Hussein's Terror Links Still Unproved
Published on Tuesday, December 23, 2003 by the Miami Herald
Hussein's Terror Links Still Unproved
by Joy-Ann Reid
 

In the 1989 movie Roger and Me, filmmaker Michael Moore travels home to Michigan to confront General Motors Chairman Roger Smith about what job-exporting GM is doing to the town of Flint. I recently had a ''Douglas and Me'' moment, with a real-life member of the Project for a New American Century.

It came on the second day of a three-day seminar at the University of Maryland for editorial writers and columnists on U.S. progress in the war on terror. We traveled to the Pentagon, where one of our briefings was with Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, one of the neoconservatives whispering in President Bush's ear.

Feith wrote the infamous Senate Intelligence Committee memo dredging up the discredited ''Atta in Prague'' theory of Saddam Hussein's supposed links to al-Qaida. I wanted to ask him whether Pat Buchanan had it right earlier this year when he said the Project members and their fellow travelers, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Bush administration advisor Richard Perle, had, after Sept. 11, 2001, served the president a ''pre-cooked meal'' involving the invasion of Iraq, with the attacks serving as a pretext to launch a war they had been pushing since the mid-1990s.

Recently, President Bush said he approved the operation to depose Hussein, because he ``will never forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001. Terrorists attacked us. They killed thousands of our fellow citizens. And it could happen again. And therefore I will deal with threats, threats that are emerging and real.''

By ''threats'' he meant Saddam Hussein -- the guy the U.S. Army just pulled out of a hole in the ground. For flourish, Bush added that creating ``a free and peaceful Iraq is part of protecting America.''

But since the administration launched the war based on weapons of mass destruction, not ''freedom and peace,'' shouldn't they have to explain how Iraq threatened us, even amid the afterglow of capturing the former Iraqi dictator?

Little evidence

After all, Hussein didn't attack us on Sept. 11 -- al Qaeda did. He apparently had no remaining WMD, and no nuclear capability. During the seminar, none of the experts -- including Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Feith and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Gambone -- could describe a link between Iraq and global terror.

The only evidence cited -- by Deputy Director for the War on Terror, Brig. General Vincent Brooks -- were Hussein's $25,000 payouts to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, whose target is the Israeli occupation, not the U.S., or the ``West.''

In fact, one former intelligence official said flatly that Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror.

And yet the linkage between Sept. 11 and Iraq keeps coming up.

Dismissal

So I asked Feith about the ''pre-cooked meal'' theory.

He dismissed it, saying ''lots of people'' were thinking about the Iraq threat before Sept. 11, including (drum roll) Bill Clinton. He then went right back to the Saddam=Sept. 11 playbook, saying that after the attacks, the administration focused on the nexus between terrorists' ''grand goal of bringing down the United States,'' and their state sponsors (who also happen to be WMD proliferators). It was, ''either change the way we live, or change the way the terrorists live.'' Unfortunately, Iraq hasn't proved to be much of a proliferator, and if Saddam had a grand plan to bring down the U.S., it didn't do him much good inside that spider hole.

But we have changed the way the terrorists live. They used to live in Afghanistan, now they live in Iraq.

Roger, I think I found the linkage.

Joy-Ann Reid (joyannreid@hotmail.com) is an online news editor and freelance writer.

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