Michael Barone’s column today is excellent as always. It comments on subjects about which we have written here frequently and at length:
Why, for two distinct groups of Americans, has it become a matter of conviction held with religious intensity that there cannot have been any relationship between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq?
The Minnesota Democratic Party recently protested as “un-American” an ad showing military veterans and their families supporting the president’s policies for saying, “Our enemy in Iraq is al-Qaida — the same terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on 9-11, the same terrorists from the first World Trade Center bombing, the USS Cole, Madrid, London and many more.”
The Democrats, unfactually, say that these words “make a connection between Iraq and the 9-11 terrorists attacks and suggest that the war in Iraq will prevent an attack by al-Qaida in America.” But of course, the ad is factually correct — al-Qaida is attacking Americans in Iraq — and the Minnesota Democratic Party is in no position to guarantee that al-Qaida will not attack America.
The other group consists of intelligence and other career government professionals, many of them Arabists. Case in point: Paul Pillar, CIA national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, now retired, writing in the most recent Foreign Affairs magazine. The “greatest discrepancy between the administration’s public statements and the intelligence community’s judgments concerned not WMD (there was indeed a broad consensus that such programs existed), but the relationship between Saddam and al-Qaida. The enormous attention devoted to this subject did not reflect any judgment by intelligence officials that there was or was likely to be anything like the ‘alliance’ the administration said existed.” But the Senate Intelligence Committee report showed that the CIA did obtain evidence of an al-Qaida-Saddam relationship from foreign intelligence and open sources.
So why do these Democrats and these government professionals seem to have such a conviction that there must have been no collaboration between al-Qaida and Saddam?
Light on the Saddam regime’s collaboration with terrorists will almost certainly be shed by analysis of some 2 million documents captured in Iraq. But, as the intrepid Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard has pointed out, almost none of those documents has been translated or released either to the public or to the congressional intelligence committees. It appears that career professionals and, perhaps, political appointees have been blocking release of these documents.
Why do their superiors not order them released? Many Americans cling with religious intensity to the notion that somehow Saddam had no terrorist ties — a notion used to delegitimize our war effort. We should bring the truth, or as much of it as is available, out into the open.
On a subset of those captured documents, see Eli Lake’s New York Sun article “Congressman pushes release of Saddam tapes.”