To hear Iraq-war critics claim that Saddam Hussein lacked terror ties is to stand on a beach and listen to people deny the existence of sand. Now, comes John Kerry, strolling in his flip-flops, chanting the no-such-thing-as-sand mantra.
”Iraq was not a terrorist haven before the invasion,” Kerry told Philadelphia voters September 24. “Iraq is now what it was not before the war: a haven for terrorists.”
“The president just talked about Iraq as a center of the war on terror,” Kerry said during the September 30 presidential debate. “Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on terror before the president invaded it.”
Kerry’s current position contradicts at least 15 key Democrats, Democratic-led federal agencies, and Establishment-Left media organizations that–at least until this election year–believed the inescapable truth: Saddam Hussein did have ties to terrorists, including al Qaeda.
If Kerry wishes to correct his recent, erroneous remarks, he should study the words of a Massachusetts senator named…John Kerry.
Kerry discussed “terrorist organizations” at an August 1, 1996, Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. He said, “These entities survive with country support, the support of the country of Syria, or country of Libya, or country of Iran, Iraq, and so forth.”
”Saddam Hussein has already used these weapons [of mass death] and has made it clear that he has the intent to continue to try, by virtue of his duplicity and secrecy, to continue to do so,” Kerry told reporters on February 23, 1998. “That is a threat to the stability of the Middle East. It is a threat with respect to the potential of terrorist activities on a global basis.”
”The important thing is that Saddam Hussein and the world knows that we think Saddam Hussein is essentially out of synch with the times.” Kerry said December 11, 2001 On Fox News’s O’Reilly Factor. “He is and has acted like a terrorist, and he has engaged in activities that are unacceptable.”
“I still don’t see the hammer that’s going to convince him to open anything up,” O’Reilly replied.
Kerry continued: “The hammer, ultimately, will be the evidence that we uncover as we go further down the trail that shows his support for terrorism and begins to build the coalition even more strongly.”
”What are your thoughts on going on further than Afghanistan, all terrorist places?” Larry King asked Kerry. The senator replied: “I think we clearly have to keep the pressure on terrorism globally. This doesn’t end with Afghanistan by any imagination,” he said December 14, 2001 on CNN. “Terrorism is a global menace. It’s a scourge. And it is absolutely vital that we continue, for instance, Saddam Hussein.”
Just before authorizing the Iraq war on October 9, 2002, Kerry referred to Saddam Hussein on the Senate floor: “He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel.”
If the new John Kerry finds the old John Kerry’s words unpersuasive, the former should consult Stephen Hayes’s indispensable best seller, The Connection: How al Qaeda’s Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, a guided tour of the terrorism factory that was Baathist Iraq. Among overwhelming evidence of Saddam Hussein’s terrorist activities, Kerry will find numerous statements by liberal journalists, leading Democrats, and even a Clinton-appointed federal judge tying Saddam Hussein to Islamist terror.
During the fall 1992 campaign, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Al Gore chided Poppa Bush’s administration for treading too lightly on Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi dictator, Gore said, “had already launched poison-gas attacks repeatedly, and Bush looked the other way. He had already conducted extensive terrorism activities, and Bush had looked the other way.”
President Clinton addressed the nation on June 24, 1993. He said: “[T]here is compelling evidence that there was, in fact, a plot to assassinate former President Bush; and that this plot, which included the use of a powerful bomb made in Iraq, was directed and pursued by the Iraqi Intelligence Service.” Clinton then lobbed 23 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles on IIS headquarters. “Therefore, we directed our action against the facility associated with Iraq’s support of terrorism, while making every effort to minimize the loss of innocent life.” The Kuwaiti trial of two Iraqi civilians, Wali al Ghazali and Raad Assadi, revealed that the IIS recruited them to position a Toyota Land Cruiser packed with 200 pounds of explosives near Poppa Bush during his April 1993 visit to Kuwait. Had that failed, the IIS also supplied a bomb-laced “suicide belt.”
The late Les Aspin, Clinton’s first Defense secretary, said of this plot: “The evidence is very conclusive that it was the work of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and is an action that would have had to have been approved by the highest levels of the Iraqi government.”
Then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine Albright, showed the Security Council photos of the captured bombs. She said, “Certain aspects of these devices have been found only in devices linked to Iraq and not in devices used by any other terrorist groups.”
In the spring of 1998, Clinton’s Justice Department indicted Osama bin Laden for al Qaeda’s attacks on U.S. interests. As the indictment read, “Al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.”
As bin Laden’s relationship with the Taliban showed some strains, the Washington Post published an Associated Press story on Valentine’s Day 1999. It concluded: “The Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against Western powers.”
In April 2000, President Clinton’s State Department issued the 1999 edition of “Patterns of Global Terrorism,” a biennial overview. As it had since 1993, Team Clinton’s inaugural year, State designated Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism. “Iraq continued to plan and sponsor international terrorism in 1999,” the report concluded. Baghdad “continued to provide safe haven and support to various terrorist groups.”
