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July 11, 2003

THE SADDAM/OSAMA CONNECTION, DOCUMENTED. INTERESTING ARTICLE BY THE JUDGE I CLERKED FOR, Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, who has been in Iraq on a judicial-assistance mission with the ABA:

Through an unusual set of circumstances, I have been given documentary evidence of the names and positions of the 600 closest people in Iraq to Saddam Hussein, as well as his ongoing relationship with Osama bin Laden.

I am looking at the document as I write this story from my hotel room overlooking the Tigris River in Baghdad.

One of the lawyers with whom I have been working for the past five weeks had come to me and asked me whether a list of the 600 people closest to Saddam Hussein would be of any value now to the Americans.

I said, yes, of course. He said that the list contained not only the names of the 55 ''deck of cards'' players who have already been revealed, but also 550 others.

When I began questioning him about the list, how he obtained it and what else it showed, he asked would it be of interest to the Americans to know that Saddam had an ongoing relationship with Osama bin Laden.

I said yes, the Americans have, so far as I am aware, have never been able to prove that relationship, but the president and others have said that they believe it exists. He said, ''Well, judge, there is no doubt it exists, and I will bring you the proof tomorrow.''

So today he brought me the proof, and there is no doubt in my mind that he is right.

The document shows that an Iraqi intelligence officer, Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, assigned to the Iraq embassy in Pakistan, is ''responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.''

The document shows that it was written over the signature of Uday Saddam Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein. . . .

That is the story of the ''Honor Roll of 600,'' and why I believe that President Bush was right when he alleged that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama and was coordinating activities with him.

It does not prove that they engaged together in any particular act of terror against the United States.

But it seems to me to be strong proof that the two were in contact and conspiring to perform terrorist acts.

Up until this time, I have been skeptical about these claims. Now I have changed my mind. There is, however, one big problem remaining: They are both still at large and the combined forces of the free world have been unable to find them.

Until we find and capture them, they will remain a threat Saddam with the remnants of his army and supporters in combination with the worldwide terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden.

Read the whole thing. Those who know Judge Merritt -- a lifelong Democrat and a man of unimpeachable integrity -- will know just how significant this is.

UPDATE: I was in a rush when I posted this -- literally getting ready to walk out the door -- and neglected to thank Clayton Cramer for emailing me the link to this story, which I had entirely missed. I should also note that, although Judge Merritt is both smart and honest, he could of course be wrong, or deceived, here. I wonder, though, why this story hasn't gotten more attention, given that it doesn't seem to have been discredited anywhere.

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