Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Iraq Had Nothing to do with September 11 and Nobody in the Bush Administration Ever Said Otherwise

From Think Progress:
BUSH: The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

QUESTION: What did Iraq have to do with it?

BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attack on the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. Except it’s part of — and nobody has suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September 11th is take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody’s ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.
The "freedom agenda"? Let's ignore that one for now. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker takes issue with the President's assertion that "nobody's ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks":

That's technically true -- but distorts the truth. In fact, his administration has repeatedly asserted the falsehood that Saddam was somehow involved with the 9/11 attacks.

That's undeniable. As Josh noted back in November, Vice President Cheney did suggest on numerous occasions, most notably on Meet the Press in September 2002, that Iraq might have been involved in the attacks:
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I'm not here today to make a specific allegation that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9/11. I can't say that. On the other hand, since we did that interview, new information has come to light. And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the al-Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years. We've seen in connection with the hijackers, of course, Mohamed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center. The debates about, you know, was he there or wasn't he there, again, it's the intelligence business.

Mr. RUSSERT: What does the CIA say about that? Is it credible?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: It's credible. But, you know, I think a way to put it would be it's unconfirmed at this point. We've got...

Bill in Portland Maine documents more instances:

September 12, 2001-December 11, 2001:
We know from Richard Clarke's testimony and other sources that administration officials, including Bush himself, started asking the counterterrorism chief to find an Iraqi link to 9-11 from the day following the attacks. On December 11, 2001--- right around the time bin Laden began his escape, possibly the very day---Vice President Dick Cheney told FOX News, "If I were Saddam Hussein, I'd be thinking very carefully about the future, and I'd be looking very closely to see what happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan."
October 28-November 10, 2002:
Bush's comments about Saddam Hussein, each from a different speech:
"This is a person who has had contacts with al Qaeda."
"He's got connections with al Qaeda."
"This is a guy who has had connections with these shadowy terrorist networks."
"We know he's got ties with al Qaeda."
"We know that he's had connections with al Qaeda."
"He's had connections with shadowy terrorist networks like al Qaeda."
"We know that he has had contacts with terrorist networks like al Qaeda."
"This is a man who has had contacts with al Qaeda."
"This is a man who has had al Qaeda connections."
"He's had contacts with al Qaeda."
"This is a man who has got connections with al Qaeda."
December 17, 2003:
[T]he administration's attempts to tie Saddam to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11...worked so well that nearly 70 percent of Americans believed Saddam was "personally involved" in the attacks.

On March 21, two days after announcing the invasion, Bush wrote a letter to congressional leaders in which he said: "The use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001."
March 19, 2003:
U.S. President George W. Bush sent Congress a formal justification for invading Iraq Wednesday, citing the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
September 16, 2003:
Vice President Dick Cheney, anxious to defend the White House foreign policy amid ongoing violence in Iraq, stunned intelligence analysts and even members of his own administration this week by failing to dismiss a widely discredited claim: that Saddam Hussein might have played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
June 18, 2004:
President Bush yesterday defended his assertions that there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, putting him at odds with this week's finding of the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission. "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda [is] because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."
June 29, 2005:
-Bush slammed for Iraq link to 9/11-

August 21, 2006:
Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center.

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing!! [...] Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.
You don't say.
Well, if it's not 9/11 and it's not WMDs, then we still get to try out the "domino theory" of democracy for over two more years:
The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve the objectives and dreams which is a democratic society. That’s the strategy. The tactics — now — either you say yes it’s important we stay there and get it done or we leave. We’re not leaving so long as I’m the president. That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably you know terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we’ve abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror.
George W. Bush, Press Conference, August 21, 2006

Dan Froomkin points out that while Bush disowned one of his favorite justifications for his war, he shamelessly created a new one in almost the same breath, just in time for the midterm elections:
It's ironic that at the same press conference where President Bush flatly acknowledged that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, he was putting forth -- largely unchallenged -- a new and equally specious linkage between Iraq and terror.

Bush's new assertion -- and it is apparently going to be his central message in the run-up to the November elections -- is that pulling out of Iraq would embolden terrorists and lead them to strike here again.

It's a politically potent message, that's for sure. But the more you know about what's really going on in Iraq, the less sense it makes.

Most of the violence in Iraq today has little if anything to do with al-Qaeda or the global jihad; it involves rival Muslim sects killing each other and, all too often, American troops caught in the middle.

National security experts overwhelmingly see Iraq not as a killing zone for terrorists, but as an incubator -- both because the occupation arouses anti-American sentiment among many Muslims and because the current lawless violence makes for a perfect training ground in terror tactics.

Indeed, there's a powerful argument to be made that leaving Iraq would make the American public safer. It certainly would put an end to the horrible daily toll on Americans in uniform.
Now that the freedom agenda is on the march in Iraq, Sy Hersh reports on the plans for the war on the next Freedom Domino:
The Pentagon consultant told me that intelligence about Hezbollah and Iran is being mishandled by the White House the same way intelligence had been when, in 2002 and early 2003, the Administration was making the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. “The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top—at the insistence of the White House—and not being analyzed at all, or scarcely,” he said. “It’s an awful policy and violates all of the N.S.A.’s strictures, and if you complain about it you’re out,” he said. “Cheney had a strong hand in this.”
Sounds like deja vu all over again. Remember this one? Or this?

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