Argument with a capital \"A\"

It was recently asserted here (again) that the links to Saddam and terrorism are "murky". While it is strange to me that there is even such a thing as a "let's make sure to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt" crowd, I found this William Safire article to be useful in further clarifying the case:

From the NY Times

Two blockbuster magazine articles last week revealed evidence that Saddam's spy agency and top Qaeda operatives certainly were in frequent contact for a decade, and that there is renewed reason to suspect an Iraqi spymaster in Prague may have helped finance the 9/11 attacks.

On weeklystandard.com, you can find chunks of a 16-page letter by Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, responding to a Senate Intelligence Committee request for evidence of Saddam-bin Laden collaboration. Fifty specific instances from C.I.A., N.S.A., F.B.I. and Pentagon files are described, many from "sensitive reporting" never made public.

The Defense Department acknowledged the Oct. 27 letter included a classified annex of "raw reports or products" of U.S. intelligence agencies on "the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," cautioning that it "drew no conclusions." But with so much connective tissue exposed "” some the result of "custodial interviews" of prisoners "” the burden of proof has shifted to those still grimly in denial.

Remember how anti-liberation politicians and journalists pooh-poohed Colin Powell's February 2003 speech to the U.N. about the presence in Iraq of a Qaeda associate, identified in this space as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Powell's assertion had this "sensitive reporting" basis: "As of Oct. 2002 al Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city."

Deniers derogate as "cherry picking" Feith's intelligence summary available to senators: "The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, al Ani, on several occasions. During one of those meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS [Iraq Intelligence Service] finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office."

If true, that would implicate Saddam's regime in the murder of 3,000 Americans. Though the C.I.A. can confirm two Atta trips to Prague, in 1994 and 2000, it cannot confirm the two other visits the Czechs reported, including one on April 9, 2001, with Saddam's top European agent, al-Ani, then vice consul in Prague. C.I.A. chief George Tenet testified that the meeting reported by the Czech service was "possible," but the F.B.I. floated hints that car rental records showed Atta to be traveling between Virginia and Florida that week.

Enter the writer Edward Jay Epstein in the liberal online journal Slate: "All these reports attributed to the FBI were, as it turns out, erroneous. There were no car rental records in Virginia, Florida, or anywhere else in April 2001 for Mohamed Atta, since he had not yet obtained his Florida license." You cannot rent a car without a driver's license.

Epstein went to Prague this month to interview Czech officials who want to cooperate with the U.S. to get to the bottom of the Atta-Iraqi story but have been stiffed by the F.B.I., whose bureaucracy is sensitive to charges of failed surveillance. Read his detailed Slate report and subsequent commentary on edwardjayepstein.com.

Since July, al-Ani has been in U.S. Department of Justice custody and I wonder how effectively he is being interrogated. Have we learned the whereabouts of his Prague and Baghdad aides and secretaries, and taken their testimony? Have we asked M.I.5 to let us speak to Jabir Salim, his Prague station-chief predecessor, who defected to Britain and may know which employees and which banks could transfer $100,000 to an account accessible to Atta?

Did al-Ani order any payment to "the student from Hamburg" or his co-conspirators, as Czech intelligence believes, and did the paymaster carry out the order? To what superior in Baghdad did al-Ani report, and who worked most closely with him, and are they in custody and do their stories jibe? What have we offered al-Ani, in protection or immunity or plea bargain, to turn state's evidence?

F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller is duty-bound to examine the full transcript of the interrogation to see how seriously this is being pursued; same with Senate Intelligence. I'd also assign new agents to follow up leads in Prague.

Intrepid journalists will ultimately bring the full story of the Saddam-bin Laden connection to light. In the meantime, the F.B.I. should stop treating 9/11 as a cold case.

"ralcydan" wrote:

It was recently asserted here (again) that the links to Saddam and terrorism are ""murky"". While it is strange to me that there is even such a thing as a ""let''s make sure to give Saddam the benefit of the doubt"" crowd, I found this William Safire article to be useful in further clarifying the case...

Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt. That''s how the laws we abide to work, no matter if you like the idea or not. I do not agree with some of the deductions the author makes from the articles on newsweek. What strikes me though is, that there is a number of people who now scream ""we told you so about the Hussein/BinLaden connection"". My question still stands to that: Why weren''t the proofs brought up at an appropriate time not even to a limited audience, like it was done with Afghanistan? I can accuse people, but as long as I can''t back up my accusations it can''t be taken seriously. I stand by my opinion that this would have changed a lot of peoples minds back then. It sure did mine.

It also strikes me that nobody is talking out WMDs anymore that still have not been found. It seems to me that these people try to construct a back up reason since their original claims could not be proven so far.

"Chrisg" wrote:

Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt.

While I agree with you in principle, I am speaking more specifically. If someone has cheated you repeatedly, you don''t give them the benefit of the doubt when they ask you to trust them again.

Al Qaeda had terrorist camps in Iraq. Saddam provided explosives and poisons training to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda operatives lived and traveled extensively in Iraq. And now this - the meeting in Prague with 9/11 terrorists. All of this is ignored by detractors of the United States, who say ""there is no smoking gun"". Well I say that Saddam, who supported terrorists and openly hated the US doesn''t deserve the benefit of the doubt in assuming these ties were innocent.

