Monday, July 04, 2005

'Conversations' Between Iraq & Al Qaeda

They're still trying to sell it.

The myth. The excuse. The lie.

The right-leaning Powerline blog believes that an article written by Stephen F. Hayes called "Body of Evidence" which appeared in the Weekly Standard last week contains "smoking gun" proof that CNN is rewriting history when their anchors claim "there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was connected in any way to al Qaeda" and that "according to the record, the 9/11 Commission in its final report found no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein."

Stephen F. Hayes singles out a line uttered by the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, at a press conference held on July 22nd, 2004 to mark the release of their final report: "There was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda."

Chiding the "liberal media," Hayes writes:

"Hard to believe reporters just missed it--he made the comments at the press conference held to release the commission's final report. And that report detailed several "friendly contacts" between Iraq and al Qaeda, and concluded only that there was no proof of Iraqi involvement in al Qaeda terrorist attacks against American interests. Details, details."

It's even harder to believe that the right wing bloggers and pundits still selling this discredited story missed the rest of that press conference.

Time to go to the transcript.

The first question related to the alleged Iraq/Al Qaeda question:

"On this question of the Iraq-Al Qaeda relationship, it looks as if, in this final report, you, sort of, scaled back some of the language from the staff statement with respect to that finding of no collaborative relationship. This time you say "no collaborative operational relationship with regard to the attacks on the United States." I wondered if you might just address that."

"And then, on the same lines, whether you're talking about Richard Clarke's e-mails contained in this final report or Secretary Cohen's testimony to the commission, it appears that the Clinton administration believed in 1998 and believes today that Iraq provided at least some chemical weapons expertise to Al Qaeda. I wondered if you had a comment on that."

You have to admire this tactic which the "liberal media" is deploying. Use Clinton to undermine the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission's final report.

This is Thomas Kean's full response, which the right wing pundits and bloggers are "willfully" excluding from their articles:

"Well, there was no question in our minds that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda. At one point, there was thought maybe even Al Qaeda would find sanctuary in Iraq. And there were conversations that went on over a number of years, sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessfully."

"While we don't know about weapons collaboration, particularly chemical collaboration, there was a suspicion in the Clinton administration that when they fired that bomb at that factory, that if, in fact, there were chemicals there, they may have come from Iraq."

"So there was a relationship."

"Having said that, we have found no relationship whatever between Iraq and the attack on 9/11. That just doesn't exist."

"So I think we are very careful in our wording in using that word "collaborative relationship." I mean, that's what we found. It's language that's evidence-based."

No material evidence, folks, just linguistic evidence.

Kean is a Republican. The Commission also had a vice-chairman, Lee Hamilton, a Democrat. His response which immediately followed Kean's is also "willfully" left out of the right wing articles:

"In further response, I think there's a very large distinction between evidence of conversations that might have occurred between Iraq and Al Qaeda, on the one hand, and an emerging strategy or emerging assistance -- concrete -- on the other."

"And what we do not have, as the chairman said, is any evidence of a concrete collaborative operational agreement. Conversations, yes, but nothing concrete."

Language. Conversations. Is this the best the right can do to justify the "unjust and unjustified" invasion of Iraq?

But the "liberal media" wouldn't let it die. Didn't the language employed by Clinton and his officials conclusively prove that Iraq and Al Qaeda worked as a team?:

"I'd like to go back to a question that was raised earlier."

"Former Defense Secretary William Cohen testified before your commission to the effect that the Clinton administration believed that Osama bin Laden and Iraq collaborated on the construction of a nerve gas factory in the Sudan. And it was on that basis that the factory was bombed on August 20th, 1998."

"What I'd like to know is, given your finding that there was no collaborative operational relationship, what was it about that testimony and that issue that caused you not to give weight to Secretary Cohen's testimony before you?"

Perhaps it can be forgiven that the right wing articles don't "give weight" to the response to the first question that was given by the vice-chairman since he's a Democrat. But what's their excuse for ignoring the last words of Kean on the subject at this press conference?

"We gave weight to the testimony."

"And it's the same belief that President Clinton had, the same belief that Sandy Berger has. But there are a whole bunch of people on the other side who dispute that finding, who say there is no independent collaborative evidence that those chemicals were there."

"And this is a debate that goes on. We were not able to come to a conclusion on that debate. We could say that there is no evidence that we found -- independent evidence -- that those chemicals were there. But I can tell you that the belief of people we all respect, from the president of the United States, President Clinton, down through Sandy Berger and down through Cohen, believe very, very strongly that they were right to target factory and in fact it was what they thought it was."

"But the evidence is not there, and the facts are being argued against, and we could not come to a fact-based conclusion on that one."

The evidence is not there. The evidence is not there. The evidence is not there.

How many times must that be repeated before the right wingers will stop trying to push this canard to justify this horrible war?

Since there is no "fact-based conclusion" there is no reason for the media, liberal or otherwise, to apologize for asserting that the 9/11 Commission failed to find a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

But if there is something that Cheney knows that the Commission never saw, as he's alluded to on several occasions, then perhaps it's time for the Vice President to reveal it.

Otherwise, anytime a right wing blogger, pundit, journalist or politician brings this up again, our job is to respond with Thomas Kean's own words - repeat after me - "the evidence is not there"..."the evidence is not there"..."the evidence is not there."

And just in case you didn't follow the link to the cache of the transcript, you might be interested to know that it was transcribed by CNN. So you see, they are familiar with Kean's comment. It proves nothing.

(Powerline link via The Raw Story)


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