Has President Bush Even Bothered to Read the New Report on Saddam and Terrorism?
How outrageous does it have to get? A report based on documentation in Saddam Hussein's own captured archives outlines Saddam's global web of terror -- including ties to al Qaeda's network and Osama bin Laden's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- important information, which, as Stephen Hayes notes in the Weekly Standard "ought to be big news." But following the 2003 overthrow of Saddam, it takes a full and leisurely five years for this report to be produced and released at all; it is then half-buried by the Pentagon, but leaked to select members of the press who do their part to bury it further -- as the media's mob unwisdom instantly crystallizes into headlines such as those collected below (hat tip to Steve Schippert writing on NRO's The Tank):
ABC: Report Shows No Link Between Saddam and al Qaeda
CNN: Hussein's Iraq and al Qaeda not linked, Pentagon says
New York Times: Study Finds No Qaeda-Hussein Tie
Washington Post: Study Discounts Hussein, Al-Qaeda Link
AFP: No link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda: Pentagon study
McClatchy: Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam and al Qaida
All of which certainly ought to inspire complaints about the media. But these are private news outfits, and if they want to sell this dangerously misleading slant as news, we're all used to it -- we can flip the channel or head for the blogs. My question is: Where's the President on this? For better or worse -- and I think it was very much for the better -- the eviction of Saddam and his poisonous regime, from Iraq, from the Middle East, from world politics, is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. And the war in Iraq is far better explained as something that had to be done, than as a sort of elective activity which we really ought to stick with because we somehow stumbled into it. This report provides major insight into why it was a correct call from the start -- Saddam had to go.
At the very least, this should have been the subject of Bush's national radio address this week -- which was instead devoted to such matters as the housing market and economy (important, yes, but he's had plenty to say about these matters). However Bush might choose to do it, he ought to be telling the country about this report, and summarizing the findings for all to hear.
Instead, we get speculation that the Bush administration doesn't want to get back into the debate over Saddam's terror ties; that the Pentagon prefers to gloss over the findings; that there is no sense in going up against the congealed untruths of conventional wisdom. Somewhere in there is the supposition that Bush doesn't have time to read the kind of detail in this 94-page document, that the nitty-gritty is too complex to interest the public; that it would only enrage the administration's opponents and maybe open the way for the likes of another Joe Wilson to challenge a phrase and land another anti-Bush tour of the TV talk shows.
But where in this calculus is Bush himself? I am tired of the excuse that he is removed from the scene, that his administration is out of control, that he hasn't managed to figure out he has an incompetent Secretary of State and a spineless set of national security advisers. However cloistered the White House, it doesn't take that much to be in touch these days. Does Bush ever surf the internet? Read the blogs? Is there anyone close to him who still has the principle and backbone to print out this report, hand it to him, and tell him to please turn to page 42, on "The Terror 'Business' Model of Saddam Hussein" -- or at least flip to the conclusion on page 45:
"One question remains regarding Iraq's terrorim capability: Is there anything in the captured archives to indicate that Saddam had the will to use his terrorist capabilities directly against the United States? Judging from examples of Saddam's statements (Extract 34) before the 1991 Gulf War with the United States, the answer is yes.
...or at the bottom of that same page, which notes Saddam's state sponsorship of terrorism, including suicide operations, as well as his "organizational relationships and 'outreach' programs for terrorist groups":
"Evidence that was uncovered and analyzed attests to the existence of a terrorist capability and a willingness to use it until the day Saddam was forced to flee Baghdad by Coalition Forces."
Sure, there is plenty we still don't know, some things we may never know, and in the massive archives captured from Saddam there may be important items we have yet to discover -- this report itself concludes with a mention that "Potentially, more significant documents and media files are awaiting analysis or are even yet to be discovered." But there's plenty here already that needs telling. How about it, Mr. President? How about stepping up to the podium with this report, and -- never mind the mainstream media and the Pentagon public relations bureaucrats -- telling the American people what's really in it?