August 12, 2005

No, Iraq Had Nothing to do with 9/11 (Updated)

Scroll to end of post for update.

Is the 9/11 Report flawed? Yes. But that does not mean there was a conspiracy to keep information out of the report. It is the inherent nature of government reports, all government reports, to be flawed. If you don't want a flawed government report then you should not ask the government to report on anything.

Do the Able Danger revelations impeach the entire 9/11 Report so that nothing in the report should be believed? No. Of course not. It would be silly to have ever imagined that the report represented reality unbiased and unfiltered.

The 9/11 Report represents a consensus view on intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attrocities. Consensus views, by their very nature, are never complete and are never 100% accurate. They can't be. But the alternative to producing a consensus view is producing competing reports, each with their own set of biases, each with a different set of assumptions, and each with a different focus and emphasis.

So, when Captain Ed began speculating that there may actually have been operational ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, I was a bit taken aback. If I read him correctly, his reasoning is:

a) the CIA once believed there was an operational tie between Iraq and al Qaeda

b) the 9/11 Report disavows the notion that Iraq helped plan 9/11

c) because the 9/11 Report did not include the Able Danger information, allegedly because the information did not fit in with the Commission's pre-conceived notions, the 9/11 Report cannot be trusted

d) the Iraq-9/11 connection also did not fit in with that pre-conceived notion

e) therefore Iraq may have actually helped plan, in some way, 9/11, and the Commission may have intentionally left out evidence to the contrary in their final report

Here is what Ed basis his speculation--and to his credit, it is only speculation at this point--from a newspaper report that pre-dates 9/11 by six months:

Al-Watan al-Arabi (Paris) reports that two Iraqis were arrested in Germany, charged with spying for Baghdad. The arrests came in the wake of reports that Iraq was reorganizing the external branches of its intelligence service and that it had drawn up a plan to strike at US interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties.

They discovered the two Iraqi agents by chance and uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin. The matter was considered so important that a special team of CIA and FBI agents was sent to Germany to interrogate the two Iraqi spies.

The key word here is considered. The last time I checked, the CIA and every single other intelligence agency around the world once considered it a matter of fact that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. You remember, WMD? It turns out, though, with the clearer vision of hindsight and actually having people on the ground to inspect the situation that what the CIA once considered fact was wrong.

But the fact that the CIA once thought that Iraq was helping al Qaeda does not mean that Iraq, in fact, was actually helping al Qaeda. And the fact that Iraqi agents were somewhere in Germany at the same time as the Hamburg cell was there does little to help that claim--speculation, even though it is.

The 9/11 Report also explicitly states that there were links between al Qaeda and Iraq. It doesn't try to cover them up. It just doesn't claim that Iraq actually helped al Qaeda plan 9/11. Those early ties can be found on pg. 61 of the Report (see also footnotes 53-55). The ties between the two began as early as 1994. Those contacts continued off and on throughout the 1990s. The report then goes on to state, on pg. 66, that although there were meetings between al Qaeda leaders and Iraqi officials, there is no evidence to suggest that Iraq cooperated in planning the 9/11 attacks. (see also footnote 75).

Indeed, the Report does note on pg. 128 that both Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke--both the center of speculation as to who it may have been who refused to pass the Able Danger information on to the FBI--both once believed that Iraq and al Qaeda were working together in developing WMD and facilitating Sudanese production of chemical weapons. Of course, we now know that the CIA, Berger, and Clarke were wrong about the Shifa plant. We ended up bombing a factory wrongly identified as being a chemical weapons plant based on faulty intelligence.

Intelligence, as it turns out, is a messy business and is often way off the mark.

What's really interesting about the conversation Berger had with Clarke on pg. 128, is the fact that Berger believed there was an Iraq - al Qaeda WMD connection. I guess the Haliburton-Zionist-Neocon conspiracy goes all the way back to the Clinton administration, eh?

