How History Turned Iraqis Bitter

News Abroad

Mr. Shlaim is a Professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (2000).

Tony Blair and George W. Bush seem unaware, or only dimly aware, of the crucial role that Iraqi history plays in shaping popular attitudes to current conflict. Iraqis are not an inert mass whose sentiments can be switched on and off to serve the agenda of outside powers. They are a proud and patriotic people with a long collective memory. Britain and America feature as anything but benign in this collective memory. Blair has repeatedly emphasised the moral argument behind the resort to force to depose an evil dictator. Over the last century, however, Britain rarely occupied the high moral ground in relation to Iraq. As for the Americans, they have even less of a claim on the trust and goodwill of the Iraqi people after their calamitous failure to support the popular insurrection against Saddam and his henchmen in March 1991.

Iraq was just one element in the victors' peace, which was imposed on the Middle East in the aftermath of World War I without any reference to the wishes of the people. Iraq's borders were delineated to serve Britain's commercial and strategic interests. Originally, Iraq was made up of two Ottoman provinces: Basra and Baghdad. Later, the oil-bearing province of Mosul was added, dashing hopes of Kurdish independence. The logic behind the enterprise was summed up by one observer as follows: "Iraq was created by Churchill, who had the mad idea of joining two widely separated oil wells, Kirkuk and Mosul, by uniting three widely separated peoples: the Kurds, the Sunnies, and the Shiis."

The man handpicked by Britain to rule over this unwieldy conglomerate was Faisal, a Hashemite prince from Arabia and one of the leaders of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks. After the French evicted Faisal from Syria and put an end to his short-lived kingdom, we procured for him the throne of Iraq as a consolation prize. We cleared Faisal's path to the throne by neutralizing the local opposition, deporting the leading contender, and organizing a plebiscite in which 96 per cent of the people were implausibly said to have voted for Faisal as king.

The 1921 settlement not only sanctioned violent and arbitrary methods: it built them into the structure of Iraqi politics. The only way to bring about political change was by violence. The key feature of this settlement was lack of legitimacy: the borders lacked legitimacy, the rulers lacked legitimacy, and the political system lacked legitimacy. The settlement also introduced anti-British sentiment as a powerful force in Iraqi politics. In 1941 Rashid Ali al-Gailani led a nationalist revolt against Britain which was put down by force. In 1958, as a direct result of our own folly over Suez, we witnessed the defenestration of our royal friends in Baghdad in a bloody military coup.

In 1980 Saddam Hussein attacked Iran. During the eight years of the Iran-Iraq War, we and all our Western allies, tilted increasingly towards Iraq. The Scott inquiry of 1996 documented the Thatcher government's duplicitous record in selling arms to Iraq and in providing military credits. A billion pounds of taxpayers' money was thrown away in propping up Saddam's regime and doing favors to arms firms. It was abundantly clear at the time that Saddam was a monster in human form. We did not manufacture this monster but we turned a blind eye to the savage brutality of his regime. We also knew that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons because Western companies sold him all the ingredients necessary to produce this nasty kit.

Saddam was known to be gassing Iranian troops by the thousands in the Iran-Iraq War. Failure to subject Iraq to international sanction allowed him to press ahead with the development of weapons of mass destruction. In March 1988, Saddam turned on his own people, killing up to 5,000 Kurds with poison gas in Halabja. Attacking unarmed civilians with chemical weapons was unprecedented. If ever there was a time for humanitarian intervention in Iraq, 1988 was that time. Yet no Western government even suggested intervention. Nor was an arms embargo imposed on Iraq.

In 1990 we belatedly turned against Saddam only because he trod on our toes by invading Kuwait. He had a point when he said that Kuwait was an artificial creation of British imperialism. But Iraq's other borders were no less arbitrary than the border with Kuwait, so if that border could be changed by force, the entire post-World War I territorial settlement might unravel. The main purpose of the Anglo-American intervention against Iraq was not to lay the foundation for the much-vaulted "New World Order" but to restore the old order. The fact that the UN explicitly authorized the use of force in resolution 678 -- "the mother of all resolutions" -- made this an exercise in collective security and gave it legitimacy in the eyes of the world, including the majority of the Arab states.

On 28 February 1991, Papa Bush gave the order to ceasefire. Britain was informed of this decision but not consulted. The declared aims of Operation Desert Storm had been achieved: the Iraqi army had been ejected out of Kuwait and the Kuwaiti government was restored. But Saddam kept his deadly grip on power in Baghdad. After the ceasefire, Bush encouraged the Iraqi people to rise up against the tyrant, only to betray them when they did so. When the moment of truth arrived, Bush recoiled from pursuing his policy to its logical conclusion. His advisers told him that Kurdish and Shiite victories in their bids for freedom may lead to the dismemberment of Iraq. Behind this theory lay the pessimistic view that Iraq was not suited for democracy and that Sunni minority rule was the only formula capable of keeping Iraq in one piece. Once again, the Iraqis were the victims of the cruel geopolitics of the region.

In order to topple Saddam Hussein, it was not necessary for the allied forces to continue their march to Baghdad, my hometown. It would have been sufficient to disarm the Republican Guard units as they retreated from Kuwait through the Basra loop. This was not done. They were allowed to retain their arms, to regroup, and to use helicopters to ensure the survival of the butcher of Baghdad and of his nefarious regime. The Kurds in the north were crushed and fled to the mountains. The Shiites in the south were crushed and fled to the marshes.

In calling for Saddam's overthrow, Bush evidently had in mind a military coup, a reshuffling of Sunni gangsters in Baghdad, rather than the establishment of a freer and more democratic political order. As a result of his moral cowardice, Bush snatched a defeat from the jaws of victory. Saddam remained in power and continued to torment his people, while Kuwait remained a feudal fiefdom. A quick and decisive war was followed by a messy peace. Few wars in history had achieved their immediate aims so fully and swiftly and yet left behind so much unfinished business. The war's aftermath was a reminder that military force, when used to tackle complex political problems, is merely a blunt instrument. The war also demonstrated that Americans are better at sharp, short bursts of military intervention than at sustained political engagement aimed at fostering democracy in the Middle East.

This inglorious history of Western involvement in Iraq goes a long way to explain why the Iraqi people are not playing their part in our script for the liberation of their country. Blair during the war directed an appeal particularly at the Shiite Muslims who make up 60 per cent of Iraq's 24 million inhabitants. "This time we will not let you down," he pledged solemnly. But it is naïve to expect mere words to erase the bitter legacy of the past.

This article was first published by the Observer and is reprinted with permission of the author.

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john horse - 11/17/2003

Here is the official response of the DOD to the Feith report. It appears to me that they are backing off on some of Feith's claims.

United States Department of Defense
News Releases
On the web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131
Public contact: or +1 (703) 428-0711

No. 851-03
IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 15, 2003


DoD Statement on News Reports of al-Qaida and Iraq Connections
News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al-Qaida and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.

