- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 16, 2006

Iraq war critics trumpet a Sept. 8 Senate Intelligence Committee report that concluded Saddam Hussein knew nothing about the September 11, 2001, attacks. Hence, the argument goes, he had no connection to al Qaeda, and therefore lacked ties to Islamic terrorists. In short: “Bush Lied, People Died.”

This seriously flawed report relies on unreliable witnesses, ignores potential and actual evidence of Saddam’s philanthropy of terror, and yet quietly acknowledges he, in fact, worked with terrorists. If Saddam’s lawyers seek a clean bill of health for their client, this isn’t it.

For starters, the report’s sources include “multiple detainees — including Saddam and former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.” Both are on trial and could face severe punishment. Their exculpatory remarks should be highly suspect, but appear valid to Senate Intelligence staffers. On Page 67, their report paraphrases Saddam’s statement that he eschewed al Qaeda’s anti-Americanism because “the United States was not Iraq’s enemy.” Perhaps he merely was being playful when he fired almost daily at U.S. aircraft patrolling the No-Fly Zone and attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in 1993. Indeed, on Page 68, Mr. Aziz offers the FBI Saddam’s response to al Qaeda’s August 1998 bombing of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Saddam “was pleased at the act of terrorism because the U.S. had bombed Iraq during the first Gulf war and tried to kill Saddam. Saddam thought al Qaeda was an effective organization.”

The report also quotes captured Iraqi documents. Among some 120 million such papers, only 34 million have been “translated and summarized to some extent” to speed analysis. Nevertheless, with nearly 72 percent of these records still unusable, the report concludes: “additional reviews of documents in Iraq are unlikely to provide information that would contradict the committee’s findings or conclusions.” Or, in plain English: “Don’t confuse us with data. Trust us. We’re psychic.”

This report overlooks numerous indications, some firmer than others, that Saddam supported the September 11 conspiracy specifically and al Qaeda broadly, among other Islamic terrorist groups. Consider:

The report disregards the May 7, 2003, decision of Clinton-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baer Jr. that Baghdad backed the September 11 attack. Judge Baer awarded $104 million in damages from the Ba’athist regime to the families of George Eric Smith and Timothy Soulas, both killed at the World Trade Center. As Judge Baer ruled: “I conclude that plaintiffs have shown, albeit barely —by evidence satisfactory to the court — that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda.”

The report misses the fact that the architect of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Ramzi Yousef — nephew of September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed — landed in America on an Iraqi passport. Nor does it mention Indiana-born, Iraqi-bred Abdul Rahman Yasin, the al Qaeda operative who built the 1993 WTC bomb that killed six and injured 1,040. He fled to Iraq and, documents show, received a house and salary from Saddam’s regime. As Sheila MacVicar reported for ABC News on July 27, 1994: “Last week, [TV program] ‘Day One’ confirmed [Yasin] is in Baghdad. Just a few days ago, he was seen at [his father’s] house by ABC News. Neighbors told us Yasin comes and goes freely.”

The report forgets that President Clinton’s State Department designated Iraq a state sponsor of terrorism as early as 1993. “Iraq continued to plan and sponsor international terrorism in 1999,” State later declared. Baghdad “continued to provide safe haven and support to various terrorist groups.”

The Senate document concedes “Saddam’s record of support for secular terrorist organizations like the Palestinian Liberation Front,” but then breezes past his $10,000, then $25,000, reward checks to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers. Between the $15,000 boost in these bonuses on March 11, 2002, and the March 20, 2003, launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 28 such killers wounded 1,209 people and murdered 223 more, including at least eight Americans.

While Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have tried to answer this paper, President Bush himself should deliver several major addresses detailing Saddam’s extensive terror record.

Educating the public with new, declassified information would help counteract the “Bush lied us into war” chorus. If this left-wing cantata goes unchallenged, it could cost Republicans control of Congress and leave Mr. Bush exposed to greater indignities — including impeachment.

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

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