Monday, December 12, 2005

Opinions: Fact or Fiction

Opinions, everyone has one. The Anchorage Daily News ran an editorial on Letters to the Editor in their December 5th, 2005 opinion section titled: Get it Right.

The gist of their opinion was making sure the facts you tell are indeed factual. This got me to thinking about the editors themselves and if they live up to "well er" to their own words.

A case in point is the Opinion piece the staff wrote in regard to President Bush and his criticism of politicians who are being critical of the president.

In Bush vs. war critics the editors state:

The president claims his critics are trying to rewrite the history of how the war started. His charge is ironic, as it perfectly describes what he himself is doing. He convinced the nation that war was essential to protect Americans against Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and was justified as retaliation against a regime that was connected to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Both rationales for war proved false.

President Bush defends the way things turned out, claiming his critics had the same intelligence he did about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction. That's simply not true. As The Washington Post reported, "Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material."

President Bush claims that he didn't manipulate pre-war intelligence to steer the nation to war in Iraq, citing the findings of a commission he appointed. The Robb-Silberman Commission concluded that intelligence analysts didn't change their reports because of pressure from within the Bush administration.

However, "Our executive order did not direct us to deal with the use of intelligence by policymakers," said commission co-chair Laurence Silberman. As The New York Times noted, "What Mr. Bush left unaddressed was the question of how his administration used that intelligence, which was full of caveats, subtleties and contradiction."

The Bush administration faced a problem making the case for war. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran," according to the "Downing Street memo," a confidential British foreign service summary of discussions with the Bush administration in the summer before Congress voted to authorize the war. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action," the memo said. "The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Unfortunately, it should have been the other way around, with the policy based on the facts.

U.S. forces never found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And that wouldn't surprise anyone who listened to United Nations weapons inspectors.

As Scott Ritter, an inspector and former U.S. Marine officer who served under Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in the first gulf war, recently stated: "We were monitoring Iraq ... with the most intrusive, technologically advanced, on-site inspection program in the history of arms control. ... We were unable to detect any evidence of either a retained capability or a reconstituted capability in weapons of mass destruction."

The New York Times wrote in an editorial: "It's obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein's weapons and his terrorist connections. We need to know how that happened and why."

Now those pressing for a long overdue explanation are irresponsible?

The critics, and all Americans, including the brave service men and women on the front lines, deserve better.

BOTTOM LINE: President Bush insults the nation and the troops fighting and dying in Iraq when he questions the patriotism of those who question his leadership.

First to the issue on the Iraq and an Osama bin Laden link. In an indictment sought by the Clinton Adminstration, a link between Saddam Hussein/Iraq and Osama bin Laden was alleged.

The indictment is listed here:

Next, in 1999, the Guardian ran an article that had the headlines: Saddam link to Bin Laden
That article can be seen at:,3604,314700,00.html

What was being said then?

Saddam Hussein's regime has opened talks with Osama bin Laden, bringing closer the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to US intelligence sources and Iraqi opposition officials.

The key meeting took place in the Afghan mountains near Kandahar in late December. The Iraqi delegation was led by Farouk Hijazi, Baghdad's ambassador in Turkey and one of Saddam's most powerful secret policemen, who is thought to have offered Bin Laden asylum in Iraq.

The Saudi-born fundamentalist's response is unknown. He is thought to have rejected earlier Iraqi advances, disapproving of the Saddam Hussein's secular Baathist regime. But analysts believe that Bin Laden's bolthole in Afghanistan, where he has lived for the past three years, is now in doubt as a result of increasing US and Saudi government pressure.

News of the negotiations emerged in a week when the US attorney general, Janet Reno, warned the Senate that a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction was a growing concern. "There's a threat, and it's real," Ms Reno said, adding that such weapons "are being considered for use."

US embassies around the world are on heightened alert as a result of threats believed to emanate from followers of Bin Laden, who has been indicted by a US court for orchestrating the bombing last August of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 259 people died. US delegations in Africa and the Gulf have been shut down in recent weeks after credible threats were received.

In this year's budget, President Clinton called for an additional $2 billion to spend on counter-terrorist measures, including extra guards for US embassies around the world and funds for executive jets to fly rapid response investigative teams to terrorist incidents around the world.

Since RAF bombers took part in air raids on Iraq in December, Bin Laden declared that he considered British citizens to be justifiable targets. Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of CIA counter-terrorist operations, said: "Hijazi went to Afghanistan in December and met with Osama, with the knowledge of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar. We are sure about that. What is the source of some speculation is what transpired."

An acting US counter-intelligence official confirmed the report. "Our understanding over what happened matches your account, but there's no one here who is going to comment on it."

Ahmed Allawi, a senior member of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC), based in London, said he had heard reports of the December meeting which he believed to be accurate. "There is a long history of contacts between Mukhabarat [Iraqi secret service] and Osama bin Laden," he said. Mr Hijazi, formerly director of external operations for Iraqi intelligence, was "the perfect man to send to Afghanistan".

Analysts believe that Mr Hijazi offered Mr bin Laden asylum in Iraq, most likely in return for co-operation in launching attacks on US and Saudi targets. Iraqi agents are believed to have made a similar offer to the Saudi maverick leader in the early 1990s when he was based in Sudan.

When did President Bush get first elected to the office? And when did 9/11 happen? The idea that an incoming president would have the intelligence needed to know what is now being alleged against the president is assinine.

There is no president that would have the capability to know what is taking place in the world without the intelligence community telling him what is taking place. If there is fault to be placed, it should be placed on the Clinton Adminstration for its role.

