The Osama–Saddam Connection Proved
Part of the Bush administration’s justification for going to war against Iraq was its insistence that there was a real and dangerous connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
This connection has been roundly denounced by Bush’s political opponents as nothing more than lies and half-truths designed to pave the way to a war that somehow benefited the rich and corporate America at the expense of the common people. Because the Bush administration has been reluctant to reveal its sources for this belief, opponents have used this reluctance as evidence that such information really did not exist.
Since the coalition forces have not yet found a nuclear weapons cache or an actual storage site for biological weapons, the existence of this connection has become an increasingly important issue. Bush administration opponents appear unwilling to accept the evidence of mobile manufacturing laboratories as proof of the existence of biological weapons, and they have pointed with derision at administration claims of a dangerous connection between Osama and Saddam.
A recent story in The Weekly Standard ( Nov. 24, 2003 ), has given administration opponents serious cause for reflection. Standard reporter Stephen Hayes wrote under the title, “Case Closed,” about a secret memo prepared for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. In response to questions put to him in October by Senate Intelligence Panel members Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, Feith forwarded them the memo. From there it found its way into Hayes’s hands.
I have not yet seen the actual memo, but have listened to an in-depth interview with Hayes by Shawn Hannity of Fox News and the Hannity Radio Talk Show, and have seen a detailed summary compiled by Frank J. Gaffney Jr., who is president for the non-profit Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C. think-tank.
As reported by Gaffney in The Washington Times and in several Web publications, Hayes detailed fifty items that clearly establish a long-time collaboration between Osama and Saddam. According to Hayes, these fifty items are only the tip of an iceberg that will be revealed more clearly as the Pentagon continues to examine the large cache of documents obtained from the Saddam regime following its downfall last April. According to Gaffney, some of these collaborations are:
* Top Iraqi intelligence officials and other trusted representatives of Saddam Hussein met repeatedly with bin Laden and his subordinates.
* Iraq provided safe havens, money, weapons, and fraudulent Iraqi and Syrian passports to al Qaeda.
* Iraq provided training in the manufacture and use of sophisticated explosives. Bin Laden specifically requested that Iraqi intelligence’s premier explosives maker, Brig. Gen. Salim al-Ahmed, who was especially skilled in making car bombs, remain with him in Sudan. The Iraqi intelligence chief instructed Salim to remain in Sudan with bin Laden as long as required.
* A Malaysia-based Iraqi national, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, secured a job at the airport in Kuala Lumpur with help from the Iraqi Embassy in Malaysia. He then facilitated the movement of Khalid al Midhar and Nawaq al Hamzi, two of the 9/11 hijackers, through passport control and customs to attend an operational meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 5, 2000. Tawfiz al Atash, a top bin Laden lieutenant who masterminded the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole, was one of the men at that meeting.
* Senior al Qaeda operative Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi traveled to Iraq in 1998 to establish a relationship with Iraqi intelligence to obtain poisons and gases training. In December 2000, after the USS Cole bombing, two al Qaeda operatives went to Iraq for CBW-related training. Iraqi intelligence was “encouraged” to provide this training after the embassy and USS Cole bombings.”
* Mohamed Atta, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 hijackings, met at least four times in Prague with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al Ani, former Iraqi intelligence chief. During one of those meetings, al Ani ordered his finance officer to issue Atta funds from Iraqi Intelligence Service financial holdings in the Prague office.
Interestingly, the rest of the national news media has been strangely silent about this memo and Hayes article, even though there as yet has been no serious challenge to the memo’s authenticity. Several Senate Intelligence Committee members from both sides of the aisle have complete access to the memo, and are privy to all the information Hayes used to write his article. Since the memo is classified, the committee members can’t disseminate its contents to the public, but they can take a public stance supporting the essential truth of the information reported by Hayes. They can reassure the general public that this information is accurate, and that President Bush has been on top of the situation from the beginning.
And this, of course, points to why the national media has been so strangely quiet. Since nearly all of the nation’s news reporting outlets are demonstrably left of center, and since most journalists clearly support the Democrats, any heavy reporting of this information would damage most leading Democrats’ credibility, causing President Bush to ride even higher in the polls than he already is.
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor