The Magazine

Iraq-al Qaeda connection, Gore, and more.

Dec 1, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 12
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The Old News on Saddam and Osama

Stephen F. Hayes's article last week on the history of friendly contact between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden ("Case Closed") provoked criticism from several quarters, including from the Pentagon itself--where the secret memo on Iraqi-al Qaeda links obtained by Hayes originated. You can read detailed responses by Hayes to these criticisms at our website, weeklystandard.com.

But it's worth pausing to consider the core complaint from the Pentagon, which was then echoed in other stories reacting to "Case Closed." This was the old Clintonian mantra that the article contained nothing new. According to the Pentagon's November 15 press release, "reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate."

In fact this complaint is a straw man. As Hayes accurately reported of the memo's contents: "Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old."

But in another sense, the Pentagon is correct that contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq are old news. That's why it's all the more baffling that the administration has been so quiescent in the face of the propaganda campaign insisting that the story of these two enemies' cooperation is a fabrication.

Does THE SCRAPBOOK exaggerate? You be the judge.

Dick Cheney was asked by Tim Russert on September 14 whether there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attack. Cheney gave the only truthful and responsible answer: "We don't know." He then elaborated on what the government had learned of Iraq-al Qaeda ties in the two years since that attack--an account that tracks the more detailed information Hayes reported on last week: "We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW [biological weapons] and CW [chemical weapons], that al Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al Qaeda organization."

From the Democratic reaction, you might think Cheney had said that the sun rises in the West: The Boston Globe quoted a senior foreign policy adviser to Howard Dean saying it is "totally inappropriate for the vice president to continue making these allegations." The Globe went on: "Former senator Max Cleland, who is a member of the national commission investigating the attacks, said yesterday that classified documents he has reviewed on the subject weaken, rather than strengthen, administration assertions that Hussein's regime may have been allied with al Qaeda. 'The vice president trying to justify some connection is ludicrous,' he said."

During a September 16 TV appearance, Senator Bob Graham, then a Democratic presidential candidate, asserted that there was "no evidence that there had been any collaboration between the terrorists and Saddam Hussein on or before September the 11th."

At an NYU speech in August sponsored by Moveon.org, former vice president Al Gore was even more categorical: "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."

Well, call it old evidence or call it new, the evidence clearly shows that Saddam did want to work with Osama bin Laden.

Oh, and lest we forget, there was this sly comment from French president Jacques Chirac in an October 16, 2002, interview with the Lebanese paper L'Orient-Le Jour: "To my knowledge, no proof has been found of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda, or in any case none has been made official." Well, Monsieur le président, consider yourself in-formed, unofficially of course.

THE SCRAPBOOK, for its part, can confirm that the oeuvre of George Orwell, although it contains no new information, continues to be a source of inspiration and enlightenment. We're thinking especially of his observation that "we have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

Flush with Success

Since Al Gore lost the 2000 presidential election, he's had many incarnations. He's been a college professor, a "Saturday Night Live" sketch comic, and an aspiring television mogul. He's been fat and thin, bushy-bearded and clean-shaven. He's been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn, and a king. And a guest lecturer for Moveon.org. But we have to say that no feather has shone so brilliantly in his post-political cap as that of his latest post: Al Gore, returning to his green roots, has joined the board of directors of a waterless urinal company.