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June 17, 2004

The Press on the 9/11 Commission

Well, here's an iffy, if not rancid, piece of "journalism".

Defiant Bush and Blair insist Saddam had al-Qa'ida links

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor and David Usborne in New York

President George Bush and the Prime Minister's Office yesterday defied the independent US commission on 11 September and insisted that there were links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida.

That might be because there are pages and pages of documented links.

The report by the commission on Wednesday dealt a devastating blow to the credibility to one of President Bush's reasons for going to war against Iraq by finding there was no credible evidence linking Saddam's regime to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organisation.

Actually, if anyone's suffering a blow to their credibility it's the reporters who wrote this article. First, the report found that there was no credible evidence linking Iraq to 9/11, not that there were no links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. From the commission itself.

“We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States"

That's a far cry from saying that there were "no links". I could also point out that there's no evidence that the Nazis played a role in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Does that also mean there were no "links" between Berlin and Tokyo? Bush never said that we were going into Iraq because of any links to 9/11, and you'll note that no one in the press has produced any such quotes from him, simply because there are none. Once again the press is just making stuff up.

In a carefully co-ordinated riposte to the commission, London and Washington both insisted that Saddam had allowed al-Qa'ida to operate inside Iraq before the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

Osama met with Saddam in 1994. The press is claiming that he was "rebuffed", when in fact he was not. Al-Qaeda operatives met with Iraqi intelligence on numerous occasions, but what the commission is focused on is 9/11, saying that there's insufficient evidence that Muhammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague. This is not the only meeting, however, but merely the only one that would've indicated that Saddam might have had a direct role in 9/11. The Czech policemen have not backed down on their claims. Yet even Cheney had cast doubts on the Prague meeting, and it was not part of the case for war, despite what the press is madly trying to imply.

"The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qa'ida is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qa'ida," Mr Bush said. "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al-Qa'ida. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida."

Exactly so. In fact there are so many links that they fill a book. Jonathan Stull, the commission spokesman, said "The report doesn't close the book on connections between Iraq and al Qaeda."

A few hours earlier, Tony Blair insisted that Saddam had created "a permissive environment" for terrorists and al-Qa'ida operatives in Iraq.

With Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, two of the most wanted terrorists of all time, hanging out in Baghdad, one might think Saddam was a bit permissive about terrorists.

"The Prime Minister has always said Saddam created a permissive environment for terrorism and we know that the people affiliated to al-Qa'ida operated in Iraq," said a spokesman for Mr Blair. "The Prime Minister always made it clear that Saddam's was a rogue state which threatened the security of the region and the world."

And the UN inspectors, UNMOVIC, last week said that there was a massive dismantling of his programs just prior to and after the war, and his illegal rocket components are now showing up in scrap yards in Amsterdam and Jordan.

In contrast to the US administration, Tony Blair has carefully avoided claims that Saddam was involved in the 11 September attacks. Even the so-called "dodgy dossier'' avoided making such a claim.

But wait. "In contrast to the US administration?" When the heck did the US administration make such claims? Oh, that's right. It NEVER DID. But the yellow press has to off-handedly imply that it did, to cover up for the fact that they can't find a single quote, statement, or report to that effect.

Challenged by The Independent, the Downing Street spokesman said the Government was not claiming a direct link between the attackers on 11 September and Saddam, but insisted there was evidence that Saddam had created a "permissive regime" in which al-Qa'ida could operate.

I don't think Downing Street was so much "challenged" by The Independent as exasperated. No matter how many times you tell them, they still can't understand the obvious. You'd think a bunch of reporters, whose job includes writing down what people said, would be a bit more knowledgeable about what's in their own notebooks.

Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, also refused to back down. He told al-Jazeera television there was a connection between Iraq and al-Qa'ida. "We have seen these connections ... and we stick to that," he said. "We have not said it was related to 9/11."

Now just how hard is it to understand that? Maybe I should start beating them over the head with my "No Nazi connections to Pearl Harbor" meme. It doesn't mean there wasn't a link between the two Axis powers.

The link was a key factor in President Bush's justification for the war. But it did not play a part in Mr Blair's argument for action, which rested entirely on Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction.

This is getting irritating. The Bush administration never based our Iraq policy on any involvement in 9/11. Nor did Blaire or anyone rest their case for action entirely on one issue. It's getting to the point where I can get more reliable news analysis from my garbage man than any so called "journalists". So once again, where do they come up with a link being a "key factor"? We said we're going to war against terrorists and rogue regimes that support terrorists. Even if a rogue state only supported a particular terrorist group to the exclusion of Osama, that still makes them a target. Saddam supported terrorists, paid money to the families of suicide bombers, tried to assassinate a US President, and took pot shots at aircraft patrolling the UN mandated no-fly zones. I'd say that makes him a supporter of terrorism. There were indeed links between Saddam and Osama, but those links weren't part of our case for war, and many weren't uncovered till after we toppled Saddam.

