During today’s press conference, ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz asked Bush why he continues to say Saddam “had relations with Zarqawi,” despite the Senate Intelligence Report findings that Hussein “did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.” Bush replied: “I never said there was an operational relationship.” Watch it:
In fact, Bush has repeatedly asserted that Saddam “harbored” and “provided safe-haven” to Zarqawi:
BUSH: [Saddam] was a threat because he provided safe-haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi… [6/17/04]
BUSH: [Saddam] is a man who harbored terrorists – Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, Zarqawi. [9/23/04]
BUSH: [Zarqawi’s] a man who was wounded in Afghanistan, received aid in Baghdad, ordered the killing of a U.S. citizen, USAID employee, was harbored in Iraq. [3/6/03]
MARTHA: Mr. President, you have said throughout the war in Iraq and building up to the war in Iraq that there was a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Zarqawi and al Qaeda. A Senate Intelligence Committee report a few weeks ago said there was no link, no relationship, and that the CIA knew this and issued a report last fall. And yet a month ago, you were still saying there was a relationship. Why did you keep saying that? Why do you continue to say that? And do you still believe that?
BUSH: The point I was making to Ken Herman’s question was that Saddam Hussein was a state sponsor of terror, and that Mr. Zarqawi was in Iraq. He had been wounded in Afghanistan, had come to Iraq for treatment. He had ordered the killing of a U.S. citizen in Jordan. I never said there was an operational relationship.