A declassified report released yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence revealed that U.S. intelligence analysts were strongly disputing the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda while senior Bush administration officials were publicly asserting those links to justify invading Iraq.
There are those who say "Middle East" and think of a large, homogeneous group of Arabs who all speak the same language and all worship the same religion and all hate America. Those are the people who think that Saddam Hussein might ever have worked with terrorists. In the real world, we know that not only are there different ethnicities, there are substantially different versions of the religion and that one of the main dynamics of the Middle East is the friction between unpopular and wealthy secular leaders versus impoverished populations at large. The terrorists, by and large, are representatives of the people, not the governments, and much of their energy is actually directed at the hated governments (see Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and formerly, Iraq). A book well worth reading on this subject is Bernard Lewis' "The Crisis of Islam".
Evidently our administration did not understand or appreciate (or deliberately ignored) these differences. However, according to this report, intelligence sources were almost certain that Hussein had never had anything to do with terrorists. And yet the administration continued making claims otherwise.
In a classified January 2003 report, for instance, the CIA concluded that Hussein "viewed Islamic extremists operating inside Iraq as a threat." But one day after that conclusion was published, Levin noted, Vice President Cheney said the Iraqi government "aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda."
Intelligence reports in June, July and September 2002 all cast doubts on a reported meeting in Prague between Iraqi intelligence agents and Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Yet, in a Sept. 8, 2002, appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press," Cheney said the CIA considered the reports on the meeting credible, Levin said.
In February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that "Iraq is unlikely to have provided bin Laden any useful [chemical and biological weapons] knowledge or assistance." A year later, Bush said: "Iraq has also provided al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training."
I'm sure there are those who still believe that Iraq had WMDs and had connections to terrorists. But logically speaking, doesn't Bush have to have sources in order to know something? And if his sources were telling him the wrong information, where was he getting the idea that the situation was otherwise? The answer to that, of course, is that's what the neocons and warhawks wanted to believe.