In a further embarrassment for the Bush administration yesterday, the independent commission reported that America's defence forces failed to respond quickly enough on the morning of 11 September.

Well excuse the US for not being trained and ready to shoot airliners down at the drop of a hat.

The ensuing chaos and miscommunications caused a crucial delay in relaying orders for the planes to be intercepted and shot down.

The Democrats are just upset that they can't impeach Bush for ordering a civilian airliner to be shot down by our "neo-imperialist" fighter jets, so the faces of the passengers could be put on protest signs. Does the press even think before they spit ink on a page anymore? Does the commission think? Nobody had ever used an airliner this way before. If we want to be "prepared" for it having fighter planes ready to intercept is the stupidest preparation possible given time enough to counteract the threat. It would make infinitely more sense to build in an over-ride on the flight controls of passenger jets, so the pilot can slam a button and disable his own cockpit, transferring control to a remote facility somewhere on the ground. Further, the aircraft computer systems could be programmed not to allow an aircrafts flight path to intersect any buildings or restricted airspace.

"On the morning of 9/11, the existing protocol was unsuited in every respect for what was about to happen," the report asserted. "What ensued was a hurried attempt to create an improvised defence by officials who had never encountered or trained against the situation they faced."

Well would you want a government that sits around plotting about shooting down civilian airliners all the time, even prior to anyone using them in such a fashion?

Such was the lack of coordination between air traffic controllers, military officials and senior members of the government, that when Mr Cheney, the Vice-President, finally authorised shooting down the planes they had already hit their targets. Yet, Mr Cheney briefly believed that two of the planes had in fact been shot down.

Information that day was so filled with rumors that even my home town had a reported missing aircraft.

"It's my understanding that they've already taken a couple of aircraft out," Mr Cheney told the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in a telephone conversation, the transcript of which was released last night.

Obviously he was watching CNN or a major news network to get such unsubstantiated and worthless reporting.

The panel also played segments of tapes carrying portions of other conversations from that day. One apparently carried words spoken by Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers, while he was at the controls of American Airlines flight 11, which took off from Boston and was the first plane to strike the World Trade Centre.

"We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you'll be OK. We are returning to the airport," Atta is heard telling the passengers. Later he warns: "If you try to make any moves, you'll endanger yourself and the airplane."

Now hearing that, and noting that never before has an airliner been used as a guided missile, would you order it shot down? That would be like calling in B-52 strike to resolve a hostage standoff.

The commission held its final public hearing yesterday on the terror strikes before issuing a complete and final report next month.

And all this stuff about not finding a "link"? One paragraph so far, but tanker ships worth of ink in the left wing press.

Just remember, too, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The report can never definitively state that there is no link simply on the basis that we haven't uncovered it yet. That would be trying to prove a negative, and only one counter-example, even far flung and found in the remote future, would completely refute the contention. It's the same situation with the WMD claims. No matter how many people and how high a commission claim that there was no WMD, a corporal tripping over a sarin gas shell proves them all wrong. Be careful what line of argumentation you bring to a debate, because some are trivially weak.


June 17, 2004 in Politics | Permalink

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Comments

No one is more a supporter of the Iraq War than me, but in the course of arguing (via messageboard) that Bush did not make a connection between Saddam's Iraq and Al Quaeda regarding 9/11, I had this thrown in my face.

http://slate.msn.com/id/2102608/

At first blush, and even on second blush, para 2 of this Bush letter to heads of Congress would seem to contradict the above contention. I would greatly appreciate anyone sharing some context or interpretation of this letter that would save me from having to eat sh..er..crow from my ideological opponent on the board. I hate having to do that. :)

Posted by: Steve J at Jun 17, 2004 10:36:10 PM

That's "including", but not limited too. If all they've got is a strained interpretation of a single sentence then they have nothing.

Posted by: George Turner at Jun 17, 2004 11:02:51 PM

It seems to me that giving Al Quaeda safe haven does indeed "aid" them without being a direct link to their specific act on 9/11.

Posted by: aml at Jun 17, 2004 11:15:44 PM

Those are nice counters on the letter, George and aml, and they may be all I have to work with. Of course the next argument with my opponent is which of us is, in fact, straining the interpretation of that section. Much better counter-arguments than I have come up with, though, so thanks for the assist.

Posted by: Steve J at Jun 17, 2004 11:18:58 PM

Imagine the prospect of this tribunal passing judgement on you. The object was to find fault with the Bush administration, they did, ignoring the fact that Saddam ignored the terms and agreements of the Kuwait-Iraq war cease fire, and denied UN inspectors access for arms verification.

The same thing happened 41 years ago under Justice Earle Warren. The Warren commision was prejudiced with Lee Harvey Oswald being found the sole perpetrator.

