May 28, 2004

Links? (Pt 2)
Posted by Jon Henke

As a follow-up to this previous post about potential links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, I note this Wall Street Journal story about "New evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda".....


In short, a leaked document indicates an Al Qaeda insider "present at the January 2000 al Qaeda "summit"...at which the 9/11 attacks were planned" was an Iraqi agent. We have no indication of the credibility of this document, or the identity of the leaker, so it's worth taking this with a considerable dose of salt.

In fact, that is exactly what the Bush administration seems to be doing, as the WSJ notes....

One of the mysteries of postwar Iraq is why the Bush Administration and our $40-billion-a-year intelligence services haven't devoted more resources to probing the links between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda.
However, the WSJ doesn't seem to grasp the import of this decision. If the administration is not devoting more resources the probing these links....well, what does that tell you? Let's not delude ourselves. If the administration had serious, credible evidence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, they would be, at a minimum, talking it up.

So, suggestions that there was active and significant operational cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda - based on this evidence - is stretching credulity. There is cause for investigation, but there is greater cause for skepticism.

However, the critics of these "links" go just as far in downplaying the evidence as do the proponents in overplaying it. Matthew Yglesias, at TAPPED, provides an example....

The end of the article mentions that Stephen Hayes is writing a book on the subject. Months ago Doug Feith's office took a dossier full of already-discredited "evidence" of such links and leaked it to... Stephen Hayes, who wrote it up breathlessly for The Weekly Standard. It's suggestive, I think. [emphasis added]
Matt overstates his case here by miles. The commonly cited reason this Feith memo is called "discredited" is the follow-up DoD press release, which simply claimed the information was not "new" or "confirmed", that the information was "raw", and that it "drew no conclusions".

Now, that's a lot of denial. But, on the other hand, none of the denials actually discredit the information contained in the memo. They discredit some of the conclusions, perhaps, but not the raw data. There have been follow-on reports which discredit some of the "50 raw reports", but even the story by Daniel Benjamin, while downplaying their importance, concedes the probability that many of the data points are accurate.

Not indicative of operational cooperation, mind you....but "links", nonetheless.

So, when Yglesias writes that the information contained in the Feith memo has been "already-discredited", he is stretching the case by nearly as much as the Laurie Mylroie's of the pro-war side of the case.

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However, the WSJ doesn't seem to grasp the import of this decision. If the administration is not devoting more resources the probing these links....well, what does that tell you? Let's not delude ourselves. If the administration had serious, credible evidence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, they would be, at a minimum, talking it up. So, suggestions that there was active and significant operational cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda - based on this evidence - is stretching credulity. There is cause for investigation, but there is greater cause for skepticism

Reasonable.
However, I'd consider it equally reasonable thta given ongoing investigations, they're not saying all they might. Let's remember also, the reception the administration got the last time out; This is an election year, and the Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated their ability in denial since very shortly after 9/11. In effect, the truck has to be sitting on their chest for them to admit the damn thing exsts, much less being a problem.

That's a huge part of the calulations surrounding all of this; much more than either side will want t admit to at the moment.

Posted by: BitHead at May 28, 2004 08:16 AM

This administration ain't big on talk.
W is big on action.

Toppling Saddam "said" all that needs to be said about the nexus between Saddam and Al Qaeda -
or any other terrorist or any other Jihadist group.

It is a moot point.

And, it is time to move on to other targets, to clean up other messes bequeathed to us by that most glib of presidents - BJ Clinton.

The fact is: the free world needs actionable intel - NOT stuff for W's re-election bid.

I believe this is how Bush is determining how to use our limited and imperfect intel' resources.
We probably have more resources devoted to Al Qaeda, Syria and North Korea and Iran, than to finding proof for a case that is essentially - for all intents and purposes - closed.

I believe that Bush believes that winning the war against rogue states and terrorists is more important than covering his ass - AND that a good enough case for war existed with the facts we all had at the time the war began. In other words: Bush has moved on.

Now it's time for the moveon.org crowd - and other appeasers, deniers, doubters, naysayers, and wishful-thinkers - to move on, too.

The voluntary de-fanging of Gadaffi's Libya is proof-positive that the Bush policy of fighting back against Islamofascism and the potential nexus of rogue states - which Saddam's Iraq IRREFUTABLY WAS! - and Islamofascist terrorists works better than the Carter/Reagan/Bush/Clinton policy of not fighting back did.

So I disagree, Jon - but still love the blog!

Posted by: dan at May 28, 2004 08:42 AM

Jon,

Perhaps there is more context to the decision about proving, disproving, or punting the links between Iraq and AQ, or other terror groups.

Money: Considering "free Iraq" (and therefore the US), Saudi Arabia and Iran, stand to lose billions of dollars by proving state connections to AQ, does that outweigh the political benefits of shoring up one of the pre-war casus belli?

Esteem: Has the topic of terror ties become so radioactive that career bureaucrats and political appointees have decided the best course of action is to punt, at least until after the half-life cooling down period.

Benefit: How strong are the suspected ties? If the likelihood is we'll find Iraq did collaborate, but not direct evidence that attacks on the US were the result of some collaboration between Iraq and AQ, is it worth the expenditure of time, money, risk of reputation, risk of exposing free-Iraq and others to billions in lawsuits?

At this point in time, I don't think the benefits outweigh the costs to the Bush administration for a myriad of reasons.

Posted by: Tim at May 28, 2004 09:24 AM

As an observer sitting on the outside looking in, it appears that there remain constituencies within the intelligence establishment that might be embarassed if a solid operational connection were established between the Saddam regime and Al Qaida. For those constituencies, there is no advantage to connecting any dots along those lines. In fact, there is plenty of incentive to change the topic. Those constituencies may also have "jurisdiction" over this intelligence area, and thus be in the position to set the agenda. I am not a big proponent of conspiratorial politics, but I do suspect that this may (in part) explain the seemingly casual approach being taken to the question of Saddam/AQ cooperation!

Posted by: RAZ at May 28, 2004 10:15 AM

"One of the mysteries of postwar Iraq is why the Bush Administration and our $40-billion-a-year intelligence services haven't devoted more resources to probing the links between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda."

And what makes you, and the WSJ, think that you know exactly what is going on in our intelligence services?

Posted by: George at May 28, 2004 10:55 AM