In fact, on pg. 134 we have an account of Berger urging President Clinton to bomb al Qaeda positions in Afghanistan but Clarke opposed this because he believed bin Laden might escape, take refuge, and be at the bidding of Saddam Hussein. Leftists moonbats are invited to read the account and then ponder the depths of the conspiracy ;-)

These facts really ought to be brought up next time your Chomsky reading friend tries to bring up Bush's order to Ramsey Clarke to find out if Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 on Sept. 12th (pg. 334) as evidence that Bush has always been out to invade Iraq, and just used 9/11 as justification.

The fact that it was believed at the highest levels of theh Clinton administration that Iraq was operationally involved with al Qaeda goes a long way in explaining why the CIA was so concerned about Iraqi intelligence officers found in Germany. They were right to suspect that Iraq was up to no good. Iraq was up to no good wherever they went.

More plausible speculative explanation as to why the Iraqis were in Germany might begin to be built on the Oil for Food Scandal, Iraqi efforts to undermine the sanctions regime (especially in a country such as Germany where Left-wing anti-sanctions activism was high), or in any other number of scenarios that we could imagine. Iraqis spies in Germany!?!? That's not exactly what I would call a shocking revelation.

In any event, why would the Commission discuss the alleged Atta meeting with Iraqi agents in Prague (pg. 228)--even going so far as to state the obvious that we cannot disprove that Atta was in Prague (pg. 229--and yet leave out intelligence information linking the Hamburg cell with Iraqi agents? Atta had returned to Germany in January of 2001 so it is possible that the Iraqi agents had been in country for that long and met with Atta, but anything is possible. It is possible that hundreds of Iraqi agents were in Germany that we just don't know about. The real question really should be is it probable that Iraq would somehow involve itself in planning an act as huge as 9/11 against the US? Not so much in my estimation.

The fact that the CIA, other foreign intelligence agencies, and high-ranking members of the Clinton and Bush Administration once believed that there were serious operational ties between Iraq and bin Laden's al Qaeda network does not mean that those beliefs were true. It is understandable, given the tidbits of information and the state of war that existed between the U.S. and Iraq (and al Qaeda, even though we were not generally aware we were at war with the Islamofascist group), that many would believed at one time that Iraq must have had something to with 9/11. To not investigate if such an operational link existed would have been dereliction of duty with the understanding that we had then.

But the limited understanding of the links between al Qaeda and Iraq that we had a few years ago have been somewhat clarified by time. It appears that al Qaeda was willing to make a truce with Iraq, and vice-versa. Such truces would be generally in character for other al Qaeda offers to come to a truce with Western countries that would pull their troops out of Islamic lands. These truces have been offered since long before 9/11 to Western powers to evacuate so that the Mujahidin could begin the important task of ridding Islamic countries of 'apostate regimes' and building the foundations of the future Calipahte.

But coming to a truce with Iraq is quite different than collaborating with Iraq.

Call it a preconceived notion, but I will need to see much more than what Captain Ed offers to change my mind to even begin speculating such and that the 9/11 Commission left such evidence out of the final report. A lot more.

UPDATE on Blog reactions:

I would remind Papadoc, at Pink Flamingo Bar and Grill, that Able Danger reports do not mean that somebody knew that 9/11 was coming down the pipe and that there is no reason to believe that the Bush Administration knew about Able Danger. Yes, governments are that big and, yes, governments are that compartmentalized.

I would also caution A Strata--and this caution is for the entire right side of the blogosphere-- that there did not need to be any one on the Commission who deliberately tried to silence the Able Danger information. Again, that's just the way govenment commissions are. They are messy affairs with tons of information. Some one screwed the pooch, yes.

The big story, in my mind, is not who in the 9/11 Commission chose not to include the Able Danger information. That is a little story.

The big story is who in the Clinton Administration decided to follow policy rather than doing the right thing and passing Atta's name from the DOD to the FBI? That is the story about how a bureaucrat could have inadvertently prevented 9/11, but chose instead to follow procedure.

