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September 08, 2006

Senate: Saddam tried to kill al-Zarqawi

A Senate report released today says that Saddam Hussein had a hostile relationship with al-Qaida and that the Iraqi dictator viewed the terrorist organization as a threat to his regime. In fact, according to the report, Hussein even tried to kill al-Zarqawi. The report also says that the US government was warned by several intelligence agencies that the Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the US's only source of WMD allegations, was unreliable:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Saddam Hussein regarded al-Qaida as a threat rather than a possible ally, a Senate report says, contradicting assertions President Bush has used to build support for the war in Iraq.

Released Friday, the report discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that before the war, Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor or turn a blind eye toward" al-Qaida operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his associates.

Saddam told U.S. officials after his capture that he had not cooperated with Osama bin Laden even though he acknowledged that officials in his government had met with the al-Qaida leader, according to FBI summaries cited in the Senate report.

"Saddam only expressed negative sentiments about bin Laden," Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi leader's top aide, told the FBI.


A second part of the report concluded that false information from the Iraqi National Congress, an anti-Saddam group led by then-exile Ahmed Chalabi, was used to support key U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq.

It said U.S. intelligence agents put out numerous red flags about the reliability of INC sources but the intelligence community made a "serious error" and used one source who concocted a story that Iraq was building mobile biological weapons laboratories.

The report also said that in 2002 the National Security Council directed that funding for the INC should continue "despite warnings from both the CIA, which terminated its relationship with the INC in December 1996, and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), that the INC was penetrated by hostile intelligence services, including the Iranians."

According to the report, postwar findings indicate that Saddam "was distrustful of al-Qaida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime."

It said al-Zarqawi was in Baghdad from May until late November 2002. But "postwar information indicates that Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and that the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi." [AP]

Even more remarkable, the report says that George Tenet testified that he caved to the Bush administration's pressure not to debunk the Saddam/al-Qaida connection:

[Sen. Carl] Levin and Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, said Tenet told the committee last July that in 2002 he had complied with an administration request "to say something about not being inconsistent with what the president had said" about the Saddam-terrorist link.

They said that on Oct. 7, 2002, the same day Bush gave a speech speaking of such a link, the CIA had sent a declassified letter to the committee saying it would be an "extreme step" for Saddam to assist Islamist terrorists in attacking the United States.

They said Tenet acknowledged to the committee that subsequently issuing a statement that there was no inconsistency between the president's speech and the CIA viewpoint was "the wrong thing to do." [AP]

And yet 43% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks.


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So Hussein was trying to capture or kill al-Zarqawi while Bush decided (three separate times) not to. Huh.

- Tenet acknowledged to the committee that subsequently issuing a statement that there was no inconsistency between the president's speech and the CIA viewpoint was "the wrong thing to do." -

Oops, sorry about the tens of thousands of corpses stinking the place up. Yeah, awfully sorry about that. Don’t worry though, the maggots and dogs will clean them up in no time.

- 43% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks. -

I’m shocked.

And yet 43% of Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Well it certainly has an air of truthiness about it, n'est-ce pas? I mean we've already established that ALL Muslims are Islamo-Fascist/stingrays, have we not? So I don't care what no fancy bipartisan Congressional report says no how. Them Mooslims are all terrorists until proven otherwise, and by "proven" I mean that a fair and balanced tribunal composed of Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin (token brown person), and Pamela Geller Oshry (token Jew) can completely exonerate them of all crimes against white Judeo-Christianity, with much heavier emphasis on the Christianity, of course.


50% of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 - up from 36% last year, a Harris poll finds...

That iraq and al Qaeda were at odds was fairly obvious before the invasion of Iraq to those who actually understood the region. The new report just confirms that.

50% of Americans now say Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded the country in 2003 - up from 36% last year

That's because of those old pre-1991 chemical weapon shells they found in Iraq. Technically, that kind of thing has been considered a weapon of mass destruction. Obviously it's not the kind of thing we went to war over, but the question needs to rephrased now so as not to mix the two together.

