A Brief History of the al Qaida-Iraq Link Lies
Yesterday, FOX's Chris Wallace went after Carl Levin on Fox News Sunday. He was ostensibly questioning Levin about his position that Bush mislead Americans by linking Iraq and al Qaida. In fact, he was overtly arguing the Bush line, using a single piece of incomplete footage and then trying to bully Levin into agreeing he was mistaken. (Crooks and Liars has footage.) I'll leave aside, for the moment, the egregious departure from journalism this represents (though it's a rich vein to mine). Instead, let's just just replay the undoctored footage, straight from official White House archives (and sorry, this is a long post).
As Bush began selling the war (despite claims he "hadn't decided" whether to invade), he hedged his language on subjunctive verbs and juxtaposition. Reflecting, I assume, the weak intelligence.
The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. And there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. The regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material, could build one within a year. Iraq has already used weapons of mass death against -- against other countries and against her own citizens.Bush quickly started upping the ante. Language became more specific--one might even say legalistic. He continued coupling specific allegations with subjunctive hypotheticals, de rigueur for the sale of the war.
--Sept 26, 2002
We've already found confirmation that the Al Qaeda terrorists are pursuing weapons of mass destruction. At the same time there's a danger of terror groups joining together with the regimes that have or are seeking to build such weapons. In Iraq, we know that Saddam Hussein is pressing forward with these capabilities. He has used weapons of mass destruction both in his war against Iran and against his own people.
--October 2, 2002
We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy -- the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.Then comes what turns out to be a major rhetorical feature--a hypothetical scenario in which Saddam "launders" his WMD through terrorists, who deliver them "without fingerprints" (and presumably via Boeing) to your hometown.
Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
--October 7, 2002
It also changed our thinking when we began to realize that one of the most dangerous things that can happen in the modern era is for a deceiving dictator who has gassed his own people, who has weapons of mass destruction to team up with an organization like al Qaeda. As I said -- I was a little more diplomatic in my speech, but we need to -- we need to think about Saddam Hussein using al Qaeda to do his dirty work, to not leave fingerprints behind.Bush went on a series of stops in early November, repeating the same claims, in bullet point, about Iraq. In many cities across the country, Bush emphasized the "connection between al Qaida and Iraq." In a press conference, he slipped from the tele-prompted speech and used a different verb:
--October 14, 2002
And I also mentioned the fact that there is a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
We know he's got ties with al Qaeda. A nightmare scenario, of course, is that he becomes the arsenal for a terrorist network, where they could attack America and he'd leave no fingerprints behind. He is a problem.
--Nov 1, 2002
The man is a threat, Hutch, I'm telling you. He's a threat not only with what he has, he's a threat with what he's done. He's a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda.The White House backed off explicit language through the final part of 2002, reverting back to the guilt-by-association argument. Yet at the same time, another theme emerged--that Iraq was not a distraction from the war on terror, but was central in it.
--Nov 7, 2002
That is why confronting the threat posed by Iraq is not a distraction from the war on terror. It is absolutely crucial to winning the war on terror. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror. He is pressing forward with weapons of mass destruction -- weapons he's already used in his war against Iran and against his own people. His regime has had high-level contacts with al Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to al Qaeda terrorists.The new year brought a new wave of rhetoric in the war to sell America on the al Qaida-Iraq link. In order to create the appearance of hard intelligence, the White House started using more specific language--if not specific details. He also starts bringing in earlier rhetorial flourishes--the WMD laundering--to hit the emotional chord.
--Dick Cheney, Dec 2, 2002
He used weapons of mass destruction on his neighbors and he used weapons of mass destruction on his own citizens. He's a man who has professed hate to America, as well as our friends and allies. He's a man who has got terrorist ties, a man who helps train terrorists. He's a threat and he's a danger.
--Dec 3, 2002
By being tough and strong and united in the face of danger, we can bring peace to the world. I believe that. I believe that, by doing what we need to do to secure the world from terrorist attack, to rid tyrants of weapons of mass destruction, to make sure that somebody like Saddam Hussein doesn't serve as a training base or a provider of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist networks -- by doing our job, that the world will be more peaceful. By standing strong for what we believe, by remembering that freedom is not America's gift to the world, but God's gift to each and every human being that we can achieve peace.
--Dec 3, 2002 (later in the day)
And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.Colin Powell gave a speech on February 5 to the United Nations outlining the case for war. The White House and Powell hung their hat on this now mostly discredited pile of lies and misdirection. It included long section linking al Qaida and Iraq, including claims like these:
--State of the Union, January 28, 2003
His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us. And as the President said on Tuesday night, it would take just one vial, one canister, one crate to bring a day of horror to our nation unlike any we have ever known.
--Jan 30, 2003 (he used identical wording in a speech the following day)
He [Tony Blair] will also talk about al Qaeda links, links that really do portend a danger for America and for Great Britain, anybody else who loves freedom. As the Prime Minister says, the war on terror is not confined to just a shadowy terrorist network. The war on terror includes people who are willing to train and to equip organizations such as al Qaeda. See, the strategic view of America changed after September the 11th. We must deal with threats before they hurt the American people again. And as I have said repeatedly, Saddam Hussein would like nothing more than to use a terrorist network to attack and to kill and leave no fingerprints behind.
--Jan 31, 2003
But what I want to bring to your attention today is the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder....Following that speech, Bush started bringing in the "evidence" Powell offered and started marching to war.
These Al Qaida affiliates, based in Baghdad, now coordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for his network, and they've now been operating freely in the capital for more than eight months. Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with Al Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. Last year an Al Qaida associate bragged that the situation in Iraq was, quote, "good,'' that Baghdad could be transited quickly.
--Colin Powell, Feb 5, 2003
Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training. We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network, headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. The network runs a poison and explosive training center in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad. The head of this network traveled to Baghdad for medical treatment and stayed for months. Nearly two dozen associates joined him there and have been operating in Baghdad for more than eight months.The US invaded Iraq on March 19. That didn't stop the claims.
--Feb 6, 2003, the day following Colin Powell's speech
Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He harbors a senior al Qaeda leader who ordered the assassination of an American diplomat -- the same man who plotted against Spain and Italy in the Republic of Georgia, and Russia, and Great Britain, and France, and Germany.
--Feb 13, 2003
The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda. The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.
--March 17, 2003 (the "48-Hour Warning" speech)
The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.So to clarify, when Fox's Chris Wallace asserted that Bush "wasn't saying they were linked at all," he was a little off the mark. How is this different than when Dan Rather get canned for faking documentation? I remember now: Dan's documentation was fake, his point was accurate.
--May 1, 2003 - the "Mission Accomplished" speech
The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.
--June 17, 2004
Bush clearly claimed a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. He was lying then, and his surrogates--in the press and out--lie now when they claim he didn't.