You remember the Democrat talking point, about how Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq? Well, as with so many other Democrat talking points, this one has been proven to be dead wrong - in the recently released 59-page Pentagon report.
Now, you may have heard that the report did just the opposite, confirming no link between Hussein and Al Qaeda. After all, that is how the MSM have been reporting it (see NYTimes blog, ABC News blog, and McClatchy Newspapers). These reports seem to be seizing (out of context) on the report's executive summary and abstract, which say (in part):
This study found no "smoking gun" (i.e. direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda.
...these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network...
That sounds like a pretty convincing refutation of any Iraq-Al Qaeda connection - except that it is taken out of context.
What these statements actually indicate is that "Al Qaeda" itself was not directly mentioned in such documents as Extract 10, found in Section II ("State Relationships with Terrorist Groups"). However, as Thomas Joscelyn (Weekly Standard) explains [italics in original, bold emphasis added]:
...the report ties Saddam’s regime to at least five different al Qaeda associated groups, including two groups that formed the core of al Qaeda.
The Iraqi Intelligence documents discussed in the report link Saddam’s regime to: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (the “EIJ” is al Qaeda number-two Ayman al Zawahiri's group), the Islamic Group or “IG” (once headed by a key al Qaeda ideologue, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman), the Army of Mohammed (al Qaeda's affiliate in Bahrain), the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (a forerunner to Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq), and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a long-time ally of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan), among other terrorist groups. Documents cited by the report, but not discussed at length in the publicly available version (they may be in a redacted portion of the report), also detail Saddam’s ties to a sixth al Qaeda affiliate: the Abu Sayyaf group, an al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines.
Both the EIJ and the IG were early and important core allies for Osama bin Laden as he forged the al Qaeda terror network, which comprises a number of affiliates around the world.
How, then, to explain this sentence about Iraq and al Qaeda from the report's abstract: "At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust"? And how to explain the "considerable overlap" between their activities which led not only to the appearances of ties but to a "de facto link between the organizations?"...
And what about this revelation from page 34? "Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda -- as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision." (The example given in the report is the Army of Muhammad in Bahrain, a group the Iraqi Intelligence Service describes as "under the wings of bin Laden.")
And there is this line from page 42: "Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives."
Really? Saddam Hussein "supported" a group that merged with al Qaeda in the late 1990s, run by al Qaeda's #2, and the New York Times thinks this is not a link between Iraq and al Qaeda? How does that work?
It's really quite simple: the Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda links indicated in this report represent far more bona fide proof of their ties than the tenuous Cheney-Halliburton connection liberals keep trying to assert. The difference between the two is that the latter (baseless though it remains) supports the Democrats' (and the MSM's) political agenda, while the former refutes that agenda.
(Kudos to the NY Sun for giving an accurate assessment of the report.)
Just be sure to read the report for yourself, and make your own conclusions.