There was a study a year or two (or three) ago that correlated the myth that Iraq was involved with September 11th (and some other misconceptions) with where people got their news. Those who got most of their news from Fox News Channel were by far more likely to believe the myth. This could be in part because of the ideological attraction of the myth, but I suspect it was also because the "news" coverage at Fox is so slanted and, in some respects, unreal. It would interesting to see that study updated.

By the way, the rate for belief that Iraq was involved in September 11th has gone down a fair amount.

Obviously Iraq and Al Qaeda were on the outs. No sane and well-informed person ever believed that they were in cahoots. Which makes me wonder why anyone trusts what the Administration says about, say, whether torture helps them catch terrorists, or what's going on in Iran, or really anything.

The story is remarkable because the Senate Intelligence Committee has officially recognized the truth.

Although, I didn't know that Saddam had actually tried to kill Zarqawi, or that George Tenet admitted that covered for the White House on the Iraq/Al Qaeda issue and now admits he was wrong to do so.

I was also surprised by the candid way the report outs Bush. He has lost a fair amount of support in Congress, it appears. Everyone has been talking about Republicans keeping their distance from him, but this is still unexpected. Maybe it's not as political as I'm thinking; it could be that the committee just decided the truth should come out.

Which makes me wonder why anyone trusts what the Administration says about, say, whether torture helps them catch terrorists, or what's going on in Iran, or really anything.

I wonder how many people do trust them now. Bush's approval ratings are still low, but I don't know what his "trustworthiness" rating is. He's never been all that reliable.

The Tenet thing is important. Hopefully the truth about the political pressure on the CIA will come out more plainly.

Bush may well regret that he tried to fix the problems he thought his father didn't handle right. Senior must look a lot smarter to him now.

By the way, the most surprising statistic I've heard lately is that 37% of Americans believe that, not Saddam Hussein, but the US government either knew about the September 11th attacks in advance or actually carried them out. That must take a bite out of Bush's approval rating. I have a friend who has believed the conspiracy for a couple years. Very smart, well informed. The psychology boggles me. He can't explain why he believes in these theories (which are uniformly boneheaded) while he's so skeptical about so many other things.

37% of Americans believe that the US government had a hand in 9/11? That's pretty amazing. Do you remember where you heard about that statistic?

This belief must be widespread in some subcultures, but not any that I encounter. I live in one of the most Bush-averse liberal neighborhoods in one of the most liberal cities in America and I've met about 10 people in the last few years who believe in any kind of US-related 9/11 conspiracy theory. And, around here, you end up talking about 9/11 with just about everyone you know, sooner or later.

I've gotten almost no US-9/11 conspiracy comments on the blog, despite writing about these issues fairly often. People with conspiracy theories email me all the time, but US-9/11 isn't a popular one. I get more comments about the alleged Joe Lieberman/vaccine/austism/mercury family of conspiracy theories than I do about Bush and 9/11.

Could the belief in federal government-9/11 plots be a far-right thing?

Maybe it's more a West Coast than an East Coast thing - I don't know. The easiest way to check is to go to Democratic Underground, start a thread on LIHOP, and then check where all the people who defend the theory live.

But even if everyone on DU believed it, we still wouldn't be anywhere near 37% of the US population.

This is purely anecdotal, but I've noticed that Canadians are more likely to entertain US-9/11 conspiracy theories than Americans. My observations are confounded by the fact that I go home to the West Coast when I return to Canada.

Oh, I'm not saying DU is 37% of the USA's population. Most Americans are saner than that. But if 9/11 conspiracy theories are more common in California, Oregon, and Montana than in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, then it indicates your experience of not knowing many LIHOP nuts suffers from selection bias.