A letter was sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee on October 27, 2003 from Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in response to follow-up questions from his July 10 testimony. One of the questions posed by the committee asked the Department to provide the reports from the Intelligence Community to which he referred in his testimony before the Committee. These reports dealt with the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida.

The letter to the committee included a classified annex containing a list and description of the requested reports, so that the Committee could obtain the reports from the relevant members of the Intelligence Community.

The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the NSA, or, in one case, the DIA. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the Intelligence Community. The selection of the documents was made by DOD to respond to the Committee’s question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaida, and it drew no conclusions.

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.


Gus Moner - 11/16/2003

It's a good point about this possibly being the first salvo. As I said, I would await developments and as you, wonder about the sources and timing.

I have not yet fully assimilated the impact of the new sources that have been surfacing since the occupation. Documentary evidence rather than what we just read would go a ways toward allaying doubts about the new sources and their interest in pleasing their captors.

Let’s also bear in mind that these links mentioned are much weaker than other states’ links to terror as has been put to us regarding Lebanon and Syria and shown rather more clearly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example.

Perspective and proportion as to how much the evidence made Iraq a threat will also be required.

Gus Moner - 11/16/2003

Mr Horse,
You have provided a very lucid observation.

Bill Heuisler - 11/16/2003

It may surprise you to read that I agree with your assessments in large part. Bouncing it off you was the best way to vet the stuff I could think of. I knew the mainstream press would ignore the column the way they've ignored questions about Salman Pak. Our biggest disagreement is the substantive quality of the info.
Our biggest agreement is in the question, "why now?"

We begin from opposite frames of reference, so it's predictable where we part in our conclusions: you skeptical, me hopeful.
As to sources like the Standard and Feith, what did you expect, Slate, The Nation and Krugman? Let's skip source a moment and pretend most of the material is pretty close to the truth. Particularly the multi-sourced information about Sudan meetings of OBL and high officials from Iraq. From the dates, we can surmise this information has been around a while in some file somewhere. Have they had it? Why release it now?
1) Ambitious reporting? 2) Predeliction of a conservative based on privledged leaks? 3) New information? 4) Wishful thinking?

Forget one and four - career busters. My take is a combination of two and three. The capture of new intelligence documents and the recent capture of high ranking Baathists makes me think this story is merely a precursor. President Bush is no fool and he has all this info and more. He's holding fire for something.
Wait and watch.
Bill Heuisler

Gus Moner - 11/16/2003

Well, Mr Heuisler, again my thanks for the thoughtful posting of the Weekly Standard article for my benefit. I have dutifully reviewed. I am sorry my reference links are not appearing as active, but they are there.

Given our differing perspectives on today’s world situation and what is driving it, I would anyway respectfully ask that you consider the following before taking the article as biblical epiphany, or lambasting me for whatever.

There are some essential background elements which I shall cover first, which are disquieting and thus leave me unconvinced, a result that is unfortunately opposite from your intention. I shall then point to some elements of the data that are of some dubious quality or accuracy. Lastly, I'll draw a preliminary and cautious conclusion.

Firstly, the Weekly Standard, a Murdoch publication, is known to be a biased, ultra conservative Judeo Christian advocate of extremist policies that favour Israel over the Muslim world, well, over all, really, as well as the Christian agenda, both domestic and internationally. It shamelessly favoured war and pushed for war, and would naturally be prone to attempt to justify it in light of increasing evidence of its spurious origins and motivating factors. Still, as difficult as it was to follow the story, it does appear to have elements that may well be true. Notwithstanding that possibility, it leads one to wonder where, how, why this is being published now.

Secondly, the alleged author of the allegedly leaked memo is none other than Douglas Feith, a leading advocate of the US/UK Iraqi invasion by the Bush 43 administration he serves after cooperating in developong Israeli policy. It is a fact that he participated in the development and issuing of the Likud’s strategic blueprint entitled Securing the Realm, which is a plan for the building of the Israeli Third kingdom in Palestine and achieving strategic preponderance utilising the marriage of US and Israeli policy in the region to back up Israeli designs. The document comes with propaganda bits highlighted in bold so speech makers will know what to say to sway audiences. It is, all in all, a rather good piece of work, even if the designs can, from my perspective at least, be considered imperialistic, designed to create hegemonies and a blueprint for more war and conflict.

Finally, Mr Feith did this while working on behalf of a foreign power, along with Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser at an Israeli think tank connected to Likud, The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, (who, in their mission statement paranoically believe Israel is on a ‘path to extinction’) and before coming to work at the US Defense Dept. under another of the proponents of a Third Kingdom and fellow ideologue, Paul Wolfowitz. You may be familiar with a few of the other names as they now work or have before, for the US government with this dual agenda.

You may find kinship with their anti-socialist agenda, so a glance at their mission statement may warm your heart. You might also be interested in the Israeli blueprint for disengaging the US from the Middle East oil dependence by promoting West African oil development, another pet project of IASPS, African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG) to give the US and Israel a freer hand in whipping the Middle East into our / their vision of a docile place where they can develop their Third kingdom and dominate the region. Sorry, at over 16 pages, it’s a long read. No revenge meant.

It is anyway a curiously socialist strategy, establishing a nifty ‘Heritage Fund’ to share out the oil profits and losses, whenever these are forthcoming. After they build the infrastructure at profits and recuperate their investment of course, very market driven that part is. Another bit of welfare, or bribery, is to encourage oil companies to tell the truth about payments to nations (read illegal) through ‘tax credits’. Gees, pay for truth schemes; now there’s a new corporate welfare strategy if ever I heard one!

But there is a reason for this apparent madness of Heritage Funds. U.S. and Israeli firms are expected to have the bulk of the contracts for the projects they would promote from these funds, giving the Haliburton’s of the world a steady source of welfare, from oil revenues in this case, to keep working away. All very socialistic yet sold under the free markets banner. These funds would of course be under the control of the developing nations to ensure the contracts go to the right firms. Well, I’m off topic here.

Let’s go back to Mr Feith. The man has been a leading proponent of the Iraqi invasion and has had a wide open ear for the Iraqi exiles that bilked the US of millions of dollars to provide a false picture of Iraq. Currently, he is under intense pressure in Washington DC for his misdeeds. It would be unsurprising if he were not putting out ‘secret memos’ to justify his failed positions.

I can therefore not accept the content or the source as credible, nor can I for one minute believe it is not self-interested to release this information at a time when many are questioning the man’s policies and integrity.

I am appreciative of the opportunity to have read this bit of work as it was anyway helpful and informative of the CIA/Pentagon’s thinking about the nature of the sensitive matter of Iraqi connections to terrorists. They have, as we both well know, been right and wrong before, no one is infallible, as they tend to prove daily. It is also known that they often publish things as deliberate disinformation. The use of defector’s reports again is troubling, given their proven inaccuracy and self-interest.

Much information seems third hand or wishful thinking disguised as ‘fragmentary evidence’, as these two examples point up. “Investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 by al Qaeda revealed no specific Iraqi connections but according to the CIA, "fragmentary evidence points to possible Iraqi involvement."

