The Blog

No Terrorism in Iraq Before the War?

Who does John Kerry think he's kidding?

12:00 AM, Sep 16, 2004 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

--Stephanie Cutter, chief spokesman, John Kerry for President

Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2004

IN THE LAST FEW DAYS, John Kerry's campaign has challenged Bush administration claims of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. The effort has been amateurish and confused. Kerry has conflated two separate issues--an Iraq-September 11 connection (which cannot be proven) and the Iraq-al Qaeda connection (which has been)--in a lame attempt to accuse the Bush administration of "misleading" America about the Iraq war.

No one should be surprised at distortions coming from a presidential campaign. (Journalists, however, continue to surprise. Where are the John Kerry versions of the fact-checking articles on Bush that the Associated Press distributes on the wire and that the Washington Post, and the New York Times splash on their front pages?)

On the other hand, on September 7 Kerry said that the soldiers who have died in Iraq have done so "on behalf of freedom in the war on terror." It was a moment of lucidity the Kerry campaign could not let stand. Kerry spokesman Stephanie Cutter told the Los Angeles Times that the comment should not be misinterpreted as endorsing Bush administration claims of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. And then she dropped the stunner at the top of the page: "There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war. There is now terrorism there now."

Really?

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

CIA Analysis, January 2003: Iraqi Support for Terrorism, (p. 314 of Senate Intel Report):

"Iraq has a long history of supporting terrorism."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

CIA Analysis, January 2003--Iraqi Support for Terrorism, (p. 314 of Senate Intel Report):

"Iraq continues to be a safehaven, transit point, or operational node for groups and individuals who direct violence against the United States, Israel and other allies."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report (p. 315):

"The CIA provided 78 reports, from multiple sources, [redacted] documenting instances in which the Iraqi regime either trained operatives for attacks or dispatched them to carry out attacks."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report (p. 316):

"Iraq continued to participate in terrorist attacks throughout the 1990s."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report (p. 316):

"From 1996 to 2003, the [Iraqi Intelligence Service] focused its terrorist activities on western interests, particularly against the U.S. and Israel."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report (p. 316):

"Throughout 2002, the [Iraqi Intelligence Service] was becoming increasingly aggressive in planning attacks against U.S. interests. The CIA provided eight reports to support this assessment."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report (p. 331):

"Twelve reports received [redacted] from sources that the CIA described as having varying reliability, cited Iraq or Iraqi national involvement in al Qaeda's [chemical, biological, nuclear] CBW efforts."

Kerry campaign:

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war."

The 9/11 Commission Report (p. 66):

"In March 1998, after bin Laden's public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraq Intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with bin Laden."

A few days ago the Kerry campaign eagerly "clarified" the senator's claim that soldiers in Iraq had died "on behalf of freedom in the war on terror." Any chance of a another clarification? Does John Kerry really believe that "there was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war?"

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard and author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America (HarperCollins).