Posted by Damozel | D Cupples noted yesterday the change in distribution policy; though the report was initially going to be posted at the Joint Forces Command website yesterday, those in charge decided merely to make it available to those who requested it---which ABC did---and to send it via via overnight mail to those they felt needed to see it from Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia. (ABC) Although the policy change slowed down the distribution, it was always a certainty that news agencies would request and publish it. ABC has a link to the full report here. Among other things, it reports:
Based on the analysis of some 600,000 official Iraqi documents seized by US forces after the invasion and thousands of hours of interrogations of former officials in Saddam's government now in US custody, the government report is the first official acknowledgment from the US military that there is no evidence Saddam had ties to al Qaeda. (ABC News)
Those who stubbornly went on believing Bush and his posse are now spinning like tops to find evidence in the report of some sort of connection between Saddam and al Qaeda.
Their argument is this: Saddam may not have been directly tied to al Qaeda, but because he had ties to other terrorists groups that had, or probably had ties, to some people who were members of al Qaeda, it doesn't matter that the 9-11 connection was willfully misrepresented. And of course---given that there are supposedly only six degrees of separation between any two people on earth---they have managed to find some links that the media considered too problematic to treat as evidence.
Ed Morissey writes:
[I[t’s clear that the analysis done by the media was superficial at best. If no operational “smoking gun” could be found, the report still shows that Saddam Hussein had plenty of ties to all sorts of terrorist groups, including radical Islamist jihadis. For instance, how about their support for The Army of Muhammad, a known al-Qaeda subsidiary operating in Bahrain? On pages 34-35 of the report, we find communications between their Bahrain agent and IIS headquarters confirming Army of Mohammad’s loyalty to Osama bin Laden....
Even when working separately, the report notes that Saddam and Osama worked to develop the same terrorist pool from which they would draw support and operational agents. Put simply, Saddam’s more secular aims and Osama’s drive for an Islamic Caliphate worked in tandem to increase the threat of terrorism. Saddam endeavored to create a “business model” for terrorism, especially when it could assist in his own pan-Arab vision. He funded and trained terrorists of all stripes in Iraq, from secular Arab Marxists to radical jihadists (page 41-42). (Hot Air)
The trouble with this line of argument is that it assumes that people who are angry about being misled are angry because they mistakenly believed at the time Bush initiated the war that Saddam was not dangerous. I don't know a soul who thought that Saddam wasn't dangerous.
The right wing's favorite whipping boy, Bill Clinton, knew that Saddam was dangerous. On December 16, 1998 Clinton announced to the country that Iraq had defied UN weapons inspectors once too often.
Clinton, of course---like Bush's father---knew better than to initiate a ground war in Iraq. After our forces carried out their mission---degrade Saddam's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction---we got out of there. For initiating this action against Iraq, Clinton was accused of having "wagged the dog" by faking up a war to distract attention from the impeachment proceedings. I've always wondered if Clinton's efforts were the reason Bush couldn't find those weapons of mass destruction he assured us he'd find.
But anyway, yeah: Clinton knew Saddam was a potential threat. Everybody knew.
But the issue was never whether Saddam was a potential threat, but whether he was an immediate threat in March 2003---a sufficient threat in comparison to all the many others to justify at that time the expenditure of American lives and the tax dollars of American citizens and the risk of a long-term engagement in Iraq.
It was a question of priorities. After all, if we'd never invaded Iraq, we could have used some of that money to improve our civil defense capabilities and build up our National Guard (where are they now?). We could have put all our resources into the mission in Afghanistan which we started in October 2001 in direct response to 9-11. Remember when we first went to Afghanistan? The mission was to "capture Osama bin Laden, destroy al Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime which had provided support and safe harbor to al Qaeda." (War in Afghanistan). We might have intervened elsewhere in any number of wars and genocides. We might have been in a better position to respond to the terrible consequences of Hurricane Katrina. The possibilities go on and on.
In any case, the public and its representatives had the right to an accurate version of the facts in deciding the nation's priorities. We certainly ought to be entitled to an accurate and cautious assessment of the risks and benefits of going to war when a war is what the president wants. Hillary Clinton---who, after all, was married to Bill when he initiated the strikes against Iraq in 1998---had the right to an accurate assessment before being asked to vote on it. So did John Kerry.
So Ed Morissey's analysis strikes me as a real case of letting the tail wag the dog. At the time we went to war against Iraq, Saddam was not the chief threat to US homeland security, which is what Bush led the nation to believe, and which is why we went to war. Furthermore, it doesn't really seem that the war in Iraq has achieved the goal of eliminating the threat which he argues justified its initiation. Even Petraeus is sounding a bit pessimistic these days.
No amount of after-the-fact rationalization---no desperate attempts to glean evidence possibly connecting Saddam to al Qaeda--- can justify the president's having distorted or exaggerated the facts when making his case for war in Iraq. Whatever connections supporters of the war can scrape together between Saddam and al Qaeda are beside the point. The point is that at the time we went to war, war was neither necessary nor in the best interests of the nation, either as the only possible means of dealing with an immediate threat or as the most effective way of dealing with the threat of terrorism.
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