26. During a custodial interview, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi [a senior al Qaeda operative] said he was told by an al Qaeda associate that he was tasked to travel to Iraq (1998) to establish a relationship with Iraqi intelligence to obtain poisons and gases training.”

There are many inaccuracies that jump out. For example, “Some of the reporting about the relationship (Iraq-terrorists) throughout the mid-1990s comes from a source who had intimate knowledge of bin Laden and his dealings”. If we have these sources, with this sort of information, how come we cannot yet have bin Laden? Another bit details nothing, leaving one wondering what all the fuss is about. An example can be seen in a section of the report’s conclusion that “None of the reports (from different sources) have information on operational details or the purpose of such meetings. (purported al Qaeda-Iraq meetings) The covert nature of the relationship would indicate strict compartmentalisation (my correction) [sic] of operations.” Many stories regarding Iraq have been Israeli or CIA plants, trying to get support for specific policies and developments. History has often shown that what the intelligence services said was true yesterday is false today.

I shall, however, keep an open mind regarding terror links as I do (decreasingly) on WMD and see if additional news sources and reporters pick up on this story. I do not believe all has learnt or been written on this purported link, even though it was such a catalyst for the invasion. The level of acceptance may help determine the credibility of the allegations- how many can be persuaded the memo and contents are accurate and publish details therefrom.

Have a good afternoon.

john horse - 11/16/2003

My guess is that this secret report was leaked in order to help the true believers in Bush's Iraq war claims keep the faith. It must have been disheartening when so much of the initial reports of the discovery of WMDs, for example, turned out to be false. The Kay Report must have also been very disappointing.

The source of this report is Douglas Feith. He is one of the supporters of Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi, through the Office of Special Plans, provided alot of the evidence that the Bush administration used for the invasion of Iraq. Unfortunately, upon further examination this evidence turned out to be unreliable.

This is not to say that this report is inaccurate. Lets examine all the evidence, including this report, and let the chips fall where they may. We should avoid, what former Powell aide Greg Thielmann, refers to as "faith based intelligence", that is, only hearing the evidence that supports our preformed conclusions. In my opinion, this is how we got into this mess.

Gus Moner - 11/16/2003

If I interpretted Citizen Herodotus (not of infanticidal Herod, he) correctly, then sais person (not Herod) makes a succint and frequently ommitted point- that the entire history of modern Iraq is riddled with others telling them how to organise their state and lives.

Will BushBlair Nation Builderes Inc. succeed where so many others have failed? One can only hope so at this blood-stained point of their adventure. The alternative is entirely too nasty to contemplate, at least till it hits us in the face.

ps Wit included at no extra charge

Gus Moner - 11/16/2003

Well, you have certainly given me enough bedtime reading for a week! I'll take a stab at it, and in 'retaliation'

:- )

I offer you this shorter historical piece:

Arming Iraq and the Path to War, by John King

2003-03-31 | This is an accurate chronology of United States' involvement in the arming of Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war. It is a powerful indictment of the current Bush administration attempt to sell war as a component of his war on terrorism. It reveals our ambitions in Iraq to be just another chapter in the attempt to regain a foothold in the Mideast following the fall of the Shah of Iran.

A crisis always has a history, and the current crisis with Iraq is no exception. Below are some relevant dates.

September 1980. Iraq invades Iran. The beginning of the Iraq-Iran war. (8)

February 1982. Despite objections from Congress, President Reagan removes Iraq from its list of known terrorist countries. (1)

December 1982. Hughes Aircraft ships 60 Defender helicopters to Iraq. (9)

1982-1988. Defense Intelligence Agency provides detailed information for Iraq on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for air strikes and bomb damage assessments. (4)

November 1983. A National Security Directive states that the U.S would do "whatever was necessary and legal" to prevent Iraq from losing its war with Iran. (1) (15)

November 1983. Banca Nazionale del Lavoro of Italy and its Branch in Atlanta begin to funnel $5 billion in unreported loans to Iraq. Iraq, with the blessing and official approval of the U.S. government, purchased computer controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other
industrial goods for Iraq's missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. (14)

October 1983. The Reagan Administration begins secretly allowing Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt to transfer United States weapons, including Howitzers, Huey helicopters, and bombs to Iraq. These shipments violated the Arms Export Control Act. (16)

November 1983. George Schultz, the Secretary of State, is given intelligence reports showing that Iraqi troops are daily using chemical weapons against the Iranians. (1)

December 20 1983. Donald Rumsfeld, then a civilian and now Defense Secretary, meets with Saddam Hussein to assure him of US friendship and materials support. (1) (15)

July 1984. CIA begins giving Iraq intelligence necessary to calibrate its mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops. (19)

January 14 1984. State Department memo acknowledges United States shipment of "dual-use" export hardware and technology. Dual use items are civilian items such as heavy trucks, armored ambulances and communications gear as well as industrial technology that can have a military application. (2)

March 1986. The United States with Great Britain block all Security Council resolutions condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons, and on March 21 the U.S. becomes the only country refusing to sign a Security Council statement condemning Iraq's use of these weapons. (10)

May 1986. The U.S. Department of Commerce licenses 70 biological exports to Iraq between May of 1985 and 1989, including at least 21 batches of lethal strains of anthrax. (3)

May 1986. US Department of Commerce approves shipment of weapons grade botulin poison to Iraq. (7)

March 1987. President Reagan bows to the findings of the Tower Commission admitting the sale of arms to Iran in exchange for hostages. Oliver North uses the profits from the sale to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua. (17)

Late 1987. The Iraqi Air Force begins using chemical agents against Kurdish resistance forces in northern Iraq. (1)

February 1988. Saddam Hussein begins the "Anfal" campaign against the Kurds of northern Iraq. The Iraq regime used chemical weapons against the Kurds killing over 100,000 civilians and destroying over 1,200 Kurdish villages. (8)

April 1988. US Department of Commerce approves shipment of chemicals used in manufacture of mustard gas. (7)

August 1988. Four major battles were fought from April to August 1988, in which the Iraqis massively and effectively used chemical weapons to defeat the Iranians. Nerve gas and blister agents such as mustard gas are used. By this time the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency is heavily involved with Saddam Hussein in battle plan assistance, intelligence gathering and post battle debriefing. In the last major battle with of the war, 65,000 Iranians are killed, many with poison gas. Use of chemical weapons in war is in violation of the Geneva accords of 1925. (6) (13)

August 1988. Iraq and Iran declare a cease fire. (8)

August 1988. Five days after the cease fire Saddam Hussein sends his planes and helicopters to northern Iraq to begin massive chemical attacks against the Kurds. (8)

September 1988. U.S. Department of Commerce approves shipment of weapons grade anthrax and botulinum to Iraq. (7)

September 1988. Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State: "The US-Iraqi relationship is... important to our long-term political and economic objectives." (15)

December 1988. Dow chemical sells $1.5 million in pesticides to Iraq despite knowledge that these would be used in chemical weapons. (1)