Goes to show how low the left will go in smear tactics, lies and inuendo to get back into power.
Prejudice prevails.

Posted by: Jack at Jun 17, 2004 11:33:03 PM

Very true, Jack.

And Steve J, you might mention that it's rather unusual for a democracy to go to war while having the reason stated only in a "strained reading" of one sentence in an obscure document that nobody bothered to read anyway. I would think the "stated" reasons would be stated in about two thousand other documents, speeches, resolutions, and executive orders.

Posted by: George Turner at Jun 18, 2004 2:52:49 AM

Depressing. I wonder how many read it and believe it.

Posted by: Calliope at Jun 18, 2004 6:25:49 PM

Steve,

First of all, go to the link under the quote in the column that says "letter", this will give you the whole letter instead of the edited cut of the letter.

Second, the letter is set up such that paragraph (1) is the reason for going to war with Iraq. Paragraph (2) states merely that going to war with Iraq (acting pursuant to the Constitution and the Force against Iraq resolution)is consistent with "continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations".

He is stating in paragraph 2 that going to war with Iraq under the resolution is consistent with the War on Terror (not a distraction), not that Iraq is one of those who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Third, he mentions an enclosed document which is not available along with the letter. Would be interesting to know what was in that document (perhaps intelligence about Saddam aiding al-zarqawi, Hamas, giving money to suicide bomber families, Salman Pak etc.).

Fourth, link to the story about the Clinton Justice Dept. 1998 indictment of Bin Laden for the embassy attacks where it states Al-Qaeda and Iraq had an understanding to leave each other alone and collaborate on weapons. The link is:

http://usinfo.state.gov/is/Archive_Index/Bin_Laden_Atef_Indicted_in_U.S._Federal_Court_for_African_Bombings.html

The money quote is:

"In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said.

Or, if you'd rather a New York Times story:

http://partners.nytimes.com/library/world/africa/110598africa-bomb.html

"Both indictments offer new information about bin Laden's operations, including one deal he is said to have struck with Iraq to cooperate in the development of weapons in return for bin Laden's agreeing not to work against that country.

No details were given about whether the alleged deal with Iraq led to the development of actual weapons for bin Laden's group, which is called Al Qaeda."

Posted by: twalsh at Jun 18, 2004 6:47:27 PM

"Osama met with Saddam in 1994"

I assume you mean between the two organisations because i don't think they ever met in person.

"even prior to anyone using them in such a fashion?"

Never heared of the 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969 in which four GIA member capture an Airbus and are stopped by a cunning pilot of flying it in the Eiffeltower

Posted by: carl at Jun 19, 2004 12:15:47 AM

One failed attempt in France isn't a very good reason to blow a dozen airliners out of the sky on suspicion of hijacking, nor to be prepared to do so.

Posted by: George Turner at Jun 19, 2004 1:21:25 AM

TEAM BUSH'S GREAT TIMING

They are even more clueless than we all knew. They just don't know when to shut the hell up, do they?

President Bush yesterday defended Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion this week that Saddam Hussein had longstanding ties with Al Qaeda, even as critics charged that the White House had no new proof of a connection.

D'OH!

Investigators have proven Iraq never aided any al Qaeda attempts to attack the United States, a commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings said on Wednesday. Completely nullifying any Bush administration arguments for war. The report by commission staff said al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in 1994 and had explored the possibility of cooperation, but the plans apparently never came to fruition. [ed-emphasis mine]

I'll be watching the Reich Whingers to see if the "Iraq/Al Qaeda co-operation" justification for the war begins to transform into the "Iraq/Al Qaeda remote possibility of co-operation" justification for the war. It will undoubtably happen and when it does will complete the transformation of the three main reasons given for invading Iraq, which were;

1) Saddam had WMDs; 2) There was a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda; 3) Saddam was a really bad man who killed, tortured and oppressed the Iraqi people.

Once number two finishes its transformation, the three main reasons for invading Iraq will have become;

1) Saddam had wet dreams of Weapons of Mass destruction related program activities; 2) There was the slim possibility of a harmless link being formed between Saddam and Al Qaeda; 3) Saddam was a really bad man and America is killing, torturing and oppressing the Iraqi people a little less than he did.

Along with the new reasons for war will also come the standard denials by the Reich Whinge Rubes who will claim that the new reasons were always the reasons given and anyone who thinks the first set were the reasons is just a barking moonbat because those reasons were never given as the reasons for invading Iraq.

Posted by: Robert McClelland at Jun 19, 2004 11:22:47 AM

Robert, you moron.

The people on the 9/11 commission are now slamming the hell out of the press for totally misrepresenting what they said.

The 9/11 commission members have explicitly said THAT THERE WERE TIES BETWEEN AL-QAEDA AND SADDAM.

Posted by: George Turner at Jun 19, 2004 3:45:11 PM