Nov 17, 2003

PB Comment on Weekly Standard, Case Closed article

Greetings all. The Weekly Standard story is a more detailed presentation of a number of stories that have been out there for some time (some of which have long been discredited such as the Atta/Ani meeting in Prague.)The catalogue of al Qaeda-Iraqi meetings in Sudan is interesting in the sense that there are more details than we had known about hitherto, however this is certainly not news as much of this stuff came out in the embassy bombings trial.
Moreover some of the stuff that the Standard reports on fails the common sense test and indicates that the material comes from faulty intelligence. Take for instance the claim that bin Laden visited Baghdad in January 1998. That is obviously implausible. Bin Laden was the subject of intense US surveillance starting in '96 when the CIA started a special bin Laden task force. In March '97 bin Laden gave his CNN interview which was broadcast around the world on several occasions thereafter, and subsequently he was secretly indicted by the US govt. It's just not plausible that bin Laden would have slipped into Iraq unnoticed in Jan '98. He was already a very wanted man and a widely recognized person.
I could go on making a number of points about this material, but rather than boring you with those I'd like to make an important overall point.

--Even if you accept the dubious proposition that every claim in the Standard report is true there is NO evidence of Iraqi involvement in attacks against American targets such as 9/11, the Cole or the embassy bombings.(Even Bush himself has now conceded that there was no link beween Saddam and 9/11). In short al Qaeda officials may have met with Iraqi officials, (particularly when al Qaeda was based in the Sudan in the mid-90s) but there was no OUTCOMES from those meetings. As we know ourselves from our own working lives we have many meetings with many different people and it is only sometimes that actions result from those meetings. Al Qaeda officials met with a wide variety of Pakistani, Afghan, Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese officials at one time or another. The only governmental relationships that were important to al Qaeda were with the Sudanese from 91-96 and the Taliban from 96-2001.