The rationale for pushing forward in Afghanistan is that it is the “right” war, the “war of necessity,” the true base of the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 and would try to attack us again. Essentially, those opposing the war in Iraq while supporting the war in Afghanistan try to frame the latter conflict as justified in every way the former is not. As the war in Iraq ever so slowly comes to a close and the history books begin being written, new evidence has emerged to challenge the narrative that the war in Iraq was something different than the war on terror.
The timing, justification, and prosecution of the war in Iraq will forever be debated, but a fair assessment of documents, studies, and testimony will show that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a supporter and active participant in radical Islamic terrorism.
The lead prosecutor of Saddam Hussein, Ja’far al-Musawi, says that he has seen official documents that prove that his regime was involved with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Last year, a Kurdish newspaper published an Iraqi intelligence document from 2002 referencing a proposed meeting with al-Zawahiri to discuss a “revenge operation” against Saudi Arabia at Saddam Hussein’s request. If previous ties had not been maintained and if there was such hostility between the secularist government of Saddam and al-Qaeda as is assumed, such a plan would never have been hatched by Saddam or been acted upon by his intelligence service.
A source at the Iraq Memory Foundation, which is going through thousands of files to document Saddam Hussein’s reign, has reported that they have seen documents showing a link between Saddam and al-Qaeda. One document dated December 12, 1994, reveals that Uday Hussein received a message from Osama bin Laden via a Sudanese politician requesting an alliance. A meeting between bin Laden, an Iraqi government representative, and the Sudanese official then happened on January 11, 1995, where cooperation in attacking foreign forces in Saudi Arabia was discussed. The foundation said another file shows that Iraqi intelligence suggested to bin Laden that he leave Sudan for security reasons and that the ties continued after he moved to Afghanistan. Another document dated March 28, 1992, describes bin Laden as being “in a good relationship” with Iraqi intelligence in Syria. Other documents have provided immense detail of the Saddam-terror connection.
Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister of Iraq, said that his government collected proof of such ties. He said that Ayman al-Zawahiri attended the Popular Islamic Conference in Baghdad in 1999, an event chaired by the Iraqi vice president that brought together representatives of terrorist groups from around the world. Allawi said that Iraqi intelligence facilitated the travel of Ansar al-Islam operatives in the north, and he confirmed that the U.S. gave intelligence to Iraq via Jordan about the location of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq in 2002, but the Iraqis did not take any action.
Mark Eichenlaub of RegimeOfTerror.com did an interview this summer with Matthew Degn, a former senior advisor to the Iraqi Interior Ministry and a U.S. Army civilian interrogator, about this topic. Degn said that Saddam’s government used the hawala system, which is an unofficial banking system involving a network of brokers to transfer funds with no documentation, to fund elements of al-Qaeda that were willing to work across ideological lines. Degn said that al-Qaeda had at least two training camps in Iraq, specifically in Anbar Province and the western part of the country, and that at least two cells operated, one loyal to Zarqawi and another to Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Degn also said there is evidence that Iraq sponsored attacks on American forces in Kuwait.