Friday, April 06, 2007

Why Saddam Had To Be Linked To Al Qaeda

The underlying controversy is really old news, but is noteworthy in that officialdom is now acknowledging the manipulation (by creative interpretation and emphasis) of a key part of the intelligence that was used to sell the idea of war with Iraq.

Captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides "all confirmed" that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, according to a declassified Defense Department report released yesterday.

The declassified version of the report, by acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble, also contains new details about the intelligence community's prewar consensus that the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda figures had only limited contacts, and about its judgments that reports of deeper links were based on dubious or unconfirmed information. ...

The report, in a passage previously marked secret, said (then-Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J.) Feith's office had asserted in a briefing given to Cheney's chief of staff in September 2002 that the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda was "mature" and "symbiotic," marked by shared interests and evidenced by cooperation across 10 categories, including training, financing and logistics.

Instead, the report said, the CIA had concluded in June 2002 that there were few substantiated contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and Iraqi officials and had said that it lacked evidence of a long-term relationship like the ones Iraq had forged with other terrorist groups.

"Overall, the reporting provides no conclusive signs of cooperation on specific terrorist operations," that CIA report said, adding that discussions on the issue were "necessarily speculative."

The CIA had separately concluded that reports of Iraqi training on weapons of mass destruction were "episodic, sketchy, or not corroborated in other channels," the inspector general's report said. It quoted an August 2002 CIA report describing the relationship as more closely resembling "two organizations trying to feel out or exploit each other" rather than cooperating operationally.

The CIA was not alone, the defense report emphasized. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had concluded that year that "available reporting is not firm enough to demonstrate an ongoing relationship" between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda, it said.

But the contrary conclusions reached by Feith's office -- and leaked to the conservative Weekly Standard magazine before the war -- were publicly praised by Cheney as the best source of information on the topic, a circumstance the Pentagon report cites in documenting the impact of what it described as "inappropriate" work.

All the sophistry linking Saddam to Al Qaeda became necessary when the administration was not able to blame Iraq for the 9/11 attacks from the beginning.

Something went dreadfully wrong for the plotters that morning. More details about that cannot be specified at this time.

Too many people knew that the simultaneous attacks were the Al Qaeda M.O., and thus the administration was forced to go to Afghanistan -- a very undesirable distraction for those long eager to deal with Iraq -- before the main objective could be initiated.

The White House knew that the American people needed to believe that Iraq was responsible to some degree for the 9/11 attacks in order to support a war with Iraq. Thus, evidence along those lines had to be manufactured.


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