Saddam Hussein's Terror Links
Over the past five years, the left has made much of the fact that there seem to be no ties linking Saddam Hussein to terrorist organizations, and no evidence that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. They used these facts as evidence that the whole Iraq enterprise was part of an elaborate scheme of George Bush to subjugate the Middle East and seize the rich oil fields of Iraq. Whenever the topic turns to Iraq, liberals use this information as a reason that we should never have gone there. Without these two key points, the liberal case collapses.
One portion of this accusation is partly true. Saddam Hussein was probably not a significant threat to develop weapons of mass destruction. Saddam probably could have built his weapons program up had he wanted to. There is really no compelling evidence, however, that suggests that he had any immediate intention of doing so. Most weapons experts believe that Saddam wanted to get U.N. sanctions lifted, and then get back into the WMD business.
Had we lifted the sanctions, Saddam probably would have been a threat. He had about two tons of enriched uranium that could have been used for a nuclear bomb, and his dormant WMD program possessed the knowledge necessary to rebuild his nuclear program.
This seems to imply that both Bush and his critics were both partly right. On the one hand, Bush was right to be suspicious of Saddam. One the other hand, the left was correct to believe that Saddam Hussein did not have the capacity to build any significant weapons of mass destruction. Although Bush was right on some things, I think it accurate to say that those who were against the war were right on this issue.
However, Bush was unquestionably right to accuse Hussein of ties to terrorism. A recent Pentagon review of captured Iraqi documents proves this. From Eli Lake’s New York Sun article:
The Iraqi Intelligence Service in a 1993 memo to Saddam agreed on a plan to train commandos from Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group that assassinated Anwar Sadat and was founded by Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the same year, Saddam ordered his intelligence service to "form a group to start hunting Americans present on Arab soil; especially Somalia." At the time, Al Qaeda was working with warlords against American forces there.
• Saddam's intelligence services maintained extensive support networks for a wide range of Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations, including but not limited to Hamas.
Among the other Palestinian groups Saddam supported at the time was Force 17, the private army loyal to Yasser Arafat.
• Beginning in 1999, Iraq's intelligence service began providing "financial and moral support" for a small radical Islamist Kurdish sect the report does not name. A Kurdish Islamist group called Ansar al Islam in 2002 would try to assassinate the regional prime minister in the eastern Kurdish region, Barham Salih.
• In 2001, Saddam's intelligence service drafted a manual titled "Lessons in Secret Organization and Jihad Work—How to Organize and Overthrow the Saudi Royal Family." In the same year, his intelligence service submitted names of 10 volunteer "martyrs" for operations inside the Kingdom.
• In 2000, Iraq sent a suicide bomber through Northern Iraq who intended to travel to London to assassinate Ahmad Chalabi, at the time an Iraqi opposition leader who would later go on to be an Iraqi deputy prime minister. The mission was aborted after the bomber could not obtain a visa to enter the United Kingdom…
The report concludes that Saddam until the final months of his regime was willing to attack America. Its conclusion asks "Is there anything in the captured archives to indicate that Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against the
United States?" It goes on, "Judging from Saddam's statements before the 1991 Gulf War with the United States, the answer is yes." As for after the Gulf War, the report states, "The rise of Islamist fundamentalism in the region gave Saddam the opportunity to make terrorism, one of the few tools remaining in Saddam's 'coercion' tool box." It goes on, "Evidence that was uncovered and analyzed attests to the existence of a terrorist capability and a willingness to use it until the day Saddam was forced to flee Baghdad by Coalition forces." The report does note that it is unclear whether Saddam would have authorized terrorism against American targets in the final months of his regime before Operation Iraqi Freedom five years ago. "The answer to the question of Saddam's will in the final months in power remains elusive," it says.
Now, this report does not necessarily justify the Iraq invasion. Saddam’s connections with terrorism were probably not as extensive as those of Iran or Syria. Furthermore, Iraq really didn’t have an active WMD program, which Iran has. This report does not prove Bush was right about Iraq.
Its does prove two things. One, that Bush did not lie about Saddam’s connections with terrorism. By taking out Saddam, we almost certainly prevented at least some, and perhaps many, terrorist attacks.
But perhaps more importantly, it means that those Democrats who voted for the war cannot say that they were entirely misled by bad intelligence. The WMD evidence is admittedly lacking, but the evidence linking Saddam to terror is not. Hillary Clinton and the rest of the pro-war Democrats knew what they were getting into. They cannot excuse their war votes (as Hillary has) by claiming that the intelligence was flawed. They are accountable.