August 7, 2008
The White House has categorically denied that it ordered the CIA to forge evidence that Saddam Hussein was conspiring with al-Qaida, a charge made by journalist Ron Suskind in his new book The Way of the World. The credibility of the Bush press office is such that one is tempted to take it as confirmation.
There is an old joke about the guy who claimed he could tell when Henry Kissinger was lying, and when tested had a 100% success rate. When asked his secret, he says: “His lips were moving.”
In the great tradition of White House weaselling, in part revealed by Scott McClellan’s book, one notes that there is no denial that the so-called evidence was a forgery, and a very tightly specific repudiation of the White House’s role that actually leaves ten thousand several other ways for forgeries to make their entrances. Indeed, in the light of Suskind’s descriptions of Dick Cheney’s hard work on providing deniability, the vice-president’s office is one such.
One question asked in the language of another expansive militarist empire is “Cui bono?” Who would benefit from such a forgery? It is clear that the allegations of an al-Qaida connection, like the equally spurious Niger yellowcake document, were intended to justify the war. Suskind’s book should not be shocking to anyone.
Like Hitler’s Gleiwitz attack, and the Tonkin Gulf incident, the carefully fed suggestions of Iraqi involvement in the 9/11 attacks were crucial to getting public and political support for war. That was what made the spurious WMDs so threatening. Washington Post polls showed that 70% of the American public bought the al-Qaida connection, and indeed many of the troops apparently still do.
But there were no proven, or even likely ties between al-Qaida and Saddam. Let us do the “just the facts” thing before the inevitable ad-hominem attacks on Suskind drive out his message. The Ba’athists were secular nationalists until Saddam became expediently pious after the first Gulf war. In addition, at no point did Saddam’s regime allow any Islamist organisations to threaten his monopoly of political power. It was with mixed shock and amusement that I read Iraq’s answer to the UN anti-terrorism committee’s questionnaire, where the regime proved its impeccable credentials by citing its use of the death penalty for any remotely terrorist-linked offence.
The only connection is that the invasion let al-Qaida and sundry other fundamentalists into Iraq, and Saddam’s viciously efficient secret police were no longer in a position to deal with them.