Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Put Up Or Shut Up

As reported by the Associated Press, via The Guardian, just two days ago "Vice President Dick Cheney said Saddam Hussein had 'long-established ties' with al Qaida, an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers. The vice president on Monday offered no details backing up his claim of a link between Saddam and al Qaida."

Yet today, the Associated Press, via The New York Times, is reporting that "Bluntly contradicting the Bush administration, the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks reported Wednesday there was 'no credible evidence' that Saddam Hussein helped al-Qaida target the United States."

The report went on to describe how "Bin Laden made overtures to Saddam for assistance, the commission said in the staff report, as he did with leaders in Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere as he sought to build an Islamic army.

While Saddam dispatched a senior Iraqi intelligence official to Sudan to meet with bin Laden in 1994, the commission said it had not turned up evidence of a 'collaborative relationship.'"

In further clarification, the article tells how, "The Iraq connection long suggested by administration officials gained no currency in the report.

'Bin Laden is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded,' the report said. 'There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida also occurred' after bin Laden moved his operations to Afghanistan in 1996, "but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship,' it said.

'Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al-Qaida and Iraq,' the report said."

In addressing specific claims, The Washington Post reports how "The panel also cited numerous pieces of FBI evidence in concluding that Atta never met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague on April 9, 2001, as Vice President Cheney and some other Bush administration officials have alleged.

'Based on the evidence available -- including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting -- we do not believe that such a meeting occurred,' the report said."

The Post also reports how, Bin Laden "was hostile to Hussein's secular government," and how Bin Laden at one time had to be convinced by the government of Sudan to "cease supporting anti-Hussein forces."

With these recent findings reported by the bi-partisan 9/11 commission, it is now incumbent on Vice President Cheney to produce evidence to contradict the report, or abstain from making such irresponsible statements in the future.

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