July 23, 2004

9/11 Commission Report: Iraq
Posted by Jon Henke

While Iraq is not central to the 9/11 Commission Report, I thought it could be interesting to see what they have to say about it.

Holy crap.

While certainly not conclusive evidence of extensive collaboration, the 9/11 report seems to give a great deal of weight to the charges that there were "ties" between Iraq and Al Qaeda. It also rains on the parades of one Mr. Clarke, who had claimed Iraq was a diversion, that there was "absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al Qaeda, ever". In fact, it is quite devastating on that point, using Clarke's own words. We'll get to it.

I've compiled all the (notable*) Iraq references in the report....

Page 58 - Bin Laden built his Islamic army with groups in various countries, including Iraq.

Page 61 - Bin Laden willing to explore a relationship with Iraq.

Page 61 - Bin Laden agrees to stop supporting activities against Saddam; Reports indicate Saddam may have supported, or at least tolerated, Ansar al-Islam.

Page 61 - Bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, and asked for assistance. No evidence of an Iraqi response. This was not the last attempt.

Page 66 - Iraq took the initiative to contact Al Qaeda.

Page 125 - Clarke points out that Iraq had discussed hosting Bin Laden.

Page 128 - Clarke suggests that a chemical factory is probably the result of an Iraq-Al Qaeda agreement. Chemical evidence backs that up.

Page 134 - Clarke discusses the possibility--even likelihood--that Bin Laden would move to Baghdad, if attacked in Afghanistan, and cooperate with Saddam.

Page 334 - Clarke's report found anecdotal evidence of an Iraqi link to Al Qaeda, but no compelling case that Iraq was involved in 9/11.

Page 335 - The Camp David discussions....

Page 335 - DoD presents the three priorities: al Qaeda, the Taliban, Iraq

Page 335 - Bush did not accept that Iraq was an immediate priority.

Page 335 - Bush decides Iraq is off the table, barring new information.

Page 335 - A WoT Phase Two could include Iraq, if necessary.

Page 335 - Wolfowitz continues to push for Iraq.

Page 336 - Blair asks about Iraq; Bush tells him Iraq is not the immediate problem.

Page 336 - CENTCOM/General Franks wanted to plan for possible movement against Iraq. Bush rejected it.

Page 502 - Iraqi Fedayeen member not involved with 9/11 plot.

Page 559 - Clarke and Bush dispute versions of post-9/11 meeting. Clarke's secretary claims they did meet, but Bush's manner was not "intimidating".

Page 559 - No credible evidence of Iraqi involvement in 1993 WTC bombing.

* "Notable"=non-tangential mentions.

UPDATE: I should mention what I'm taking away from this...

  • It appears that Mr Clarke was not being completely forthright--or, at least, spinning very hard--when he claimed the President and Rumsfeld were focused on Iraq and had pressured him about to conclude otherwise, and that there had been no connections between the two.
  • Iraq made overtures to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda made overtures to Iraq. And we--including Richard Clarke--concluded that Bin Laden may seek Baghdad as a safe harbor and partner if pressured elsewhere. That seems....important.
  • There is some circumstantial evidence--and Clarke's speculation--that a chemical factory could be a result of cooperation between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
  • Bush assertively rejected the "Iraq/9.11" scenario advanced by some of the NeoCon faction.
  • Paul Wolfowitz comes out of this looking very poorly. In fact, while many in our government had a "failure of imagination", it seems Wolfowitz had too active an imagination.
  • The "Iraqi Fedayeen/9.11" story turned out to be nothing, as do claims that Iraq was behind the 93 WTC bombing. This seems to back up Tenet's previous assertion that Iraq was stopping short of cooperating in attacks against the West.
UPDATE II: I should note that neither I nor the 9/11 Report are claiming that Iraq and Al Qaeda were engaged in an ongoing collaborative relationship. I merely point out that there was quite a history of mutual overtures, an apparent willingness to work together, and possible historic cooperation on chemical production/training.

I neither suggest, believe, nor consider it relevant to the prewar calculation, that Iraq was in an ongoing cooperative relationship with Al Qaeda. As Bush said, the danger from that relationship laid in the future.



US media: "Nope, no 'collaborative relationship' here. Move along. Bush lied."

God, I'm tempted to cut out the sections of the report you identified and mail them to the ombudsman at the Wash Post to see I can get him to stop the paper from pushing the "no relationship" theme!


Posted by: bob at July 23, 2004 11:48 AM

Great work, Jon!

Posted by: McQ at July 23, 2004 12:43 PM

So, in the past few weeks we have seen that the 2 main detractors of the President have now been proven to be liars on the very issues they were attacking him on.

We have also seen that the media, while rabidly pursuing stories based on the charges that Wilson and Clarke made against the president, is now wholly silent on the fact that their original reports were wrong being that they were based on lies.

Nope - no media bias here.

