March 11, 2003

Selling an Iraq-al Qaeda Connection

by Bruce Morton

. . . TV networks' news coverage has helped sell the Saddam-al Qaeda connection. "Suddenly, it was Osama, Osama, Osama ... Saddam, Saddam, Saddam ... and the networks -- the broadcast media -- simply picked that up [and] transferred our feelings of alarm and anger from one villain to another."

In a February CNN-Time poll, 76 percent of those surveyed felt Saddam provides assistance to al Qaeda. Another poll released in February asked, "Was Saddam Hussein personally involved in the September 11 attacks?" Although it is a claim the Bush administration has never made and for which there is no evidence, 72 percent said it was either very or somewhat likely. . . .


[". . . President Bush and his top lieutenants have produced a long list of Iraqi offenses, culminating Sunday with Vice President Cheney's assertion that Iraq has "reconstituted nuclear weapons." Previously, administration officials have tied Hussein to al Qaeda, to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and to an aggressive production of biological and chemical weapons. Bush reiterated many of these charges in his address to the nation last night.

"But these assertions are hotly disputed. Some of the administration's evidence -- such as Bush's assertion that Iraq sought to purchase uranium -- has been refuted by subsequent discoveries."--Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank, "Bush Clings To Dubious Allegations About Iraq," Washington Post, March 18, 2003]

["Sources knowledgeable about US intelligence say there is no evidence that Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks, nor that he has been or is currently aiding Al Qaeda. Yet the White House appears to be encouraging this false impression, as it seeks to maintain American support for a possible war against Iraq and demonstrate seriousness of purpose to Hussein's regime."--Linda Feldman, Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 2003]

[News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.--"DoD Statement on News Reports of al-Qaida and Iraq Connections," DefenseLINK, November 15, 2003]

[By now, we've become accustomed to the fact that the absence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - the principal public rationale for the war - hasn't become a big political liability for the administration. That's bad enough. Even more startling is the news from one of this week's polls: despite the complete absence of evidence, 53 percent of Americans believe that Saddam had something to do with 9/11, up from 43 percent before his capture. The administration's long campaign of guilt by innuendo, it seems, is still working.--Paul Krugman, "Telling It Right," New York Times, December 19, 2003]

Raymond Whitaker, "Powell withdraws al-Qa'ida claim as hunt for Saddam's WMD flags," The Guardian (UK), January 11, 2004

[It provides a second piece of evidence challenging the Bush administration contention of close cooperation between Mr. Hussein's government and terrorists from Al Qaeda. C.I.A. interrogators have already elicited from the top Qaeda officials in custody that, before the American-led invasion, Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to work jointly with Mr. Hussein.--James Risen, "Hussein Warned Iraqis to Beware Outside Fighters, Document Says," New York Times, January 14, 2004]

[In a Newsweek poll last week, 42 percent of Americans still think Saddam was "directly involved in planning, financing, or carrying out the terrorist attacks."--Derrick Z. Jackson, "As war toll climbs, Bush still deceives," Boston Globe, September 10, 2004]

Recommended reading: Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

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