As the Global War on Terror rages into its sixth year, I grow more and more convinced that one of the Bush administration’s most fundamental failings has been its unwillingness to fully engage the media and the left in a debate over the justification for the invasion of Iraq. It is almost as if the failure to find large stockpiles of WMDs (though small numbers have been found) sapped the administration of any energy to engage in the fight.
In the Daily Standard, Thomas Jocelyn does the administration’s work for it and outlines what we’ve discovered about Saddam’s terrorist ties. The following is a partial list of links we’ve discovered since the invasion in 2003:
1. Saddam’s Terror Training Camps & Long-Standing Relationship With Ayman al-Zawahiri. As first reported in THE WEEKLY STANDARD, there is extensive evidence that Saddam used Iraqi soil to train terrorists from throughout the Middle East. Among the terrorists who received Saddam’s support were members of al Qaeda’s Algerian affiliate, formerly known as the GSPC, which is still lethally active, though under a new name: al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Joe Klein, a columnist for Time magazine and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, has confirmed the existence of Saddam’s terrorist training camps. He also found that Iraqi intelligence documents demonstrated a long-standing relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda bigwig Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Other evidence of Saddam’s terror training camps was reported in a paper published by the Pentagon’s Iraqi Perspectives Project. A team of Pentagon analysts discovered that Saddam’s paramilitary Fedayeen forces were hosting camps for thousands terror of from throughout the Middle East.
2. A 1992 IIS Document lists Osama bin Laden as an “asset.” An Iraqi Intelligence memorandum dated March 28, 1992 and stamped “Top Secret” lists a number of assets. Osama bin Laden is listed on page 14 as having a “good relationship” with the Iraqi Intelligence Service’s section in Syria.
3. A 1997 IIS document lists a number of meetings between Iraq, bin Laden and other al Qaeda associates. The memo recounts discussions of cooperating in attacks against American stationed in Saudi Arabia. The document summarizes a number of contacts between Iraqi Intelligence and Saudi oppositionist groups, including al Qaeda, during the mid 1990′s. The document says that in early 1995 bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in two ways. First, bin Laden wanted Iraqi television to carry al Qaeda’s anti-Saudi propaganda. Saddam agreed. Second, bin Laden requested Iraqi assistance in performing “joint operations against the foreign forces in the land of Hijaz.” That is, bin Laden wanted Iraq’s assistance in attacking U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia.
We do not know what, exactly, came of bin Laden’s second request. But the document indicates that Saddam’s operatives “were left to develop the relationship and the cooperation between the two sides to see what other doors of cooperation and agreement open up.” Thus, it appears that both sides saw value in working with each other. It is also worth noting that in the months following bin Laden’s request, al Qaeda was tied to a series of bombings in Saudi Arabia.
The document also recounts contacts with Mohammed al-Massari, a known al Qaeda mouthpiece living in London.
4. A 1998 IIS document reveals that a representative of bin Laden visited Baghdad in March 1998 to meet with Saddam’s regime. According to the memo, the IIS arranged a visit for bin Laden’s “trusted confidant,” who stayed in a regime-controlled hotel for more than two weeks. Interestingly, according to other evidence discovered by the U.S. intelligence community, Ayman al-Zawahiri was also in Baghdad the month before. He collected a check for $300,000 from the Iraqi regime. The 9-11 Commission confirmed that there were a series of meetings (perhaps set up by Zawahiri, who had “ties of his own” to the Iraq regime) in the following months as well.
5. Numerous IIS documents demonstrate that Saddam had made plans for a terrorist-style insurgency and coordinated the influx of foreign terrorists into Iraq. In My Year in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer says a secret IIS document he had seen “showed that Saddam had made plans for an insurgency.” Moreover, “the insurgency had forces to draw on from among several thousand hardened Baathists in two northern Republican Guard divisions that had joined forces with foreign jihadis.”
There is simply no good reason for conceding this public debate to the left. It is not enough to simply argue that Iraq will be a mess when we leave; we also have to continue to argue that it was right to go in the first place.