These were the headers the nation’s leading media outlets used to describe a new Pentagon report detailing the links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime:
- Study Finds No Qaeda-Hussein Tie
- Report Shows No Link Between Saddam and al Qaeda
- Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaeda not linked, Pentagon says
Here is what the report actually says:
Captured Iraqi documents have uncovered evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism, including a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist and Islamic terrorist organizations. While these documents do not reveal direct coordination and assistance between the Saddam regime and the al Qaeda network, they do indicate that Saddam was willing to use, albeit cautiously, operatives affiliated with al Qaeda as long as Saddam could have these terrorist-operatives monitored closely. Because Saddam’s security organizations and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network operated with similar aims (at least in the short term), considerable overlap was inevitable when monitoring, contacting, financing, and training the same outside groups. This created both the appearance of and, in some way, a “de facto” link between the organizations. 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. Though the execution of Iraqi terror plots was not always successful, evidence shows that Saddam’s use of terrorist tactics and his support for terrorist groups remained strong up until the collapse of the regime.
Conservatives detailing how strongly this report establishes links between Saddam and al Qaeda include:
- Hot Air‘s Ed Morrisey: “[O]one has to remember the purpose and structure of al-Qaeda. It is not a top-down hierarchical organization like the PLO. Rather, it serves as a framework for a web of affiliated terrorist organizations, both for funding and for inspiration. AQ’s leadership structure maintains communications and coordination with these groups, which often merge with and split into other organizations. The report itself tries to remind readers of this, and sees Saddam and Osama as using essentially the same network for the same ends, when their interests overlap.”
- New York Sun‘s Eli Lake: “The report also undercuts the claim made by many on the left and many at the CIA that Saddam, as a national socialist, was incapable of supporting or collaborating with the Islamist al Qaeda. The report concludes that instead Iraq’s relationship with Osama bin Laden’s organization was similar to the relationship between the rival Colombian cocaine cartels in the 1990s. Both were rivals in some sense for market share, but also allies when it came to expanding the size of the overall market.”
- The Corner‘s Andy McCarthy: “There is simply no doubt that there were serious ties between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda elements — most especially, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (run by al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, who merged formally EIJ into al Qaeda in 1998).”
Not mentioned in the report, but already available in the public domain is this 1999 report from CNN:
Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire accused by the United States of plotting bomb attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa, has left Afghanistan, Afghan sources said Saturday. … The report of his departure comes just days after the Taliban Islamic militia, which rules most of Afghanistan, took away his satellite telephone and banned bin Laden from speaking to the media. … Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.