President Bush came into office in 2000 and shortly thereafter 9/11 took place. It was the intelligence apparatus that the Clinton Adminstration had in place that was giving the president the information on Iraq and Osama bin Laden.

In October 2002, the report from the CIA can be read here:

It wasn't until 2004 that Clinton appointed CIA director George Tenet retired.

On April 27th, 2003, the Telegraph ran a story titled: The proof that Saddam worked with bin Laden.

That story can be found here:

What was being said then?

Iraqi intelligence documents discovered in Baghdad by The Telegraph have provided the first evidence of a direct link between Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terrorist network and Saddam Hussein's regime.

Papers found yesterday in the bombed headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's intelligence service, reveal that an al-Qa'eda envoy was invited clandestinely to Baghdad in March 1998.

The documents show that the purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship between Baghdad and al-Qa'eda based on their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia. The meeting apparently went so well that it was extended by a week and ended with arrangements being discussed for bin Laden to visit Baghdad.

The papers will be seized on by Washington as the first proof of what the United States has long alleged - that, despite denials by both sides, Saddam's regime had a close relationship with al-Qa'eda.

The Telegraph found the file on bin Laden inside a folder lying in the rubble of one of the rooms of the destroyed intelligence HQ. There are three pages, stapled together; two are on paper headed with the insignia and lettering of the Mukhabarat.

They show correspondence between Mukhabarat agencies over preparations for the visit of al-Qa'eda's envoy, who traveled to Iraq from Sudan, where bin Laden had been based until 1996. They disclose what Baghdad hopes to achieve from the meeting, which took place less than five months before bin Laden was placed at the top of America's most wanted list following the bombing of two US embassies in east Africa.

Perhaps aware of the sensitivities of the subject matter, Iraqi agents at some point clumsily attempted to mask out all references to bin Laden, using white correcting fluid. The dried fluid was removed to reveal the clearly legible name three times in the documents.

One paper is marked "Top Secret and Urgent". It is signed "MDA", a codename believed to be the director of one of the intelligence sections within the Mukhabarat, and dated February 19, 1998. It refers to the planned trip from Sudan by bin Laden's unnamed envoy and refers to the arrangements for his visit.

A letter with this document says the envoy is a trusted confidant of bin Laden. It adds: "According to the above, we suggest permission to call the Khartoum station [Iraq's intelligence office in Sudan] to facilitate the travel arrangements for the above-mentioned person to Iraq. And that our body carry all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden."

The letter refers to al-Qa'eda's leader as an opponent of the Saudi Arabian regime and says that the message to convey to him through the envoy "would relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him."

According to handwritten notes at the bottom of the page, the letter was passed on through another director in the Mukhabarat and on to the deputy director general of the intelligence service.

It recommends that "the deputy director general bring the envoy to Iraq because we may find in this envoy a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden". The deputy director general has signed the document. All of the signatories use codenames.

The other documents then confirm that the envoy traveled from Khartoum to Baghdad in March 1998, staying at al-Mansour Melia, a first-class hotel. It mentions that his visit was extended by a week. In the notes in a margin, a name "Mohammed F. Mohammed Ahmed" is mentioned, but it is not clear whether this is the the envoy or an agent.

Intriguingly, the Iraqis talk about sending back an oral message to bin Laden, perhaps aware of the risk of a written message being intercepted. However, the documents do not mention if any meeting took place between bin Laden and Iraqi officials.

The file contradicts the claims of Baghdad, bin Laden and many critics of the coalition that there was no link between the Iraqi regime and al-Qa'eda. One Western intelligence official contacted last night described the file as "sensational", adding: "Baghdad clearly sought out the meeting. The regime would have wanted it to happen in the capital as it's only there they would feel safe from surveillance by Western intelligence."

Over the past three weeks, The Telegraph has discovered various other intelligence files in the wrecked Mukhabarat building, including documents revealing how Russia passed on to Iraq details of private conversations between Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, and how Germany held clandestine meetings with the regime.

A Downing Street spokesman said last night: "Since Saddam's fall a series of documents have come to light which will have to be fully assessed by the proper authorities over a period of time. We will certainly want to study these documents as part of that process to see if they shed new light on the relationship between Saddam's regime and al-Qa'eda.

What has emerged now are the Dowing Street Documents. Documents that the Daily News refer to and conspiracy theorists use to attack President Bush.

In an article in the Christian Science Monitor it is stated:

Critics say this is a smoking gun, proving that the administration was simply pretending that war might be forestalled during the months prior to the actual invasion, and that it knowingly corrupted intelligence reports to back a policy that was foreordained.

Others have a different reading of this passage. The memo does not say specifically that Mr. Bush, or indeed any US official, saw war as inevitable. And at the time, the media was rife with commentary that war was most likely coming. If seen in that general sense, the conclusion was unsurprising.

Nor did the document offer details of what intelligence was being fixed around what policy. Over the last year, a series of US studies have offered scathing conclusions about the poor nature of prewar US intelligence, and its uses.

A second memo, published in the Times of London on June 12, concluded only that US government military planning for action against Iraq was "proceeding apace."

This memo, produced for British cabinet's consideration at a July 22, 2002, meeting, reiterated the point that the US appeared to have given little thought to a war's aftermath. "In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it," concluded the memo's uncredited author.

The only facts that come from the Anchorage Daily News editorial staff is that everyone has an opinion and that even editors can't get their facts right.

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