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The Memo and the Link Between Saddam and Osama By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 17, 2003

"OSAMA BIN LADEN AND SADDAM HUSSEIN had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003,” reports the November 24 issue of The Weekly Standard, “that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda – perhaps even for Mohamed Atta – according to a top secret U.S. Government memorandum….”

This 16-page memo, dated last October 27, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Chairman Pat Roberts (R.-Kansas) and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Virginia) of the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

“Case Closed” banners the magazine’s cover, along with photos of Saddam and Osama facing one another like evil twins co-joined at the hate. This is the latest in a long series of articles asserting such linkage in the widely respected neoconservative journal. The Weekly Standard article by Stephen F. Hayes did not reveal how he obtained this classified memo.

Democrats who oppose the war in Iraq have discounted any link between Islamist fanatic bin Laden and secular Ba’athist socialist Hussein. As a political matter, if Saddam has been in cahoots with Osama (the psychopathic mastermind whose terrorists killed 3,000 Americans on 9-11-01) then the legitimacy of President George W. Bush’s attack on Iraq would be as hard to deny or defy as was his overthrow of the Taliban bin Laden pirate base of Afghanistan. 

But President Bush in recent months has also downplayed any linkage between Hussein and al Qaeda, preferring instead to justify the overthrow of Saddam on grounds that the dictator possessed or was about to acquire weapons of mass destruction that would make him an intolerable threat to the peace of the region and world.

This past weekend, while the Weekly Standard story reverberated on network news discussion programs, the Department of Defense issued a press release. The Pentagon release said: “News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate…. The items listed in the classified annex [to DoD Undersecretary Feith’s memo] were either raw reports or products of the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency], the NSA [National Security Agency, aka “the Puzzle Palace” of encryption and decryption], or, in one case, the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency]….

“The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions,” the Pentagon press release continued. “Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.”

The Department of Defense (DoD), a part of the Federal Government’s Executive Branch, in other words said that assertions in the memo reported by the Weekly Standard were merely “raw” data from a variety of sources. 

Note how deftly this press release implies that the data and the Osama-Saddam linkage assertions are inaccurate – when all that the memo actually says explicitly is that it is “inaccurate” to say the Pentagon had “confirmed” all the new information in Undersecretary Feith’s memo.

But as logicians say, absence of absolute proof is not proof of absence. Raw data is the ore from which refined data is processed.

The liberal Washington Post on Sunday echoed the DoD press release’s position concerning Feith’s memo annex, giving Leftists such as Fox/National Public Radio commentator Juan Williams ammunition to shoot at the growing evidence of Osama-Saddam links.

Why is the Bush Administration’s Department of Defense appearing to distance itself from this new information?  Having wrestled Leftist political opponents and their allies in the media over hard-to-find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, President Bush – once burned, twice shy – has adopted a measure of his father’s cautious Presidential prudence. That prudence, as we shall see, could pay winning political dividends in 2004.

Where the Saddam-Osama link is concerned, this memo and other evidence makes clear that we are looking not only at a smoking gun – but a smoking gun with a pile of expended shells as corroborating evidence littering the ground all around it. 

“There can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein’s Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to plot against Americans,” concludes Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes. The only remaining argument is over the precise nature and danger of these undeniable links to the very terrorists who planned the 9-11 attacks on America.

The memo’s thumbnail evidence distilled by Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes makes a powerful case. Bin Laden purportedly first sent “emissaries to Jordan in 1990 to meet with Iraqi government officials,” beginning a relationship that would last until 2003.

What Osama wanted from Saddam Hussein was high-level training in terrorist weapons and techniques, a safe haven in Iraq, cash and weapons – including, especially, surface-to-air missles and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Despite Saddam’s secular nature, bin Laden also wanted a nominally Muslim ally against the West, in accord with the ancient Arab saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The first quid pro quo sought by Saddam was the same that has long brought bribes to Osama from the Saudi royal family – a “non-aggression pact” in which al Qaeda would agree not to attack or undermine Hussein’s Ba’athist dictatorship. Saddam later would seek al Qaeda help in procuring embargoed weapons. And under pressure from both the U.S. and the U.N., Saddam was glad for a political and potential fighting ally such as al Qaeda.

Did this evil alliance include Iraqi help in attacking the U.S.S. Cole?  At least a smidgen of evidence hints that it did.

Did this alliance include Iraqi help to al Qaeda in its attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9-11?  Evidence remains strong that an intelligence officer/sabotage expert Ahmed Al-Ani of Iraq’s secret police agency Mukhabarat met with Mohamed Atta in Prague, contrary to false stories spread in the Leftist media (e.g., the New York Times). Atta, it turns out, may have had as many as four trips to Prague for such meetings with high level Iraqis, one as early as December 1994. 

Our invading forces also confirmed what military and one private satellite had seen – that at Salman Pak (named, oddly, for the barber of the Prophet Muhammad) a terrorist training camp included a rusting airliner fuselage. Aspiring skyjackers could use it to sharpen the kinds of deadly skills Mohamed Atta and his al Qaeda team displayed on 9-11. Did other al Qaeda members train there?  Evidence suggests that some did.

Iraqi embassies provided assistance, safe houses and documents to al Qaeda members as far from Baghdad as the Philippines. Those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and at least two of the 9-11 terrorists all had contacts with Iraqi diplomatic facilitator Ahmed Hikmat Shakir.

