Bin Ladin & Iraq in the 9/11 Report

Any time I hear a war critic referencing the 9/11 Commission’s report as evidence decisively debunking the claims of the Bush administration I know one thing immediately–they’ve never actually READ the Report, they’ve only heard about the parts that got the biggest cheers on the Daily Kos. A couple of excerpts y’all might have missed are below. Basics: there was one hell of a lot of substantiated contact between Bin Ladin and Iraq. As is always the case with intel, for every one sliver of information that is gathered and assimilated there are a thousand that remain, as they are designed to remain, undiscovered. What we have below is easily enough slivers to establish that there were fairly regular efforts at collaboration between Bin Ladin and Baghdad. Which–in case it has to be pointed out–explodes one of the articles of faith among Bush-haters, Habermasians, and most members of the Democratic Party.

From Page 61:

Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda — save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against ‘Crusaders’ during the Gulf War of 1991…With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to his request. … [T]he ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish common connections.

Page 66 (more striking):

In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large are attacks in December.

Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occured in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides’ hatred of the United States. …



  1. Page 61 is a bit of a damp squib, you’ve got to admit. So < HREF="" REL="nofollow">let’s take a look at p.66<>. You missed out the last two sentences of that paragraph:“But to date we have seen <>no evidence<> that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a <>collaborative operational relationship.<> Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”I’m not saying that these contacts did not occur, and as you point out, any suggestion to the contrary is less than honest. But, in my mind one would need evidence of a “collaborative relationship” to say Iraq and Al-Qaeda were truly in bed together beyond meeting for a cup of sweet tea and falafel now and again.


  2. (A) It is treated as received knowledge by war critics that the notion that there could have/would have/might have been ANY contact between OBL and Iraq is a pure fiction invented by the Bush admin. Pgs 61 and 66 make it clear that such a relationship was both contemplated and acted upon.(B) “..two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin.” These are not meetings for falafel and tea, Ronan. And the fact that there has been no evidence uncovered that these meetings produced a “direct operational relationship” doesn’t tell us much. What is clear is that there were discussions about exactly that sort of a relationship. And the conclusions of any such conversation would have been concealed with the utmost care. American intel can uncover the FACT of the meetings from any number of directions. The content and operational outcomes of the meetings are meant to be hidden–but the fact that they occurred tells us that two anti-American entities traditional hostile to each other went to great trouble to meet for SOMETHING. And it wasn’t falafel and mint tea.


  3. And it should also be pointed out–the Bush admin never, ever, not once, in any situation claimed that there was a evidence of a “direct operational relationship” between Iraq and AQ. But judging from this Report they might have actually claimed less than they could have.


  4. Professor,I will try not to be partisan on this one. I AGREE with your main point, that a shrill dismissal of any Iraq-Al Qaeda linkage is dishonest.So, I agree with you on (A), but don’t ignore the fact that there is a lot of “may have” and “reportedly” in the report. It’s not a slam dunk (but, yes, it’s also not pie-in-the-sky either). On (B), yeah “falafel and tea” is just Ronanese. I can’t help it. What I’m trying to say is that if these people were meeting in <>1999<> to establish a serious operational relationship it ought to give one pause as to why no such relationship had been established by <>2001.<>I sincerely believe that we should only go to war when there is a clear and present danger.* This report, IMO, simply does not make that case. As to your last comment, I think if one trawled the statements coming out of the White House before the war, you would probably be right. But I’m not sure there was a massive effort either to prevent the erroneous impression among some Americans that Iraq and 9/11 were somehow linked.But do you know what I really think? We’re at war now and we’ve got to win. Can we move on? (And the Dems MUST move on and present a strong and coherent war strategy or they’re doomed. Just as well I’m not a Dem then!)*Please say that in a Harrison Ford voice.


  5. <>I AGREE with your main point, that a shrill dismissal of any Iraq-Al Qaeda linkage is dishonest.<>Anyone with any understanding of the middle east immediately recognized that the proposed link between Saddam’s Baathists and Al Qaeda was extremely unlikely. A secular dictator and bunch of militant Wahhabis aren’t going to be allies- it’s really as simple as that. All this garbage your pouring over in the commission report is irrelevant. Remember all the reams of info gathered by the US and Britain clearly showing that Saddam had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction? Remember it turned out to be utter hooey? Why do you have any faith in the intellegence gathered on Iraq given this abysmal record? Learn a bit about the region and use your common sense- the answer will be pretty obvious.


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