- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2003

Critics of President Bush’s Iraq policy employ a flimsy argument that nonetheless enjoys growing appeal among a largely hostile press corps. Since Saddam Hussein did not order the September 11, 2001, attacks — the fuzzy logic goes — he has no ties to terrorists, especially al Qaeda. Therefore, the Iraq war was bogus, and Mr. Bush should be defeated.

“The evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama bin Laden at all,” Al Gore declared Aug. 7. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times that Iraq’s alleged al Qaeda links were “tenuous at best and not compelling.”

The Times slammed Vice President Richard Cheney on Sept. 16 for making “sweeping, unproven claims about Saddam Hussein’s connections to terrorism.”

The president should confront his detractors by thoroughly detailing the evidence that connects Saddam to terrorists, including al Qaeda and possibly September 11.

• Stephen Hayes reported in the July 11 Weekly Standard that the official Babylon Daily Political Newspaper, published by Saddam’s son, Uday, ran a “List of Honor” in its Nov. 14, 2002, edition.

Among 600 leading Iraqis named was: “Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.”

Carter-appointed federal appeals Judge Gilbert Merritt discovered this document while helping Iraq rebuild its courts. He wrote in the June 25 Tennessean that two of his Iraqi colleagues remember secret police removing that embarrassing edition from newsstands. Judge Merritt speculates that Uday showcased these dedicated Ba’athists to “make them more loyal and supportive of the regime.”

• Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, director of an Afghan al Qaeda camp, fled for Baghdad after being injured as the Taliban fell. He received medical care and convalesced there for two months. He then opened a terrorist base in northern Iraq and arranged the October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman, Jordan.

c According to Richard Miniter, author of the best-selling “Losing bin Laden,” “U.S. forces recently discovered a cache of documents in Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, that show Iraq gave Mr. Yasin both a house and a monthly salary.” Al Qaeda member Abdul Rahman Yasin was indicted for building the bomb that exploded beneath the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993, killing six and injuring some 1,000 New Yorkers.

c While sifting through the Mukhabarat’s bombed ruins last April 27, the Toronto Star’s Mitch Potter and the London Telegraph’s Inigo Gilmore discovered a Feb. 19, 1998, intelligence memo marked “Top Secret and Urgent.” It said the agency would pay “all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden.”

Tantalizing clues also suggest Saddam Hussein might not have shared the world’s shock when the Twin Towers blazed.

• His Salman Pak terror camp trained hijackers on an actual passenger jet.

• On Jan. 5, 2000, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir — an Iraqi airport greeter reportedly dispatched from Baghdad’s Malaysian Embassy — escorted Khalid al Midhar and Nawaz al Hamzi to a Kuala Lampur hotel where these two September 11 hijackers met with September 11 conspirators Ramzi bin al Shibh and Tawfiz al Atash. Five days later, Mr. Shakir disappeared. Qatari officials arrested him on Sept. 17, 2001. They discovered papers tying him to the 1993 WTC plot and “Operation Bojinka,” al Qaeda’s 1995 plan to atomize 12 jets over the Pacific.

• Finally, Clinton-appointed Manhattan federal Judge Harold Baer ordered Saddam to pay $104 million to the families of two September 11 casualties. “I conclude that plaintiffs have shown, albeit barely… that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda.”

An airtight case? No, but sufficient evidence tied Saddam Hussein to September 11 and won a May 7 federal judgment against him.

The administration should help Americans and the world understand the patterns that emerge through these sometimes-murky data. Plenty exists in the public record (and surely more should be declassified) to demonstrate that Iraq’s liberation and rehabilitation are necessary phases of the War on Terror. President Bush and his spokesmen should present this case, not randomly but repeatedly and in as comprehensive, well-documented and well-illustrated a fashion as their vast resources will allow.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Fairfax, Va.

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