On June 2, 2002, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired Lesley Stahl’s interview with Abdul Rahman Yasin, the al Qaeda murderer who the Justice Department indicted for preparing the bomb that exploded beneath One World Trade Center in February 1993.
“The majority of the people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews,” Yasin said, explaining why he and his comrades targeted the WTC. Stahl interviewed Yasin in Baghdad where he fled after the blast, which killed six individuals and wounded 1,042. Before presenting him to Stahl, Iraqi authorities claimed they jailed Yasin for the bombing.
However, according to Sheila MacVicar of ABC’s defunct Day One program, Yasin was a free man. “Last week, Day One confirmed he [Yasin] is in Baghdad,” MacVicar reported June 27, 1994. “Just a few days ago, he was seen at [his father's] house by ABC News. Neighbors told us Yasin comes and goes frequently.” Iraqi intelligence documents discovered since Baghdad’s liberation indicate that Yasin received government-funded housing and a monthly salary.
Importantly, papers like these, and the post-liberation arrests of terrorists in Iraq–such as the now-deceased Palestinian extremist Abu Abbas–have implicated Saddam Hussein even further since his defeat.
New York Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton declared on the Senate floor October 10, 2002, that Saddam Hussein gave “aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaeda members.”
That same day, North Carolina Democrat John Edwards–who crowed in Tuesday’s vice-presidential debate that Hussein’s ties to al Qaeda were “tenuous, at best”–told the Senate, “Almost no one disagrees with these basic facts: that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a menace; that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is doing everything in his power to get nuclear weapons; that he has supported terrorists…”
The next day, Clinton and Edwards voted to authorize the Iraq war, as did John Kerry, back when he was for it, before he was against it.
In spring 2003, the survivors of George Eric Smith, 38, and Timothy Soulas, 35, both killed in the Twin Towers on September 11, sued Baathist Iraq, al Qaeda, and the Taliban in federal court for the murders of their loved ones. James Woolsey–a Carter-administration Navy undersecretary and former Clinton-appointed director of Central Intelligence–and Laurie Mylroie, an Iraq-policy adviser to the 1992 Clinton campaign, both offered sworn testimony on Saddam Hussein’s involvement in terrorist financing and training.
“I believe it is definitely more likely than not that some degree of common effort in the sense of aiding or abetting or conspiracy was involved here between Iraq and the al-Qaeda,” Woolsey said under oath on March 3, 2003. Clinton’s CIA chief from 1993 to 1995 added: “Even if one cannot show that…any of the individual 19 hijackers were trained at Salman Pak, the nature of the training and the circumstances suggest, to my mind, at least, some kind of common aiding, abetting, assistance, cooperation–whatever word you might want to take.”
Mylroie, a former Naval War College associate professor, testified: “It took a state like Iraq to carry out an attack as really sophisticated, massive and deadly as what happened on September 11.”
While Saddam Hussein did not respond to this suit, Clinton-appointed U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. was persuaded by this and other evidence, including satellite photos of Salman Pak, a suspected terrorist training camp 15 miles outside Baghdad.
“I conclude that plaintiffs have shown, albeit barely, ‘by evidence satisfactory to the court,’ that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda,” Baer announced May 7, 2003, in Manhattan. He then awarded the plaintiffs $104 million in Baathist funds.
That day, CBSNews.com posted the following headline: “Court Rules: Al Qaida, Iraq Linked.”
As William Kristol has noted, the summer 2004 reports of the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee and the 9/11 Commission both concluded that Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda were, in fact, in communication. However, both documents deny a formal, Hussein-bin Laden treaty-type alliance.
Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee Report (Conclusion 95, page 347): “The Central Intelligence Agency’s assessment on safe haven–that al-Qaida or associated operatives were present in Baghdad and in northeastern Iraq in an area under Kurdish control–was reasonable.”
The 9/11 Commission Report (page 61): “With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request.” However, “the ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish connections.”
The 9/11 Commission Report (page 66): “In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, [Ayman al] Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis.”
Many of these details would shock most Americans, even most news junkies. Thank the Bush administration for that. It has been, charitably, flaccid about detailing Saddam Hussein’s terrorist resume. Administration officials tell me they fear doing so may invite media criticism.
That is pathetic.
If President Bush stopped campaigning and spent the next week at a soup kitchen, the media carping would commence at once: “Why now?…Why not a month ago?… The soup is too hot…The soup is too cold…Beef barley?…What about the homeless vegetarians?…”
So, President Bush might as well showcase the abundant proof of Hussein’s generosity to terrorists. Critics will hiss. Supporters will cheer. And undecided voters will learn how vital it is that he dislodged the man who was global terrorism’s chief benefactor.
As for John Kerry, he once again reveals himself as an opportunist who tailors his views, even on Saddam Hussein’s philanthropy of terror, to fit his political ends.