The mainstream media have continued to emphasize the negative in their coverage of post-war events in Iraq. Few now deny the justness of the war on Saddam Hussein, especially as new reports emerge daily on the torture and cruelty inflicted on the Iraqi people during his reign. But the New York Times, Washington Post, and others have focused mostly on the difficulties they profess to see in the task of rebuilding Iraq.
But the London Telegraph, has uncovered a cache of Iraqi intelligence documents that are making many former opponents of the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq squirm. The Telegraph has gained access to documents from the Iraqi Ba’ath Party headquarters and also from the Iraqi intelligence services. The documents show links between Russian and German intelligence services and the Iraqis. Other documents have implicated a member of the British parliament in receiving payoffs from Saddam Hussein, allegedly in return for that Member’s support of the regime.
Now the Telegraph reports that it has uncovered documents showing a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa’eda. When the Bush administration linked the two before the war, critics scoffed. The Washington Post and others even quoted CIA officials, speaking anonymously, dismissing the possibility of any linkage. For months, William Safire, writing in the New York Times, had written about interactions between the leader of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta, and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The CIA and others shot down that link as well.
The Telegraph, however, has reported that links between the two were set up as far back as March 1998. Iraqi intelligence officials, according to the recently recovered documents, invited a key al-Qa’eda official to Baghdad in hopes of establishing a relationship with the terrorist organization. The meeting went so well, according to the Telegraph, that it was extended for a week. And it covered arrangements for a visit by Osama bin Laden to Baghdad. This was about two months before al-Qa’eda’s bombing of two U.S. embassies in east Africa.
Some of the documents were marked Top Secret and the Telegraph reports that Iraqi agents tried to conceal all references to bin Laden. But the documents show that the meeting was arranged through Iraq’s intelligence officers in Sudan and that Iraq would cover all expenses for the visiting al-Qa’eda official. The Telegraph also reported that the director of Iraqi intelligence had added a hand-written comment to one saying “we may find in this envoy a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden.”
The publication of these documents is sure to cause discomfort among media critics of the war and those inside the government who dismissed administration claims of links between al-Qa’eda and Iraq. They argued that the two shared no common purpose and were more likely at odds, given bin Laden’s Islamist ideology. On the contrary, however, the newly discovered documents indicate that the basis for their cooperation was “their mutual hatred of America and Saudi Arabia.”