I heard the 37% figure on the local news tonight. The local news was talking about it because a professor at BYU has gotten into hot water for claiming that the Bush administration blew up the towers to give the US a pretext to take over oil-rich land in the Middle East. Not quite a regular right-wing theory in that it's anti-Bush, but then I think I heard this prof say something about the international banking conspiracy the other day, so he may be far John Birch Society right, as you suggest. Teaches physics. My friend who's a believer, though, is on the other extreme. He's a lapsed anarchist of some type I can't recall, quite liberal, drawn to the Green Party most recently, though it's a little too conventional for him.

I don't see a 37% figure, but here are some related ones, including a 36% figure:

Check the NY figures. My friend lives in Nebraska. To add to your anecdotes, a Canadian I met last year is also a believer in the conspiracy. Very liberal, labor oriented, was an economics prof.

That 36% figure, which is those who think it somewhat or very likely that the government knew or was involved, is broken down every way you can imagine here:

Fairly equally distributed geographically, somewhat more liberal than conservative, definitely more young than old. 57% of 18-24-year olds! Astonishing.

Axel, by shocked, I mean like: I'm shocked, shocked to find that there is gambling going on here!

The United States is hardly a hotbed of skepticism. That 37% of Americans believe Saddam Hussein ordered the events of 9/11, or that the same percentage might think the U.S. government did, is not particularly surprising. A similar fraction of the populace could easily be persuaded that Elvis ordered 9/11 or that the tooth fairy was shooting from the grassy knoll at Dealey plaza. Remember, we’re dealing with the nation that still has trouble grasping the concepts outlined to the Linnean Society by Darwin and Wallace in 1858. Folks that listen to televangelists while reading the supermarket tabloid’s latest news on Amazonian lobster-people can’t be expected to apply parsimony very rigorously to history.

A nation that believes in angels, hell, and UFOs is not likely to know how to pare away the Bushista bullshit to figure out what happened between Saddam and al-Qaida.

"Either you're with us, or you're against us", someone once said. So Saddam was with the U.S. vis-à-vis al Qaida?

Well, I think we can rest assured that they've gotten all the lying out of their system by now, so whatever they're saying about the clear and present threat posed by Iran must be 100% accurate.

Looking at the figures again, it's striking that not only does belief in a September 11th conspiracy correlate very strongly with youth, but also with political leanings. (I said it correlated somewhat before, but hadn't really noticed how strong the link is.) 54% of those who describe themselves as "very liberal" suspect the conspiracy, the same percentage that is "strong Democrat." That's incredible.

This survey came out in August. Was there any talk about it in the blogs at the time? The percentage of strong liberals between 18 and 24 who suspect a conspiracy must be shockingly high.

I really am shocked by this, unlike cfrost. People believe all kinds of things a trained scientist might find unreasonable, but this isn't the same as believing in angels or UFOs, which, if anything, implies trust in the reports of other people. This involves a kind of paranoia on a large scale.

It's more of a "let happen" equasion, rather than "caused it to happen" scenerio.

Although the causes date back 35 years.

Although the causes date back 35 years.

It's more of a "let happen" equasion, rather than "caused it to happen" scenerio.

The first option would shock me only somewhat less than the second. Here's the statement people were asked to respond to:

"People in the federal government either assisted in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop the attacks because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."

“The percentage of strong liberals between 18 and 24 who suspect a conspiracy must be shockingly high. . . . . I really am shocked by this, unlike cfrost.”

No, I'm shocked all right, also horrified and appalled, just not surprised. I’m not surprised it’s come to this because:

-First, bazillions of Americans hold rigorous skepticism to be not a virtue, but a sort of funky idiosyncratic hobby for fussy curmudgeons and malcontents.

–Second, like the citizens of the old Soviet Union, we’ve been lied to so often that believing official statements may be as irrational as believing in cockamamie conspiracy theories. Some things coming from the White House are true and some are not. Al-Qaida responsible for 9/11 – true, Saddam and Bin Laden pals – false. Seems simple enough on the face of it, but, like Cold War Kremlinologists, we’re increasingly forced to pay very close attention to subtleties and nuances to figure out what our government is saying and doing. There’s been an accident at Chernobyl – true, this milk does not come from Ukraine – I’ll just have a glass of water, thank you. The effort is becoming exhausting and it’s not surprising that otherwise generally sensible people give up and buy some nonsense that is just as easily swallowed as a possibly tainted slice of Bush baloney.

