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November 22, 2003
Challenge, Chapter 6: Post-9/11 Connections

Continuing on the Blogosphere Challenge on the Feith memo, the last part deals with Iraqi/al-Qaeda connections after 9/11, which would be the biggest impetus for America to include Saddam's removal as an integral part of the war on terror. Hayes continues:

Several reports indicate that the relationship between Saddam and bin Laden continued, even after the September 11 attacks:

31. An Oct. 2002 . . . report said al Qaeda and Iraq reached a secret agreement whereby Iraq would provide safe haven to al Qaeda members and provide them with money and weapons. The agreement reportedly prompted a large number of al Qaeda members to head to Iraq. The report also said that al Qaeda members involved in a fraudulent passport network for al Qaeda had been directed to procure 90 Iraqi and Syrian passports for al Qaeda personnel.

The analysis that accompanies that report indicates that the report fits the pattern of Iraq-al Qaeda collaboration:

References to procurement of false passports from Iraq and offers of safe haven previously have surfaced in CIA source reporting considered reliable. Intelligence reports to date have maintained that Iraqi support for al Qaeda usually involved providing training, obtaining passports, and offers of refuge. This report adds to that list by including weapons and money. This assistance would make sense in the aftermath of 9-11.

In President Bush's speech on September 20, 2001, he made it clear that the United States considered any government that provided support or shelter to al-Qaeda or any other terrorist groups that conspired to attack American interests to be an open target and a threat to our national security:

The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them[emphasis mine]. Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.

And the support alleged in this entry is extremely significant. First, according to this report, Iraq hosted al-Qaeda as a state policy, which was enough for us to attack the Taliban and remove them from power. Second, terrorists cannot operate in the open; governments that supply false identification and travel papers fatally undermine our national security by allowing these individuals to travel without notice. Even if this only occurred post-9/11, there is little doubt that al-Qaeda would still love to attack American homeland targets, and having professionally forged travel papers makes that much easier to do. This makes the Iraqi government a clear and present danger to the United States, given that they were doing this with full knowledge of the aims of al-Qaeda and of the Bush Doctrine on terrorism, as stated above. Not only is this very worrying, but it is also clearly not "old" data that, according to mainstream media outlets, has been "previously discredited". It predates the March 2003 hostilities by only a few months.

The next section, while not considered as solid by Feith and the intelligence service that collected the information, certainly seems to explain an awful lot about insurgency in postwar Iraq:

Colin Powell, in his February 5, 2003, presentation to the U.N. Security Council, revealed the activities of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Reporting in the memo expands on Powell's case and might help explain some of the resistance the U.S. military is currently facing in Iraq.

37. Sensitive reporting indicates senior terrorist planner and close al Qaeda associate al Zarqawi has had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of Oct. 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with the IIS to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an IIS officer in Baghdad. According to sensitive reporting, al Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city, suggesting his operational cooperation with the Iraqis may have deepened in recent months. Such cooperation could include IIS provision of a secure operating bases [sic] and steady access to arms and explosives in preparation for a possible U.S. invasion. Al Zarqawi's procurements from the Iraqis also could support al Qaeda operations against the U.S. or its allies elsewhere.

38. According to sensitive reporting, a contact with good access who does not have an established reporting record: An Iraqi intelligence service officer said that as of mid-March the IIS was providing weapons to al Qaeda members located in northern Iraq, including rocket propelled grenade (RPG)-18 launchers. According to IIS information, northern Iraq-based al Qaeda members believed that the U.S. intended to strike al Qaeda targets during an anticipated assault against Ansar al-Islam positions.

The memo further reported pre-war intelligence which "claimed that an Iraqi intelligence official, praising Ansar al-Islam, provided it with $100,000 and agreed to continue to give assistance."

If true, this would not only demonstrate direct Iraqi support to al-Qaeda, but also would recast the "insurgency" currently operating primarily in the Sunni Triangle as an al-Qaeda operation, rather than an organic native resistance movement. Note that this data was collected and presented well before the current insurgency began (indeed, before the war began), and it accurately predicted the nature of the attacks: hand-held rocket and mortar attacks, and surface-to-air missiles.

Next, the rest of the Hayes article. Here are links to my previous posts: one, two, three, four, and five.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 22, 2003 2:07 PM

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