One of the most prominent al Qaeda operatives involved in the U.S.S. Cole bombing, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, according to investigator Laurie Mylroie, is himself secretly an Iraqi intelligence agent. Mohammed’s nephew, reported Time Magazine, gave $120,000 to Mohammed Atta and his fellow soon-to-be-skyjackers.

(Strong evidence suggests that 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, who also led a failed attempt in 1995 to destroy 12 American airliners, was himself an Iraqi intelligence agent. He reportedly plotted as well, in “Project Bojinka,” to ram a fuel-loaded airliner into the Pentagon.  )

The Feith memo annex laid out links between al Qaeda and Saddam in 50 brief points. One CIA agent told British reporter David Rose that the agency had identified “almost 100 separate examples” of cooperation between these terrorists and Saddam’s regime of terror.  What might some of those detected near-100 connections be?  Here are a few random examples:

n      Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal (real name Sabri al-Banna), given sanctuary by Saddam in Iraq, was reportedly murdered on Hussein’s order because he refused to help train a group of al Qaeda terrorists in the country. This suggests that al Qaeda terrorists were being trained in Iraq with official approval and help.

n      Iraq reportedly paid $300,000 to al Qaeda’s #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri in 1998..

n      In addition to its affiliated group Ansar al Islam and its 600 to 700 fighters, at least “two dozen” al Qaeda agents were recently in Iraq.  That, anyway, is the number captured in Iraq by U.S. forces, according to Ambassador Paul Bremer at a September 26 press briefing.

n      Saddam’s son Uday’s own Babil, the Babylon Daily Political Newspaper, on November 14, 2002, reportedly published a “List of Honor” that included “Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.”  This was easily done because Aswod was Iraq’s Ambassador to Pakistan at the time. When this revelation of sensitive information was noticed, copies of the newspaper at every newsstand and subscriber home were rounded up. 

n      Islamists arrested in London with the deadly poison ricin had links to both al Qaeda and Iraq.

n      Two of the 9-11 skyjackers, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, reportedly met months earlier in 2001 in the United Arab Emirates with officers of the Iraqi secret police agency Mukhabarat.

This list of specifics could easily be extended for another 30 pages.  Most can be quibbled, but the cumulative effect of all of them leaves any reasonable reader of the articles hotlinked herein saying “Where there’s this much smoke, there must be fire.”

Saddam Hussein would work with an “unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals,” said President William Jefferson Clinton prophetically in a February 18, 1998, speech.

“We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st Century,” President Clinton continued. “They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein.”

The day after President Clinton spoke, Iraqi intelligence wrote a memo (now captured, its message discovered beneath Liquid Paper whiteover) outlining a plan for an al Qaeda operative to travel from Sudan to Iraq for a meeting, with Mukhabarat picking up “all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message [that would]….relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him.”

Days later, on February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden issued a religious fatwa urging all faithful Muslims to kill Americans in Muslim lands or who were attacking Iraq.

One of the more interesting books of recent years is The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. It ponders how ideas can languish for years, then suddenly achieve critical mass and reverse the tilt of a scale, a poll, a political career, a judgment in the court of public opinion.

Week by week, evidence in the scale continues to accumulate that Saddam Hussein was part of an evil nexus with Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group al Qaeda, the monsters who attacked America on September 11, 2001.

The American people are unfamiliar with most of this evidence, which if released all at once would likely generate a “tipping point” in the now-muddled Iraq debate all by itself. Forget about Weapons of Mass Destruction, although these too could show up at any time as our investigators continue to comb the country. Compelling evidence that Saddam might have been much more directly connected to 9-11 than we knew would be sufficient all by itself to justify the Iraq incursion a thousand times over.

Unable to run against President Bush’s fast-improving economy, and preempted in their usual issues such as education and healthcare by Bush’s adroit initiatives, Democrats have fallen back to the Iraq war as the issue on which their 2004 election chances are staked.  This is why the provocative recent memo was written by a Democratic staffer on the once-bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, plotting how to politicize this committee vital to America’s survival and use it in a desperate attempt to defeat incumbent President Bush.

President Bush has not politicized the war. He has sought bi-partisanship. He is also constrained by the need to protect intelligence sources that could be compromised or killed by publishing what they have divulged….and to preserve their ability to help win the protracted war against terror.

But leading Democratic Presidential candidates such as Howard Dean have gone very, very far out on a limb in their strident, nasty attacks against the Commander-in-Chief on the war issue.

When the tipping point comes – and it very well could in 2004 – these Democrats might find themselves unable to get back before the weight of new evidence against Hussein snaps that limb off. It’s not nice to bet against your own country – to bet your chips so that for you to win, America must lose. But that is precisely what extremist candidates such as Howard Dean have done.

Saddam Hussein reportedly required his officers to read the book “Black Hawk Down,” Mark Bowden’s book about the downing of U.S. helicopters in Somalia during the Clinton Administration, to show them how soldier deaths and media images of horror can politically cause the United States to cut and run. 

When Howard Dean, in effect, pledges that if he gets elected in 2004 the U.S. will cut and run in Iraq, this is a huge message billboard telling terrorists in Iraq to kill as many Americans as they can to make the war unpopular with U.S. voters.

Dean does not regard himself as on the side of Osama bin Laden’s or Saddam Hussein’s terrorists, but they are on his side and want to help elect him. And they vote with bullets, not ballots.

Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.

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