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That Iraq-terror link issue again

U.S.-based libertarian blogger Jim Henley is none too impressed with the latest story in the Weekly Standard by one of its correspondents, Stephen F. Hayes, to the effect that there are loads of documents proving that Saddam’s Iraq trained thousands of Islamic terrorists. Hayes has been mining this particular seam for years. He recently published a book focusing on the alleged terror link to Saddam.

I am not quite as skeptical as Henley is about the credibility of what Hayes says(Jim does a great line in snarkiness). At the very least, if Hayes is half right, then it does rather undermine one of the standard tropes of the opponents of the war: Saddam was not in cahoots with radical Islamic terror, no way, nothing to look at here folks, etc. In any event, it would be good if all the documents that Hayes talks about could be put into the public domain so we can nail down this controversy once and for all.

10 comments to That Iraq-terror link issue again

  • ATM

    I think it unlikely that Saddam trained Islamist terrorists in Iraq, simply because that increases the risk of detection. I do think Saddam dropped a pile of money on al Qaeda through various channels because that is the easiest thing to do covertly. al Qaeda’s short term goals coincide perfectly with Saddam’s short term goals: US out of ME and the resulting end of containment of Iraq. Saddam was spreading money around the Middle East, Europe and UN and, bribing politicians, officials and journalists. He was giving money to indirectly support the actions of Palestinian terrorists to curry favor in the Arab world. None of these things would make the US (or UK) budge on containment. The only thing that would be terrorist strikes linked heavily to the issue of containment of Iraq. How convenient for Saddam that al Qaeda put out a manifesto citing containment policies as grievances justifying attacks againt the US!

  • Edward

    Don’t forget that bin Laden himself called for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, along with all other secular leaders in the middle east.

    If Saddam was to give a donation to al Qaeda, how could he know it wouldn’t be used directly against himself? By all accounts he was a shrewd son of a bitch, unlikely to place trust in a group he couldn’t control.

    So I think it unlikely that they’d have a financial relationship. If any hard evidence turns up to the contrary, I’m all ears. But no one has shown any so far.

  • Jake


    “I think it unlikely that Saddam trained Islamist terrorists in Iraq, simply because that increases the risk of detection”

    Iraq is 346,023 sq km in size, the UK is 241,590 sq km. Are you saying the UK could train 1,000 people a year somewhere in the UK and everyone would know about it?

  • Jake

    These are documented contacts between Iraq and Al Qaida from sources other than the US government

    ) Ansar al Islam, an al Qaeda branch, manufactured ricin for use in attacks on Europe.
    b) Saddam hosted al Qaeda’s number two leader, Zawahiri, in the 1990s.
    c) Saddam harbored, and put on a government pension, one of the few perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing who escaped apprehension.
    d) Saddam harbored Abu Nidal, once the world’s most famous terrorist, until, for reasons that remain mysterious, Saddam apparently had him murdered shortly before the war began.
    e) Saddam harbored Abu Abbas, organizer of the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking in 1984; Abbas was captured in Iraq during the first days of the war.
    e) Zarqawi, the world’s most deadly terrorist, fled Afghanistan when the Taliban fell at the end of 2001 and went to Iraq. Why? Because he knew that terrorists were welcome under Saddam.
    f) From Iraq, Zarqawi organized the murder of American diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan.
    g) From Iraq, Zarqawi organized and financed a chemical weapons attack on Jordan that could have killed tens of thousands. The perpetrators of that scheme are now on trial in Jordan.
    h) Saddam paid the families of suicide bombers to encourage terrorist attacks against Israel.
    i)Ahmed Hikmat Shakir — the Iraqi Intelligence operative who facilitated a 9/11 hijacker into Malaysia and was in attendance at the Kuala Lampur meeting with two of the hijackers, and other conspirators, at what is roundly acknowledged to be the initial 9/11 planning session in January 2000? Who was arrested after the 9/11 attacks in possession of contact information for several known terrorists? Who managed to make his way out of Jordanian custody over our objections after the 9/11 attacks because of special pleading by Saddam’s regime?”

    via Powerline

  • Sandy P

    Besides, Saddam was secular when it was convenient.

  • Josh

    Yea I guess alqaeda doesn’t want to bother being involved in Iraq. Which explains why we aren’t fighting them there now, and why they aren’t creating havok bombing anyone in any other countries right now.

  • guy herbert

    Sandy P,

    Are you really suggesting that the entire Ba’athist edifice was a blind for a crypto-Islamist state? That’s on a par with “the moon landings were faked” and “Mossad staged 9/11”.

    The world does not run according to brilliantly organised and fully controlled conspiracy. That’s essentially what’s wrong with Jake’s “evidence” too. Any such facts, if facts they are, do not add up to Sadam being an instrument of Islamist terror, but are much more readily explained by his using selective suppport of groups and individuals to gain recognition and approval, and to undermine his enemies, in different parts of the Arab world.

    Ostentatious support for Palestinian causes, the classic example, is just as much a sine qua non for Arab politicians as profession of faith is for American ones, or promotion of French culture is for French ones. It is a cheap way of getting fanatics on your side to do a little bit more than the ritual obeissances, so what would we expect from a conscienceless character such as Sadam?

    In parallel, far too much of this sort of thing is ‘information’ issued by interested parties on the basis of hearsay. Such and such a person saw some ducuments, or heard from somebody else that they had seen some documents, which must remain secret…
    Information is not more reliable because it emanates from ‘intelligence’ sources. Quite the opposite.

    Let’s see the documents, as Jonathan says. And let’s then apply Occam’s Razor.

  • rosignol

    I dunno about Sandy, but my impression is that Saddam didn’t care if Iraq was secular or Islamic, so long as he was the person in charge.

    So I have little doubt that Saddam would be willing to make the occasional ritual gesture if it resulted in gullible militants stirring up trouble for governments he didn’t like.

    Jake’s evidence is not manufactured- with a wee bit of googling, I daresay you’ll turn up fairly reputable news outlets confirming several of his points.

    For example:


  • Duncan

    All the link says is that Palistinian officials told us that Abu Nidal’s was shot in Iraq, and the Deputy U.S. State Department spokesman claiming it as proof that Iraq was a terrorist state.

    Hardly smoking gun evidence…

  • Many Palestinians are “secular” (read “socialist”) too, when it’s convenient, like when they’re talking to UN or EU bureaucrats with their checkbooks out. But they are just as likely to be terrorists as Hamas or Hezbollah. And they will cooperate with the Wahhabi nutjobs whenever they can. There is a cultural war on, not just a religious war.