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Sunday, March 07, 2004

Al-Qaida-Iraq Link Further Debunked

Friday, I found an excellent article by Warren P. Strobel, Jonathan S. Landay and John Walcott of Knight-Ridder that pretty thoroughly debunks the links between Iraq, 9/11 and al Qaida. It is devastating:
Nearly a year after U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq, no evidence has turned up to verify allegations of Saddam's links with al-Qaida, and several key parts of the administration's case have either proved false or seem increasingly doubtful.

Senior U.S. officials now say there never was any evidence that Saddam's secular police state and Osama bin Laden's Islamic terrorism network were in league. At most, there were occasional meetings.

Moreover, the U.S. intelligence community never concluded that those meetings produced an operational relationship, American officials said. That verdict was in a secret report by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence that was updated in January 2003, on the eve of the war.

"We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Qaida," a senior U.S. official acknowledged. He and others spoke on condition of anonymity because the information involved is classified and could prove embarrassing to the White House.
Here's the bottom line, which should be no surprise to regular readers of this blog:
A Knight Ridder review of the Bush administration statements on Iraq's ties to terrorism and what's now known about the classified intelligence has found that administration advocates of a pre-emptive invasion frequently hyped sketchy and sometimes false information to help make their case. On two occasions, they neglected to report information that painted a less sinister picture.
The story goes on to discuss a variety of specific claims made by administration officials that apparently linked Iraq and al Qaida.

Tim Dunlop of The Road To Surfdom used the information in the story to focus on the alleged terror camp at Salman Pak (in Iraq), which has not received much attention lately. Dunlop references his own pre-war blogging that thoroughly discussed the camp and other evidence.

Surely everyone remembers this camp? It is the place in Iraq allegedly hosting the fuselage of a Boeing 707 where Saddam supposedly allowed terrorists to train for potential hijackings.

Of course, Laurie Mylroie and other Iraq war hawks made a big deal about this facility.

Yet, Strobel, Landay and Walcott talked to a lot of senior people in the intelligence community. They were told this: "The U.S. military has found no evidence of such a facility."

The facility didn't exist!

As Dunlop points out, this is a particularly egregious finding, first because DoD still lists the capture of the camp as one of its war accomplishments and second because the current head of the Iraq Survey Group (Charles Duelfer, who took over from David Kay) claimed that he saw the camps when he was a UN weapons inspector. Dunlop points out that no such claim is reported in the UN reports about Iraqi weapons.

The media could play a central role in assuring public accountability. Dunlop notes that someone should ask Duelfer about Salman Pak.

Good idea.

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