Sunday, August 22, 2004

Book Review: The Connection

By Matt Hurley for the TIB Network:

The Connection by Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard provides a compelling account of the connections between Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime and Usama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. Mr. Hayes' argument is that the mainstream media and Democratic politicans who say there was no connection between these two unlikely allies are wrong. The evidence is overwhelming and convincing that Mr. Hayes is correct in asserting that there in fact were connections.

Rather than get bogged down in the details; let's highlight two main points, the first from page 83:
According to a CIA senior executive memorandum dated September 13, 2002, "the most credible information" available to U.S. intelligence on bin Laden's contacts with Iraq came from a man referred to only as "the 1996 source," whom the CIA believes may have been a member of bin Laden's security detail or one of his drivers. The source apparently did not attend the substantive parts of bin Laden's meetings and was not in his inner circle. But a summary of the reporting from this source included in the Feith memo asserts that "the information and level of detail is so specific that this source's reports read almost like a diary. Specific dates of when bin Laden flew to various cities are included, as well as names of individuals he met."

Among those individuals was a top Iraqi explosives expert and his boss, the head of Iraqi intelligence. The reporting on those meetings, as related in the Pentagon's memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee, comes from a "well-placed source."

"Bin Laden was receiving training on bomb making from the IIS's [Iraqi Intelligence Service's] principal technical expert on making sophisticated explosives, Brigadier Salim al Ahmed."
This is just one of many connections that Mr. Hayes brings to the table. And while the sourcing of the information is murky at best (you get that with intelligence), the information appears credible and reliable.

Mr. Hayes account of Zarqawi's relationship with Iraq is the clincher for me. Here is a top al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan who gets hurt in the fight with US forces and is received in Baghdad with open arms, medical facilities, and a base of operations.

In addition to connections with al Qaeda specifically, Hayes makes a case against Saddam's Iraq for connections with terrorists in general. Saddam's support of Hamas is well known. The number of terrorists that Saddam has provided haven for reads like a Who's Who list. Which brings us to a point that Mr. Hayes makes in the epilogue:
If policy makers and everyday American citizens are to accurately evaluate threats in the post 9/11 age, they must understand the risks posed by terrorists. There will - and should be - different views about what levels of risk require action. But, ultimately, policy makers must make difficult decisions, often based on imperfect information, about how and when to act to best protect the country.

The Bush administration tells us that the Iraq War was central to the Global War on Terror. Its critics call the Iraq War a distraction.

The disagreement is a fundamental one. The Bush administration advocates a policy of preemption that calls for targeting terrorists and the regimes that support them, with the goal of eliminating threats before they are imminent. Their opponents disagree.

The central question, then, is this: Would it have been possible to wage a serious Global War on Terror leaving the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in power? To answer it, we must consider what we knew before September 11 and what we knew before the Iraq War.
Stephen is absolutely right. The problem is that in an election year, these things get politicized. The best interests of the nation aren't always what polls well with certain constituencies and the parties will always act accordingly. That is just the nature of modern era American politics.

We must each answer Mr. Hayes' question for ourselves, but we must do so with the most accurate information possible. For that, we can not rely on the mainstream media, our politicians, or even Mr. Hayes. The best we can do is read The Connection with an amount of skepticism and check out the facts for ourselves.

I received an email awhile back from a liberal blog reader that apparently there was a major flaw in the research for the book. However, I have been unable to independantly verify this reader's claims. Apparently a name mentioned in the book (and the reader didn't supply the name) was similar to someone else and, as the story goes, Stephen made a mistake. When asked if this reader had read the book, he said no he hadn't; so I took it with a grain of salt and tried to verify his claims anyway. If anyone can shed light on this issue, please email me or leave a comment.

I recommend The Connection to all WMD readers as it is a valubale resource for understanding Saddam's connections to terrorism and provides all the justification needed for Iraq's inclusion in the Global War on Terror.

John Kerry Delenda Est!