Why is Patrick McIlheran allowed to write about the Middle East or the "Global War on Terror" when he is demonstrably incapable of discussing either with any sense of intellectual integrity?
In this latest case, he takes the word of Barham Salih over recent Senate report -- which has come on top of many other findings -- that Sadaam Hussein was not in cahoots with al Qaeda.
“The alliance between the Baathists and jihadists which sustains Al Qaeda in Iraq is not new, contrary to what you may have been told.” He went on to say, “I know this at first hand. Some of my friends were murdered by jihadists, by Al Qaeda-affiliated operatives who had been sheltered and assisted by Saddam's regime.”
Which goes to the larger contention of the left, that you can’t link terrorists groups just because they all are filled with Muslim men who talk of jihad and toppling satanic America — no, they’re each to be regarded individually. And they’re active in every country from Morocco to Indonesia — except for Iraq, where they weren’t active at all.
Curiously, Paddy omits a passage from the right-wing New York Sun, the source for this story, where Salih says his evidence might not be rock-solid.
Those words directly contradict a recent report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that declassified a 2005 CIA assessment of Iraq's pre-war ties to Al Qaeda and found that none existed. In an interview after the speech yesterday, Mr. Salih said he was unaware of the CIA assessment. But he added, "There were links between Ansar al-Islam and Al Qaeda. The information at time [in 2002] was quite different. Now, we could not prove this in a court of law, but this is intelligence."
Yeah, the school of "just trust us" intelligence. That's worked out pretty well for us.
The Sun story also notes:
The Senate's report declassifies a July 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency study of Ansar al-Islam as a possible link between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda that concludes that, even if it can be proven, as Mr. Salih at the time alleged, that the Baathist regime supported the group, "it will not necessarily implicate the regime in supporting Al Qaeda." The DIA concludes that Ansar al-Islam "receives assistance" from Al Qaeda but is not a branch of the terrorist organization.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Sadaam tried to help Ansar al-Islam assassinate Salih. Would that make him a part of the Al Qaeda terror network? Or would that make him a pragmatist trying to take advantage of the bloody infighting among various Kurd factions that hate him? Positively Kissingerian!
And of course, Ansar al-Islam was "active in Iraq" only if you ignore the reality on the ground.
From a 12/30/2005 NPR interview with Daniel Benjamin, who worked in the NSC under Clinton:
SIEGEL: You write about the enclave in the north of Iraq where prior to the US invasion a terrorist group had set up. And the discussion that went on--the debate went on about what to do about Ansar al-Islam operating from this little nook of what we think of as the Kurdish north of Iraq.
Mr. BENJAMIN: Yes, there was a camp in a place called Kremol(ph), and the camp belonged to a Kurdish jihadist group, but the person who had affiliated with them was none other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who's gone on to be the face of the insurgency in Iraq. We had very good intelligence about what was going on there. We know that they were, for example, making ricin, the biological agent that has been used in a number of conspiracies. The...
SIEGEL: And this was happening on Iraqi soil but with a big proviso attached to it.
Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, it was Iraqi soil in a technical sense, but it was in the autonomous Kurdish enclave under our protection. It was from the air. And as a result, the Pentagon, the uniformed military, was eager to strike at this enclave and thought that that was what the war on terror was about. And twice the proposal was put forward to strike it, and twice the administration declined.
SIEGEL: When was this happening? In what years are we talking about?
Mr. BENJAMIN: Well, it happened, I believe, in 2002 and again, I believe, in 2003. Certainly the first time in 2002 is the critical moment because it hadn't leaked in the press yet that we were watching this. But the curious thing was not--first, the administration declined to take out this camp, and second of all, that, you know, we were just watching Zarqawi, completely misunderstanding what he was doing there. It was clear that he was preparing his insurgency, but because the administration was so focused on what it considered the greater threat of Saddam, we just gave them a pass.
Just another example of why Bush and the Republican Congress deserve to be trusted with our security.
Oh, and Paddy, as to why Salih might say things that please Bush's storyline. The Kurds want their own state. They realize that's going to be tough to pull off. They realize they need to be in the good graces of the man who will, sadly, be president for the next two years.
From an 11/6/02 story:
Iraqi Kurdish leaders all distance themselves from any breakaway aspirations, but say independence sentiment may not remain contained forever.
``No Kurd can justifiably argue against the right of self-determination. ... Definitely the Kurdish people, like every other nation, have the right to self-determination,'' said Barham Salih, prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK. ``No one can deny us that right.''