Monday, January 16, 2006

Saddam and Terrorists

American Future is among the pro-Iraqi Freedom blogs who picked up on the Weekly Standard's revelation about a trove of captured documents that details Saddam Hussein's long interest and active role in training terrorists, including some North African groups allied to al-Qaida.

THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.

The startling fact is that so few of these documents have even been translated, much less analyzed. Some people take that as evidence that there's not much in them that really backs up a Saddam-al Qaida link. The "Weekly Standard's" article also has that "I can't quote them but I saw them with my own eyes" feeling, which perhaps has made some people wary. My journalistic sense is that that is more a matter of things the writer knows but cannot say on the record than a leap across lack of information.

The suggested reason for the Bush Administration's lack of interest in disseminating this stuff is that the documents will be cherry-picked by the press for material damaging to the White House. What a lame excuse, if it's true. And how typical. This is the administration that couldn't manage to defend itself, despite an arsenal of supporting evidence -- Duelfer, Senate, Lord Butler -- against the childish charge it "lied" about Saddam's overtures to Niger about buying uranium. To this day, probably a majority of people -- certainly a unanimity of the Bush Derangement Syndrome people -- believes Saddam never approached Niger or that no valid intelligence documents before 2003 indicated he had.

They are wrong.

But it doesn't matter. It's too late. The administration let the slander be carved in stone, and now we'll have to wait a generation for historians to begin to undo it.

As for any forthcoming revelation about Saddam and terrorists, it, too, is likely to be irrelevant unless you can prove he personally issued the boarding pass to Muhammad Atta. If the administration won't fight for its reputation, the opinion-forming media will never bother with this stuff on its own. And thus most people never will see it.

Because the whole matter has been pre-emted by anti-war and anti-administration voices who have consistently, for three years now, distorted the administration's pre-war arguments into an absurdly reduced form: "Saddam was an imminent threat to use WMD on America. Saddam was responsible for 9/11." So unless any new information actually proves the thing that nobody claimed, it won't be regarded as relevant in this fairy-tale world.

When I put up a post linking to the "Weekly Standard" article on the supposedly centrist "Donklephant" site, the reactions ran toward this example:

Bush still lied about Iraq having WMD. Almost every Arab country had some ties with Al Quaida. Iran and Syria far more so than Iraq. Who cares. We were told Iraq was an imminent threat and had WMD’s. The fake Niger uranium reports, etc. Bush lied about intelligence and cherry picked only the miniscule amount of intel that supported the false story that he wanted to weave.

Emphasis added. The maggot of "Bush Lied" has burrowed so deep in so many people's brains, they can't be helped. People who know nothing about how espionage works, or even what "lie" means anymore. I was told reporting this was "propaganda," and that it was "Strike 2" against me. Whatever, tool.

The Bush Administration can go its own way. If it wants to ignore that stack of documents that might exonerate it in the public's eye, I can't hope to change its mind. It's more evident than ever that the problem up there in the White House with regard to world affairs is not too many neo-cons, as the antis insist, but too few. Too many people who just wanted to pitch Saddam out his palace window and had no commitment to doing anything about the ensuing mess and no sense of urgency about it.

So, they can go to hell. They always could. Ever since the first bungling of Fallujah in April 2004. If the Bush White House wishes to go down in history as the most feckless U.S. administration since Franklin Pierce, that's its prerogative. But those of us who backed the overthrow of Saddam for reasons of our own. some of which the administration claimed to share, still have a point of pride to make in this. It was the right thing to do, for so many reasons. Even if most of what's happened since, on the political level, has been mortally embarrassing. It ought to have been the great, defining American moment of my lifetime instead of a botched hit job.

Where to turn now? Well, absent a third way, here I still stand. There are worse things than Franklin Pierce. To twist a quip from Golda Mier, I don't hate the Democrats for what they believe; I hate them because they forced me to actually vote for this man Bush.