Politics

Cheney: Was There ‘A Link Between Iraq And Al Qaeda? Seems To Me Pretty Clear That There Was’

cheneyBefore the Iraq war began, Dick Cheney was among the most prominent messengers of the false claim that Saddam Hussein had a relationship with al Qaeda. For example, he said it was “pretty well confirmed” that a 9/11 hijacker met with Iraqi intelligence officials before 9/11.

Over the past five years, numerous intelligence reports have conclusively proved that there was no Iraq/al Qaeda relationship. A Senate Intelligence Committee report stated in Sept. 2006 that Saddam and Osama bin Laden were not collaborators, but rather enemies.

More recently, a study commissioned by the Defense Department to look into the Iraq/al Qaeda ties “showed no connection between the two.” But Dick Cheney still isn’t convinced. Speaking at a press conference in Iraq today, Cheney shot down the new report. He acknowledged that — while no “operational link” has been found between Iraq and al Qaeda — it’s “pretty clear” there is a link:

CHENEY: Well, this is no operational link. But there was, as I recall from looking at it, extensive links with Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was the organization headed by Zawahiri, and he merged EIJ with Al Qaeda when he became the deputy director of Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden’s number two. Now, was that a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Seems to me pretty clear that there was.

But it’s a question — I would urge you to go read the report. I know ABC reported on it. If you dig into the report in depth, I think you may find that there was an extensive relationship with a broad range of terrorist groups, that he was a state sponsor of terror. And I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

During the press conference, Cheney again cited a throughly-debunked Weekly Standard article written by his own biographer Stephen Hayes as laying out the best case of an Iraq/al Qaeda connection. “It was the Weekly Standard that dealt with this subject,” Cheney said.

Though Cheney urged reporters to “go read the report,” reporters will have a difficult time doing that. According to ABC News, the new Pentagon report “won’t be emailed to reporters and it won’t be posted online.” So you’ll just have to take Dick Cheney’s word for it.

Transcript:

STAFF: Last question.

QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. Vice President. Let me play (inaudible) lots of talk this week, fifth anniversary week of the invasion, about the case for war in Iraq. Last week, as you know, there was a report issued by the Pentagon that showed, among many other things, that Saddam Hussein had been supporting Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Blind Sheik, he had been training jihadists from Sudan and elsewhere in Iraq throughout the 1990s and funded the precursor to Ansar al-Islam. I wondered if you could give me your thoughts on that report and also explain why the White House isn’t talking about it.

CHENEY: Well, I’ve taken just a quick look at the summary portion of the report and read an article, and it was the Weekly Standard that dealt with this subject.

(LAUGHTER)

I think there’s never been any doubt in my mind, but what Saddam Hussein was one of the prime state sponsors of terror in the world. He was designated that by the U.S. State Department. And based on all the
things you mentioned, he also used to provide $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers.

I always hark back to the testimony that George Tenet, then CIA director, gave in I think it was 2003 in public session — this was open testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee — that there was a
relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida that went back a decade.

The fact is, I think the report, to the extent I’ve been able to look at it, indicates pretty clearly that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis had a relationship with a broad range of terrorist groups back in the ’90s. And I think that if you read the report you’re talking about just released by the Defense Intelligence Agency, it’s pretty conclusively makes that case.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Why so little to talk about?

CHENEY: Well, I think this just came out within the last few days. So, I haven’t had any conversations with — for example, with the Press Office. I just — you’d have to ask them or I’ll ask them when I get home.

QUESTION: (inaudible) if there’s no link between A.Q. and Saddam.

CHENEY: Well, this is no operational link. But there was, as I recall from looking at it, extensive links with
Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was the organization headed by Zawahiri, and he merged EIJ with Al Qaeda when he became the deputy director of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s number two. Now, was that a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Seems to me pretty clear that there was.

But it’s a question — I would urge you to go read the report. I know ABC reported on it. If you dig into the report in depth, I think you may find that there was an extensive relationship with a broad range of terrorist groups, that he was a state sponsor of terror. And I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

QUESTION: So, you think there was a direct link between Al Qaeda…

CHENEY: You heard what I said. I was very precise.

QUESTION: But you weren’t.

CHENEY: OK. Thank you all very much.