In the days leading up to the war in Iraq, the two most critical reasons cited for toppling Saddam’s regime were the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) and then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s connection to the international terrorist organization, Al Qaeda. The Bush Administration confidently cited these as factual and clear justifications for the attack against the terrorist-sponsoring, Baathist government. At the time, a Gallup poll indicated that 67% of the American public supported the war against Saddam because of his non-compliance with weapons inspectors and his ties to Islamic terrorists.
In June 2004, the 9-11 Commission’s report cast doubt on the existence of WMD’s and denied a "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Almost immediately, the Administration proceeded to dismiss its initial claims of WMD’s and an Al Qaeda connection, blaming faulty intelligence. By April 2006, according to a CBS poll, only 44% of the public agreed with the decision to invade Iraq.
Since the invasion of Iraq, a great deal of evidence has accumulated about Saddam’s possession of WMD’s and his close ties to Al Qaeda. Many such reports have not been covered by the mainstream media and have been available primarily from talk radio, conservative publications and online sources. The evidence is substantive and warrants careful study and wide exposure.
Supporting the contention of the existence of WMD’s in Iraq, General Al-Tikriti, a former commander for Saddam, confirmed in an interview with author Ryan Mauro in May 2006, that arrangements were made between Baghdad and Damascus for Iraqi WMD’s to be stored in Syria under Russian oversight prior to the invasion by Coalition forces. Al-Tikriti, who defected prior to the Gulf War, continued to maintain contact with weapons scientists in Iraq. In addition, statements by former Under Secretary of Defense John Shaw corroborate, through British and Ukrainian sources, the involvement of Russian special forces in Iraq in moving WMD’s to Syria. Further confirmation has been obtained from retired Iraqi General Georges Sada, as well as from former chief of Romanian intelligence, Ion Pacepa; Israeli intelligence; Chinese communications to Germany and the reports of a Syrian journalist who defected to France.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Dave Gaubatz, a former special investigator for the Pentagon, unsuccessfully attempted to obtain permission to examine four, sealed underground bunkers in Iraq, which he believed contained WMD stockpiles. Gaubatz has since battled three years of resistance from politicians in Washington and requests to shut down his website for his continued efforts to examine the bunkers. Gaubatz is scheduled to meet with representatives from the U.S. government on June 15 to pursue authorization for a through investigation of the sites. These obstacles to Gaubatz’ efforts are especially troubling considering the March 2004 admission by Charles Duelfer, Director of Central Intelligence Special Advisor for Strategy regarding Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Programs, that ISG inspected only a small percentage of suspected WMD sites in Iraq.
In light of the preponderance of information from corroborating sources about the existence of WMD’s in Iraq, it is baffling why no statement has been forthcoming from an Administration whose much maligned "rush to war" would be exonerated by these findings. It is difficult to understand why this important data is being kept from the American public when support for U.S. military actions in the region is at an all time low. Astoundingly, early this week, U.S. Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) was asked to acknowledge, for the sake of "honoring the service and sacrifice" of those who served in Iraq, that no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed. He was pressured in the interests of "moving forward with the facts, not spin." However, recent findings support the idea that reporting on the existence of substantial evidence of WMD’s would indeed bring us closer to the facts and away from the spin. The press, which is hardly a champion of President George W. Bush and has consistently accused him of misleading the country, has ignored the new developments. Instead, it has conveniently turned to criticisms of war conduct and treatment of incarcerated terrorists. In the current media climate, it is inconceivable that the American public will be properly apprised of these new, WMD findings.
On the issue of Saddam’s ties to Al Qaeda, newly released documents captured in Iraq and Afghanistan corroborate a strong connection between Iraq, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the Sunni Islamic nationalist movement that formerly ruled Afghanistan. These documents include a recently translated notebook kept by an Iraqi intelligence officer and a four-page, typed letter from Afghanistan, dated July 26, 2002, apparently written by Al Qaeda or Taliban operatives and used by the U.S. Army in a report about Al Qaeda. The letter has subsequently been posted by the West Point Combating Terrorism Center. The notebook contains minutes from meetings among Taha Yassin Ramadan, former vice president of Iraq, and other high-level Iraqi officials with Al Qaeda and Taliban supporters. (Interestingly, a 2002 BBC report claimed that Ramadan hosted in Baghdad in 1998 Ayman al-Zawahri, a deputy to Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.).
Further, the notebook mentions Maulana Fazlur Rahman, often described as the godfather of the Taliban, and his connection to Al Qaeda through a friend, Mullah Omar. Rahman is believed to have organized the Taliban under Omar and to have sheltered bin Laden in Pakistan following the Coalition’s invasion of Afghanistan. The notebook contains a statement by Rahman that he met with Omar, requested a meeting with Saddam and invited Iraqi officials to Afghanistan. It indicates that Rahman welcomed the establishment of relations with Iraq and hoped that Saddam could be instrumental in garnering Russian support for the Taliban.
The four-page, July 2002 letter examined by the U.S. Army corroborates the link between Rahman and Saddam’s regime. It also implies a connection and the coordination of activities among Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and the Taliban.
These two, newly released private documents located in different countries lend credibility to the existence of a well-established. cooperative relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Yet, no response to this new, startling information has come from the media or the politicians who censured Bush for "overplaying" the Al Qaeda-Saddam alliance to justify the Iraq war. The Administration has also remained silent about these new developments.
Instead, what continues to prevail is an attitude expressed in an August 2003 speech by former Vice President Al Gore who said, "The evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama bin Laden at all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction."
Administration critics including U.S. senators John Kerry (D–MA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), as well as U.S. Rep. Jane Harmon (D-Venice, CA), have decried any meaningful connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Further, the CIA has maintained, with the exception of former director George Tenet, that the secular regime of Saddam Hussein would never cooperate with Islamic fundamentalists like bin Laden.
But the new documents appear to counter these assertions and support Tenet, who said in October 2002: "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade."
"Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression," Tenet added, further stating, "We have credible reporting that al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities."
Information from detainees held in the military prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, further confirmed the Al Qaeda-Saddam connection, specifically reports of meetings between Al Qaeda leaders, including al-Zawahiri, in Baghdad since the early 1990’s and a visit by one of bin Laden’s WMD specialists to Iraq for WMD training.
As the translations continue of documents captured during the war in Iraq, more information will become available to support Bush’s initial justification for the invasion. Will the Administration, its detractors and the press fulfill their responsibility to inform the American public or will Americans remain in the dark about these critical, new discoveries?
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