In print the "so what" comment seems a bit, shall we say, callous as hell. But when viewed it's clear he was trying to derail the reporter's attempt to blame him for AQ in Iraq forming in Iraq and pledging allegiance to bin Laden. That kind of pretzel logic is a fitting end to Dubya's interview legacy.
Anyone who's been following along on the Iraq story since the 90s should be appalled at the media's parsing and twisting in attempts to blame Bush for AQ in Iraq, especially ABC of all networks, who once claimed Saddam and bin Laden might hook up for evil doing. Context.
S0 after his 'so what' moment Bush quickly reminded Raddatz that Saddam was already a threat without al-Zarqawi, going into intricate detail about Hussein Kamel, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Saddam's long history of fomenting terror, and that famous story about his WMD program recounted in Timmerman's book and the feature of several 60 Minutes exposes. You remember the document we found, don't you? Page 260?
Another document, dated January 18, 1993, transmitted Saddam Hussein's order, delivered through his personal secretary, "to hunt the Americans that are in Arab lands, especially in Somalia, by using Arab elements or Asian [Muslims] or friends."In other words, al Qaeda.
In response, the head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service informed Hussein that Iraq already had ties with a large number of international terrorist groups, including "the Islamist Arab elements that were fighting in Afghanistan and [currently] have no place to base and are physically present in Somalia, Sudan and Egypt."
OK, none of that actually happened. Bush gave his stock "Saddam was a threat and he's gone" reply with a slight twist, saying:
I have never claimed like some said that he -- you know, oh, that he was directly involved with the attacks on 9/11, but he did support terrorists. And, uh, Saddam Hussein had the capability making weapons of mass destruction.Emphasis added to point out that "directly involved" doesn't preclude him being "indirectly involved", which leaves intact all the lurid Kos Kid theories.
But if Obama can be applauded for masterfully parsing words then Bush should be acknowledged even when mangling them. The fact he he once told network news anchors he guessed that AQ might be a sort of 'forward army' for Saddam still doesn't mean his possible involvement in 9/11 would have been 'direct'.
Oh, one last observation, this time on process. Notice in ABC's transcript they listed every "uh" Bush uttered. New attempt at accuracy? It sure does make Bush seem the bumbler we all know and love, but do they do this with everyone? For instance, Obama has been known to say his share of 'uhs' and other sentence joiners. Here's an ABC feature on his recent presser talking about Blagojevich, complete with video for the sake of compare/contrast. Surely there are other examples.