The Carpetbagger Report
May 3, 2008

As was widely reported in March, the Pentagon completed a report on non-existent ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime, the culmination of an exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion. Not surprisingly, officials discovered what we already knew — there was no “direct operational link” between Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion.

And then there’s Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, who doesn’t much care what the evidence says.

Before getting into what Kyl said yesterday, keep one thing in mind — this is same guy Senate Republicans picked to be the chairman of a panel on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security. He’s also the Senate Minority Whip, making him the #2 Republican in the chamber. Presumably, Kyl would have at least some clue about current events.

But Kyl seems determined to prove otherwise. This week, the WaPo ran an item that noted, in passing, the absence of ties between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda. Kyl took it upon himself to respond with a letter to the editor. (via TP)

In 2002, then-CIA Director George Tenet wrote in a letter to Bob Graham (D-Fla.), then chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, that “our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qa’ida is evolving” and “we have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa’ida going back a decade.”

A March 2008 report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command included information about the relationship between Hussein and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s second in command: “Saddam supported groups either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda’s stated goals and objectives.”

Critics of the war in Iraq often try to minimize — if not dismiss — the links between Saddam Hussein and terrorists. As they say, facts are stubborn things.

Yes, facts are stubborn things, which is probably why Kyl shouldn’t embarrass himself by getting the facts wrong. The Pentagon just reported on reality, for crying out loud.

Indeed, Ben at TP broke down Kyl’s fairly brief letter and noticed the diminishing returns as the text unfolded.

In his letter, Kyl’s Saddam-Al-Qaeda relationship theory gradually weakened as he explained the evidence. First Saddam and Al-Qaeda were directly linked, then they shared associates, then they merely shared goals and objectives, and finally, Saddam was linked just to “terrorists” in general.

Good point. Kyl is foolish enough to make a ridiculous argument, and sloppy enough to change his premise mid-way through a short letter.

It’s more than a little discouraging that the #2 Republican in the Senate, and ranking member on a Senate subcommittee on terrorism, doesn’t understand the basics. It’s also another reminder why it’s so difficult to take congressional Republicans seriously on matters of policy.

Saddam did have ties to terrorism. That’s true, and no one has suggested otherwise. Saddam was a brutal thug with a bloody and vicious agenda, but he wasn’t connected to 9/11 and he wasn’t in league with al Qaeda. Kyl may find this inconvenient, but to borrow a phrase, facts are stubborn things.

What’s more, as ABC News reported, Saddam’s support for terrorism was rather specific — and not targeted at the U.S.

The report says Saddam’s bureaucrats carefully recorded the regime’s connections to Palestinian terrorists groups and its financial support for the families of suicide bombers.

The primary target, however, of Saddam’s terror activities was not the United States, and not Israel. “The predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq.” Saddam’s primary aim was self preservation and the elimination of potential internal threats to his power.

But Kyl apparently doesn’t care. Typical.

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