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The limits of theory

Victor Davis Hanson reviews some of the evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda. He also cites the Clinton Justice Department’s 1998 indictment against bin Laden, which stated:

al-Qaida reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al-Qaida would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al-Qaida would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

The evidence pointed in the same direction in 2002, when Clinton-appointee George Tenet told the Senate:

We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida going back a decade.

The argument that Saddam and al Qaeda did not cooperate, and that there was no risk of cooperation, is based not on evidence but on theory. The notion is that, because Saddam was a secularist and al Qaeda is Islamicist, the two could not cooperate.

While this kind of theoretical argument might appeal to a liberal college professor, it provides no basis for making real-world policy decisions. If bin Laden could accept American assistance when he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, it’s difficult to see why he couldn’t cooperate with Iraq in attacking U.S. interests. Moreover, we know that, today, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fights side-by-side with secular Baathists in Iraq.

Some on the left would likely respond that this cooperation is the by-product of U.S. aggression in Iraq. But if U.S. “aggression” in 2003 could induce cooperation between secular style and Islamicist style fascists, why couldn’t U.S. attacks on Iraq in 1991 and thereafter (during enforcement of the no-fly zones, for example) have produced such cooperation? The evidence, as Hanson shows, is that it did. Indeed, when Zarqawi escaped from Afghanistan to Iraq, the evidence is that Saddam harbored him.

But the evidence doesn’t matter to the administration’s left-wing critics to whom the “no connection” theme is an article of faith.

Via Real Clear Politics.

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