Twisting the Al-Qaida Connection

Robyn Blumner, former ACLU Director and current St. Petersburg Times columnist retreads this old leftist tire:

Fox News gives its audience what it wants, too. That's why, in 2003, a survey from the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 67 percent of its loyal viewers believed the fallacy that Saddam Hussein was connected to al-Qaida, whereas only 40 percent of those who relied on print media were confused on that point. Welcome to the "informed" electorate of a newspaper-free world. It's already starting to give us the government we deserve.

(Notice that people who watch Fox are fallacious believers, while the people who consume her product and don't agree with her are simply "confused".) Saddam connected to al-Qaida? That's a weird wild thought. Where on Earth would Fox News and this "informed electorate" get that "fallacious" idea? Let's see, maybe...

State of the Union Address January 28, 2003: "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida." BBC Profile: "It is during this period that Zarqawi is thought to have renewed his acquaintance with al-Qaeda. He is believed to have fled to Iraq in 2001 after a US missile strike on his Afghan base, though the report that he lost a leg in the attack has not been verified. US officials argue that it was at al-Qaeda's behest that he moved to Iraq and established links with Ansar al-Islam - a group of Kurdish Islamists from the north of the country. He is thought to have remained with them for a while - feeling at home in mountainous northern Iraq."Justice Department indictment of Bin Laden - Spring 1998: "Al Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in the Sudan and with the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq." Letter to Congress by CIA Director George Tenet: "Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank. We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade. Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad. We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs. Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action." ABC News - August 25, 1998: Before the pharmaceutical plant was reduced to rubble by American cruise missiles, the CIA was secretly gathering evidence that ended up putting the facility on America's target list. Intelligence sources say their agents clandestinely gathered soil samples outside the plant and found, quote, "strong evidence" of a chemical compound called EMPTA, a compound that has only one known purpose, to make VX nerve gas. The U.S. had been suspicious for months, partly because of Osama bin Laden's financial ties, but also because of strong connections to Iraq. Sources say the U.S. had intercepted phone calls from the plant to a man in Iraq who runs that country's chemical weapons program. Joe Lieberman on MSNBC's Hardball: "I want to be real clear about the connection with terrorists. I've seen a lot of evidence on this. There are extensive contacts between Saddam Hussein's government and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I never could reach the conclusion that [Saddam] was part of September 11. Don't get me wrong about that. But there was so much smoke there that it made me worry. And you know, some people say with a great facility, al Qaeda and Saddam could never get together. He is secular and they're theological. But there's something that tied them together. It's their hatred of us." Other points by Tech Central Station: * Abdul Rahman Yasin was the only member of the al Qaeda cell that detonated the 1993 World Trade Center bomb to remain at large in the Clinton years. He fled to Iraq. U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, that show that Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and monthly salary. * Bin Laden met at least eight times with officers of Iraq's Special Security Organization, a secret police agency run by Saddam's son Qusay, and met with officials from Saddam's mukhabarat, its external intelligence service, according to intelligence made public by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was speaking before the United Nations Security Council on February 6, 2003. * Sudanese intelligence officials told me that their agents had observed meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and bin Laden starting in 1994, when bin Laden lived in Khartoum. * Bin Laden met the director of the Iraqi mukhabarat in 1996 in Khartoum, according to Mr. Powell. * An al Qaeda operative now held by the U.S. confessed that in the mid-1990s, bin Laden had forged an agreement with Saddam's men to cease all terrorist activities against the Iraqi dictator, Mr. Powell told the United Nations. * In 1999 the Guardian, a British newspaper, reported that Farouk Hijazi, a senior officer in Iraq's mukhabarat, had journeyed deep into the icy mountains near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 1998 to meet with al Qaeda men. Mr. Hijazi is "thought to have offered bin Laden asylum in Iraq," the Guardian reported. * In October 2000, another Iraqi intelligence operative, Salah Suleiman, was arrested near the Afghan border by Pakistani authorities, according to Jane's Foreign Report, a respected international newsletter. Jane's reported that Suleiman was shuttling between Iraqi intelligence and Ayman al Zawahiri, now al Qaeda's No. 2 man. (Why are all of those meetings significant? The London Observer reports that FBI investigators cite a captured al Qaeda field manual in Afghanistan, which "emphasizes the value