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2004-06-17

9/11 Commission Debunks White House Justification For Iraq War: No Link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda

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The Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday there was "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaida target the United States, contradicting one of the Bush administration main reasons for war. We look at how the White House repeated the false claims to justify the invasion of Iraq.

In a blunt contradiction to the Bush administration, the Sept. 11 commission reported yesterday there was "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaida target the United States.

Top Bush adminisration officials have repeatedly claimed links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, and cited them as one reason for last year’s invasion of Iraq.

Although no established links between Iraq and 9/11 have ever been proven, the findings of the bipartisan commission come as a direct challenge to one of the Bush administration’s main justifications for war.

Over the past two years, Vice President Dick Cheney in particular has aggressively pushed the notion of an Iraq-Al-Qaeda alliance, describing it in dire terms.

Cheney on October 10, 2003: "He also has an established relationship with al-Qaeda, providing training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional bombs."

That was Cheney in October 2003. In January of this year, Cheney said, "there’s overwhelming evidence" of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection and that he was "very confident there was an established relationship." As recently as this past Monday, Cheney once again claimed links between Iraq and al-Qaida.

Cheney on June 14, 2004: "He was a patron of terrorism. He had long-established ties with a-Qaeda."

The day after Cheney’s comments, Bush was questioned at a press conference outside the White House.

White House Press Conference June 15, 2004:
Q: The Vice President, who I see standing over there, said yesterday that Saddam Hussein has long-established ties to al Qaeda. As you know, this is disputed within the U.S. intelligence community. Mr. President, would you add any qualifiers to that flat statement? And what do you think is the best evidence of it?

President Bush: Zarqawi. Zarqawi is the best evidence of connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda. He’s the person who’s still killing. He’s the person — and remember the email exchange between al Qaeda leadership and he, himself, about how to disrupt the progress toward freedom? Saddam Hussein also had ties to terrorist organizations, as well.

President Bush speaking outside the White House Tuesday. He refers to Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has taken credit for a wave of attacks in Iraq.

In January 2003, Bush suggested cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaeda in his landmark 2003 State of the Union address, just two months before the invasion.

State of the Union Address January 28, 2003:
"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda."

President Bush making his State of the Union Address in January 2003. Critics have long dismissed the notion of any Iraq connection to the Sept. 11 attacks, but repeated government official claims have had an undeniable effect.

According to a recent poll, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the Univesrity of Maryland, 57 percent of Americans believe that Saddam gave substantial support to al-Qaeda.

This was the key finding in yesterday’s report entitled "Overview of the Enemy." It was read by 9/11 Commission staff member Douglas Maceachin.

9/11 Commission report "Overview of the Enemy"
Bin ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein’s secular regime. Bin Laden had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Laden to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting with Bin Laden in 1994. Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There’s been reports of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. The two senior Bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.

That was an excerpt of the 911 report yesterday. The release of the staff reports came as the commission opened its final public hearing on the attacks. The two days of hearings which end today cover the Sept. 11 plot and the emergency response by the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. air defenses. The panel intends to issue a final report in July.

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