Saddam Was an International Terrorist
Their argument, quite simply, is that since Saddam didn’t actually plan and execute the 9/11 attacks, deposing Saddam had nothing to do with fighting terror.
This view, of course, assumes there is no world wide jihadist movement, but only this or that terrorist group. Thus it’s OK (maybe) to fight the few particular terrorists who attacked America, but not our business to fight terrorism on any other front.
But there is such a movement, and Saddam was its supporter.
From Imprimis, some excerpts from an essay by Stephen F. Hayes on Saddam’s connections to terrorism.
For five years, beginning just days after the attacks on September 11, one question has dominated the national debate: Is Iraq part of the War on Terror or a distraction from it? This was debated prior to the 2002 elections, when Congress voted by heavy margins to authorize war. It was a central issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. And, in a sense, it was one of the primary issues in the recent congressional elections. And yet, as much as this is the fulcrum of the national debate on U.S. foreign and defense policy over the last half decade, few people have addressed it seriously.Hayes then goes on to discuss American intelligence failures, and proceeds to give examples of how Saddam’s government supported terrorists.
War opponents have taken to making claims that are demonstrably false. Representative Jack Murtha, a longtime hawk and leading critic of the Iraq War, appeared on Meet the Press last spring. He told Tim Russert: “There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went there. None. There was no connection with al Qaeda. There was no connection with terrorism in Iraq itself.” Before that, a Kerry campaign spokesman told us, “Iraq and terrorism had nothing to do with one another. Zero.” Network television anchors tell us the same thing. A high-profile Washington Post columnist described Iraq’s connections to terrorism as “fictive.” And on it goes.
On October 2, 2002, a young Filipino man rode his Honda motorcycle up a dusty road to a shanty strip mall just outside Camp Enrile Malagutay in Zamboanga City, Philippines. The camp was host to American troops stationed in the south of the country to train with Filipino soldiers fighting terrorists. The man parked his bike and began to examine its gas tank. Seconds later, the tank exploded, sending nails in all directions and killing the rider almost instantly.The fall of Saddam’s regime gave U.S. intelligence access to a treasure trove of documents -- the vast majority still not read and analyzed.
The blast damaged six nearby stores and ripped the front off of a café that doubled as a karaoke bar. The café was popular with American soldiers. And on this day, SFC Mark Wayne Jackson was killed there and a fellow soldier was severely wounded. Eyewitnesses immediately identified the bomber as a known Abu Sayyaf terrorist.
One week before the attack, Abu Sayyaf leaders had promised a campaign of terror directed at the “enemies of Islam”—Westerners and the non-Muslim Filipino majority. And one week after the attack, Abu Sayyaf attempted to strike again, this time with a bomb placed on the playground of the San Roque Elementary School. It did not detonate. Authorities recovered the cell phone that was to have set it off and analyzed incoming and outgoing calls.
As they might have expected, they discovered several calls to and from Abu Sayyaf leaders. But another call got their attention. Seventeen hours after the attack that took the life of SFC Jackson, the cell phone was used to place a call to a top official in the Iraqi embassy in Manila, Hisham Hussein. It was not Hussein’s only contact with Abu Sayyaf.
One Philippine government source told me: “He was surveilled, and we found out he was in contact with Abu Sayyaf and also pro-Iraqi demonstrators. [Philippine Intelligence] was able to monitor their cell phone calls. [Abu Sayyaf leaders] called him right after the bombing. They were always talking.”
A subsequent analysis of Iraqi embassy phone records by Philippine authorities showed that Hussein had been in regular contact with Abu Sayyaf leaders both before and after the attack that killed SFC Jackson. Andrea Domingo, immigration commissioner for the Philippines, said Hussein ran an “established network” of terrorists in the country. Hisham Hussein and two other Iraqi embassy employees were ordered out of the Philippines on February 14, 2003.
Interestingly, if the Iraqi regime had wanted to keep its support for Abu Sayyaf secret, the al Qaeda-linked group did not. Twice in two years, Abu Sayyaf leaders boasted about receiving funding from Iraq—the second time just two weeks after Hisham Hussein was expelled. The U.S. intelligence community discounted the claims.
Then there is the case of Abdul Rahman Yasin, an Iraqi who had come to the United States six months before the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In the days after the attack, Yasin was detained twice by the FBI. Although he offered investigators details of the plot, he was released on the assumption that he would be a cooperative witness. Released. Twice. The second time the FBI even drove him home. According to the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report, Yasin promptly “fled to Iraq with Iraqi assistance.” His travel was arranged by the second secretary of the Iraqi embassy in Amman, Jordan. In 1994, a reporter for ABC News went to the home of Yasin’s father in Baghdad and spoke with neighbors who reported that Yasin was free to come and go as he pleased and was “working for the government.” So an Iraqi participant in an al Qaeda attack on the U.S. mainland fled to Iraq—with Iraqi government assistance—after those attacks.
These are just two examples among hundreds of things that we knew about Iraq and terrorism before the war. And we knew these things despite the woeful state of our intelligence operations in Iraq. You might say these are things we learned almost by accident.
- In 1995, a senior Iraqi intelligence official met with Osama bin Laden. After the meeting, Saddam Hussein agreed to broadcast al Qaeda propaganda on Iraqi government-run television and to let the relationship develop through discussion and agreement.
- In 1998, a confidante of bin Laden visited Baghdad as a guest of the Iraqi regime, staying in the Iraqi capital for two weeks at government expense. The document corroborated telephone intercepts the U.S. government had not previously been able to understand.
- A fax from the Iraqi Embassy in the Philippines to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad, dated June 6, 2001, confirms that the Iraqi regime had been providing arms and weapons to Abu Sayyaf—the al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines responsible for the death of Mark Wayne Jackson.
- Iraqi financial records confirm that the government supported, harbored and financed Abdul Rahman Yasin, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, throughout the 1990s.
I’d like to finish with another paragraph from the “Iraqi Perspectives Project,” this one also based on a captured Iraqi document. I hope you’ll bear with me as I quote verbatim. As I read, I’d like you to think about the conventional wisdom, as articulated by Representative John Murtha and others, that until the U.S. invasion, Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism.Norman Podhoretz has called struggle against terror World War IV (World War III being the Cold War).The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime’s domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. In a document dated May 1999, Saddam’s older son, Uday, ordered preparations for “special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan].” Preparations for “Blessed July,” a regime-directed wave of “martyrdom” operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.
That’s the right way to look at it.
It’s not a battle against a few terrorists who happen to have attacked America on American soil. It’s a war against an international movement.
And Saddam was a supporter and enabler of that movement.