Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Boogie Back to Baghdad

Boogie to Baghdad.  As the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war arrives few may remember that refrain from Richard Clarke, discovered in documents presented at the 9/11 Commission hearings regarding Clinton-era targeting of Bin Laden and how, if they missed, he might high-tail it to Iraq.

Which is weird, because everybody knows that Bush screwed up.  Everybody knows there were no WMDs.  Everybody knows that Saddam wasn't working with bin Laden.  Everybody knows it was the worst foreign policy mistake in the history of America. Everybody knows Saddam was no threat to America.  The Dixie Chicks were right

At least the Democrats know.  They know it's the political gift that keeps giving.  The GOP knows it's a loser and it's not worth fighting a loser PR issue, so they've moved on.  Besides, even if there is some evidence to link Saddam with the evils spelled out in the Congressional Resolution that both Hillary and Biden voted for there's not enough concrete proof to crack the cement wall known as popular culture and the media.

Maybe the GOP's moving on strategy is correct--the flagship lefty network's misty-eyed bombshell expose was pretty much a dud.  The issue has been argued to death on the internets for years.  Minds were made up long ago.  But the left won't be giving up, it's just too easy to score the points.  Expect more reminiscing.   

History, though, should not be made from political points.  The president still calls Iraq dumb, but what would have been the likely outcome in the Middle East had we left Saddam in power?  Would an Arab Spring have overwhelmed the region by now, despite the strong sectarian differences between Kurd, Shia, Sunni?  Or would thousands more be dead, killed by Saddam in a similar fashion to the 60,000+ reported to have died at the hands of Bashar Assad?  Those are legitimate questions. 

Questions that still need answers.  For instance, the Iraqi connections to terrorists were real, but how did AQ fit into the puzzle?   Were they cleverly designed cat's paws of an Islamic alliance or an inside force run by Dick Cheney?  Or Bill Clinton?  Were we tricked into doing bin Laden's work for him?  Was it just about oil?   Had we not gone into Iraq would the Taliban have been stopped from fleeing into Pakistan and regrouping?  Who was behind the Taliban anyway, especially in light of the bin Laden lair in Abbottabad? 

Ensconced in the McCloud library is a book called "Both in One Trench", a look at some of the Iraqi regime documents captured after the invasion written by former Iraq Survey Group participant Ray Robison.  The book makes a case that a Pakistani politician/Islamist, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a Pakistani politician best known for his ties to the original Taliban, met with Saddam.   Rahman also supported Bhutto in the 90s when she was Prime Minister, a bit strange for an Islamist.  A military coup toppled her successor, Nawaz Sharif and brought Pervez Musharraf to power in 1999.  According to Robison it was only a few months later when Rahman purportedly showed up in Baghdad.  This isn't to vouch for Mr. Robison, he seems a little out there sometimes.  But if the document exists, it exists.  What does it mean? 

1999 was a pivotal year.  The US and Britain had bombed Iraq a year earlier and ABC News was tying Saddam to AQ via leaks from intel insiders.  The Taliban were protecting bin Laden/AQ.  The 'planes' (9/11) plot was just about underway and two US embassies had been destroyed in Africa.  The Millennium and Cole plots were in the works, all being planned and blessed from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.   If Rahman indeed made the visit to Iraq what did he want?  What could Saddam--safely in his box--have offered the Pakistani that would be of any value?   It's the same question Joe Plame Wilson should have asked about why the Iraqis sent a delegation to Niger that same year, 1999.  As Hitchens said, they weren't there to discuss the price of goats.

Zawahiri supposedly made a trip to Baghdad in 1998 and his former organization, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, was represented in Baghdad in a meeting before the invasion.  Was any of this stuff ever confirmed?   We know Iraq sent emissaries to Sudan to meet with AQ and later to Afghanistan to meet with the Taliban.  Why did the 9/11 Commission call an Iraqi named Mubarak al-Duri, likely a Sunni Muslim with the same tribal name as one of Saddam's lieutenants, a "WMD procurement" person?  Why was he only a footnote in the report when we went to war over the possibility of Iraq handing WMDs to AQ?    Why was he never picked up, rendered, etc?  Did he renounce WMDs and terrorism?   He supposedly still hates America. 

What about Ahmed Shakir, the Iraqi Kuala Lumpur airport greeter who handled two of the 9/11 terrorists in their summit meeting in 2000?   The left dismisses him by claiming his name was mixed up with someone in the Saddam Fedeyeen, so no problem, but he didn't have to be Fedyeen to be important or connected to the regime.  Was he ever located? Interrogated?  Why did the Iraqis kill Abu Nidal?  What happened to Tahir Habbush, the "Jack of Diamonds" and head of the IIS intelligence service, who is still wanted?   Was he a double-agent or allowed to flee as per Ron Suskind?   What about Abdul Yasin, one of the 1993 WTC bomb mixers, last seen in Iraq? 

Or Abu Ibrahim, a legacy terrorist and bomb-maker emeritus coddled by Saddam and still on most-wanted lists for various crimes, who was in Iraq until a few years ago?    
These questions and many more have never been answered.   There was no official non-partisan commission on Iraq, just a few slanted partisan investigations by Congress on both sides, one new one slated to hit the streets soon at the Democrats' choosing to enact more political damage.  Bush ain't talking, but his brother is talking about running in 2016, along with Hillary.  So the issue may linger. 

Maybe if we knew whether there was any correspondence found in the 'treasure trove' of documents recovered in UBL's mansion between himself and the Maulana Fazlur it would shine some new light on both the gutsy call and the Iraq connection in general.   Or maybe it's dumb to ever expect the truth when so much is at stake.    

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