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The question of Iraq-al Qaeda "linkage"

Headlines are funny things. Casual readers of stories like this one might come away with a message approximating its headline: 9/11 Panel Disputes Iraq Link to Attacks. Stands to reason, right? The "no Iraq-al Qaeda link" has become a mantra of the antiwar crowd. Then, 20 paragraphs down (count 'em) we find this:

The commission report said that bin Laden, then in Sudan, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in 1994 to request space for al-Qaida training camps and assistance in obtaining weapons, "but Iraq apparently never responded." The meeting occurred even though bin Laden opposed Saddam's secular government and had sponsored anti-Saddam operatives in Iraq's Kurdish region.

Interesting. We have an admission that bin Laden himself met officially with agents of the Iraqi government in Sudan on at least one occasion. To my mind, that's significant in itself. It's brushed aside, however, with a breezy "but we have no evidence that it resulted in a formal alliance."

Granted, we have no evidence that Saddam was in any way involved in 9/11, but President Bush has been very forthright about that. But can we please, please dispense with this bogus "there is no link between Iraq and al Qaeda" meme once and for all? The exact nature and the full extent of the linkage are still open for debate, but the fact of its existence is not.


But don't you think that evidence of a request is pretty different from evidence of a response, affirmative or negative?


The extent of their relationship is not known, and it could well have amounted to little. Still, I think it's clear that we need to treat it as an open question, and not reflexively pooh-pooh any suggestion that Saddam and OBL might have had some operational relationship of convenience.

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