From the Christian Science Monitor, March, 2003:
WASHINGTON In his prime-time press conference last week, which focused almost solely on Iraq, President Bush mentioned Sept. 11 eight times. He referred to Saddam Hussein many more times than that, often in the same breath with Sept. 11.
Bush never pinned blame for the attacks directly on the Iraqi president. Still, the overall effect was to reinforce an impression that persists among much of the American public: that the Iraqi dictator did play a direct role in the attacks. A New York Times/CBS poll this week shows that 45 percent of Americans believe Mr. Hussein was “personally involved” in Sept. 11, about the same figure as a month ago.
Sources knowledgeable about US intelligence say there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda. Yet the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein’s regime.
“The administration has succeeded in creating a sense that there is some connection [between Sept. 11 and Saddam Hussein],” says Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.
Polling data show that right after Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans were asked open-ended questions about who was behind the attacks, only 3 percent mentioned Iraq or Hussein. But by January of this year, attitudes had been transformed. In a Knight Ridder poll, 44 percent of Americans reported that either “most” or “some” of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens. The answer is zero.
According to Mr. Kull of PIPA, there is a strong correlation between those who see the Sept. 11-Iraq connection and those who support going to war.
In Selma, Ala., firefighter Thomas Wilson supports going to war with Iraq, and brings up Sept. 11 himself, saying we don’t know who’s already here in the US waiting to attack. When asked what that has to do with Iraq, he replies: “They’re all in it together – all of them hate this country.” The reason: “prosperity.”
Now, of course, we have yet to find any linkage between al Qaeda and Iraq apart from whatever may be happening there today as a result of our invasion and the idea that Saddam and Osama conspired together on the 9/11 attacks is dismissed by pretty much everybody. So certainly the administration has quietly dropped this blatantly dishonest propaganda point, yes?
Well, no. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by Paul Wolfowitz, which concluded:
Not long ago, a woman named Christy Ferer traveled to Iraq along with the USO. She’d lost her husband Neil Levin at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, and she wanted to say thank you to the troops in Baghdad. She wrote a wonderful piece about her trip, and in it, she wondered why our soldiers would want to see her, when they could see the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, movie stars and a model. When the soldiers heard that a trio of Sept. 11 family members were there, she found out why.
Young men and women from across America rushed to the trio, eager to touch them and talk to them. One soldier, a mother of two, told Christy she’d enlisted because of Sept. 11. Another soldier displayed the metal bracelet he wore, engraved with the name of a victim of 9/11. Others came forward with memorabilia from the World Trade Center they carried with them into Baghdad. And when it was Christy’s turn to present Gen. Tommy Franks with a piece of steel recovered from the Trade Towers, she saw this great soldier’s eyes well up with tears. Then, she watched as they streamed down his face on center stage before 4,000 troops.
To those who think the battle in Iraq is a distraction from the global war against terrorism . . . tell that to our troops.
The alert reader will note the triumph of emotionalism over substance: the grieving 9/11 widow thanking the brave soldiers who themselves are carrying mementos mori from that terrible day, the strong general standing before his troops, unashamed of his tears.
What more evidence do you need?
On a related note, from the NY Times this morning, the story of a woman who has embraced a Sisyphean burden:
HUDSON, Fla., Aug. 29 Not long after President Bush declared an end to the major fighting in Iraq, Jessica Porter hatched an ambitious plan: She would make a quilt for every family of an American soldier who had died in the war. There were about 150 back then, and Jessica, a resolute 19-year-old, had no doubt that she and a few friends could get the job done.
Miss Porter has been sewing until her hands ache, but she is not nearly fast enough to keep up with the death toll. Troop fatalities have climbed all summer, and this week the number of soldier deaths after May 1, when Mr. Bush said the significant combat was over, surpassed the 138 who were killed fighting the war. Yet Miss Porter has not given up, just as she has not soured on the dangerous, indefinite occupation of Iraq.
“We have to stay there as long as it takes and take care of it once and for all,” said Miss Porter, who shares a house in this town north of Tampa with her parents and small mountains of fabric. “No one wants another Sept. 11.” (Emphasis added)
Meanwhile and you’ll have to excuse the length of this post but all of these items seem intertwined to me there’s this little bombshell from the current Time magazine describing what happened during the interrogation of terrorist Abu Zubaydah:
Posner elaborates in startling detail how U.S. interrogators used drugs an unnamed “quick-on, quick-off” painkiller and Sodium Pentothal, the old movie truth serum in a chemical version of reward and punishment to make Zubaydah talk. When questioning stalled, according to Posner, cia men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where “two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces,” pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.
Yet when Zubaydah was confronted by the false Saudis, writes Posner, “his reaction was not fear, but utter relief.” Happy to see them, he reeled off telephone numbers for a senior member of the royal family who would, said Zubaydah, “tell you what to do.” The man at the other end would be Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a Westernized nephew of King Fahd’s and a publisher better known as a racehorse owner. His horse War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002. To the amazement of the U.S., the numbers proved valid. When the fake inquisitors accused Zubaydah of lying, he responded with a 10-minute monologue laying out the Saudi-Pakistani-bin Laden triangle.
Zubaydah, writes Posner, said the Saudi connection ran through Prince Turki al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, the kingdom’s longtime intelligence chief. Zubaydah said bin Laden “personally” told him of a 1991 meeting at which Turki agreed to let bin Laden leave Saudi Arabia and to provide him with secret funds as long as al-Qaeda refrained from promoting jihad in the kingdom. The Pakistani contact, high-ranking air force officer Mushaf Ali Mir, entered the equation, Zubaydah said, at a 1996 meeting in Pakistan also attended by Zubaydah. Bin Laden struck a deal with Mir, then in the military but tied closely to Islamists in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (isi), to get protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda. Zubaydah told interrogators bin Laden said the arrangement was “blessed by the Saudis.”
Zubaydah said he attended a third meeting in Kandahar in 1998 with Turki, senior isi agents and Taliban officials. There Turki promised, writes Posner, that “more Saudi aid would flow to the Taliban, and the Saudis would never ask for bin Laden’s extradition, so long as al-Qaeda kept its long-standing promise to direct fundamentalism away from the kingdom.” In Posner’s stark judgment, the Saudis “effectively had (bin Laden) on their payroll since the start of the decade.” Zubaydah told the interrogators that the Saudis regularly sent the funds through three royal-prince intermediaries he named.
The last eight paragraphs of the book set up a final startling development. Those three Saudi princes all perished within days of one another.
I’ve made the comparison before, but the war in Iraq is looking more and more like the old joke about the drunk who loses his keys in the dark alley but chooses to look for them under the streetlamp because, well, “the light’s better here, officer.”