Five years on, few Iraq myths are as persistent as the notion that the Bush Administration invented a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet a new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq's links to world-wide terror networks, including al Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood.
Naturally, it's getting little or no attention. Press accounts have been misleading or outright distortions, while the Bush Administration seems indifferent. Even John McCain has let the study's revelations float by. But that doesn't make the facts any less notable or true.
The Weekly Standard piles on:
Anyone with a basic knowledge of Islamic terrorism who read the early headlines and then read the report cannot help but come away with a severe case of cognitive dissonance. Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism and had we not gone to war with Iraq after 9/11, it would still be a focal point in our fight against Islamic terror. That Saddam and bin Laden never shook hands--presumably the only "smoking gun" that the most obtuse analysts of this subject would accept--is hardly the point. Glomming on to that narrowest parsing of al Qaeda here is akin to saying Senator Lieberman is not a Democrat because he has donned the label of Independent.
Nothing illustrates this more clearly than documents from Saddam's own intelligence service, which confirm that the regime was funding the group Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the early 1990s.
Led by Ayman al Zawahiri, the EIJ eventually morphed into what most observers call "core" al Qaeda. Zawahiri became al Qaeda's second in command when al Qaeda was formed in the late 1980s. Saying Iraq was not supporting al Qaeda, when there was no meaningful distinction between the EIJ and al Qaeda, strains credulity.
I know the Left likes to assert that secular Iraq could no more cooperate with jihadis because of their differences than Hitler could cooperate with Stalin, but that only tells you about the limitations of our Left's knowledge of history and their stunted analytical abilities.
And once again, this episode reflects the one area that I truly believe the Bush administration has been thoroughly incompetent in carrying out--the failure to have constantly led the country in war by repeatedly reminding our people of why we fight and who we fight. I've complained about this failure off and on for nearly four years now.
Bush, having lost credibility by counting on winning in Iraq without mobilizing our country's hearts and minds, has allowed the Left to set the tone of even damning revelations that are spun to mean the opposite of what they actually show. The rock-pounding stupidity of our esteemed fourth estate is astounding in its breadth and persistence.
We will likely win this war regardless of this failing by the president and the laziness or incompetence of our press corps, but it has made the war more difficult to win.
Yet in the end, my complaint may be moot given that President Bush, for all his failings in rallying the country through these last five years of war in Iraq, has been steadfast in pursuing victory and appears to be achieving that victory. I may want soaring rhetoric and a determination to win our wars from our president, but I'll settle for the latter if I can only get one.