Last night the Bush Administration began release of some Iraqi documents seized by U.S. intelligence after the invasion. John Solomon reports for the Associated Press:
The documents, the first of thousands expected to be declassified over the next several months, were released via a Pentagon Web site at the direction of National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
Many were in Arabic _ with no English translation _ including one the administration said showed that Iraqi intelligence officials suspected al-Qaida members were inside Iraq in 2002.
The Pentagon Web site described that document this way: “2002 Iraqi Intelligence Correspondence concerning the presence of al-Qaida Members in Iraq. Correspondence between IRS members on a suspicion, later confirmed, of the presence of an Al-Qaeda terrorist group. Moreover, it includes photos and names.”
Various rightie pundits like Michael Barone and Stephen Hayes have been hyping these documents in recent weeks. Barone, for example, wrote ten days ago,
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.
Oooo, the dreaded career professionals.
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.
I commented on this Barone screed here.
Looking back, the recent hyping of and now the release of these documents seems just a little too … coordinated. Especially since it seems timed to the beginning of an air war against
North Viet Nam insurgent strongholds in Iraq.
And it was also timed to the release today of a Bush foreign policy document that restates the “Bush Doctrine” — the right to pre-empt threats, e.g. invade anybody we damn well like — and which also states “We face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran.”
We know where this is going, don’t we?
But the real knee-slapper is this … the usual tools are hyping the Saddam-al Qaeda connection with a vengeance. Al Qaeda was in Iraq before the invasion! This guy writes (under the headline “Saddam Tied to al Qaeda”) “Consider this the final nail in the coffin of the liberal fantasy about Al Qaeda ties to Iraq.” Another found a photo of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the documents!
Do these people have fewer than three functioning brain cells apiece? Or were they not paying attention?
OF COURSE Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was in Iraq before the invasion. And he was running terrorist training camps in Iraq before the invasion. This is not a secret. Everybody knows this. I’ve even written about it myself several times.
But here is the part the bleepheads of the Right never get through their impenetrable skulls: Zarqawi was operating in Iraqi KURDISTAN, an area of northern Iraq that had become a safe haven for Kurds. He was in a part of Iraq over which Saddam Hussein had no control. He was, in fact, in part of Iraq controlled by our buddies, the Kurds. Kurdish autonomy had been shielded by U.S. air power since the end of the 1991 war.
Now, here is the juicy part. Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate, April 14, 2004 (righties, this is for you, so pay attention):
Apparently, Bush had three opportunities, long before the war, to destroy a terrorist camp in northern Iraq run by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al-Qaida associate who recently cut off the head of Nicholas Berg. But the White House decided not to carry out the attack because, as the [NBC News] story puts it:
[T]he administration feared [that] destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.
The implications of this are more shocking, in their way, than the news from Abu Ghraib. Bush promoted the invasion of Iraq as a vital battle in the war on terrorism, a continuation of our response to 9/11. Here was a chance to wipe out a high-ranking terrorist. And Bush didn’t take advantage of it because doing so might also wipe out a rationale for invasion.
I’ll pause to let that sink in. Kaplan continued,
As far back as June 2002, U.S. intelligence reported that Zarqawi had set up a weapons lab at Kirma in northern Iraq that was capable of producing ricin and cyanide. The Pentagon drew up an attack plan involving cruise missiles and smart bombs. The White House turned it down. In October 2002, intelligence reported that Zarqawi was preparing to use his bio-weapons in Europe. The Pentagon drew up another attack plan. The White House again demurred. In January 2003, police in London arrested terrorist suspects connected to the camp. The Pentagon devised another attack plan. Again, the White House killed the plan, not Zarqawi.
When the war finally started in March, the camp was attacked early on. But by that time, Zarqawi and his followers had departed.
This camp was in the Kurdish enclave of Iraq. The U.S. military had been mounting airstrikes against various targets throughout Iraqâ€”mainly air-defense sitesâ€”for the previous few years. It would not have been a major escalation to destroy this camp, especially after the war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. The Kurds, whose autonomy had been shielded by U.S. air power since the end of the 1991 war, wouldn’t have minded and could even have helped.
But the problem, from Bush’s perspective, was that this was the only tangible evidence of terrorists in Iraq. Colin Powell even showed the location of the camp on a map during his famous Feb. 5 briefing at the U.N. Security Council. The camp was in an area of Iraq that Saddam didn’t control. But never mind, it was something. To wipe it out ahead of time might lead some peopleâ€”in Congress, the United Nations, and the American publicâ€”to conclude that Saddam’s links to terrorists were finished, that maybe the war wasn’t necessary. So Bush let it be.
Also in Slate, Daniel Benjamin wrote (October, 2004):
Why didn’t the Bush administration kill Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when it had the chance?
That it had opportunities to take out the Jordanian-born jihadist has been clear since Secretary of State Colin Powell devoted a long section of his February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council. In those remarks, which were given to underscore the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Powell dwelt at length on the terrorist camp in Khurmal, in the pre-invasion Kurdish enclave. It was at that camp that Zarqawi, other jihadists who had fled Afghanistan, and Kurdish radicals were training and producing the poison ricin and cyanide.
Neither the Khurmal camp nor the surrounding area were under Saddam’s control, but Powell provided much detail purporting to show Zarqawi’s ties to the Baghdad regime. His arguments have since been largely discredited by the intelligence community. Many of us who have worked in counterterrorism wondered at the time about Powell’s claims. If we knew where the camp of a leading jihadist was and knew that his followers were working on unconventional weapons, why weren’t we bombing it or sending in special operations forcesâ€”especially since this was a relatively “permissive” environment?
Benjamin’s answer boils down to “because Bushies are idiots,” as opposed to Kaplan’s theory that the Bushies left Zarqawi alone deliberately because his presence in Iraq was one of their excuses for invading it.
But today, once again, Zarqawi is dangled in front of the mouth-breathers and throwbacks of the Right to show them that, see, Saddam Hussein did too have ties to terrorism. And they, dumb beasts that they are, take the bait.
‘Scuse me while I pound my head on the floor and scream.