Saturday, September 09, 2006

# Posted 5:37 AM by Patrick Porter  

SADDAM AND AL QAEDA: The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded that there were barely any ties or collaboration between Saddam Hussein's regime and Al Qaeda.

Overall, it finds (on page 105) that 'Saddam Hussein was distrustful of Al Qa'ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from Al Qa'ida to provide material or operational support.' So, for example, even though Zaqarwi was operating in northern Iraq before the war, it was not with the approval or invitation of Baghdad. Things like that.

Not surprisingly, the Weekly Standard disputes its methodology and findings.

Not being in the strangely named 'intelligence community', I can't comment with any authority on these conflicting views. But this goes to the heart of one of the justifications for the war.

One discrepancy that is particularly striking: Stephen Hayes from the Standard reported in January 2006 that:

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

The Senate report denies that Salman Pak was a sanctioned training ground for Al Qaeda agents.

But what of Hayes' claim that eleven officials confirmed that documents proved that this training programme existed? And why (I think) does the Senate Intelligence report not accept Hayes' interpretation of the interviews or the documents?

I guess we'll see what Hayes has to say, and whether the Standard can refute the Senate's claims.

Personally, this strikes at one of my key reasons for being willing to support the concept of this war, if not its execution, so to be self-indulgent for a second, this is a non-trivial argument.
(23) opinions -- Add your opinion

Hi Patrick,

"what of Hayes' claim that eleven officials confirmed that documents proved that this training programme existed"

Applying Occam's Razor: Black propaganda leaked to right-wing hacks. Psy-ops.
I don't claim any degree of 20/20 vision on this thing but the fact that I don't know a single person within the US security community who takes Hayes seriously, coupled with the fact that that Marc's right that the Occam's Razor solution is indeed that Hayes' anonymous sources are people with an agenda pumping an ideologically driven, gullible journo with guff does not make me inclined to buy into the notion that that there's a hideous truth lurking out there that people are simply too blinkered to accept.

That said, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that we're being fed a co-ordinated menu of "psy-ops". I suspect it isn't nearly as centralised or sophisticated as all that.
I haven't read the committee report, so I can't say much right now, but we all have reason to be extremely concerned about the effectiveness of this Intel Committee if they did indeed trot out the tired claim that "secularists don't work with fundamentalists" schtick. This has been disproven time and time again. If that's the best our Congress - Republicans and Democrats alike - can do,then we're in a lot of trouble.

If you haven't read the committee report then you shouldn't jump the gun.

Let's be logical here: if it's not true that secularists never work with fundamentalists, then it should follow that secularists don't always work with fundamentalists.

Be wary of absolutes.

What Mark C and Marc Mulholland said.
The report never claims that secularists and fundamenatlists don't work together. It just says that, in this instance, they did not. Syria and Iran today are a great example of secularists and fundies working together for a common objective. But Al Qaeda's objectives were hostile to those of Saddam, and so Saddam did whatever he could to thwart them. Both may have hated America. But both may have hated each other more. That's not the conclusion of timeless logic. That's just the conclusion of this particular historical circumstance.

Steven Hayes is a profoundly unserious journalist. He is, to put it mildly, a hack. And this report only confirms how wrong he was. Whither the Weekly Standard...
Way back machine:

Remember when everyone (maybe not you, but every intel. agency etc...) thought Saddam had stockpiles of WMD's? Everyone in the States was worried about the next attack and didn't want to take any chances, they were pissed and wanted to get agro on some mofo's. Three years later the arguement about Saddam and Al-queda has changed to are they married or f*ck-buddies. Meh.

Remember when everyone (maybe not you, but every intel. agency etc...) thought Saddam had stockpiles of WMD's?

I think that you're probably referring to this CIA report. It turns out that the report wasn't true. Sorry.

On the ground UNSCOM weapons inspectors looked for the WMDs and didn't find them and reported it. Then we invaded and didn't find the WMDs either.

It seems that someone has been lying to you.
The 9/11 Commission said that there were connections between Saddam's regime and AQ. I'm not sure why Senate Dems and the Left wing media are trying to rehash this now.
That's false.

You can download and read the the report.

You can search for Saddam. You can also read section 10.3 "Phase Two And The Question Of Iraq."
Why is it that either the Committee or Hayes must be right and the other wrong? This very American tendency to call a ball fair or foul, declare a winner or loser, is the enemy of clear thinking and analysis.

The one thing that seems clear to me is that Saddam was very wary of islamists, that he was working to: (A) neutralize their influence in Iraq by burnishing his own Islamic credentials; and (B) trying to prevent the non-state terror organizations like A-Q from gaining a foothold in Iraq from which they could challenge him.

Personally, I suspect that there is much truth in both the Committee report and in what Hayes claims, and there is even more that we don't know about Saddam's connections and interactions with both secular and Islamist terror organizations.
"The 9/11 Commission said that there were connections between Saddam's regime and AQ. I'm not sure why Senate Dems and the Left wing media are trying to rehash this now."

That's funny. I thought the purpose of the 9/11 Commission was to investigate how... um... 9/11 happened?

I could be wrong. I mean, the actual name of the commission might be misleading me.

Some people are so pathetic in their desperation. :)
The fact that Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard has not named any of his 11 US govt officials does not inspire confidence; likewise the unnamed security community sources of 'anthony c' of the oxblog comments.

