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Twisting the Proof By: PowerLineBlog.com
Power Line | Tuesday, June 22, 2004


This morning's lead editorial in the New York Times is another vicious attack on the Bush administration, titled "Show Us the Proof." The theme of the editorial is that President Bush and Vice-President Cheney are lying when they insist that there were ties between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda. The editorial begins:

When the commission studying the 9/11 terrorist attacks refuted the Bush administration's claims of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, we suggested that President Bush apologize for using these claims to help win Americans' support for the invasion of Iraq. We did not really expect that to happen. But we were surprised by the depth and ferocity of the administration's capacity for denial. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have not only brushed aside the panel's findings and questioned its expertise, but they are also trying to rewrite history.

We have written repeatedly of the many connections between Iraq and al Qaeda, and I won't repeat all of that here. I want to focus instead on the Times' own effort to rewrite history. Later in its editorial, the Times makes this argument, which is crucial to its thesis:

Mr. Bush has also used a terrorist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush used to refer to Mr. Zarqawi as a "senior Al Qaeda terrorist planner" who was in Baghdad working with the Iraqi government. But the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime, nor under the direction of Al Qaeda.

This is a grotesque mischaracterization of what Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, 2004. Far from contradicting the Bush administration's claims about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, Tenet explicitly supported those claims.

The Tenet testimony referred to by the Times was an exchange with Senator Mark Dayton; here is the exchange in full:

SENATOR DAYTON: The linkage that has been asserted with al Qaeda going back to even 9/11, as alluded in reference -various references made by -- it was one that I don't recall was ever asserted by you or your agency. And in fact, I think that you -- al Qaeda leaders reportedly told interrogators in Guantanamo that there wasn't any partnership between bin Laden and Saddam. Is that -- yet that has been an assertion that has continually been made.

MR. TENET: We in -- I think in testimony before this committee, we posited contacts, training and safe haven as the issues that we raised at the time. And when we published our paper and when we testified up here -October/November, and then we published a paper in January of 2003. I believe in questioning either in this committee or Senate Intelligence Committee we talked at length about our concerns about Zarqawi, who we posited to be a senior associate and collaborator of al Qaeda, documented his role in the Foley assassination, his operations in Baghdad in the summer of 2002.

SEN. DAYTON: Right. When the -

MR. TENET: I think we also said that we did not -- I think I said publicly in one of these committees that we did not have command and control between these individuals and the regime.

SEN. DAYTON: So when the president stated in November of 2002 that Saddam was, quote, "dealing with," close quote, al Qaeda; and at the U.N. Secretary Powell said that there was, quote, "A sinister nexus," close quote, between Iraqi dictator and al Qaeda; and aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1st, the president called Saddam, and I quote, "ally," close quote, of al Qaeda; were those accurate reflections of the information that you were providing?

MR. TENET: I think the information of concern at the time went to contacts with Iraqi regime members going back to the mid-'90s; training that had been provided by the Iraqi regime.

SEN. DAYTON: The president said that Saddam was dealing with al Qaeda.

MR. TENET: Well, if they provided training, sir -

SEN. DAYTON: Current tense.

MR. TENET: -- that would be dealing with, at the time. And then the whole question of the safe haven, or the fact that these people could operate in Iraq, I think I said in testimony before this committee, it was inconceivable to me that Zarqawi and two dozen EIJ operatives could be operating in Baghdad without Iraq knowing, although I posited we didn't know about command, control and sustenance. So the safe haven argument was -

So what Tenet told the Senate was that 1) Saddam's regime has provided training to al Qaeda; 2) Zarqawi is a "senior associate and collaborator" of al Qaeda; 3) Iraq knowingly gave Zarqaqi and his group "safe haven" to operate out of that country, such operations including, among others, the murder of an American diplomat; and 4) the CIA "didn't know" whether Saddam's regime commanded, controlled and sustained Zarqawi's network. For the Times to cite this testimony as a refutation of the Bush administration's claims of a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda is an outrageous falsehood.

Note, too, the Times' weird hair-splitting: the editorial insists that Zarqawi doesn't operate "under the direction of" al Qaeda. What's the point? Tenet says that Zarqawi is a "senior associate and collaborator" of al Qaeda. What's the difference? In fact, as everyone knows (except maybe the Times), the administration's successful war on al Qaeda has largely destroyed, fragmented and driven that organization underground, so that it is unclear to what extent al Qaeda, as a coherent organization, "directs" anyone.

But Zarqawi's willingness to take direction from Osama bin Laden (or whatever al Qaeda leaders are still alive) appears manifest from the conclusion of the letter he directed to al Qaeda's leadership, via an al Qaeda operative, in February:

So if you agree with it and are convinced of the idea of killing the perverse sects, we stand ready as an army for you, to work under your guidance and yield to your command. Indeed, we openly and publicly swear allegiance to you by using the media, in order to exasperate the infidels and confirm to the adherents of faith that one day, the believers will revel in God's victory. If you think otherwise, we will remain brothers, and disagreement will not destroy our cooperation and undermine our working together for what is best. We support jihad and wait for your response.

As a news organization, the New York Times is illegitimate. It no longer seeks to inform its readers; rather, its daily effort is to misinform and mislead them. You simply can't believe anything you read in the Times.




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