- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

In the wake of Abu Musab Zarqawi’s death, mainstream media organs like the New York Times and Newsweek have run chronologies of the archterrorist’s life that omit mention of his stay in Baghdad in 2002, while others, including the Associated Press, have attempted to discredit the Bush administration’s claims that Zarqawi was a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. As Stephen Hayes shows in the Weekly Standard, the AP account is wrong. While the full extent of Zarqawi’s connections with Baghdad are still a matter of debate, it is false to assert, as AP and others have done since Zarqawi’s death, that talk about the connection is little more than “myth-making” on the part of the Bush administration.

According to AP reporter Patrick Quinn’s account, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003, presentation to the U.N. Security Council, in which he cited Zarqawi’s presence in northern Iraq as proof of Saddam Hussein’s links with al Qaeda, was “later debunked by U.S. intelligence officials.” Mr. Quinn was wrong, as Mr. Powell’s statement was actually confirmed by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report. In his remarks before the Security Council, Mr. Powell, (who is not known for pro-war bombast) bluntly informed the council that there was a “sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder. Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda lieutenants.”

The secretary of state mentioned Zarqawi’s terrorist training in Afghanistan, and the fact that he had set up a chemical weapons facility in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. But in addition, Mr. Powell noted that in May 2002, Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad for medical treatment and spent two months recuperating there: “During this stay, nearly two dozen extremists converged on Baghdad and established a base of operations there. These al Qaeda affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they’ve now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months.” Saddam Hussein’s aides denied any link with al Qaeda, but this was demonstrably false, Mr. Powell said: “We know these affiliates are connected to Zarqawi because they remain even today in regular contact with his direct subordinates, including his poison cell plotters, and they are involved in moving more than money and material.”

According to the AP story, Mr. Powell’s statement was “debunked.” This is untrue. As noted by the intelligence committee’s July 9, 2004, report on prewar intelligence, the U.N. speech “was carefully vetted” by U.S. officials, and none of the information in the speech “differed in any significant way” from earlier CIA assessments. Indeed, a careful reading of the section of the report dealing with prewar intelligence (much of it blacked out for intelligence reasons) suggests that the Zarqawi connection was just one of many reports of links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that U.S. intelligence devoted considerable time to investigating in the years leading up to the war.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide