Murray Waas, writing in the National Journal, breaks new information regarding the level of knowledge President Bush had prior to the Iraq war about the supposed Iraq/al Qaeda link:
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
The information, which was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the “President’s Daily Brief,” corresponds with the accounts of two former White House counterterrorism advisers:
“One week after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, White House counterterrorism director Paul Kurtz wrote in a memo to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that no ‘compelling case’ existed for Iraq’s involvement in the attacks and that links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government were weak.” [Washington Post, 7/23/04]
According to the 9/11 Commission report, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Richard Clarke’s office sent a memo to the National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, at the President’s direction, concluding that “only some anecdotal evidence linked Iraq to al Qaeda”¦Arguing that the case for links between Iraq and al Qaeda was weak, the memo pointed out that Bin Ladin resented the secularism of Saddam Hussein’s regime.” [9–11 Commission Report, p.334]
This information did not prevent Bush and Cheney from presenting the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda as an undisputed fact.
BUSH: “And I also mentioned the fact that there is a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The war on terror, Iraq is a part on the war on terror.” [10/14/02]
CHENEY: “There is also a grave danger that al Qaeda or other terrorists will join with outlaw regimes that have these weapons to attack their common enemy, the United States of America. That is why confronting the threat posed by Iraq is not a distraction from the war on terror.” [12/2/02]
Despite the risk of being labeled “dishonest and reprehensible,” this appears to be strong evidence that Bush and Cheney misled us. For a more thorough debunking of the Bush administration’s pre-war statements, see this memo recently authored by former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham and American Progress President and CEO John Podesta.