Drip, drip, drip.
Drop by drop, isolated news stories and emerging documents are eroding the popular myth that Saddam Hussein had no connections to Islamofascist terrorists. These revelations undermine war critics’ efforts to whitewash Baghdad’s ancien regime–such as when Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid declared: “There was [sic] no terrorists in Iraq.” Likewise, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) describes a “nonexistent relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.”
Reid, Levin, and others who dismiss the Baathist-terrorist nexus would struggle to do so if the Bush administration unveiled the evidence tying Hussein to Osama bin Laden and other extremists. President Bush immediately should release papers discussed in the January 9 Newsweek and the January 16 Weekly Standard.
A declassified 2002 Pentagon presentation attained by Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball offers fresh details on a suspected April 8-9, 2001, meeting in Prague between September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) station chief Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani. “No other intelligence reporting contradicts that [deleted] report,” the heavily redacted document states. It adds: “During one visit, al-Ani ordered IIS finance officer to issue funds to Atta.” According to one slide, “Atta also reportedly met with Iraqi Charge d’Affaires Hussein Kanaan.” Also: “Several workers at Prague airport identified Atta following 9/11 and remember him traveling with his brother Farhan Atta.” (For excerpts go here.)
A slide headlined “High-Level Contacts, 1990 – 2002″ lists numerous meetings and communications among bin Laden, his deputies, and top Iraqi officials. In 1999, the presentation says, “al-Qaida established operational training camp in northern Iraq; also reports of Iraq training terrorists at Salman Pak,” a military base 20 miles south of Baghdad. In 2000, “According to CIA ‘fragmentary reporting points to possible Iraqi involvement’ in bombing USS Cole in October.”
Among the document’s “Findings”: “Some indications of possible Iraqi coordination with al Qaida specifically related to 9/11.”
Is this all fabricated? How much of this presentation is true? Releasing all 60 or so slides for public inspection would help sort this out.
The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes talked to 11 federal officials before concluding that documents U.S. troops captured in Iraq prove that “the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion.” Hayes reports, “Secret training took place primarily at three camps–in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak–and was directed by elite Iraqi military units.” Al-Qaeda-affiliated Muslim fanatics, such as Algeria’s GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army, were among the 8,000 or so murderers instructed between 1999 and 2002.
Handwritten notes, typed forms, computer discs, videos, and other “exploitable items” confirm Hussein’s philanthropy of terror, Hayes says. But America has translated only some 2.5 percent of this huge cache. Federal officials barely discuss what they have learned. Even unclassified papers remain unavailable. Absurd. Having studied some of these artifacts, one intelligence expert says: “As much as we overestimated WMD, it appears we underestimated [Hussein’s] support for transregional terrorists.”
Asked by Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R., Mich.) to release some texts, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte reportedly told the House Intelligence chairman: “I’m giving this as much attention as anything else on my plate to make this work.”
Earlier this month, Hayes writes, federal immigration judge Anthony Rogers decided to deport Ahmad Mohammed Barodi, a 41-year-old Arlington, Tex., convenience-store owner. Barodi testified in a January 4-5 hearing that he entered America in 1989 on a phony Syrian passport furnished by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB), an Islamic terror group. He admitted to smuggling bogus passports into Saudi Arabia for SMB. According to Justice Department records cited by KTVT, CBS’s Dallas station, the SMB sent Barodi to a “21-day guerrilla warfare training camp” in Iraq in 1982, “with the approval of Saddam Hussein.” The document adds: “Barodi advised that the Iraqi government provided all of the training aids consisting of RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades), firearms and the facility.”
But, skeptics sputter, secular Saddam Hussein never would work with Osama bin Laden or other Islamic zealots. This argument foolishly ignores popularly elected Franklin Roosevelt’s alliance with genocidal dictator Josef Stalin to smash Adolf Hitler. Similarly, republican revolutionary George Washington and super-monarch Louis XVI collaborated to defeat Britain’s King George III. Why wouldn’t Hussein and bin Laden similarly conspire to foil the Great Satan?
Moreover, the Butcher of Baghdad was not as secular as the “no-connection” crowd insists. He added “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great”) to the Iraqi flag just before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He also began to pray publicly to bolster his “mosque-cred.” Hayes cites a “SENSITIVE” August 22, 1995, UNSCOM interview with Hussein Kamel, the tyrant’s son-in-law who defected to Jordan that year. Kamel told U.N. weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus, “The Government of Iraq is instigating fundamentalism in the country . . . Now Baath Party members have to pass a religious exam.” He added: “They even stopped party meetings for prayers.”
Meanwhile, Dick Cheney gave Hayes a boost Wednesday. As the vice president told radio host Tony Snow: “Steve Hayes is of the view–and I think he’s correct–that a lot of those documents that were captured over there that have not yet been evaluated offer additional evidence that, in fact, there was a relationship that stretched over many years between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda organization.”
To its enormous detriment, Cheney’s comments notwithstanding, the administration has been nearly silent about Hussein’s decades of collusion with Islamic terrorists. The worry, White House aides tell me, is that revealing these ties would generate media criticism and anti-war catcalls. Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita told Hayes that some reporters might discover exculpatory material among these papers, then “we’d spend a lot of time chasing around after it.”
That risk does not excuse paralysis. If the president wrote MoveOn.org a $10,000 check, they would denounce his penmanship. Bush’s detractors never stop complaining, so the administration simply should make its case. If handed the keys to Fort Knox, don’t worry that someone might whine about the wallpaper. Grab the gold.
Administration officials also should remember that the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal resembled an eccentric one-woman show when reporter Claudia Rosett began exposing it. Then the documents tumbled out. Rosett was vindicated–and how! Worldwide probes, resignations, and criminal arrests followed as the contours of this $21 billion shakedown became clear.
Stephen Hayes similarly remains among the few journalists excavating this huge, deliberately concealed story. Now Newsweek has nibbled at the Iraq-terror connection. Other journalists should stop napping and demand that the White House finally document everything it can about Saddam Hussein’s multifarious links to terrorism.
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.. His research on Saddam Hussein’s support for Islamofascism appears at HUSSEINandTERROR.com.