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Jewish World Review Feb. 5, 2003 / 3 Adar I, 5763

Seth Gitell

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Making the case that Saddam Hussein is linked with Al Qaeda | In a piece published in this week's New Yorker the magazine's Jeffrey Goldberg outlines a long line of recent intelligence breakdowns on the part of the CIA: the inability to detect India's intention to launch a nuclear device, the failure to understand Bin Laden's relationship to the Taliban, the complete refusal to understand the meaning of Bin Laden's fatwa against Americans.

Many of these failures stemmed not, primarily, from factual deficiencies -- although there were plenty of those -- but errors in interpretation. In other words, an inability to read the facts available in plain sight. Then he turns the focus to the central question -- whether the CIA was blind to the possibility that Iraq and Al Qaeda might work together because of a doctrinal unwillingness to believe that a secular enemy, Hussein, might work with a religious one, Bin Laden -- and details how the intelligence agency slowly began to accept it.

Goldberg reports the details of a clandestine meeting between Pentagon and CIA officials last August when the CIA began to rethink their hypothesis. CIA director George Tenet, meanwhile, began to reconsider his own position prompted by the transcripts of interviews from Al Qaeda prisoners.

Today, many in the government, including some in the CIA, according to the piece, have come to believe that Hussein and Bin Laden have had a tacit arrangement from as far back as a decade ago; that several Al Qaeda operatives have links to Iraqi intelligence; and that Hussein himself has a connection to Ansar al-Islam, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in the North of Iraq, a part of the country not under his direct control.

At this point, it's impossible to separate Goldberg's findings from the timing: the story ran just as Secretary of State Colin Powell is preparing to address the United Nations on today. It's easy to see why opponents of a war with Iraq would want to discredit Goldberg's piece on the grounds that it merely reflects the views of government officials, many of them speaking on background, who want to justify a war.

Maybe it does. That does not make his discoveries any less worthy of discussion. Plus, they may be besides the point. Since talk of war with Iraq began, I've been a member of the school that argues that America doesn't need to find a link between Hussein and 9/11 to take on Iraq. It may be there. It is serious. It should be investigated. But it's not necessary to make the case for war. My case, like President Bush's, whose problems communicating seem to hinder him from making the point clearly, rests on the likely probability that Hussein, the only leader to employ chemical weapons against both foreign and internal opponents and to launch missile attacks against a country with whom he was not at war, would use more dangerous weapons against us and our allies if he had the opportunity. Before September 11, 2001, many proclaimed the danger of Bin Laden, but nobody did anything. Likewise, the US has been aware of the danger of Hussein for years. To do nothing now would invite the same charges of negligence that arose after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

The Iraq danger has been hiding in plain sight. Still, Goldberg's findings deserve attention. If he is right that Iraq and Al Qaeda are actually in cahoots, then Iraq is the new Afghanistan. That would be just one other reason why war with Iraq is necessary.

JWR contributor Seth Gitell is the political writer of the Boston Phoenix Comment by clicking here.

01/31/03: Gen. Schwarzkopf is against going to war with Iraq. Since he messed things up so bad the first time around, why is anyone listening to him now?
01/24/03: Cynthia McKinney for president
01/16/03: The Sharpton test
01/13/03: Lieberman is in a pickle --- and it's becoming increasingly more sour
12/26/02: Where does the war on terror go from here?
12/23/02: Why democracy never came to Iraq after the last Gulf War
12/20/02: Vermont governor Howard Dean hopes to bridge the gulf between New England and the Western states, and bypass the socially conservative South. Should John Kerry be worried?
12/18/02: No Gore 2004: Follow the Money
12/06/02: Gore, like Dicken's Jacob Marley, Dead as a Door-nail
10/24/02: War with Iraq may not happen, after all
10/22/02: Winning European hearts and minds
10/18/02: Lieberman makes 'em laugh --- on purpose
10/04/02: Hawking an interpretation (in which Scott Ritter tells our columnist to 'go to H-LL!')
09/13/02: Bush Challenge to U.N. Members: Are You Better than League of Nations?
09/06/02: Iraq attack: Ritter's reversal
08/30/02: Stick with comedy, Jon Stewart
08/16/02: Green around the gills: Nader Effect could cost the Dems the election in three states
08/01/02: Gore's low profile is no accident
07/31/02: President Hillary? Despite her denials, candidacy is not that unlikely
07/26/02: On the road with John Kerry
07/17/02: Meet the 'Clinton' of the 2004 New Hampshire primary
07/12/02: Ancient rivalry: Williams vs. DiMaggio
07/10/02: Warrior spirit
05/08/02: Hosting a TV show will keep Clinton off the streets
04/26/02: Truth in advertising in SaudiLand --- and ours
02/28/02: Time for hipsters to do a reality-check

© 2002, Seth Gitell