Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Saddam and Osama? They were likethis!

The 9/11 panel has reiterated what we all already knew: Saddam Hussein had no connection to the World Trade Center Attack, and no real link to Osama Bin Laden beyond a cautious dance in which the two men (who didn't like each other but had a mutual foe) sounded each other out. Flirtation, of course, is not consummation.

Nevertheless, the right-wing press continues to tell Americans otherwise. Little Stevie Hayes, another hack hoping to hit the hackpot, has cobbled together "The Connection," a book which purports to prove that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were (as one of the cruder acquaintances of my youth would have put it) "butt buddies." The Hayes opus was published by those fine propagandists at Harper Collins, owned by -- you guessed it -- uncle Rupert. Since this book seems to be having an impact in conservative circles, I thought I'd share a few quotes from one knowledgeable reader's response, via Amazon:

For those of us who have reported on Al Qaeda's activities in Iraq and beyond, none of these allegations are new. In fact, most have been categorically disproven, which makes it amazing that HarperCollins wants to trade in what amount to lies... Al Qaeda made several overtures towards Iraq as it did to many other authoritarian regimes in the Islamic world. We knew that already and you need look no further than Iran to find a country that is NOW aiding and abetting Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda's idea in contacting Saddam was to feel him out on the idea of working against a common enemy -- the USA. Iraq never took the bait though, nor did Al Qaeda think its initial overtures worth pursuing in the long run. Indeed, Saddam Hussein, as anyone who has spent time in Iraq knows, was bent on persecuting, imprisoning and torturing the Salafist/Fundamentalist crowd that backed bin Laden. The facts support this -- just ask the Salafists on the Tigris River. This fundamentalist gang was elated when US forces finally took Saddam into custody so that they could then seize control of the insurgency. Lest we forget, Saddam Hussein ran a secular regime that tried to use (manipulate) Islam to its advantage, but Saddam himself was terrified of bin Laden's brand of fanaticism. That doesn't mean his intell (Mukhabarat) people didn't try to find out more about it, of course...
Nevertheless, the Bush White House continues to push the Big Lie, as this excerpt from proves:

In a speech to the conservative Madison Institute in Orlando on Monday, Cheney called Hussein ''a patron of terrorism" and said ''he had long established ties with Al Qaeda."

An April poll by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 57 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Iraq was helping Al Qaeda before the war, including 20 percent who believed Iraq was linked to the Sept. 11 attacks.

However, a former top weapons inspector said yesterday he and other investigators have not found evidence of a Hussein-Al Qaeda link.

''At various times Al Qaeda people came through Baghdad and in some cases resided there," said David Kay, former head of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, which searched for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorism. ''But we simply did not find any evidence of extensive links with Al Qaeda, or for that matter any real links at all."

''Cheney's speech is evidence-free," Kay said. ''It is an assertion, but doesn't say why we should be believe this now."
I'll add one point, because it's a bit of history most people tend to forget: Barely a week after the World Trade Center attacks, CBS News published a poll of Americans as to whom they blamed for the tragedy. A mere three percent pointed the finger toward Saddam Hussein. The vast majority correctly understood that the villains were Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network.

The misperception of a mere three percent metastisized into a majority opinion by 2003. Such is the power of officially-sanctioned propaganda.

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