Thursday, June 17, 2004

Iraq Had Nothing To Do With 9/11

[US Politics] Saddam Hussein, monster that he was, had nothing to do with the attacks on September 11. Let me repeat that. Iraq was not responsible for 9-11. This is something that most people have known and accepted for quite some time. Yesterday, the Sept 11 Commission confirmed these findings.

NYT- Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie:

The staff of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks sharply contradicted one of President Bush's central justifications for the Iraq war, reporting on Wednesday that there did not appear to have been a "collaborative relationship" between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
The commission's staff said its investigation showed that the government of Mr. Hussein had rebuffed or ignored requests from Qaeda leaders for help in the 1990's, a conclusion that directly contradicts a series of public statements President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made before and after last year's invasion of Iraq in justifying the war.

"We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States," one of the staff reports released on Wednesday said. "Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded." The report said that despite evidence of repeated contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the 90's, "they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship."
"There were systematic efforts by Al Qaeda to connect with Iraq - many of them failed," Thomas H. Kean, a Republican and former governor of New Jersey, said in an interview.
Mr. Bush said in September of last year that "there's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties." Richard A. Clarke, Mr. Bush's former counterterrorism director in the White House, testified to the commission in March that Mr. Bush had pressed him right after the attacks to search for a link to Mr. Hussein. In last year's State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda."

The contradictions between the staff reports' findings and past White House statements on Iraq were all the more striking given that the commission's staff director, and the final editor of the reports, is Philip D. Zelikow, a University of Virginia historian who was a member of Mr. Bush's White House transition team and who served on his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board until last year.

NYT- No Evidence of Al Qaeda Meeting With Iraqi in Prague:
A report of a clandestine meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer first surfaced shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. And even though serious doubt was cast on the report, it was repeatedly cited by some Bush administration officials and others as evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. But on Wednesday, the Sept. 11 commission said its investigation had found that the meeting never took place. In its report on the Sept. 11 plot, the commission staff disclosed for the first time F.B.I. evidence that strongly suggested that Mr. Atta was in the United States at the time of the supposed Prague meeting.
The supposed meeting in Prague by Mr. Atta, who flew one of the hijacked jets on Sept. 11, was a centerpiece of early efforts by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to link Iraq with the attacks as the administration sought to justify a war to topple Saddam Hussein. ... In effect, the commission report endorsed the views of officials at the C.I.A. and F.B.I., who have long been dismissive of a supposed Prague meeting and of the administration's broader assertions concerning an Iraq-Qaeda alliance.

The panel's findings effectively rebuke the Pentagon's civilian leadership, which set up a small intelligence unit after the Sept. 11 attacks to hunt for links between Al Qaeda and Iraq. This team briefed senior policy makers at the Pentagon and the White House, saying that the C.I.A. had ignored evidence of such connections.
Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, Czech officials said they had received reports that Mr. Atta had met in April 2001 with Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim al-Ani, an Iraqi intelligence officer stationed in Prague. But the C.I.A. and F.B.I., and some top Czech officials, quickly began to cast doubt on the story, and Czech security officials were never able to corroborate the initial report, which was based on a single source ... The evidence concerning Mr. Atta's whereabouts in Virginia and Florida in early April 2001, at the time of the purported Prague meeting, severely weakens the case for it.