Posted by: kdeweb at July 23, 2004 01:28 PM

If you assume this report is right, then you're right to conclude that Secretary Wolfowitz has "too active an imagination." If you believe, as I do, that this report (which is based on the CIA's own fragmented and flawed understanding of the nature of Al Qaeda and its relationship to Iraq) is still missing most of what we need to know, then you're not going to insult Wolfowitz.

I believe the understanding of history (like that of Secretary Wolfowitz, apparently):

1. the U.S fought a war with Iraq in 1991, enforced a blockade and sanctions regime from then on, and flew combat missions over the country every day for 12 years;
2. thereafter, the U.S. was the primary victim of a rising tide of Islamist terror focused on mass casualty attacks; and
3. these attacks were the direct result of Iraq's desire to continue to fight the Gulf War by other means, using Islamist terrorists as cutouts.

It simply stains credulity to believe that points 1 and 2 are not related by 3. If we saw this pattern in some other period in history, would we fail to conclude that Iraq was ultimately responsible? I think not. We know that the Soviet Bloc armed and encouraged every single major terrorist group that attacked the West in the 1970s and 1980s. Why wouldn't something analogous have happened here?

I think here, we've just fallen victim to the "loose and spontaneous networks" understanding of Clarke, Benjamin and their ilk, which when looked at closely, is little more than a management consulting fad that will fade with the passage of time. The CIA didn't believe the Soviets were behind the Red Brigades or Bader Meinhoff either, and they were wrong about that.

Posted by: Joshua Chamberlain at July 23, 2004 01:50 PM

Just finished reading the transcript of the Washington Post’s weekly “chat” session with national security report Dana Priest. Wow, the bias in some of her answers just made my jaw drop …

[The link to the full transcript is:
Frisco, Tex.: You said earlier that this report "greatly weakens" the case for war in Iraq? If so, how? Could it be that you are projecting your opinion into the report? After all this report was on the failings that lead up to 9/11 not Iraq.

Dana Priest: I start from these basic facts indentified in this report: Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11, did not have important ties to Al Qaeda, in fact the opposite. So to begin with, attacking Iraq did not weaken Al Qaeda (which is my implicit goal). Now, secondly, did Iraq, in fact, help embolden Al Qaeda or other terrorist? That's a very interesting question the report does not directly address. And did attacking Iraq divert US military and intelligence assests away from the hunt for UBL and his followers. The report doesn't address this, but you don't need it to, it's so obvious that it did. There are only so many troops, planners, commanders to go around. That's how I come up with that answer.
Brookline, Mass.: Dana, President Bush's March 18, 2003, letter to Congress about going to war in Iraq specifically cites fighting those who participated in the 9/11 attacks as a reason for invading Iraq. Meanwhile, the 9/11 commission's report says, "Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States." The commission's wording here is pretty clear and doesn't imply ambivalent intelligence. Why is the president not taking more heat on this specific statement for which there is evidently no basis?

Dana Priest: I get this question all the time. You're implying that the press should write about this more. But The Post has written many, many articles about statements made by President Bush and VP's Cheney's that are contradicted by facts unearthed by commissions, the CIA, and others. We write them, we can't force people to read them, or, more relevant to your question, to react in the way you suggest---to turn on the heat. That is not the role of reporters.

Brookline, Mass.: -- Just a note to Dana following her response to my question -- I didn't mean to imply that I'm dissappointed in her reporting or in the coverage of the Bush administration's misleading statements about Iraq and 9/11. I'm wondering why there isn't more "heat" coming from Congress on this. The president wrote a letter to them justifying war with this whopping mistatement/wishful thinking moment/flatout lie, and I think they're letting him off too easy.

Dana Priest: I'll pass this on. I get lots and lots of questions about how the press doesn't hold the administration accountable. It just doesn't fit with how I view what I try to do. Accountability of government officials has always been a mainstay of The Post's reporting. On Congress, I think the democratics are fully engaged now that things are not going so well in Iraq and there's an election coming up. But I have to note, many of them said nothing prior to the war, did not challenge the wisdom of the operation (or the post-war planning) and did not even bother to read all the intelligence reporting they were allowed to see.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Clarke, Berger, and Joseph Wilson have all been discredited to some extent in the past two weeks. Seeing as they were fairly prominent advisors to Kerry, does this hurt him at all? And please don't focus on the timing of the info, but the substance of the reports

Dana Priest: It certainly could.

Heh, that last one just slays me … she can hold forth at some length about how Bush and Cheney essentialy 'lied' and that it’s “so obvious” that the war in Iraq took away from the hunt for OBL, but when asked about Clarke, Berger, and Wilson being caught red-handed in lying, stealing, and lying (respectively), she only has three non-committal words. Emblematic of the media as a whole, I guess, but I just find it so disheartening that supposedly professional journalists are throwing any pretense at objectivity out the window.


Posted by: bob at July 23, 2004 03:21 PM

Very interesting.

Posted by: Kurt at July 23, 2004 11:26 PM

Great blog entry hope it gets around the sphere.

Posted by: What? at July 25, 2004 09:29 PM