Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Iraq - Al Qaeda Connection

Are reporters reading the 9/11 Commission report? Is the Kerry Campaign? I mentioned that, in Thursday night's debate, Kerry mistakenly said that there was no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Now, Debra Burlingame, the sister of the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon, discusses the 9/11 family members that travel with the Kerry Campaign and the actual findings of the 9/11 Commission report. The entire article, Right War, Right Place, Right Time, is informative, but here are the hi-lights. [Emphasis added in some places]:

[T]rading on their status as 9/11 family members associated with the 9/11 Commission, the Kerry campaign is deploying these September 11 widows on a nationwide tour to tell the American people that there is no connection between Iraq and the war on terrorism. This declaration will come as a surprise to the folks who actually wrote the 9/11 Commission report.
Anyone who has actually read the report would know that the 9/11 Commission had plenty to say about the connections between al Qaeda and Iraq...
What did the report say about Iraq and Al Qaeda?
To cite but one of many examples, it states that Saddam Hussein--wanting to curry favor with other Arab governments wary of Osama bin Laden--was not responsive to a 1996 request by bin Laden for safe haven in Iraq when the Sudanese government was poised to give him the boot. After bin Laden declared war against the U.S. in 1998, two al Qaeda operatives went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. Later, a delegation of Iraqi officials traveled to Afghanistan and offered to set bin Laden up. Taliban leaders, concerned with the increasing possibility of retaliatory strikes by the U.S., urged bin Laden to go. During heated discussions with other Clinton administration policy makers about the effect of launching missile strikes on bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, then-NSC Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke worried that bin Laden would "boogie to Baghdad" where he would put his network at Saddam's service and be all the harder to root out, given Saddam's formidable security apparatus.

The commission further reported that terrorist training camps, now eliminated by the coalition forces of Operation Iraqi Freedom, were set up in Northern Iraq with bin Laden's help. Al Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was given safe haven by Saddam Hussein after he fled Afghanistan. It is Zarqawi, a chemical weapons expert, who is believed to be the leading force behind Ansar al-Islam, the terrorist organization bin Laden assisted in founding several years ago and which is carrying out beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq today.

As one of 150 9/11 family members who have signed an open letter strongly supporting the president's decision to prosecute the war on terror in Iraq, I would remind Americans who think the presence of weapons of mass destruction are the sine qua non for any pre-emptive war that the 19 terrorists who slaughtered 3,000 innocent men, women and children in a matter of minutes were sponsored by the Taliban, a backward regime that had neither WMD nor the technology to produce them. Saddam may not have had a hand in the plot that killed our loved ones, but American troops found ample evidence that he wishes he had, including the murals he commissioned for public display depicting airplanes exploding into the World Trade Center towers, but with this added conceit: One shows the planes painted in the colors of Iraqi airlines while Saddam's grinning portrait looms in the foreground in yet another.

So, on President Bush's decision to act on Iraq, Ms. Burlingame concludes:
Rather than waiting until it was too late to prevent a fully materialized threat, President Bush acted. We believe history will support his courageous decision. We believe the president has demonstrated strength, consistency and a laser-like focus, sending a clear message to America's friends and foes that he will not waver in his resolve as the winds of political fortune change.