What is this baloney that there were no connections between Iraq and Osama bin Laden? Even the 9/11 Commission Report, which I believe is lacking in many respects, includes some useful findings all but ignored today by the media and war critics. Consider the following excerpts:
Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda–save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against ‘Crusaders’ during the Gulf War of 1991. Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army.
To protect his own ties with Iraq, [Sudan's Islamic leader] Turabi, reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremist operating in part of Iraq (Kurdistan) outside of Baghdad’s control. In the late 1990s, these extremist groups suffered major defeats by Kurdish forces. In 2001, with Bin Ladin’s help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam. There are indications that by then the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al Islam against the common Kurdish enemy.
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 his request. … [T]he ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish common connections.
… 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, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large are attacks in December.
Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occured in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides’ hatred of the United States. …
The report goes on to say that no evidence was unearthed of a “collaborative operational relationship” or Iraqi cooperation in the 9/11 attacks. However, the existence of bin Ladin/al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein/Iraq connections, over a number of years, is indisputable.
Given this fact, and that both the president and Congress were informed by numerous intelligence officials and agencies that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction, it is simply a falsehood to claim that Iraq did not pose a national-security risk to the United States, or that there were no serious connections between Iraq and al Qaeda–connections which could develop further if Iraq had not been attacked.
Here’s what Congress itself said in October 2002 in passing a joint resolution justifying and authorizing war against Iraq:
Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;
Whereas the current Iraqi regime has demonstrated its capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people;
Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;
Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;
Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by the United States to defend itself; …
Did Iraq pose a serious threat to our national security? Yes. Did Congress believe Iraq posed a serious threat? Yes. Did Iraq have or seek to obtain weapons of mass destruction? Yes. Those are the facts.
–Mark R. Levin is author of the best-selling Men In Black, president of Landmark Legal Foundation, and a radio talk-show host on WABC in New York.