July 25, 1990. U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad meets with Hussein to assure him that President Bush "wanted better and deeper relations." Many believe this visit was a trap set for Hussein. A month later Hussein invaded Kuwait thinking the U.S. would not respond. (12)

August 1990. Iraq invades Kuwait. The precursor to the Gulf War. (8)

July 1991. The Financial Times of London reveals that a Florida chemical company had produced and shipped cyanide to Iraq during the 80's using a special CIA courier. Cyanide was used extensively against the Iranians. (11)

August 1991. Christopher Droguol of Atlanta's branch of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro is arrested for his role in supplying loans to Iraq for the purchase of military supplies. He is charged with 347 counts of felony. Droguol is found guilty, but U.S. officials plead innocent of any knowledge of his crime. (14)

June 1992. Ted Koppel of ABC Nightline reports: "It is becoming increasingly clear that George Bush, Sr., operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into [an aggressive power]." (5)

July 1992. "The Bush administration deliberately, not inadvertently, helped to arm Iraq by allowing U.S. technology to be shipped to Iraqi military and to Iraqi defense factories... Throughout the course of the Bush administration, U.S. and foreign firms were granted export licenses to ship U.S. technology directly to Iraqi weapons facilities despite ample evidence showing that these factories were producing weapons." Representative Henry Gonzalez, Texas, testimony before the House. (18)

February 1994. Senator Riegle from Michigan, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, testifies before the senate revealing large U.S. shipments of dual-use biological and chemical agents to Iraq that may have been used against U.S. troops in the Gulf War and probably was the cause of the illness known as Gulf War Syndrome. (7)

August 2002. "The use of gas [during the Iran-Iraq war] on the battle field by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern... We were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose." Colonel Walter Lang, former senior U.S. Defense Intelligence officer tells the New York Times. (4)

This chronology of the United States' sordid involvement in the arming of Iraq can be summarized in this way: the United States used methods both legal and illegal to help build Saddam's army into the most powerful army in the Mideast outside of Israel. The U.S. supplied chemical and biological agents and technology to Iraq when it knew Iraq was using chemical weapons against the Iranians. The U.S. supplied the materials and technology for these weapons of mass destruction to Iraq at a time when it was known that Saddam was using this technology to kill his Kurdish citizens. The United States supplied intelligence and battle planning information to Iraq when those battle plans included the use of cyanide, mustard gas and nerve agents. The United States blocked U.N. censure of Iraq's use of chemical weapons. The United States did not act alone in this effort. The Soviet Union was the largest weapons supplier, but England, France and Germany were also involved in the shipment of arms and technology.

So what do these events have to do with the current conflict?

Just this: If we do go to war with Iraq, it is important to know why! War will not really be about terrorism! Twenty years ago the United States threw its support behind Saddam Hussein in a geopolitical bid for enhanced access to oil. The trajectory given him by our support lead directly to the Gulf War and to the current crises. War, after all, will be about a history of misdeeds and miscalculations. And war will not be about morality. War will be about cynicism, deceit and a thirst for oil that knows no boundaries.

John King
Long Prairie, MN, USA.

(ED. Note: Although this article was written before the attack began, the analysis still rings true.)


1. December 30, 2002
2. Jonathan Broder. Nuclear times, Winter 1990-91
3. Kurt Nimno. AlterNet. September 23, 2002
4. August 29, 2002
5. ABC Nightline. June 9, 1992
6. Counter Punch, October 10, 2002
7. Riegle Report: Dual Use Exports. Senate Committee on Banking. May 25, 1994
8. Timeline: A walk Through Iraq's History. U.S. Department of State
9. Doing Business: The Arming of Iraq. Daniel Robichear
10. Glen Rangwala. Labor Left Briefing, 16 September, 2002
11. Financial Times of London. July 3, 1991
12. Elson E. Boles. Counter Punch. October 10, 2002
13. Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988.
14. Columbia Journalism Review. March/April 1993. Iraqgate
15. Times Online. December 31, 2002. How U.S. Helped Iraq Build Deadly Arsenal
16. Bush's Secret Mission. The New Yorker Magazine. November 2, 1992
17. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia: Iran-Contra Affair
18. Congressional Record. July 27, 1992. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez
19. Bob Woodward. CIA Aiding Iraq in Gulf War. Washington Post.
15 December, 1986
20. Case Study: The Anfal Campaign

Bill Heuisler - 11/15/2003

Read this. Sorry to load you down with copy, but I just heard about this article today and don't have time to edit and condense. Thought it was important. Does it change your mind?
Bill Heuisler

Case Closed
From the November 24, 2003 issue: The U.S. government's secret memo detailing cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.
by Stephen F. Hayes
11/24/2003, Volume 009, Issue 11

OSAMA BIN LADEN and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda--perhaps even for Mohamed Atta--according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of America's most determined and dangerous enemies.

According to the memo--which lays out the intelligence in 50 numbered points--Iraq-al Qaeda contacts began in 1990 and continued through mid-March 2003, days before the Iraq War began. Most of the numbered passages contain straight, fact-based intelligence reporting, which in
some cases includes an evaluation of the credibility of the source. This reporting is often followed by commentary and analysis.

The relationship began shortly before the first Gulf War. According to reporting in the memo, bin Laden sent "emissaries to Jordan in 1990 to meet with Iraqi government officials." At some unspecified point in 1991, according to a CIA analysis, "Iraq sought Sudan's assistance to establish links to al Qaeda." The outreach went in both directions. According to 1993 CIA reporting cited in the memo, "bin Laden wanted to expand his organization's capabilities through ties with Iraq."

The primary go-between throughout these early stages was Sudanese strongman Hassan al-Turabi, a leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated National Islamic Front. Numerous sources have confirmed this. One defector reported that "al-Turabi was instrumental in arranging the Iraqi-al Qaeda relationship. The defector said Iraq sought al Qaeda influence through its connections with Afghanistan, to facilitate the transshipment of proscribed weapons and equipment to Iraq. In return, Iraq provided al Qaeda with training and instructors."

One such confirmation came in a postwar interview with one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen. As the memo details:

4. According to a May 2003 debriefing of a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, Iraqi intelligence established a highly secretive relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and later with al Qaeda. The first meeting in 1992 between the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and al Qaeda was brokered by al-Turabi. Former IIS deputy director Faruq Hijazi and senior al Qaeda leader [Ayman al] Zawahiri were at the meeting--the first of several between 1992 and 1995 in Sudan. Additional meetings between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda were held in Pakistan. Members of al Qaeda would sometimes visit Baghdad where they would meet the Iraqi intelligence chief in a safe house. The report claimed that Saddam insisted the relationship with al Qaeda be kept secret. After 9-11, the source said Saddam made a personnel change in the IIS for fear the relationship would come under scrutiny from foreign probes.
A decisive moment in the budding relationship came in 1993, when bin Laden faced internal resistance to his cooperation with Saddam.

