden in 1994." Further, it says, "contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden returned to Afghanistan."
Hmm... "[T]here was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda" according to the Times. The 9/11 commission has worked for months and it never uncovered the information that the Times apparently has. Why didn't the Times share this important knowledge with the commission?
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