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What does the recently declassified report about links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda say? 

Don't Panic... Your war questions answered

Last week, American television and feminism reached an important milestone together.

Katie Couric, America's favorite morning telepromptrix, proved to all those sexists out there that attractive, telegenic, blonde women are every bit as capable of reading teleprompters at night as they are in the morning.

Not once during her debut week did Ms. Couric giggle inappropriately, flirt, talk about how she'd rather be at the mall or cry during a news report because she was PMS-ing. She is woman. Hear her roar!

To make sure as many people as possible tuned in during her first week, Couric nabbed some big-shot guests. President Clinton, Rush Limbaugh and Walter Cronkite all made appearances. If stingrays could talk, she would have gotten him, too.

Couric's biggest "get" was President Bush, who invited her to the White House for a pleasant chat. It was during that chat that President Bush rattled off the following sentence-like string of words: "There -- it's -- you know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror."

Funny he mentioned it because last Friday, the US Senate declassified a report on that very subject.

The report confirms that, despite countless Bush administration assertions and insinuations to the contrary, there were no meaningful links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The report makes it clear that the Bush administration was willfully misleading the American people when it sold the Iraq war by linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda, 9/11 and Islamic extremists.

The Republican Senate released the report on a Friday afternoon so that fewer people would hear or read about it. To make matters worse, they released it in an unsearchable PDF file format, so that readers who want to jump to specific parts of the 151-page report can't simply type "Control-F bin Laden" and skip right to the parts they're looking for.

Public service-oriented fellow that I am, I skimmed part of the report this morning and re-typed a few of the passages that stood out to me:

-- "In contrast to the traditional patron-client relationship Iraq enjoys with secular Palestinian groups, the ties between Saddam and bin Laden appear much like those between rival intelligence services, with each trying to exploit the other for its own benefit."

The above is from page 64 of the report, quoting a June 2002 CIA assessment of Saddam's ties to bin Laden. Note the date -- June 2002 was nine months before the invasion. Nine months before the invasion, the CIA knew that Saddam and Osama were not in cahoots.

-- "Saddam did not trust al-Qa'ida or any other radical Islamist group and did not want to cooperate with them."

-- "... when the Iraqi regime started to see evidence that Wahabists had come to Iraq, 'the Iraqi regime issued a decree aggressively outlawing Wahabism in Iraq and threatening offenders with execution.'"

From page 67, the above snippets come from post-war interviews with Saddam deputy Tariq Aziz.

And on the question of Saddam's pre-war relationship with terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: "In 2005, the CIA assessed that prior to the war, the regime did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward al-Zarqawi and his associates."

You may recall that Secretary of State Colin Powell stated, during his now infamous Power Point presentation to the United Nations, that Iraq and al-Qaeda were BFF because Saddam was harboring al-Zarqawi.

-- "The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the CIA 'reasonably assessed that there were likely several instances of contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida throughout the 1990s, but that these contacts did not add up to an established formal relationship.'"

The above is from page 70. If scattered contacts with no formal relationship constitutes harboring al-Qaeda, the Bush administration might as well bomb Florida. After all, several of the 9/11 hijackers were "harbored" and trained there.

Perhaps the president finds connecting Iraq to the war on terror such hard work because, prior to his invasion, there was no connection.

(The report quoted above, "Postwar Findings about Iraq's WMD Programs and Links to Terrorism and How they Compare with Prewar Assessments," can be downloaded here: http://intelligence.senate.gov). For a quality example of President Bush's deceptive pre-war linking of Iraq and al-Qaeda, I suggest this Oct. 7, 2002 nugget: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021007-8.html.)

To contact Andisheh, e-mail him at andisheh@creativeloafing.com.

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