So what's the connection? Last week Cheney said there was a 9/11 link, and Bush said there wasn't; Cheney, of course, has been going to the CIA briefings every day for ten years, but Bush is the President. On the other hand, Bush also said that al Qaeda links to Iraq were absolutely certain, so the picture gets confused.
The Bleat has this:
I mean, there�s this:I don't see any way that there could not have been links, given all we've seen. Certainly the Abu Nidal Organization ran out of Iraq all through the last ten years, and they're linked to al Qaeda. There have been persistent rumors of Qaeda/Saddam links around the Ansar al-Islam area. No evidence has emerged to the press of such links since the war--but then, the Ansar campaign was handled by USSOCOM combined with the CIA Special Operations Group, which means absolutely everything that they encountered was instantly classified. No embedded reporters got to see what they found.
Finally, what if any new evidence has emerged that bolsters the Bush administration's prewar case?
The answer to that last question is simple: lots. The CIA has confirmed, in interviews with detainees and informants it finds highly credible, that al Qaeda's Number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with Iraqi intelligence in Baghdad in 1992 and 1998. More disturbing, according to an administration official familiar with briefings the CIA has given President Bush, the Agency has "irrefutable evidence" that the Iraqi regime paid Zawahiri $300,000 in 1998, around the time his Islamic Jihad was merging with al Qaeda. "It's a lock," says this source. Other administration officials are a bit more circumspect, noting that the intelligence may have come from a single source. Still, four sources spread across the national security hierarchy have confirmed the payment.
The entire article is here, and it�s worth reading. It�s a summation of what the Administration alleged, what they didn�t use, and what they�ve learned since the war. Here�s another taste:
Farouk Hijazi, former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey and Saddam's longtime outreach agent to Islamic fundamentalists, has been captured. In his initial interrogations, Hijazi admitted meeting with senior al Qaeda leaders at Saddam's behest in 1994. According to administration officials familiar with his questioning, he has subsequently admitted additional contacts, including a meeting in late 1997. Hijazi continues to deny that he met with bin Laden on December 21, 1998, to offer the al Qaeda leader safe haven in Iraq. U.S. officials don't believe his denial.
For one thing, the meeting was reported in the press at the time. It also fits a pattern of contacts surrounding Operation Desert Fox, the series of missile strikes the Clinton administration launched at Iraq beginning December 16, 1998. The bombing ended 70 hours later, on December 19, 1998. Administration officials now believe Hijazi left for Afghanistan as the bombing ended and met with bin Laden two days later.
If you think it�s another steaming slice of facts from the Great Pie of Minced Prevarications, fine. But it�s a plausible piece, and if you�ve read it the lied-died meme seems particularly loathsome.