And speaking of silence, you''ll note that the major media and anti-war pundits offered no rebuttal to the memo detailing the decade of Saddam-Al Qaeda ties. Even Rat Boy, before his finally seeing the light of logic, offered only a lame retort which he dropped immediately when refuted. You know why? Because the evidence is there, and there is too much to simply ignore anymore. Anyone who is following this can see that at some point there will be no doubt, and the naysayers about Saddam''s links to terror are going to look incredibly stupid.

"Chrisg" wrote:

It also strikes me that nobody is talking out WMDs anymore that still have not been found. It seems to me that these people try to construct a back up reason since their original claims could not be proven so far.

Nobody is talking about WMDs because there is no new news. The media dropped the subject after David Kay''s report came out, showing Saddam was in clear violation of UN resolutions and supporting a good many of the claims made by the administration before the war. Interesting that the media spent weeks trying to ""expose"" the truth about Bush''s 16 words (and got it wrong, by the way) but dropped the story that Saddam really was guilty of what we claimed after less than 2 days.

As a final aside, the terror link was central to the case for invading Iraq. We didn''t invade Iraq because we were worried about his military might, as some revisionists are now trying to claim, but because we knew that Saddam actively sought WMDs, had an active hatred of the US, and had active relationships with terrorist groups who he could use as surrogates to attack us. The evidence telling of those terrorist ties isn''t a ""back up reason"" but intergral to the argument.

If someone has cheated you repeatedly, you don''t give them the benefit of the doubt when they ask you to trust them again.

In terms of a court, that must not matter. Either you can prove he is cheating and he will be punished, or you can''t, then there is no choice but to let him go.

Well I say that Saddam, who supported terrorists and openly hated the US doesn''t deserve the benefit of the doubt in assuming these ties were innocent.

See and your government had the proofs it seems from that article, why not use them at all?

And speaking of silence, you''ll note that the major media and anti-war pundits offered no rebuttal to the memo detailing the decade of Saddam-Al Qaeda ties.

Hey let''s be realistic, would the media admit it made a big mistake?

Anyone who is following this can see that at some point there will be no doubt, and the naysayers about Saddam''s links to terror are going to look incredibly stupid.

Well, I have no problems with looking incredibly stupid. What I still do not get is, why your government acted the way it did, when it obviously had proofs to back themselves up and thus a way to get broad support for its operation.

As a final aside, the terror link was central to the case for invading Iraq. We didn''t invade Iraq because we were worried about his military might, as some revisionists are now trying to claim...

Then it is even less understandable why your government didn''t even try to present these proofs to the coalition against terror if you were not willing to present it to the UN.

See what I want you to understand is that we are on the same side, even if you don''t (want to) believe that :). We surely disagree about the ways of how to reach the goal, but I think that is something that can be worked on from both sides. In the current situation though nobody talks and everybody insists on doing things their way, which is just counterproductive.

Totally unrelated, somebody should tell this Prager guy that things have changed since ''45.

In terms of a court, that must not matter. Either you can prove he is cheating and he will be punished, or you can''t, then there is no choice but to let him go.

Intelligence has a degree of uncertainty that would never hold up in most courts. You''ll pardon me if I refuse to let rapists date my daughters or child molesters teach my children - the benefit of the doubt is lost when prior actions shift the burden to the person accused of wrong doing, and that burden was firmly shifted onto Saddam years ago.

Then it is even less understandable why your government didn''t even try to present these proofs to the coalition against terror if you were not willing to present it to the UN.

You raise a very good question. And while I can understand why senstive intelligence may not have been seen by you and me in Powell''s presentation, there is a good reason to wonder why this information wasn''t shared behind closed doors with potential allies.

But one thing to consider is that maybe it was shared. I find it hard to believe that we had a monopoly on sources about Iraq, and that France, Germany, and Russia had none of the evidence of Sadam''s Al Qaeda ties. If it turns out that these countries did have this evidence, how would that change your opinions about the whole situation?

You''ll pardon me if I refuse to let rapists date my daughters or child molesters teach my children

While I would react the same way as you would in this case, this is a big difference from a sanction in court or in the actual case in front of the UNSC.

But one thing to consider is that maybe it was shared. I find it hard to believe that we had a monopoly on sources about Iraq, and that France, Germany, and Russia had none of the evidence of Sadam''s Al Qaeda ties. If it turns out that these countries did have this evidence, how would that change your opinions about the whole situation?

You know, I wondered about the exact same thing. I think Schroeder went way to far when he denied help to the US even in the case of an UN mandate. He sacrificed reason in order to get re-elected. I really am interested in the status of our IA on this matter, but for some ""strange reason"" the german press has not yet picked up the reports from weeklystandard et al.
I have to disappoint you though in the hope that it would change a lot of people''s minds in germany. The Anti-war propaganda is still in the peoples heads, so there hardly would be any backlashes at Schroeder if something similar would turn up here.