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Did Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden work together?

Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered

Call me old-fashioned. I'm one of those people who thinks a lively national debate about whether a war is justified should happen before the war.

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In the case of the Iraq War, though, we did it backward; we started fighting first and only then started asking tough questions. After the asking of tough questions began in earnest, nearly all of the reasons the White House gave us for the war proved — surprise surprise! — to be false (or at least flimsy).

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The latest war justification to earn a spot in the Urban Legends Hall of Fame, next to "Iraqi WMDs" and "Richard Gere and the gerbil," is the one about how Saddam Hussein was somehow involved with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks. The myth's official, bipartisan debunking finally arrived last month. The 9/11 Commission (which the White House has worked harder to stop than it did to stop 9/11) reported that there is "no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."

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The debunking was necessary because the White House kept conflating or flat-out asserting that Saddam and bin Laden were one and the same to justify war in Iraq. In September 2002, "President" Bush told us, "You can't distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror" — a statement that's only true if you replace the "You can't" with "I won't."

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In 2001, (Vice) President Cheney talked on "Meet the Press" about a "pretty well confirmed" meeting in Prague between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent. Cheney's statement about the meeting would have been true, too — had he replaced the words "pretty much confirmed" with "didn't actually happen."

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Then there was this entirely false statement, also from (V)P Cheney on "Meet the Press," in September 2002: Attacking Iraq would be "a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

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With so many misleading statements, it's no wonder that, at one point, some polls showed that three out of four Americans (and four out of five dentists!) believed that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with al-Qaeda and involved in 9/11.

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In response to the 9/11 Commission debunking of the administration's Saddam theory, the White House admitted its mistake and apologized. Just kidding. This White House would never do that. Nope, instead of admitting their mistake, the White House now denies it ever claimed Saddam was linked to 9/11, a denial that's true only in the strictest, most legalistic, most Clintonian sense. Instead, the White House says that all it's saying about Saddam and al-Qaeda is that they had a relationship.

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What sort of relationship? In 1994, an Iraqi agent visited bin Laden in Sudan, where he lived at the time. Bin Laden wanted to put al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq. Iraq didn't allow them. That's it.

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If a single meeting nine years before the war has rendered Saddam and bin Laden indistinguishable in President Bush's eyes, I wonder what he makes of Sudan. After all, if meeting bin Laden is a "relationship," then hosting him must be the equivalent of "shacking up." And what about Iran? The 9/11 Commission thinks that al-Qaeda might have helped Iran with the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 American soldiers. That's more than any "relationship" between Iraq and al-Qaeda. That's more like "soul mates."

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But for now, anyway, Sudan and Iran are safe from the Bushie wrath. Ditto Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both of which actually have close ties to al-Qaeda.

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According to BushLogic, loose ties to al-Qaeda like those Iraq had make you a bigger threat to the United States than the close ties that some other countries had.

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While you figure that one out, I'm gonna issue an invasion warning: Kevin Bacon, watch out. You starred in "In The Cut" with Meg Ryan, who starred in "Searching for Debra Winger" with Jane Fonda, who was married to Ted Turner, who founded CNN, which employs Peter Bergen, who interviewed bin Laden in person in 2000. Like Iraq's, your relationship with al-Qaeda is just loose enough to get Bush's attention.

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andisheh@creativeloafing.com



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