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Friday, March 05, 2004

What's less than nothing?
The Bush administration's claim that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaida - one of the administration's central arguments for a pre-emptive war - appears to have been based on even less solid intelligence than the administration's claims that Iraq had hidden stocks of chemical and biological weapons. -- from a Knight-Ridder report, which Juan Cole boils down to its essence:

1. Although it is true that Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was attempting to hide out in Iraq, Saddam offered to turn him over to the FBI in 1998 in return for US
acknowledgment that Iraq was not involved in that incident. The Clinton administration declined the deal. Cheney cited the continued "harboring" by Iraq of Yasin as one "proof" of an Iraq-al-Qaeda connection. Yeah, Saddam and Yasin were obviously really tight.

2. Bin Laden is said to have refused an offer in 1998 to go to Iraq, made by Iraqi intelligence officer Farouk Hijazi. A report made available to the CIA, however, said that Bin Laden declined the offer because he did not want to have Saddam's agenda dictated to him. The Knight-Ridder team does not point this out, but if you read this item in conjunction with # 1 above, it seems entirely possible that Saddam thought the US wouldn't deal for Yasin because he wasn't a big enough fish, and went looking for a more important terrorist to trade them for the US favors he wanted.

3. Cheney tried to tie Saddam to Abu Mus`ab Zarqawi. Such ties haven't been proven, but even if they were, it seems clear from the Zarqawi letter that he was not part of Bin Laden's group and only lately tried to get money from Bin Laden.

4. The US charged that Saddam was training terrorists at Salman Pak. The US military has found no evidence of such a training facility at Salman Pak,
according to Seymour Hersh
. There certainly were no chemical weapons there.

5. Then there was the canard about Iraqi intelligence offical al-Ani meeting with Muhammad Atta in Prague. CIA director George Tenet has flatly denied this report, and the FBI discounted it long ago.

6. Bin Laden/Iraq contacts in Sudan in the early 1990s, even if they did occur, led to no operational cooperation whatsoever.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Democratic candidate for president could actually make a big deal out of the total illegality of the war in Iraq? But the only way to get accomplices to turn on crime bosses is to threaten them with prosecution and offer a deal for testimony. Unfortunately, there's no court in the world that can do that to Kerry.