of conducting discussions about pending terrorist attacks face to face, rather than by electronic means.") * As recently as 2001, Iraq's embassy in Pakistan was used as a "liaison" between the Iraqi dictator and al Qaeda, Mr. Powell told the United Nations. * Spanish investigators have uncovered documents seized from Yusuf Galan -- who is charged by a Spanish court with being "directly involved with the preparation and planning" of the Sept. 11 attacks -- that show the terrorist was invited to a party at the Iraqi embassy in Madrid. The invitation used his "al Qaeda nom de guerre," London's Independent reports. * An Iraqi defector to Turkey, known by his cover name as "Abu Mohammed," told Gwynne Roberts of the Sunday Times of London that he saw bin Laden's fighters in camps in Iraq in 1997. At the time, Mohammed was a colonel in Saddam's Fedayeen. He described an encounter at Salman Pak, the training facility southeast of Baghdad. At that vast compound run by Iraqi intelligence, Muslim militants trained to hijack planes with knives -- on a full-size Boeing 707. Col. Mohammed recalls his first visit to Salman Pak this way: "We were met by Colonel Jamil Kamil, the camp manager, and Major Ali Hawas. I noticed that a lot of people were queuing for food. (The major) said to me: 'You'll have nothing to do with these people. They are Osama bin Laden's group and the PKK and Mojahedin-e Khalq.'" * In 1998, Abbas al-Janabi, a longtime aide to Saddam's son Uday, defected to the West. At the time, he repeatedly told reporters that there was a direct connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. *The Sunday Times found a Saddam loyalist in a Kurdish prison who claims to have been Dr. Zawahiri's bodyguard during his 1992 visit with Saddam in Baghdad. Dr. Zawahiri was a close associate of bin Laden at the time and was present at the founding of al Qaeda in 1989. * Following the defeat of the Taliban, almost two dozen bin Laden associates "converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there," Mr. Powell told the United Nations in February 2003. From their Baghdad base, the secretary said, they supervised the movement of men, materiel and money for al Qaeda's global network. * In 2001, an al Qaeda member "bragged that the situation in Iraq was 'good,'" according to intelligence made public by Mr. Powell. * That same year, Saudi Arabian border guards arrested two al Qaeda members entering the kingdom from Iraq. * Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi oversaw an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, Mr. Powell told the United Nations. His specialty was poisons. Wounded in fighting with U.S. forces, he sought medical treatment in Baghdad in May 2002. When Zarqawi recovered, he restarted a training camp in northern Iraq. Zarqawi's Iraq cell was later tied to the October 2002 murder of Lawrence Foley, an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in Amman, Jordan. The captured assassin confessed that he received orders and funds from Zarqawi's cell in Iraq, Mr. Powell said. His accomplice escaped to Iraq. *Zarqawi met with military chief of al Qaeda, Mohammed Ibrahim Makwai (aka Saif al-Adel) in Iran in February 2003, according to intelligence sources cited by the Washington Post. * Mohammad Atef, the head of al Qaeda's military wing until the U.S. killed him in Afghanistan in November 2001, told a senior al Qaeda member now in U.S. custody that the terror network needed labs outside of Afghanistan to manufacture chemical weapons, Mr. Powell said. "Where did they go, where did they look?" said the secretary. "They went to Iraq." * Abu Abdullah al-Iraqi was sent to Iraq by bin Laden to purchase poison gases several times between 1997 and 2000. He called his relationship with Saddam's regime "successful," Mr. Powell told the United Nations. * Mohamed Mansour Shahab, a smuggler hired by Iraq to transport weapons to bin Laden in Afghanistan, was arrested by anti-Hussein Kurdish forces in May, 2000. He later told his story to American intelligence and a reporter for the New Yorker magazine. * Documents found among the debris of the Iraqi Intelligence Center show that Baghdad funded the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan terror group led by an Islamist cleric linked to bin Laden. According to a London's Daily Telegraph, the organization offered to recruit "youth to train for the jihad" at a "headquarters for international holy warrior network" to be established in Baghdad. * Mullah Melan Krekar, ran a terror group (the Ansar al-Islam) linked to both bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Mr. Krekar admitted to a Kurdish newspaper that he met bin Laden in Afghanistan and other senior al Qaeda officials. His acknowledged meetings with bin Laden go back to 1988. When he organized Ansar al Islam in 2001 to conduct suicide attacks on Americans, "three bin Laden operatives showed up with a gift of $300,000 'to undertake jihad,'" Newsday reported. Mr. Krekar is now in custody in the Netherlands. His group operated in portion of northern Iraq loyal to Saddam Hussein -- and attacked independent Kurdish groups hostile to Saddam. A spokesman for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told a United Press International correspondent that Mr. Krekar's group was funded by "Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad." * After October 2001, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters are believed to have holed up in the Ansar al-Islam's strongholds inside northern Iraq.