Younger people who are inclined to doubt the official word and cannot remember when responsible oversight existed, like from the press and congress during the Watergate and Church Committee hearings, can hardly be blamed for being confused. Similarly, anyone who has a good reason to doubt officialdom will believe official statements are lies by default. In New Orleans lots of people, particularly the poor, believe the levies were dynamited during Katrina. Is that surprising, considering it has happened before? What scares me is that I’ve heard this 9/11-conspiracy crap from people whose opinions I have respected and believed in. People who never caved in to bullshit like this before.

Feeding the citizenry a steady diet of lies and hypocrisy will eventually lead to a government’s losing legitimacy. People come to the point of believing nothing and anything and being willing to throw babies out with the bathwater, at which point all bets are off. Think the mood is sour now, wait till Iraq collapses completely and the shit really hits the fan. Tens of thousands of US troops (many very young) who enlisted in good faith and who have now spent the last five years yo-yoing to the Middle East and back will be extremely pissed off, and many will grasp at conspiracy theory straws. Add an oil price induced economic miasma, another Hurricane Katrina type event, more lies, and you’ve got the Soviet block in the late eighties. So yeah, I’m shocked, but nowhere near surprised.


thanks. I didn't know that Senator Rick Santorum held a news conference in Washington in June and announced that WMDs had just been found in Iraq. It's very interesting that the 500 chemical warheads dating from the 1980s that the military had found in Iraq impressed the American public so much because every expert I remember, including Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors, expected the findings of exactly such leftover, nonfunctioning weapons from more than a a decade ago. Clearly no later confirmation of the number one justification for attacking Iraq. As David Kay, the CIA's former chief weapons hunter in Iraq, unmistakably explained, the decades-old sarin nerve gas was probably no more dangerous than household pesticides -- and far more likely to degrade at room temperature [].

CFrost, I'm not as pessimistic as you are (about this), but everything you say has weight to it. Many people look back to "I did not sleep with that woman" as a milestone, since it not only enraged conservatives, who didn't trust Clinton anyway, but deeply disillusioned a great many liberals as well, even ones who didn't want to admit it. The real topper for me and many others, though, was the fiasco in Florida, including Bush v. Gore. Then all the deception about Iraq. It has been a hard time to avoid a paralyzing cynicism. You may well be right that this kind of thing explains much of the conspiracy-mindedness. I wasn't aware at all of how widespread this kind of thinking was.

My friend in Nebraska who believes in the conspiracies is an excellent thinker in general, very smart, conscientious (indeed a conscientious objector). He may also have been influenced by the experience of his wife telling him out of the blue, as it seemed to him, after nineteen years of marriage and three kids, that she had never been happy with him and was going to divorce him. I can barely imagine what kind of world bender that is. I wonder if we all have war stories like that.

bazillions of Americans hold rigorous skepticism to be not a virtue, but a sort of funky idiosyncratic hobby for fussy curmudgeons and malcontents.

Very true. I'm ambivalent about this myself. My pessimism comes out more in my view of where rigorous skepticism will take us in the long run. Maybe it's more fear than pessimism. Among other things, I'm not sure how well morality will hold up to rigorous skepticism over time. In my view, moral objectivism doesn't hold up any better than religion, and the implications of that are still only dimly recognized, I think, because we tend to do our best to conceal them from ourselves. This is part of the reason I tend to be sympathetic to a kind of practical rationality typically involved in religious faith, despite its many problems. Not an option for me, but it seems valuable to many.

Axel, I expect some of the people who say WMD were in Iraq agree with your analysis (as I do) and just mistake the intent of the question, which is now ambiguous. Santorum is obviously being disingenuous in making it seem like these weapons show the Administration was correct.

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