5. A CIA report from a contact with good access, some of whose reporting has been corroborated, said that certain elements in the "Islamic Army" of bin Laden were against the secular regime of Saddam. Overriding the internal factional strife that was developing, bin Laden came to an "understanding" with Saddam that the Islamic Army would no longer support anti-Saddam activities. According to sensitive reporting released in U.S. court documents during the African Embassy trial, in 1993 bin Laden reached an "understanding" with Saddam under which he (bin Laden) forbade al Qaeda operations to be mounted against the Iraqi leader.
Another facilitator of the relationship during the mid-1990s was Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer al-Iraqi). Abu Hajer, now in a New York prison, was described in court proceedings related to the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as bin Laden's "best friend." According to CIA reporting dating back to the Clinton administration, bin Laden trusted him to serve as a liaison with Saddam's regime and tasked him with procurement of weapons of mass destruction for al Qaeda. FBI reporting in the memo reveals that Abu Hajer "visited Iraq in early 1995" and "had a good relationship with Iraqi intelligence. Sometime before mid-1995 he went on an al Qaeda mission to discuss unspecified cooperation with the Iraqi government."

Some of the reporting about the relationship throughout the mid-1990s comes from a source who had intimate knowledge of bin Laden and his dealings. This source, according to CIA analysis, offered "the most credible information" on cooperation between bin Laden and Iraq.

This source's reports read almost like a diary. Specific dates of when bin Laden flew to various cities are included, as well as names of individuals he met. The source did not offer information on the substantive talks during the meetings. . . . There are not a great many reports in general on the relationship between bin Laden and Iraq because of the secrecy surrounding it. But when this source with close access provided a "window" into bin Laden's activities, bin Laden is seen as heavily involved with Iraq (and Iran).
Reporting from the early 1990s remains somewhat sketchy, though multiple sources place Hassan al-Turabi and Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's current No. 2, at the center of the relationship. The reporting gets much more specific in the mid-1990s:

8. Reporting from a well placed source disclosed that bin Laden was receiving training on bomb making from the IIS's [Iraqi Intelligence Service] principal technical expert on making sophisticated explosives, Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed. Brigadier Salim was observed at bin Laden's farm in Khartoum in Sept.-Oct. 1995 and again in July 1996, in the company of the Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti.
9 . . . Bin Laden visited Doha, Qatar (17-19 Jan. 1996), staying at the residence of a member of the Qatari ruling family. He discussed the successful movement of explosives into Saudi Arabia, and operations targeted against U.S. and U.K. interests in Dammam, Dharan, and Khobar, using clandestine al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia. Upon his return, bin Laden met with Hijazi and Turabi, among others.

And later more reporting, from the same "well placed" source:

10. The Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti, met privately with bin Laden at his farm in Sudan in July 1996. Tikriti used an Iraqi delegation traveling to Khartoum to discuss bilateral cooperation as his "cover" for his own entry into Sudan to meet with bin Laden and Hassan al-Turabi. The Iraqi intelligence chief and two other IIS officers met at bin Laden's farm and discussed bin Laden's request for IIS technical assistance in: a) making letter and parcel bombs; b) making bombs which could be placed on aircraft and detonated by changes in barometric pressure; and c) making false passport [sic]. Bin Laden specifically requested that [Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed], Iraqi intelligence's premier explosives maker--especially skilled in making car bombs--remain with him in Sudan. The Iraqi intelligence chief instructed Salim to remain in Sudan with bin Laden as long as required.
The analysis of those events follows:

The time of the visit from the IIS director was a few weeks after the Khobar Towers bombing. The bombing came on the third anniversary of a U.S. [Tomahawk missile] strike on IIS HQ (retaliation for the attempted assassination of former President Bush in Kuwait) for which Iraqi officials explicitly threatened retaliation.

IN ADDITION TO THE CONTACTS CLUSTERED in the mid-1990s, intelligence reports detail a flurry of activities in early 1998 and again in December 1998. A "former senior Iraqi intelligence officer" reported that "the Iraqi intelligence service station in Pakistan was Baghdad's point of contact with al Qaeda. He also said bin Laden visited Baghdad in Jan. 1998 and met with Tariq Aziz."

11. According to sensitive reporting, Saddam personally sent Faruq Hijazi, IIS deputy director and later Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, to meet with bin Laden at least twice, first in Sudan and later in Afghanistan in 1999. . . .
14. According to a sensitive reporting [from] a "regular and reliable source," [Ayman al] Zawahiri, a senior al Qaeda operative, visited Baghdad and met with the Iraqi Vice President on 3 February 1998. The goal of the visit was to arrange for coordination between Iraq and bin Laden and establish camps in an-Nasiriyah and Iraqi Kurdistan under the leadership of Abdul Aziz.

That visit came as the Iraqis intensified their defiance of the U.N. inspection regime, known as UNSCOM, created by the cease-fire agreement following the Gulf War. UNSCOM demanded access to Saddam's presidential palaces that he refused to provide. As the tensions mounted, President Bill Clinton went to the Pentagon on February 18, 1998, and prepared the nation for war. He warned of "an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals" and said "there is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein."

The day after this speech, according to documents unearthed in April 2003 in the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters by journalists Mitch Potter and Inigo Gilmore, Hussein's intelligence service wrote a memo detailing coming meetings with a bin Laden representative traveling to Baghdad. Each reference to bin Laden had been covered by liquid paper that, when revealed, exposed a plan to increase cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda. According to that memo, the IIS agreed to pay for "all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden." The document set as the goal for the meeting a discussion of "the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The al Qaeda representative, the document went on to suggest, might provide "a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden."

Four days later, on February 23, 1998, bin Laden issued his now-famous fatwa on the plight of Iraq, published in the Arabic-language daily, al Quds al-Arabi: "For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples." Bin Laden urged his followers to act: "The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."

Although war was temporarily averted by a last-minute deal brokered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, tensions soon rose again. The standoff with Iraq came to a head in December 1998, when President Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, a 70-hour bombing campaign that began on December 16 and ended three days later, on December 19, 1998.

According to press reports at the time, Faruq Hijazi, deputy director of Iraqi Intelligence, met with bin Laden in Afghanistan on December 21, 1998, to offer bin Laden safe haven in Iraq. CIA reporting in the memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to confirm this meeting and relates two others.

15. A foreign government service reported that an Iraqi delegation, including at least two Iraqi intelligence officers formerly assigned to the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan, met in late 1998 with bin Laden in Afghanistan.
16. According to CIA reporting, bin Laden and Zawahiri met with two Iraqi intelligence officers in Afghanistan in Dec. 1998.

17. . . . Iraq sent an intelligence officer to Afghanistan to seek closer ties to bin Laden and the Taliban in late 1998. The source reported that the Iraqi regime was trying to broaden its cooperation with al Qaeda. Iraq was looking to recruit Muslim "elements" to sabotage U.S. and U.K. interests. After a senior Iraqi intelligence officer met with Taliban leader [Mullah] Omar, arrangements were made for a series of meetings between the Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in Pakistan. The source noted Faruq Hijazi was in Afghanistan in late 1998.

18. . . . Faruq Hijazi went to Afghanistan in 1999 along with several other Iraqi officials to meet with bin Laden. The source claimed that Hijazi would have met bin Laden only at Saddam's explicit direction.

