Last Friday, the Senate Intelligence Committee — chaired by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), one of the President’s most loyal allies — concluded that there was absolutely no relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Here’s the key quote from page 109:
Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and…the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.
Nevertheless, at today’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow insisted Saddam that had a “relationship” because Zarqawi was in the country. Snow refused to “go into the vagaries of the Senate report.” Watch it:
This is the equivalent of saying that the United States government had a “relationship” with unibomber Ted Kaczynski because he was “operating” in the United States.
The White House’s insistence that Zarqawi had a relationship with Saddam — in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary — borders on pathological.
QUESTION: Do you believe — does the president still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to Zarqawi or Al Qaida before the invasion?
SNOW: The president has never said that there was a direct operational relationship between the two. And this is important.
Zarqawi was in Iraq…
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) relationship?
SNOW: And there was a relationship in this sense: Zarqawi was in Iraq. Al Qaida members were in Iraq. They were operating, and in some cases operating freely. From Iraq, Zarqawi, for instance, directed the assassination of an American diplomat in Amman, Jordan.
But did they have, you know, a corner office at the Mukhabarat? No. You know, were they getting a line item in Saddam’s budget? No.
There was no direct operational relationship, but there was a relationship. They were in the country. And I think you understand that the Iraqis knew they were there. That’s the relationship.
QUESTION: Saddam Hussein knew they were there. That’s it for the relationship?
SNOW: That’s pretty much it.
QUESTION: The Senate report said they didn’t turn a blind eye to that.
SNOW: The Senate report — rather than get — you know what? I don’t want to get into the vagaries of the Senate report. But it is pretty clear, among other things, again, that were Al Qaida operators inside Iraq, and they included Zarqawi, they included a cleric who had been described as the best friend of bin Laden who was delivering sermons on TV.
But we are simply not going to go to the point that the president — the president has never made the statement that there was an operational relationship, and that’s the important thing, because I think there’s a tendency to say, Ah-ha. He said that they were in cahoots and they were planning and doing stuff. There’s no evidence of that.