About that Sunday New York Times story headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat,” has anyone tried running the numbers on where we’d be if Saddam Hussein were still in power? Odds are, the terror threat would be worse yet.
Saddam, when toppled, had not just been sitting around hallucinating about WMDs and happily bribing UN officials through their own Oil-for-Food relief program. He had a deadlier strategy. As the CIA’s own Charles Duelfer reported, based on massive evidence found in Iraq, Oil-for-Food had become Saddam’s weapons program – giving him cover to skim and smuggle billions in illicit funds and use the money to set up a sanctions-busting global network of secret bank accounts, front companies, arms dealers and easy access to anyone he pleased. That all-star cast included Hamas, Al Qaeda, and — among other pals– the new sensation of the UN stage, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who in 2000, despite UN sanctions, dropped in on Saddam in Baghdad.
And, though Duelfer did not find WMD stashed in Saddam’s liquor cabinets, he did spend hundreds of pages of his report documenting Saddam’s preservation of WMD know-how and aim of re-booting his WMD programs as soon as sanctions were gone — a goal that under corrupt UN oversight Saddam had de facto almost reached by 2000-2001.
As for the global jihadis, they were on quite a roll long before Saddam’s overthrow in 2003 — or for that matter, long before Sept. 11, 2001. By 1998, the grand jury indictment of Osama bin Laden, issued in the Southern Dictrict of New York, outlined Al Qaeda’s involvement not only in Afghanistan, Sudan, and — yes– Brooklyn, but went on to cite Al Qaeda’s affiliation with “jihad groups” in Egypt, the Palestinian territories, “Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir and Azerbaijan,” as well as Al Qaeda alliances with “the government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah.” Map the trajectory, and the real question to stack up against where we are today is what Saddam, in power, seasoned in the use of WMD, with billions in his pockets, and a worldwide reach, would by now be contributing to “Trends in Global Terrorism.”
(Editor’s Note: A reader writes in to note that the global jihadi club above does not include Iraq. Actually, make of it what you will, the 1998 indictment of bin Laden did mention Iraq, stating “In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that Al Qaeda would not work against that government, and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.” I omitted that mention because it leads on to debates that have by now filled volumes, and I figured the point can be made without it. But since it’s come up…. )