An analysis that follows No. 18 provides additional context and an explanation of these reports:

Reporting entries #4, #11, #15, #16, #17, and #18, from different sources, corroborate each other and provide confirmation of meetings between al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of the reports have information on operational details or the purpose of such meetings. The covert nature of the relationship would indicate strict compartmentation [sic] of operations.
Information about connections between al Qaeda and Iraq was so widespread by early 1999 that it made its way into the mainstream press. A January 11, 1999, Newsweek story ran under this headline: "Saddam + Bin Laden?" The story cited an "Arab intelligence source" with knowledge of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. "According to this source, Saddam expected last month's American and British bombing campaign to go on much longer than it did. The dictator believed that as the attacks continued, indignation would grow in the Muslim world, making his terrorism offensive both harder to trace and more effective. With acts of terror contributing to chaos in the region, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait might feel less inclined to support Washington. Saddam's long-term strategy, according to several sources, is to bully or cajole Muslim countries into breaking the embargo against Iraq, without waiting for the United Nations to lift if formally."

INTELLIGENCE REPORTS about the nature of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda from mid-1999 through 2003 are conflicting. One senior Iraqi intelligence officer in U.S. custody, Khalil Ibrahim Abdallah, "said that the last contact between the IIS and al Qaeda was in July 1999. Bin Laden wanted to meet with Saddam, he said. The guidance sent back from Saddam's office reportedly ordered Iraqi intelligence to refrain from any further contact with bin Laden and al Qaeda. The source opined that Saddam wanted to distance himself from al Qaeda."

The bulk of reporting on the relationship contradicts this claim. One report states that "in late 1999" al Qaeda set up a training camp in northern Iraq that "was operational as of 1999." Other reports suggest that the Iraqi regime contemplated several offers of safe haven to bin Laden throughout 1999.

23. . . . Iraqi officials were carefully considering offering safe haven to bin Laden and his closest collaborators in Nov. 1999. The source indicated the idea was put forward by the presumed head of Iraqi intelligence in Islamabad (Khalid Janaby) who in turn was in frequent contact and had good relations with bin Laden.
Some of the most intriguing intelligence concerns an Iraqi named Ahmed Hikmat Shakir:

24. According to sensitive reporting, a Malaysia-based Iraqi national (Shakir) facilitated the arrival of one of the Sept 11 hijackers for an operational meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Jan 2000). Sensitive reporting indicates Shakir's travel and contacts link him to a worldwide network of terrorists, including al Qaeda. Shakir worked at the Kuala Lumpur airport--a job he claimed to have obtained through an Iraqi embassy employee.
One of the men at that al Qaeda operational meeting in the Kuala Lumpur Hotel was Tawfiz al Atash, a top bin Laden lieutenant later identified as the mastermind of the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole.

25. Investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 by al Qaeda revealed no specific Iraqi connections but according to the CIA, "fragmentary evidence points to possible Iraqi involvement."
26. During a custodial interview, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi [a senior al Qaeda operative] said he was told by an al Qaeda associate that he was tasked to travel to Iraq (1998) to establish a relationship with Iraqi intelligence to obtain poisons and gases training. After the USS Cole bombing in 2000, two al Qaeda operatives were sent to Iraq for CBW-related [Chemical and Biological Weapons] training beginning in Dec 2000. Iraqi intelligence was "encouraged" after the embassy and USS Cole bombings to provide this training.

The analysis of this report follows.

CIA maintains that Ibn al-Shaykh's timeline is consistent with other sensitive reporting indicating that bin Laden asked Iraq in 1998 for advanced weapons, including CBW and "poisons."
Additional reporting also calls into question the claim that relations between Iraq and al Qaeda cooled after mid-1999:

27. According to sensitive CIA reporting, . . . the Saudi National Guard went on a kingdom-wide state of alert in late Dec 2000 after learning Saddam agreed to assist al Qaeda in attacking U.S./U.K. interests in Saudi Arabia.

And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What's more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta's activities by Iraqi intelligence.

The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.

And the commentary:
CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It's not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani. The meeting that has gotten the most press attention--April 9, 2001--is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion. They believe that reports of the alleged meeting, said to have taken place in public, outside the headquarters of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggest a level of sloppiness that doesn't fit the pattern of previous high-level Iraq-al Qaeda contacts.

Whether or not that specific meeting occurred, the report by Czech counterintelligence that al Ani ordered the Iraqi Intelligence Service officer to provide IIS funds to Atta might help explain the lead hijacker's determination to reach Prague, despite significant obstacles, in the spring of
2000. (Note that the report stops short of confirming that the funds were transferred. It claims only that the IIS officer requested the transfer.) Recall that Atta flew to Prague from Germany on May 30, 2000, but was denied entry because he did not have a valid visa. Rather than simply return to Germany and fly directly to the United States, his ultimate destination, Atta took pains to get to Prague. After he was refused entry the first time, he traveled back to Germany, obtained the proper paperwork, and caught a bus back to Prague. He left for the United States the day after arriving in Prague for the second time.

Several reports indicate that the relationship between Saddam and bin Laden continued, even after the September 11 attacks:

31. An Oct. 2002 . . . report said al Qaeda and Iraq reached a secret agreement whereby Iraq would provide safe haven to al Qaeda members and provide them with money and weapons. The agreement reportedly prompted a large number of al Qaeda members to head to Iraq. The report also said that al Qaeda members involved in a fraudulent passport network for al Qaeda had been directed to procure 90 Iraqi and Syrian passports for al Qaeda personnel.
The analysis that accompanies that report indicates that the report fits the pattern of Iraq-al Qaeda collaboration:

References to procurement of false passports from Iraq and offers of safe haven previously have surfaced in CIA source reporting considered reliable. Intelligence reports to date have maintained that Iraqi support for al Qaeda usually involved providing training, obtaining passports, and offers of refuge. This report adds to that list by including weapons and money. This assistance would make sense in the aftermath of 9-11.
Colin Powell, in his February 5, 2003, presentation to the U.N. Security Council, revealed the activities of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Reporting in the memo expands on Powell's case and might help explain some of the resistance the U.S. military is currently facing in Iraq.

37. Sensitive reporting indicates senior terrorist planner and close al Qaeda associate al Zarqawi has had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of Oct. 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with the IIS to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an IIS officer in Baghdad. According to sensitive reporting, al Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city, suggesting his operational cooperation with the Iraqis may have deepened in recent months. Such cooperation could include IIS provision of a secure operating bases [sic] and steady access to arms and explosives in preparation for a possible U.S. invasion. Al Zarqawi's procurements from the Iraqis also could support al Qaeda operations against the U.S. or its allies elsewhere.
38. According to sensitive reporting, a contact with good access who does not have an established reporting record: An Iraqi intelligence service officer said that as of mid-March the IIS was providing weapons to al Qaeda members located in northern Iraq, including rocket propelled grenade (RPG)-18 launchers. According to IIS information, northern Iraq-based al Qaeda members believed that the U.S. intended to strike al Qaeda targets during an anticipated assault against Ansar al-Islam positions.

