|Questions and Observations|
Sometimes a writer can brush away all the chatter and grab the essential truth at the heart of an issue. This morning's lead editorial in the New York Times is one such moment of clarity.
It's hard to imagine how the commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks could have put it more clearly yesterday: there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda, between Saddam Hussein and Sept. 11.
Now President Bush should apologize to the American people, who were led to believe something different.
Of all the ways Mr. Bush persuaded Americans to back the invasion of Iraq last year, the most plainly dishonest was his effort to link his war of choice with the battle against terrorists worldwide. While it's possible that Mr. Bush and his top advisers really believed that there were chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq, they should have known all along that there was no link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. No serious intelligence analyst believed the connection existed; Richard Clarke, the former antiterrorism chief, wrote in his book that Mr. Bush had been told just that.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/11. And since the invasion, administration officials, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, have continued to declare such a connection. Last September, Mr. Bush had to grudgingly correct Mr. Cheney for going too far in spinning a Hussein-bin Laden conspiracy. But the claim has crept back into view as the president has made the war on terror a centerpiece of his re-election campaign.
This is not just a matter of the president's diminishing credibility, although that's disturbing enough. The war on terror has actually suffered as the conflict in Iraq has diverted military and intelligence resources from places like Afghanistan, where there could really be Qaeda forces, including Mr. bin Laden.
Mr. Bush is right when he says he cannot be blamed for everything that happened on or before Sept. 11, 2001. But he is responsible for the administration's actions since then. That includes, inexcusably, selling the false Iraq-Qaeda claim to Americans. There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world.
Posted by: Oregonian at June 17, 2004 09:51 AM
Although the editorial is titled "The Plain Truth", what is true about the line "there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda"? Of course there were "links" and plenty of evidence: have you been reading the discussion on that point in this blog?
The Times' blatant exaggeration and hypocrisy is breathtaking.
Posted by: Rory Daulton at June 17, 2004 10:56 AM
Let's remember for a minute that this isn't a war against al Qaeda, it's a war against terrorism. Al Qaeda isn't the only terrorist organization in the world, and Iraq gave plenty of support to other organizations. Hussein gave $25,000 to the family members of suicide bombers in Israel; don't even try to argue that that wasn't supporting terrorism. Iraq also allowed Ansas al-Islam to operate within its borders, and harbored known terrorists in Baghdad itself.
Those against the war try to paint it as a war only on al Qaeda, but it is dangerously short-sighted of them to do so.
Posted by: Steverino at June 17, 2004 11:37 AM
To re-cap, Bush specifically said there was no evidence of a connection between Iraq and AQ AS FAR AS 911. Bush and his advisors said that Hussein had connections to and was supporting terrorists and terrorist organizations - including, but not limited to, AQ. This is demonstrably true: the payments to Palestinian suicide bombers' families, harboring Palestinian terrorists in Iraq, the connections to AQ demonstrated by Steven Hayes and others, etc. The media conveniently gets confused over this in order to place the administration in the worst light.
Posted by: S. at June 17, 2004 03:08 PM
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