For the record, I continue not to understand why people are so quick to absolve Saddam of any involvement in 9/11.
To be clear, I don’t understand Jonah to be saying anything other than that no connection has been proved, and assuming that’s what he’s saying, I agree. But there is a big difference between saying no connection has been proved and saying no connection is likely, or at least conceivable. The debate on this has become so perverted by those hell-bent on discrediting the American invasion of Iraq (aided and abetted by the administration’s infuriating failure to defend itself), that it seems people feel compelled to make an opening concession that there is no connection between Iraq and 9/11 in order to be taken seriously in arguing that there is a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. But it would be more accurate to say that the evidence of connection between Iraq and al Qaeda is extensive, and there is enough troubling circumstantial evidence of Iraqi ties to central 9/11 players that Iraq’s participation in 9/11 cannot be discounted.
First, contrary to the myth tirelessly repeated by the “no connection” crowd, it has never been established that Mohamed Atta did not meet with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in April 2001. Czech intelligence has not recanted its spotter’s the identification of Atta, and, mightily as it tried to help the CIA naysayers, the 9/11 Commission could not establish Atta’s whereabouts between April 4 and April 11, 2001 — the week in which the meeting was said to take place.
Second, no one has ever explained Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi intelligence operative who escorted 9/11 hijacker Khalid al-Midhar through through the Malaysia airport and then attended, with al-Midhar and 9/11 hijacker Nawaf al-Hamzi, among other Qaeda figures, the Kuala Lampur meeting in January 2000 that is generally thought to be one of the initial meetings about the 9/11 operation (as well, more than likely, as covering the plot that ultimately led to the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole). About two years ago, I posted this on the Corner, regarding the 9/11 Commission’s laughable straw-man attempt to dismiss Shakir in a footnote to its final report, and I’ve also discussed the intriguing Shakir facts here and here, for example.
It’s perfectly fine to say that no Iraqi role in 9/11 has been demonstrated. But until Prague and Shakir are convincingly discounted — and they may never be — it’s simply wrong to exonerate Saddam from knowing participation of some kind in 9/11. This is not law enforcement, it’s national security — we don’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt before we identify threats. Moreover, it’s absurd to let the Intelligence Community use its ineffectiveness as an offensive weapon — i.e., our intelligence about Iraq and al Qaeda pre-9/11 was so sparse that we can’t explain what the ties meant, so therefore you all should conclude that they meant nothing.