The memo further reported pre-war intelligence which "claimed that an Iraqi intelligence official, praising Ansar al-Islam, provided it with $100,000 and agreed to continue to give assistance."

CRITICS OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION have complained that Iraq-al Qaeda connections are a fantasy, trumped up by the warmongers at the White House to fit their preconceived notions about international terror; that links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have been routinely "exaggerated" for political purposes; that hawks "cherry-picked" bits of intelligence and tendentiously presented these to the American public.

Carl Levin, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made those points as recently as November 9, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Republicans on the committee, he complained, refuse to look at the administration's "exaggeration of intelligence."

Said Levin: "The question is whether or not they exaggerated intelligence in order to carry out their purpose, which was to make the case for going to war. Did we know, for instance, with certainty that there was any relationship between the Iraqis and the terrorists that were in Afghanistan, bin Laden? The administration said that there's a connection between those terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Was there a basis for that?"

There was, as shown in the memo to the committee on which Levin serves. And much of the reporting comes from Clinton-era intelligence. Not that you would know this from Al Gore's recent public statements. Indeed, the former vice president claims to be privy to new "evidence" that the administration lied. In an August speech at New York University, Gore claimed: "The evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama bin Laden at all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction." Really?

One of the most interesting things to note about the 16-page memo is that it covers only a fraction of the evidence that will eventually be available to document the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. For one thing, both Saddam and bin Laden were desperate to keep their cooperation secret. (Remember, Iraqi intelligence used liquid paper on an internal intelligence document to conceal bin Laden's name.) For another, few people in the U.S. government are expressly looking for such links. There is no Iraq-al Qaeda equivalent of the CIA's 1,400-person Iraq Survey Group currently searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.

Instead, CIA and FBI officials are methodically reviewing Iraqi intelligence files that survived the three-week war last spring. These documents would cover several miles if laid end-to-end. And they are in Arabic. They include not only connections between bin Laden and Saddam, but also revolting details of the regime's long history of brutality. It will be a slow process.

So Feith's memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee is best viewed as sort of a "Cliff's Notes" version of the relationship. It contains the highlights, but it is far from exhaustive.

One example. The memo contains only one paragraph on Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi facilitator who escorted two September 11 hijackers through customs in Kuala Lumpur. U.S. intelligence agencies have extensive reporting on his activities before and after the September 11 hijacking. That they would include only this brief overview suggests the 16-page memo, extensive as it is, just skims the surface of the reporting on Iraq-al Qaeda connections.

Other intelligence reports indicate that Shakir whisked not one but two September 11 hijackers--Khalid al Midhar and Nawaq al Hamzi--through the passport and customs process upon their arrival in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000. Shakir then traveled with the hijackers to the Kuala Lumpur Hotel where they met with Ramzi bin al Shibh, one of the masterminds of the September 11 plot. The meeting lasted three days. Shakir returned to work on January 9 and January 10, and never again.

Shakir got his airport job through a contact at the Iraqi Embassy. (Iraq routinely used its embassies as staging grounds for its intelligence operations; in some cases, more than half of the alleged "diplomats" were intelligence operatives.) The Iraqi embassy, not his employer, controlled Shakir's schedule. He was detained in Qatar on September 17, 2001. Authorities found in his possession contact information for terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the September 11 hijackings. The CIA had previous reporting that Shakir had received a phone call from the safe house where the 1993 World Trade Center attacks had been plotted.

The Qataris released Shakir shortly after his arrest. On October 21, 2001, he flew to Amman, Jordan, where he was to change planes to a flight to Baghdad. He didn't make that flight. Shakir was detained in Jordan for three months, where the CIA interrogated him. His interrogators concluded that Shakir had received extensive training in counter-interrogation techniques. Not long after he was detained, according to an official familiar with the intelligence, the Iraqi regime began to "pressure" Jordanian intelligence to release him. At the same time, Amnesty International complained that Shakir was being held without charge. The Jordanians released him on January 28, 2002, at which point he is believed to have fled back to Iraq.

Was Shakir an Iraqi agent? Does he provide a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11? We don't know. We may someday find out.

But there can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to plot against Americans.

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

Grant Jones - 11/15/2003

They are still digging up mass graves in Iraq. And there are people on this board who want the US to bail out of Iraq and leave our friends there to the tender mercies of the Baathists.

Herodotus - 11/15/2003

I love how in this debate we totally ignore any consideration of actual Iraqi voices on tha matter. How arrogant of us westerners.

Herodotus - 11/15/2003

yes, we don't often remember that Ba'athism was a derivation....National Socialism. Rashid Ali's political successors followed his ideas and those of their sponsors.

Gus Moner - 11/15/2003

The answer is, obviously, no they have not. One does not export one's political system, as good as one thinks it is, without stepping on people's pride. It is the height of absurdity to imagine one can implant democracy from the barrel of a gun. These Judeo Christian warriors have learnt nothing of history and clearly knew not Middle Eastern history when they invaded Iraq. Iraq is not a nation but a badly-drawn British agglomeration of three ethnic groups who have never been at ease with each other.

It's too late to not invade now, so let us return the country to its people and depart (that'll be an accomplishment in itself).

It'll be a year, at the earliest, before significant numbers of US troops can be brought home. Unfortunately, many more people will die in the process.

Grant Jones - 11/14/2003

Regarding your point 1, Do a google search for "13th Waffen SS Mountain Division." One can only be pro-Nazi after the fact? Because when else can one have "complete knowledge" of the "full extent" of Nazi crimes and ideology? Not very convincing. Was Henry Ford pro-Nazi? I don't think you've read the wartime rantings of the Mufti, who was a wanted war-criminal, or you wouldn't be stating such an absurdity.

Your point 2, actually the Luftwaffe had sent technicians to Syria to draw up plans for airbases. Otherwise, do your own homework. I've given you good leads on investigating this issue. You have provided me with zero references of sources.

But since you have conceded my original point, what are we arguing about? Oh yes, that's it. I've brought up facts not to your liking so now I'm a defender of every crime that transpired under colonialism. If you seriously study history you will find that in many cases, not all, such a black and white view (the evil white colonial oppressors versus the noble third-world revolutionaries or the evil big businessman versus the noble union organizer, etc., ad nauseam) is not a useful analytic tool in understanding the past or human action.

British liberty is only the concern of whites and Protestants? Well then on what moral grounds can you condemn colonialism? It is as old as Sargon I. Liberalism is the ideology that ended slavery and colonialism and it is the product of the European Enlightenment. Just because Europeans and Americans do not practice it consistently (doe anyone else even make the attempt?) does not invalidate the principle. You also lump together French, Belgium, American and British colonies. A more meaningful question would be, could an Iraqi under British rule live in peace, practice his religion or not, practice a trade and keep the proceeds, have a modicum of protection under the rule of law and not worry about being fed into a plastic shredder? In know this is heresy to some, but their are worse things than colonialism. Compare and contrast Uganda under the British to what has followed it. Sometimes a benign despotism can actually preserve basic individual rights better that a gangster state run by the locals. In fact it should matter a hell of a lot to an Iraqi if he is living under the rule of law, regardless of who imposes it, rather than a Baathist Fascist Police State. And it does matter to many of them, those who risk their lives to join the new Iraqi police force to bring law and order the their country.

