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Inconvenient Facts

John Kerry has now decided that he must deny any links between Saddam's Iraq and terrorism. There are some facts which he should be confronted with at tomorrow's debate.

7:39 AM, Sep 29, 2004 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION argues that the Iraq war was the central front in the war on terror. Not long ago, John Kerry agreed. He called Saddam Hussein a terrorist. He worried about Iraq passing weapons to terrorists. His running mate prominently cited Iraq's terrorist connections as a chief reason for the war. As recently as early September, Kerry praised soldiers in Iraq as freedom fighters in the war on terror.

All of this has changed. The Iraq war, Kerry says now with borrowed conviction, was a distraction.

"The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy: al Qaeda," Kerry claimed, adding, "Iraq is now what it was not before the war--a haven for terrorists."

In an interview with Time magazine, Kerry claimed that the 9/11 Commission found not only that Iraq was not behind the September 11 attacks, but that Iraq had "nothing to do with al Qaeda."

In the past two weeks, his surrogates have gone even further. To wit: "There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war," said Stephanie Cutter, chief spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign, on September 9. "Iraq and terrorism had nothing to do with one another. Zero," said Teresa Heinz Kerry in a September 22 speech in Arizona. "Saddam Hussein and Iraq never were a threat to our national security or to the United States," claimed Ted Kennedy in an appearance on Hardball on Monday.

Why is Team Kerry so eager to separate the Iraq war from the broader war on terror?
If voters believe that Iraq is an important part of the war on terror, they are more likely to be patient with difficulties there. On the flip side, if Kerry were able to convince voters that the Iraq war was a distraction from the war on terror, he would erode confidence not only in Bush's handling of Iraq but also of the broader war on terror. According to numbers released in yesterday's USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll Kerry needs to do just that. Self-identified likely voters were asked about whether they approve of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq and the war on terror. Forty-eight of those surveyed approved of Bush's handling of the "situation in Iraq" and 49 percent disapproved. But the numbers spike when likely voters were asked about Bush's handling of the war on terror; 62 percent approve and only 36 percent disapprove.

So it's not difficult to understand why Kerry's campaign wants to separate Iraq and the war on terror. But to claim that Saddam had "nothing to do with al Qaeda?" That there was no terrorism in Iraq before the war? That Iraq has never been a threat to the United States? These are preposterous statements. They're not debatable, or a matter of interpretation. They are demonstrably false.

Here are some relevant facts about Iraqi support for terrorism:

* On March 28, 1992, the Iraqi Intelligence Service compiled a 20-page list of terrorists the regime considered intelligence assets. Atop each page was the designation "Top Secret." On page 14 of that list is Osama bin Laden. The Iraqi Intelligence document reports that bin Laden "is in good relationship with our section in Syria." The document has been vetted and authenticated by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The existence of the document was first reported on CBS's 60 Minutes. It has been widely ignored.

* Saddam Hussein hosted regular conferences for terrorists in Baghdad throughout the 1990s. Mark Fineman, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, reported on one such gathering in an article published January 26, 1993. "There are delegates from the most committed Islamic organizations on Earth," he wrote. "Afghan mujahideen (holy warriors), Palestinian militants, Sudanese fundamentalists, the Islamic Brotherhood and Pakistan's Party of Islam." One speaker praised "the mujahid Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers. Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state."

* Abdul Rahman Yasin is an Iraqi who mixed the chemicals for the bomb used in the first World Trade Center attack on February 26, 1993. We know this because he has confessed--twice to the FBI and once on national television in the United States. He fled to Iraq on March 5,1993, with the help of an Iraqi Intelligence operative working under cover in the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, Jordan. A reporter for Newsweek interviewed Yasin's neighbors in Baghdad who reported that he was living freely and "working for the government." U.S. soldiers uncovered Iraqi government documents in postwar Iraq that confirm this. The documents show Yasin was given both safe haven and financing by the Iraqi regime until the eve of the war in Iraq.