There he goes again. Bill Safire is beating the same old drum about al Qaeda and Saddam using faulty logic. This time, he points to the 17-page letter captured from Hassan Gul, who appears to have been acting as a courier between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. The letter asks al Qaeda to reinforce Ansar al-Islam in its attacks on Shi’ite targets in the hopes of sparking a “sectarian war.” Zarqawi appears to be the author of the letter, according to U.S. sources.
(By the way, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has expressed uncertainty regarding the authenticity of the Zarqawi memo.)
Bill Safire toots his own horn:
On Sept. 24, 2001 — not two weeks after 9/11 — Kurdish sources led me to report: “The clear link between the terrorist in hiding [Osama] and the terrorist in power [Saddam] can be found in Kurdistan. . . . The Iraqi dictator has armed and financed a fifth column of Al Qaeda mullahs and terrorists. . . . Some 400 ‘Arab Afghan’ mercenaries . . . have already murdered a high Kurdish official as well as a Muslim scholar who dared to interpret the Koran humanely.”
Well, sure there were and are links between Ansar and al Qaeda. I pointed that out in January last year. But a linkage between Ansar and Osama doesn’t prove a linkage between Saddam Hussein and Osama. As I wrote then:
No doubt Saddam is providing funding to the group in an effort to destabilze Iraqi Kurdistan. But other countries are funding the group, including Iran and Turkey. The Kurds realize that their neighbors have no interest in seeing an independent Kurdistan and will support any group that might thwart those ambitions.
… Because [Ansar al-Islam militants] are operating in an area that has been freed of Baghdad’s influence I find it hard to believe that they are operating with Saddam’s “blessing.” More likely, Tehran is helping them more than Baghdad is, and the Iraqi president is taking advantage of their presence to keep the Kurds off balance. Getting money from both Saddam and al Qa’ida does not logically lead to a linkage between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. Ansar wants to destroy the Kurdish secular government and set up an Islamic state under shar’ia, the harsh Islamic law of the Taliban. Baghdad, however, is a secular gangster regime. If Ansar were ever to gain control of Iraqi Kurdistan — an impossible dream for the insurgents — Baghdad would immediately launch a campaign to crush the Islamists, who have no intention of co-existing peacefully with Saddam. I might add, too, that if the above scenario were to come to pass, the United States would be glad to see Saddam wipe them out.
Safire starts wrapping his flights of illogical linking with this quote: “Of the liberation’s three casus belli, one was to stop mass murder, bloodier than in Kosovo; we are finding horrific mass graves in Iraq. Another was informed suspicion that a clear link existed between world terror and Saddam; this terrorist plea for Qaeda reinforcements to kill Iraqi democracy is the smoking gun proving that.”
Hm. Seems to me that linking Saddam to world terror in early 2004 would require Saddam Hussein to actually, oh, I don’t know, be in power and in control of Iraq. Last time I checked he was a guest of the U.S. military and hadn’t been running the country since April 2003. Safire is becoming some kind of Jaubert-like figure on this meme that has been denied by almost everyone — now — in the White House. The exception being, of course, Vice President DIck Cheney.
I have no doubt al Qaeda and Ansar are operating in Iraq and attempting to spark a civil war. It’s part of the terror network’s spring offensive. But Iraq is one of the battlefields because the chaos and insecurity of the country following the invasion last March has given Islamist terrorists a freer range of movement in a country that previously was closed to them. The failed policies of the Bush Defense Department regarding Iraq has created a failed state, which is conducive to allowing terrorists to work and live. The Zarqawi memo isn’t proof a Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda; it’s proof that the American occupation of Iraq opened up opportunities for al Qaeda to act where it couldn’t before.