This is supported by the testimony of a captured terrorist who said in 2005 that al-Qaeda had a camp in Fallujah before the war began. A Time magazine article from 2003 reports that an Ansar al-Islam document describes one terrorist has having met with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Baghdad shortly before the war in Iraq started. In July 2008, I interviewed Don Bordenkircher, the former national director of prison and jail operations in Iraq. He said that detainees he spoke with confirmed that forces under the command of Uday Hussein gave al-Qaeda members shelter and training and that the terrorist group was able to operate in parts of Iraq under government control, specifically in Mosul and Kirkuk. Additional testimony exists to show that al-Qaeda was in Iraq prior to the war.
Iraq is also known to have harbored Abu Ibrahim, a high-level terrorist who worked with Iraqi intelligence in launching attacks in London, Rome, Athens, and Berlin. He is now in Syria, but previously “controlled a web of dangerous operatives while living in Baghdad under the protection of Saddam Hussein.” Former CIA case officer Bob Baer describes him as “the most dangerous bomb maker in the world bar none during my time as a CIA officer.”
It is often stated that the U.S. government found no evidence that Saddam Hussein sponsored terrorists, but this is patently false. The Iraqi Perspectives Project, which went through 600,000 documents, found that “the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be a part of al-Qaeda as long as that organization’s near-term goals supported Saddam’s long-term vision” and “Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al-Qaeda … or that generally shared al-Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.” Iraq operated training camps for non-Iraqi members of terrorist groups and actively supported the Army of Muhammad, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Bahrain.
The Duelfer Report concludes that Iraqi intelligence section M14 trained Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Yemenis, Lebanese, Egyptians, and Sudanese nationals in terrorist tactics at Salman Pak, confirming the testimony of previous Iraqi defectors about the site that were dismissed for having an agenda. The Duelfer Report also says there is testimony that Iraq was planning to use a former member of Hamas to kill Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem using unmanned aerial vehicles loaded with C4.
Iraqi intelligence was working on delivering ricin as an aerosol and “had a plan to produce and weaponize nitrogen mustard in rifle grenades and a plan to bottle sarin and sulfur mustard in perfume sprayers and medicine bottles which they would ship to the United States and Europe.” In other words, Iraq was actively working on the exact scenario the U.S. said it was overthrowing the government to prevent. Saddam may not have possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when the war began, but does it really matter so long as the capacity and intent to use such weaponry exists?
The common rebuttal to evidence such as this is that ideological differences between Saddam’s government and al-Qaeda meant that they “hated” each other and would never cooperate. The democratic Iraqi government has repeatedly asserted that such a link existed and that today members of al-Qaeda and former members of Saddam Hussein’s regime work closely. The Iraqis are threatening to cut off economic ties with Syria over that secularist regime’s ties to al-Qaeda and former Baathists working with the terrorist group. The Iraqi foreign minister is complaining about the American refusal to accept that such cross-ideological alliances can and do exist.
The debate over whether the invasion of Iraq was the right move will forever continue, and there is evidence and respectable opinion on both sides, but the argument over whether Saddam Hussein’s regime sponsored terrorism and whether cross-ideological cooperation between extremists occurs should be over.