Elrod, it's not true that Saddam did whatever he could to thwart Saddam. From the 9/11 report (p 66):
Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Laden a safe haven in Iraq.

Likewise, anon, it's true the report reported they hadn't seen evidence the relationship had extended to joint attacks against the US, but there absolutely were connections.

Regarding your promiscuous use of the term 'lying' - many people are now saying the Dems will win Congressional control this fall. Others say Republicans will hold out. After election day, will one side be revealed as incorrect, or liars?

Last anon (you guys need screen names) - you are wrong. (If I were earlier anon, I would say you were lying.) The 9/11 commission report goes back as far as "the rise of Bin Ladin and al Quaeda (1988-1992)" (chapter 2.4). Also pathetic is your pretended intellectual superiority based on an assumption proven wrong by 10 seconds of research.
Hayes said the camps were training terrorists. I don't hear anybody denying that. The committee is now saying that Saddam wasn't training AL QUEDA terrorists. That may be true -- at least, the Al Queda trainees may not have officially identified themselves as such -- but it doesn't contradict Hayes or absolve Saddam.
It's true that Saddam and Bin Ladin periodically offered "feelers" to each other. But the report makes quite clear that the collaborative relationship never developed, and that the attempt to establish any sort of relationship was quite short-lived. For most of the time, Saddam feared Al Qaeda, as the report makes abundantly clear. Even a mutual hatred of the United States, driven home by the 1998 bombing campaign of Iraq, never led the two into a collaborative relationship.

So, both the 9/11 report and the Phase II report are accurate. The ties were fleeting at most, with Saddam and AQ greatly distrustful of one another. But as for training camps within Saddam's purview, there is no evidence in the 9/11 report, and there is apparently no evidence in the Phase II report (which has not yet been released). Steven Hayes is just flat-out wrong. He was probably sold a bill of goods by some self-interested local intel guys. Hayes was just too gullibe to know any better.
Where does the 9/11 report talk about Saddam setting up terrorist training camps? Where, outside of Hayes, does anybody cite real evidence of Saddam's terrorist training camps. The only proven ties to terrorists are payments to Hamas family members. Seriously, I've heard the allegation thrown around many times but I've never seen it substantiated.
You must be referring to Salman Pak, right? According to the Phase II report, page 179, the DIA concluded in 2006, after years of investigation, that Saddam never used Salman Pak for training non-Iraqis after 1991. Not only Al-Qaida, but all non-Iraqis. Since Salman Pak is usually the place cited as a training camp, I assume you referred to it. The minority report (from the more conservative Republicans on the committee) that rejects some of the Phase II conclusions only says that it's inconclusive as to whether or not non-Iraqis trained at Salman Pak. And even there, the minority report claims the camps were for "counterterrorism" (???) and did not involve Al Qaida.
I have reached the conclusion that you need to take these reports with a grain of salt.

After reading the comments of some of the commission/committee members after the fact it seems clear that a political element enters the final appearance of the reports.

This corruption of the results of the investigative process should be condemned in the harshest terms.

I thought our intelligence in Iraq was pretty bad. How did the DIA establish the facts about Salman Pak?
if im arguing that X is false, then Id refute the most well argued, detailed, claims that X is true. If A says X is true, based on assertion Y, and I ignore assertion Y, based on an ad hominem about A (hes a hack) that would seem to weaken my argument that X is false.

Is there a better, more serious arguement for the connection of AQ and Saddam than those found in the WS, including those by Hayes? I suspect not. If not, than the Senate report should have specifically refuted Hayes and the other WS arguements, or what was the point?

As the linked WS article shows, theres much that wasnt explained. A lot was based on statements by Iraqi officials.

can you explain this corruption of results of the investigative process? Otherwise, you've convinced yourself, but you haven't convinced us.
The Commission didn't seem that anxious to pursue the idea of training camps in Iraq. In the first "Overall Accuracy" report, under "Committee Actions:"

On August 2,2006, by a vote of 8 ayes and 7 noes, the Committee agreed to an amendment by Senator Wyden. The amendment struck from page 83 of the report a press statement by Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, of the United States Central Command, regarding information purportedly discovered in April 2003 at the Salman Pak facility.

The same information was struck from the second INC report, too.

Davod is right. It doesn't take a lot of reading from the "Additional Comments" sections to realize how politicized this process is.
Salman Pak was a camp which was captured on about April 6, 2003. From a press report at the time, "Brigadier-General Vincent Brooks told a briefing at Central Command in Qatar that the camp, found at Salman Pak southeast of Baghdad, demonstrated ''a linkage between this regime and terrorism''. But he said there was nothing to tie the camp to specific organisations."

Salman Pak is also described here.

The Iraq Survey Group Duelfer report described it as "responsible for training and conducting special operations missions. It trained Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Yemeni, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Sudanese operatives in counterterrorism, explosives, marksmanship, and foreign operations." But again, no al-Queda link was given.

So unless Hayes can provide more evidence than '11 US govt officials', he's just making it up.
Most of you are saying, indirectly, that since Saddam didn't have ripe WMDs we should not have invaded Iraq. You disagree with the president, who knew Saddam would get them soon in any event. He did not feel it would be prudent to wait until Saddam got them. But you guys seem to think unless somebody nukes Des Moines, Iowa, we cannot act.
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