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Thursday, November 20, 2003

Iraq and al Qaeda, continued.

Lots of prominent bloggers (like Matthew Iglesias , Mark Kleiman and Josh Marshall) are still talking about the Weekly Standard article I discussed yesterday, and other recent press reports discussing Iraq and al Qaeda.

Newsweek, for example, has an on-line story that makes most of the points I made yesterday -- plus a little more work by the reporters, Mike Isikoff and Mark Hosenball.

Slate also has a piece by Edward Epstein that investigates whether 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta might, after all, have been able to visit an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague, April 2001.

Meanwhile, Laurie Mylroie gave a talk just last week at the American Enterprise Institute with fellow neocon Richard Perle. As my loyal readers know, Mylroie may be responsible, more than any other individual, for Americans falsely thinking that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was behind 9/11.

I think skeptics are taking the wrong approach.

The Bush administration may well be right that there were a few odd meetings between Iraqis and al Qaeda members through the 1990s. Read the various articles, however, and you quickly learn that bin Laden apparently rejected an overt offer to move his operation to Iraq because he didn't want to be linked to the "infidel" Hussein. The two forces had quite different -- and incompatible -- goals.

Moreover, the real issue is whether Iraq was a prime target in the war on terrorism. Lots and lots of threats are higher order. I've blogged about Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, shoulder launched missiles, etc.

As Wesley Clark pointed out again this weekend, the real story is that Iraq has diverted substantial attention and resources away from the war on terror. Republican critics like Brent Scowcroft were saying this before the war.

The neocons and their supporters in the administration simply didn't listen.

Update: Read today's Whiskey Bar entry for a great summary of how the war in Iraq distracts from the war on terror.

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