consists of Democratic politicians who oppose the Bush administration's
policy in Iraq. The Minnesota Democratic Party recently protested
as "un-American" an ad showing military veterans and
their families supporting the president's policies for saying,
"Our enemy in Iraq is al-Qaida -- the same terrorists who
killed 3,000 Americans on 9-11, the same terrorists from the first
World Trade Center bombing, the USS Cole, Madrid, London and many
unfactually, say that these words "make a connection between
Iraq and the 9-11 terrorists attacks and suggest that the war
in Iraq will prevent an attack by al-Qaida in America." But
of course, the ad is factually correct -- al-Qaida is attacking
Americans in Iraq -- and the Minnesota Democratic Party is in
no position to guarantee that al-Qaida will not attack America.
group consists of intelligence and other career government professionals,
many of them Arabists. Case in point: Paul Pillar, CIA national
intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000
to 2005, now retired, writing in the most recent Foreign Affairs
magazine. The "greatest discrepancy between the administration's
public statements and the intelligence community's judgments concerned
not WMD (there was indeed a broad consensus that such programs
existed), but the relationship between Saddam and al-Qaida. The
enormous attention devoted to this subject did not reflect any
judgment by intelligence officials that there was or was likely
to be anything like the 'alliance' the administration said existed."
But the Senate Intelligence Committee report showed that the CIA
did obtain evidence of an al-Qaida-Saddam relationship from foreign
intelligence and open sources.
surprising. CIA Director George Tenet in October 2002 told Congress
of "growing indications of a relationship with al-Qaida."
And of course evidence of contacts between al-Qaida and Saddam's
regime went back to the 1990s and were cited, without murmur of
dissent, by President Bill Clinton.
So why do
these Democrats and these government professionals seem to have
such a conviction that there must have been no collaboration between
al-Qaida and Saddam? The Democrats fear that more Americans would
support Bush and the war effort if they believed there was. The
career professionals, with their many years of training in the
subtleties of the Middle East, have developed a vested interest
in the notion that religious Wahhabis like al-Qaida could never
collaborate with a secular tyrant like Saddam. If alliances could
be formed across religious lines, what use would all their learning
Democrats cite the 9-11 commission's report that it found no evidence
of "operational" cooperation between al-Qaida and Iraq,
although it did find evidence of many contacts. But, as Donald
Rumsfeld likes to say, absence of evidence is not evidence of
absence. Neither al-Qaida nor Saddam operated under a Freedom
of Information Act. Any collaboration between them on 9-11 would
have been kept very secret -- al-Qaida did not want to leave a
return address. We do not know that there was such collaboration.
But we also do not know that there was not.
to the days before our military action in Iraq, it would have
been irresponsible for any president to have assumed that there
was no relationship between al-Qaida and Iraq, given previous
contacts between them and their proven hostility to the United
States. President Clinton, responsibly, did not assume that, and
neither did President Bush. Nor was there any information that
intelligence could have been acquired that could have assured
us, with 100 percent certainty, that there was no such relationship.
the Saddam regime's collaboration with terrorists will almost
certainly be shed by analysis of some 2 million documents captured
in Iraq. But, as the intrepid Stephen Hayes of The Weekly
Standard has pointed out, almost none of those documents
has been translated or released either to the public or to the
congressional intelligence committees. It appears that career
professionals and, perhaps, political appointees have been blocking
release of these documents.
Why do their
superiors not order them released? Many Americans cling with religious
intensity to the notion that somehow Saddam had no terrorist ties
-- a notion used to delegitimize our war effort. We should bring
the truth, or as much of it as is available, out into the open.