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.