The current flap over the Pentagon Inspector General’s report on Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans has embarrassed the Associated Press, the Washington Post and, if he has any shame, the Inspector General. The controversy does have the merit, though, of raising once again the issue of the relationship between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda and other terrorists.
The Inspector General said it was “inappropriate” for Feith’s group to question the wisdom of the CIA’s dogma that Saddam Hussein, a “secularist,” would never cooperate with bin Laden or other Islamic terrorists. There was a time, though, when the likelihood of such collaboration was widely reported and understood. Thus, courtesy of Power Line Video, we are rescuing from the memory hole this ABC News report from 2000.
If you have a web site, feel free to use the “get code” button to reproduce the video on your site.
UPDATE: Tom Joscelyn writes:
The original ABC News report you linked to was from January 1999, I believe, and not 2000. The report was similar to numerous accounts in the worldwide press following Operation Desert Fox. That Clinton-ordered air campaign lasted from December 16 to December 19, 1998. Its purpose was to degrade Saddam’s WMD and intelligence capabilities. Reports from more recent years indicate that the campaign nearly plunged Saddam’s regime into chaos.
In any event, Saddam’s response was telling. Just two days after Operation Desert Fox ended he dispatched one of his top intelligence operatives, Faruq Hijazi, to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. As I and others have written, Hijazi was no low-level flunky. He was one of Saddam’s most trusted goons and was responsible for overseeing a good deal of the regime’s terrorist and other covert activities. It was this meeting that led to widespread reporting on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. I collected a bunch of these reports, including the ABC News report, in “The Four-Day War.” Another, earlier piece also discusses Saddam’s conspicuous response to Operation Desert Fox.
The consensus in the media then was that there was a relationship between the two and that Saddam’s regime was very willing to work with al Qaeda against their common foe: America. And vice versa. Indeed, the reporting indicated that they had been working together even long before Operation Desert Fox.
The reports from late 1998 and early 1999 are tough for naysayers to explain away for a variety of reasons, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying. For example, last year’s Senate Intelligence Report on Iraq’s ties to al Qaeda (the report was written, primarily, by a former John Kerry for President campaigner) unhesitatingly cited Hijazi’s testimony, in which he claimed that he did not meet with bin Laden again after a lone incident in the mid 1990’s. The Senate Intelligence report did not cite any of the voluminous reporting, by ABC News and other outlets, following the meeting in December 1998. Obviously, that reporting demonstrates Hijazi is a liar. I asked the Senate Intelligence Committee’s staff about this after the report came out. They said they didn’t have any evidence that contradicted Hijazi’s testimony and that is why they cited it unquestioningly. I think that is a good demonstration of the ignorance or bias or both that clouds this issue.
Of course, at the same time that the worldwide media was reporting all of this, various CIA and National Security Council officials were watching as well. Thus, Richard Clarke worried in February 1999 about bin Laden’s possible “boogie to Baghdad.” A month earlier he defended intelligence tying Saddam’s VX nerve gas program to a suspected al Qaeda front company in Sudan. Michael Scheuer also at one time found it convenient to cite some of this evidence. In his original 2002 edition of Through Our Enemies’ Eyes he approvingly cited several of the media’s late 1998/early 1999 accounts. Of course, they both now pretend none of this really means anything.
Such is the state of affairs in today’s Washington establishment.
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