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December 12, 2002
THE SADDAM / AL QAEDA LINK: Why are so many anxious to deny it? Perhaps because having missed it for so long would be embarrassing:
As I reveal in Vanity Fair, earlier this year the Pentagon established a special intelligence unit to re-examine evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship. After initially fighting the proposal, the CIA agreed to supply this unit with copies of its own reports going back 10 years. I have spoken to three senior officials who have seen its conclusions, which are striking.
"In the Cold War, says one of them, "often you'd draw firm conclusions and make policy on the basis of just four or five reports. Here there are almost 100 separate examples of Iraq-al Qaeda co-operation going back to 1992.
All these reports, says the official, were given the CIA's highest credibility rating - defined as information from a source which had proven reliable in the past. . . .
Iraq must have been more intensely spied upon than any other country throughout the 1990s. If the agencies missed a Saddam-al Qaeda connection, it might reasonably be argued, then many heads should roll.
Yes, they should. The article's conclusion:
Ignoring Iraq's support for terror is a seductive proposition, which fits pleasingly with democracies' natural reluctance to wage war. But if we are serious about winning the war on terror, self-delusion is not an option.
An attempt to achieve regime change in Iraq would not be a distraction, but an integral part of the struggle.
I'm inclined to agree, which is yet another reason why I think that the "go after Al Qaeda, not Saddam" line is a red herring.
UPDATE: This is interesting, too.