Rick Moran, of Right Wing Nuthouse, is right that if Captain Ed's speculations turned out to be anything more than idle speculation based on almost no evidence--something I have done myself a time or three in the past, so I'm not saying blogs aren't an appropriate forum for spuculation of this sort (I'm always reminding my colleagues that this isn't a peer reviewed journal)---it would be quite the rejoinder to criticisms of the Iraq war. I highly, highly, highly doubt that though. Then again, I have been wrong in the past and expect to be wrong at some time in the fuutre.

Ace is, well, Ace is Ace.

And here's a free ping that has nothing to do with the above post to Basil, since I know he and Phin are both away in Vegas with far too few singles....

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UPDATE 8/13/05: Captain Ed and I have been going back and forth on this both in the comments section here and through e-mail. The jist of what Ed was saying was that in light of the Able Danger revelations, it is possible that the 9/11 Commission was predisposed to leave out certain bits of evidence that would run contrary to their findings. It is a good observation, one that I would agree with, but on the grounds that that is just par for the course in any type of research that has to sift through tons of data points.

Another valid point he makes is that his earlier post simply calls for an investigation into what the Iraqi agents were doing in Germany--with a bit of speculation thrown in their to boot. Fine by me. The 9/11 Commission Report is a flawed document just like all other government reports. It is not the final word on 9/11 and those that treat it as such fail to grasp the enormity of the task the Commission had under time constraints. I suspect the next twenty years will produce countless dissertations on the subject by Ph.D. candidates, each one contributing a new piece of information to the overall story of the attrocities that took place on that day.

One of the points that I made to Ed in an e-mail was regarding the validity of his source and his interpretation of the story. My objection was simply that an English synopsis of an Arabic newspaper in Germany may not be the most reliable source. Especially when that source claims the CIA was brought to Germany--something that I am sure they could not have known. My experience with Arabic papers is that any person wearing a business suit and working for the U.S. in any peripheral capacity can be accused of being a 'CIA Agent'.

Ed took up the challenge, and lo and behold, one of his army of readers was able to produce a corraborating account. So, according to MSM reports at the time, we have two Iraqi spies caught in Germany. The non-Arabic sources also mention nothing about the CIA or FBI getting involved and also nothing about a plot for Iraq to involve itself with fundamentalist Islamic terror groups to strike at US interests.

Ed is right that it would be nice to know what those Iraqi spies were doing in Germany. I second the motion. I'm not sure that such knowlege would have improved the 9/11 Report in any fundamental way, but it might have.

To imagine, though, that the fact that there were Iraqi agents in Germany somehow may be the missing link connecting Saddam Hussein to 9/11 is grasping at straws, in my opinion. Many of us on the right would like to believe that such a connection existed because we believe that that would somehow bolster support for the war. But the justness or unjustness of the Iraq invasion ultimately does not rest on whether or not the Baathist regime had anything to do with 9/11.

Further, the war we are fighting in Iraq now is a different war than the one we fought to overthrow the Hussein regime. It is not simply another phase of the same conflict, it is a different war. We are fighting different people and we now have different goals. In the invasion of Iraq we had the goal of toppling a hostile government that we had been at war with for a decade. Now, we are fighting Islamist jihadis engaged in a struggle to build a Taliban-like state in the vacuum created by the fall of the Baathists.

The second conflict is directly connected to 9/11. We do not need to look to a German Iraq-al Qaeda connection to see this, we simply need to look at the facts as they exist on the ground right now.

What is the name the jihadis have taken on themselves in Iraq? Al Qaeda. Who have they pledged their allegiance to? Osama bin Laden. The three main insurgent groups in Iraq (al Qaeda, Jaish Ansar al-Sunnah, and The Islamic Army in Iraq) all share the same general political philosophy as the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. All are part of the network of global jihad. They are our enemies and it they who we are fighting in Iraq today.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 03:34 PM | Comments |