Yet another pretext for the war against Saddam Hussein has bitten the dust. The 9/11 Commission has said that there is “no credible evidence” that the Saddamite regime in Baghdad helped Al Qaeda in its attacks against the US. Moreover, contacts between the two “do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship.” And “Bin Laden is said to have requested space [in Iraq] to establish training camps, as well as in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded” [emphasis added].
But as early as July 2002, the White House sought a link. “Iraq and al Qaeda work in concert, President Bush has said, and both need to be dealt with to protect U.S. national security” says a State Department release from September 25, 2002. George Tenet told Congress in a letter in October 2002, “Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression,” and “The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.
On the eve of war, Mr. Bush told the nation, Iraq “has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.” In his note to Congress right before the missiles flew, Mr. Bush wrote that the Constitution charges him to “take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.”
The White House may squirm in Clintonesque ways to avoid defining “is”, but it is clear from the record that the White House linked the conquest of Iraq to the events of September 11, 2001.
Defenders of the President will argue “so what?” Saddam Hussein is an evil, murdering bucket of pond scum and the world is better off without him in charge of Iraq. I agree in spades. I also would have been more than happy to debate the need for the war on those grounds, and I would have sided with the president. [I’d also like to see US troops get rid of Robert Mugabe, but this White House probably couldn’t find Zimbabwe].
The corrosive effect that war under false pretenses has on democracy is the issue here. The people, or their congressional representatives, cannot decide issues of national interest based upon untruths (whether they are mistakes or outright lies). Let’s be clear about this, the administration could have been mistaken, or it could have lied – but no matter what else, it wasn’t right about the linkage between Al-Qaeda and the Saddamites, no matter how loudly Dick Cheney says so.