reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship
between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaeda," U.S. President
George W. Bush told reporters Thursday, is "because
there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda."
is what logicians call a tautology, or a "useless
repetition," as the dictionary defines it, but
it is also an indication of how the Bush administration
is defending itself against a growing number of
scandals and deceptions in which it finds itself
and blaming the media, an old standby, of which
Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief
Donald Rumsfeld are particularly fond dating back
to their service under Presidents Richard Nixon
and Gerald Ford 30 years ago, are back in vogue.
it was that Cheney, the most aggressive administration
proponent of the theory that Saddam Hussein had
not only been working hand in glove with Osama
bin Laden for years, but that he was also behind
the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York
back in 1993, complained that New York Times'
coverage of the 9/11 Commission's finding that
there was no such link was "outrageous" and probably
thus it was that Rumsfeld charged that media coverage
of the abuses of detainees held by the U.S. in
Iraq Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere was not only
wrong, but dangerous.
implication that's out there is the United States
government is engaging in torture as a matter
of policy, and that's not true," he declared,
despite the cascading leaks of Pentagon, Justice
Department, and White House memoranda suggesting
ways in which domestic and international bans
on torture can be circumvented or ignored in the
"war on terror."
in a distinct echo of the charges leveled by diehard
hawks over the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam under
the Nixon/Ford watch, he suggested that reporters
and editors, "sitting in an air-conditioned room
some place," not the military (and certainly not
the policymakers) would be to blame if Washington
lost in Iraq.
much is certain," he said Thursday. "Coalition
forces cannot be defeated on the battlefield.
The only way this effort could fail is if people
were to be persuaded that the cause is lost, or
that it's not worth the pain -- or if those who
seem to measure progress in Iraq against a more
perfect world convince others to throw in the
tactic on which the administration appears to
have settled in dealing with what is clearly an
unraveling of whatever shred of credibility it
retains is simply to insist -- as it has for so
long anyway -- that it never made any mistakes
or exaggerated or misrepresented or lied about
anything in any way, and to hope that, if it repeats
itself sufficiently loudly and often, people will
come to believe it.
this point, the White House position is just frankly
bizarre," Daniel Benjamin, a senior counter-terrorism
official in the Clinton White House, told the
Los Angeles Times in response to Bush's declaration
about Al Qaeda and Hussein. "They're just repeating
themselves, rather than admit they were wrong."
of course, was responding to the finding by the
bipartisan 9/11 commission that, while bin Laden
"explored possible cooperation with Iraq" when
he was based in Sudan through 1994, "Iraq apparently
never responded," and no "collaborative relationship"
was ever established.
from his tautology, Bush insisted that "this administration
never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated
between Saddam and al-Qaeda. We did say there
were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein
rendition, of course, raises a host of questions,
among them definitional -- does the existence of
"numerous contacts" amount to a "relationship,"
particularly when one side fails to respond to
I was 15 and kept asking Mary Beth for a date,
and she would always politely refuse, I think
I would have been hard put to describe that as
a 'relationship' as much as I wanted to brag about
one," noted one Congressional aide this week.
more important, the Bush's statement simply flies
in the face of the record. Just before invading
Iraq, for example, Bush himself asserted that
Iraq had sent bomb-making and document-forgery
experts to "work with al-Qaeda" and also "provided
al-Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons
training" -- a relationship that goes far beyond
although he denied that his administration had
ever suggested Hussein connivance in the 9/11
attacks themselves, his March 19, 2003, letter
to Congress officially informing it that hostilities
had begun asserted that the war was permitted
under legislation authorizing force against those
who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided
the terrorist attacks that occurred on September
always the most aggressive in asserting a link
between Hussein and both al-Qaeda and 9/11, repeatedly
made similar charges and last fall endorsed the
contents of an article in the neo-conservative
Weekly Standard -- consisting largely excerpts
of a classified document prepared by the Pentagon's
shady Office of Special Plans (OSP) as "the best
source of information" -- that concluded that "Osama
bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational
relationship from the early 1990s to 2003." Under
pressure from the Central Intelligence Agency,
the Pentagon later issued a release describing
the article's conclusions as "inaccurate."
along with neo-conservative members of the Defense
Policy Board, the Wall Street Journal editorial
writers, and The Weekly Standard, also has been
the administration's biggest champion of the single-sourced
Czech intelligence report of a meeting in Prague
between a senior Iraqi intelligence official and
the ringleader of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammed
Atta, five months before the attacks.
meeting, according to the commission, which had
access to contemporaneous video shots of Atta,
his cell phone records, and the testimony of the
Iraqi official who has been in U.S. custody since
last July, never took place.
Cheney said Thursday that he was still not convinced,
suggesting cryptically that he may have access
to intelligence the commission was not able to
see. "That's never been proven," he said. "It's
never been refuted."
course, Cheney's treatment of this issue gets
us right into the epistemological puzzles in which
Rumsfeld specializes -- that "there are known unknowns"
and "unknown unknowns," which are those "we don't
know we don't know" -- speculations that seemed
increasingly appropriate in light of the latest
revelations by Human Rights First that the U.S.
is holding an unknown number of detainees in as
many as a dozen facilities in the Middle East,
South Asia, aboard naval vessels in the Indian
Ocean and elsewhere whose existence has not been
disclosed to either the International Committee
of the Red Cross or to Congress.
Rumsfeld's angry admonitions against the dangers
of media coverage of torture and abuses in U.S.-run
prisons came at a press conference in which he
admitted that one Iraqi prisoner -- one of 13 so-called
"ghost detainees" tracked by Human Rights Watch
-- had been kept off prison rosters for some seven
months, apparently to keep the Red Cross in the
dark about whereabouts. If true, that would constitute
a clear violation of Article 75 of the Fourth
Geneva Convention, according to Deborah Pearlstein
of Human Rights First. Rumsfeld assured reporters
that the detainee in question had been treated
"humanely" at all times.
by the White House, the Republican leadership
in Congress, meanwhile, prevented Democratic lawmakers
from issuing subpoenas for some of the administration's
memoranda on its interrogation and detention policies
and its contention, in at least two leaked memos,
that the president can overrule international
conventions, U.S. laws, and even the Constitution
in his war-making powers as commander-in-chief.
unconstrained power is, of course, entirely consistent
with the notion that a relationship between al-Qaeda
and Hussein existed because the president says
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in
© 2004 Inter Press Service
Posted: June 21, 2004