Saddam and al Qaeda

This article is getting wide play (for example, Barry Ritholtz emailed me about it although he hasn’t yet posted on it):

AP — 9/11 Panel Says Iraq Rebuffed Bin Laden

Bluntly contradicting the Bush administration, the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported Wednesday there was “no credible evidence” that Saddam Hussein (news – web sites) helped al-Qaida target the United States.

In a chilling report that sketched the history of Osama bin Laden (news – web sites)’s network, the commission said his far-flung training camps were “apparently quite good.” Terrorists-to-be were encouraged to “think creatively about ways to commit mass murder,” it added.

Bin Laden made overtures to Saddam for assistance, the commission said in the staff report, as he did with leaders in Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan (news – web sites) and elsewhere as he sought to build an Islamic army.

While Saddam dispatched a senior Iraqi intelligence official to Sudan to meet with bin Laden in 1994, the commission said it had not turned up evidence of a “collaborative relationship.”

The Bush administration has long claimed links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, and cited them as one reason for last year’s invasion of Iraq (news – web sites).

On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney (news – web sites) said in a speech that the Iraqi dictator “had long established ties with al-Qaida.”

As Steven Taylor observes in a lengthy post, however, this coverage ellides a rather important distinction between “ties with al Qaeda” and “helped al-Qaida target the United States.”

Update: I’m working on an expanded article on this topic for publication elsewhere. See Richard Miniter‘s piece for further discussion in the meantime.

UPDATE (6/18): The expanded version was published at TCS.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I also noticed the nuance: “ties to 9/11” versus “ties to Al Queda” are two different things. Is anyone disputing that Al Queda had bases in Iraq before the war or is operating in a big way there now?

  2. Catherine says:

    I would agree with Taylor as Saddam was letting in Al Quada members for medical help and meeting with them before and after 9/11. Whether or not Osama was rebuffed in 1994 seems irrelevent to me and it seems selective of the news media to focus on that one item rather than the whole. However, if they weren’t so selective, they wouldn’t have a story would they.

  3. Barry says:

    Director Mitch has noticed that Al Quada is operating in a big way now in Iraq. I wonder who let them in???

  4. McGehee says:

    Director Mitch has noticed that Al Quada is operating in a big way now in Iraq. I wonder who let them in???

    Considering that Salman Pak was an Al Qaeda terrorist training camp just outside Baghdad long before 9/11, and considering that Director Mitch’s comment refers to al Qaeda being in Iraq “before the war”, I’d say the answer would be Saddam.

    Was that the answer you were looking for, Barry?

  5. Bog says:

    Terrorists were training for sept 11 in the United States too, McGehee.

    Does that mean the US and/or Cheney have “long established ties with Al Qaueda” too?

    Proximity alone is apparently not much of a “connection”.