In the Weekly Standard, official Cheney biographer Stephen Hayes attacks the recently-released portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee report that documents the fact that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were enemies, not collaborators.
The report’s conclusion deals a devastating blow to Hayes, who has previously declared “case closed” on the connection between Hussein and bin Laden and has authored on a book on that sole issue. Unsurprisingly, he strikes back against the Senate report with more deception and spin:
1. Hayes’ sourcing for his information is unreliable; Senate sourcing is authoritative. Hayes pieces together unverified media reporting to develop his theory of a “connection.” He continues to rely on a discredited Defense Department intelligence memo. At one point, Hayes even sources his claims to the fact that Vice President Cheney repeated them. The Senate Intelligence Committee report relies on “documents uncovered in Iraq and new intelligence collected, including Intelligence Community debriefs of detained Iraqis and al Qa’ida members. … The Committee supplemented this effort by soliciting the Intelligence Community’s judgments of the accuracy of their own prewar assessments.”
2. Hayes ignores the conclusions of the intelligence community. The report notes that the CIA Inspector General has concluded: “The data reveal few indications of an established relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda. The DIA, which has reviewed more than 34 million pages of documents that were recovered from Iraq, “continues to maintain that there was no partnership between the two organizations.”
3. Hayes ignores the report’s conclusion on Zawahiri. He writes, “There is no mention of documents showing that the Iraqi regime cultivated a relationship with bin Laden’s chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, throughout the 1990s.” He ignores the report’s revelation that the former Iraqi Vice President said suggestions of a link between Zawahiri and Saddam were “completely false.”
4. Hayes ignores reports of Saddam’s refusal to partner with bin Laden. The Senate report documents Saddam’s rejection of bin Laden’s requests for assistance, his unwillingness to meet with al Qaeda officials, and his detentions of those he viewed as Islamist radicals. Abdul Rahman Yasin, a participant in the ’93 World Trade Center bombings (whom Hayes cites as proof of a “connection”), is evidence of Saddam’s actions against al Qaeda because he was jailed by the Iraqi government in 1994 through at least 2002 when 60 Minutes interviewed him there. The Senate report concludes, “Postwar findings indicate that Saddam Hussein was distrustful of al-Qa’ida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al Qa’ida to provide material or operational support.”
In his conclusion, Hayes writes, “Some day there will be an authoritative and richly detailed history of the nature of the relationship between the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups.” That day has come, and it’s a shame Hayes won’t allow himself to accept it.