June 18, 2004
September 11 Commission Staff Report
With the release of
the September 11 Commission staff report, I wanted to bring to your attention
two noteworthy items.
One is a federal
indictment, released November 6, 1998, against Osama Bin Laden for conspiring
to murder Americans. In detailing the charges against Bin Laden, the indictment
points out that "al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government
of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that
on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al
Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq." Text
of the indictment may be found here.
In addition, yesterday, some media outlets mischaracterized the September
11 staff report's findings regarding the relationship between Saddam Hussein's
Iraq and al Qaeda. In particular, the New York Times ran the headline,
"Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie." Last night, Vice President
Cheney responded to the September 11 staff report, and to the media's
coverage of it. Selected excerpts from the Vice President's interview
(full text available here)
on CNBC's "Capital Report" follow:
with the way their findings have been portrayed. [There] has been enormous
confusion over the Iraq-al-Qaida connection.... First of all, on the
question of whether or not there was any kind of a relationship, there
clearly was a relationship. It's been testified to. The evidence is
overwhelming. It goes back to the early '90s.
a whole series of contacts, high-level contacts between Osama bin Laden
and Iraqi intelligence officials. It involves a senior official, a brigadier
general in the Iraqi intelligence service going to the Sudan before
bin Laden ever went to Afghanistan to train them in bomb-making, helping
teach them how to forge documents. Mr. Zarqawi, who's in Baghdad today,
is an al-Qaida associate who took refuge in Baghdad, found sanctuary
and safe harbor there before we ever launched into Iraq. There's a Mr.
Yasin, who was a World Trade Center bomber in '93, who fled to Iraq
after that and we found since when we got into Baghdad, documents showing
that he was put on the payroll and given housing by Saddam Hussein after
the '93 attack; in other words, provided safe harbor and sanctuary.
There's clearly been a relationship....
"Look at the
Zarqawi case. Here's a man who's Jordanian by birth. He's described
as an al-Qaida associate. He ran training camps in Afghanistan back
before we went to war in Afghanistan. After we went in and hit his training
camp, he fled to Baghdad. Found safe harbor and sanctuary in Baghdad
in May of 2002. He arrived with about two dozen other supporters of
his, members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was Zawahiri's organization.
He's the number two to bin Laden, which was merged with al-Qaida interchangeably.
Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida, same-same. They're all now part of
one organization. They merged some years ago. So Zarqawi living in Baghdad....
He was allowed to operate out of Baghdad. He ran the poisons factory
in northern Iraq out of Baghdad, which became a safe harbor for Ansar
al-Islam as well as al-Qaida fleeing Afghanistan. There clearly was
a relationship there that stretched back over that period of time to
at least May of '02, a year before we launched into Iraq. He is the
worst offender. He's probably killed more Iraqis than any other man
in Iraq today. He is probably the leading terrorist still operating
in Iraq today....
"He had been
involved working side by side, as described by the CIA, with al-Qaida
over the years. This is an old established relationship. He's the man
who killed our man Foley in Jordan, an AID official, during this period
of time. To suggest that there's no connection between Zarqawi, no relationship
if you will, and Iraq just simply is not true.
"I think the
decision we made was exactly the right one. Everything I know today,
everything the president knows today, we would have done exactly the
same thing. Saddam Hussein was an evil man. He'd launched two wars.
He'd produced and used weapons of mass destruction in the past. He had
provided safe harbor and sanctuary for terrorists. He was paying $25,000
a pop to the families of suicide bombers who'd kill Israelis. He hosted
Abu Nidal in Baghdad, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, had established a relationship
with al-Qaida. This was an evil man who had tried previously to expand
his influence in the area and we did exactly the right thing."
had ties to terrorists and terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda.
If a different impression is left by the combination of a sloppy September
11 Commission staff report regarding this issue and biased media coverage,
this should not go unchallenged.