Bush bashers have deployed former White House counterterrorist Richard A. Clarke as a weapon of mass denunciation. They are using an all-too-willing Clarke and his new book, Against All Enemies, to condemn the Bush administration for allegedly obsessing over Iraq rather than al Qaeda. Clarke made war critics swoon by chanting one of their cherished mantras.
”There is absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda ever,” Clarke declared March 21 on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Because Baathist Iraq and al Qaeda colluded less than, say, Iceland and the Cosa Nostra, the theory goes, President Bush squandered American time, treasure, and blood by hunting Saddam Hussein rather than Osama bin Laden.
This view totally overlooks extensive connections between Baghdad and bin Laden. Just ask Richard Clarke.
‐On Wednesday, he told the September 11 Commission about Abdul Rahman Yasin, the al Qaeda operative who federal prosecutors indicted for mixing the chemicals in the bomb that rocked the World Trade Center, killed six, and injured 1,042 people on February 26, 1993.
“He was an Iraqi,” Clarke observed. “Therefore, when the explosion took place, and he fled the United States, he went back to Iraq.” While Clarke believes Baghdad did not orchestrate that attack, he concedes that Hussein embraced this assassin.
“The Iraqi government,” Clarke continued, “didn’t cooperate in turning him over and gave him sanctuary, as it did give sanctuary to other terrorists.”
“Last week, Day One confirmed he [Yasin] is in Baghdad,” ABC correspondent Sheila 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 freely.”
Vice President Dick Cheney told National Public Radio last January 22: “We’ve discovered since [Iraq’s liberation] documents indicating that a guy named Abdul Rahman Yasin, who was a part of the team that attacked the World Trade Center in ‘93, when he arrived back in Iraq was put on the payroll and provided a house, safe harbor and sanctuary.”
‐WorldNetDaily.com excavated on Tuesday a January 23, 1999, Washington Post article in which Clarke defended the Clinton administration’s August 20, 1998, cruise-missile strike on the El Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan. That mission avenged al Qaeda’s demolition of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that August 7, which killed 224 individuals and injured more than 5,000. The Post quoted Clarke as “sure” that Iraqi experts there produced a powdered VX nerve gas component. According to the Post, Clarke “said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to El Shifa’s current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan.”
‐Meanwhile, Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas made news March 9 by dying of natural causes in U.S. military custody in Iraq. Green Berets captured him last April 14 in Baghdad, where he had lived under Hussein’s protection since 2000. After masterminding the 1985 Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking, in which U.S. retiree Leon Klinghoffer was murdered, Abbas slipped Italian custody. How? ”Abu Abbas was the holder of an Iraqi diplomatic passport,” Italy’s then-premiere Bettino Craxi announced then. So, Rome let him split for Yugoslavia, and beyond.
‐Speaking of diplomacy, the Philippine government booted the second secretary at Iraq’s Manila embassy, Hisham al Hussein, on February 13, 2003, after discovering that the same mobile phone that reached his number on October 3, 2002, six days later rang another cell phone strapped to a bomb at the San Roque Elementary School in Zamboanga. While that device failed, another exploded one day earlier in Zamboanga, wounding 23 and killing three, including U.S. Special Forces Sergeant First Class Mark Wayne Jackson. That mobile phone also registered calls to Abu Madja and Hamsiraji Ali, leaders of Abu Sayyaf, al Qaeda’s Philippine branch. It was launched in the late 1980s by the late Abdurajak Janjalani, with the help of Jamal Mohammad Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law.
As the Washington Times’s Marc Lerner reported on March 3, 2003, Hamsiraji Ali, an Abu Sayyaf commander on the southern island of Basilan, bragged that his group received almost $20,000 annually from Iraqis close to Saddam Hussein.
“It’s so we would have something to spend on chemicals for bomb-making and for the movement of our people,” Sali explained.
Iraqi diplomat Muwafak al-Ani also was expelled from the Philippines, the Christian Science Monitor’s Dan Murphy reported February 26, 2003. In 1991, an Iraqi embassy car took two terrorists near America’s Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center in Manila. As they hid a bomb there, it exploded, killing one fanatic. Al-Ani’s business card was found in the survivor’s pocket, triggering al-Ani’s ouster.
‐Washington Times Pentagon correspondents Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough reported March 19 on a 20-page, Arabic-language document from the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Stamped “top secret,” it lists IIS “collaborators,” among them, “the Saudi Osama bin Laden.” It says he is a “Saudi businessman and is in charge of the Saudi opposition in Afghanistan…And he is in good relationship with our section in Syria.” Signed “Jabar,” the 1993 record seemed authentic to an American official who reviewed it.
‐”Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qa’ida members, including some that have been in Baghdad,” CIA Director George Tenet concluded in an October 7, 2002 letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Iraq’s increasing support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al-Qa’ida, suggest that Baghdad’s links with terrorists will increase, even absent US military action.”
Perhaps all of this made Richard Clarke state: “There is absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al-Qaeda ever.”
Critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom ignore these and many more ties among Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, Palestinian zealots, and other Islamofascist mass murderers. Why? Acknowledging these contacts would concede a major casus belli behind Coalition efforts. The fact that Mohamed Atta did not charge his plane ticket to Hussein’s Platinum Visa card does not render the Butcher of Baghdad a virgin among militant Muslims. In fact, Saddam Hussein loyally supported global terrorists, including al Qaeda. If Richard Clarke and others who oppose Bush’s Iraq policy still do not see this, they are either blind to Nexis and similar news databases or paralyzed in a state of deep, pathological denial.