Point 5 is just bizarre, the British did not come close to losing WWII because of their colonial policy. It had to do with appeasement and allowing their defenses to become run down. Having France as an ally wasn't helpful either.

Grant Jones - 11/14/2003

Whew, where to begin? I'll repeat myself, check out the title by Benny Morris on Arab sympathies with Nazi ideology.

My point is that there is a difference between being an anti-colonialist and a freedom fighter. The end of colonialism was not the end of tyranny, in some places the slaughter reached a whole new level. The purpose of the UN Mandates was to provide a framework for independence in which geniune freedom would result, not "one man, one vote, one time." Strategically the occupation of the Mid-East during the was was a necessity, for example Iran.

Freedom has a definition. It means a limited government, property rights, equality before the law, freedom of (and from) religion and the principles found in the Bill of Rights. I don't find these things in Arab countries. So I have a difficult time calling those who wanted the British out as "freedom fighters." Collectivistic Nationalism is not the stuff of freedom.

The situation in South Africa is far too complex to deal with in a short internet post. Mandela is a brave man who has given a lot for his cause. But this begs the question of what exactly is his cause. If it is liberal democracy, great.

Anyways my main point in my original comment was that Shlaim is not providing the context necessary to understand the events he only mentions in passing.

Gus Moner - 11/14/2003

Well put. Churchill, as with all leaders wanted to not be the leader under which the empire faded away. How sad for him. As to being a great leader, well, he was good. However, he lost all greatness when he allowed the Soviets to swindle an ailing Roosevelt in the latter stages of WWII. His successor, for this "great leader" lost the electon after winning the war, was even worse. There is hope for those that wish to see George off to Texas next year...

Gus Moner - 11/14/2003

Mr Jones, The Arab 'revolt' as it was, was no more pro-Axis than the Shiite revolt in Iraq was pro-Iranian in 1991.

All politics are loal, a fact that often escapes us. These are local issues, and the colonisers were the British. The enemy of my enemy ... were the Axis.

Steve Vinson - 11/13/2003

I think most of what you're saying is a red herring.

1) Your use of the term "pro-Nazi" risks anchronism, as it implies complete knowledge of what Nazi ideology was and the full extent of Nazi crimes, visible only in hind-sight. You've really only demonstrated that in 1941, al-Husseini was anti-Jewish, and that he found in Hitler a sympathetic ally. This makes a good debating point, but at the expense of ignoring the the complexity of the situation and its historical context. The anti-Zionist sentiments of al-Husseini and the paranoid anti-Semitism of Hitler were arguably of entirely different moral dimensions, and certainly sprang from entirely different historical roots. The political context of anti-Zionism in the Middle East has nothing in common with the political or cultural context of European anti-Semitism. In the years of the British mandate, Zionist immigration reached the point of upsetting the demographic balance in Palestine, and was soon to result in the displacement of many Palestnian Arabs and the strangulation of their own nationalist aspirations. This was obviously going to be opposed by the Arabs, and the weak find allies where they can. Ask Nelson Mandela. He, too, was once labeled (by the U.S. government) as a terrorist and an enemy of "liberal ideology" who took money and arms from the Libyans, the Cubans, the Russians, and other unsavory allies. Obviously, a socialist or pro-Soviet state in South Africa at the height of the Cold War would have been a major strategic victory for the Soviets. But the anti-apartheid movement is not thereby discredited -- at least not in my opinion. Rather, in retrospect, our denial of support to South African freedom fighters (yes, freedom fighters) discredits us.

And as to the timing of Husseini's visit: again, a nice debating point, but can you demonstrate that he knew about, and would have approved of, the death camps?

2) In any case, all of the above refers to Palestian Arab opposition to Zionist immigration, and the decision of one Palestinian leader to meet with Hitler (I notice that while only discussing Husseini specifically, you go on to talk about unnamed "Arab leaders" [plural] who were "pro-Nazi.") Yet nothing you've said so far implicates Rashid Ali al-Gailani or any other named Iraqi as ideologically pro-Nazi. Neither, so far, have you shown that the Germans supported anti-British activity in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East with anything more than talk. Even your Churchill quote only mentions trouble-making German and Italian ministers -- no German commandos, no arms shipments, no German "Ludwig von Arabien" to train and lead an Arab Revolt redux. Nor have you shown that anti-British Arabs would have been quiescent without German encouragement. Maybe you can show this; I look forward to your rejoinder.

3) Your protestations about British "liberal ideology" would have rung pretty hollow to anyone who was not white or Protestant. As you point out, Churchill wanted to preserve freedom in the "West." I'm not indifferent to this fact, but then I'm a white American with protestant roots. Why should an Iraqi have given two figs about Britain's problems? The moral clarity of World War II fades the further one gets from the death camps. In surveying the world that was under the control of liberal Western Europeans and Americans in the first half of the 20th century, you tend to trip over a lot of betrayal, and not a few killing fields and internment camps, in Ireland, in the Congo, in India, in Indo-China, in the Philippines, in the Middle East ...

4) OK, you ask: what should the British have done? They were in Iraq, and given the stakes, couldn't afford to lose it. In the circumstances, I concede that they did what they had to do. Really all I object to is delegitimizing Arab opposition to colonialism, by tarring it with the brush of pro-Nazism; I think you've made a very simplistic case. But in any case, the British had painted themselves into a corner by their own duplicity. Strategically, the British would have been better off if they had honored their promises to the Arabs after World War I, and facilitated genuine self-government throughout the Arab world. Then they could have faced the Nazis with the Arabs as their allies, and they would not have had to resort to crushing legitimate opposition to colonial rule in order to save themselves.

5) Let's hope that we, in planning our Iraqi policy, figure out very soon that in the long run it's better to deal honorably and generously than it is to be deceptive and self-serving. Otherwise, we'll dig our own graves, as the British came damn close to doing. We saved the Brits; who's going to save us, if we continue to totally misread the situation and screw this up, as we seem well on the way to doing?

Grant Jones - 11/13/2003

Do a google search for "Amin Hajj al-Huseini." He was the Mufti mentioned. On 28 November 1941 he met with Hitler in Berlin. "The Fuhrer replied that Germany's fundamental attitude of these questions, as the Mufti himself had already stated, was clear. Germany stood for uncompromising war against the Jews...Germany was resolved, step by step, to ask one European nation after the ogher to solve its Jewish problem, and at the proper time direct a similar appeal to non-European nations as well...The Grand Mufti replied that it was his view that everything would come to pass just as the Fuhrer had indicated." Documents of German Foreign Policy 1918-45, Series D, Vol.XIII, quoted from _The Israel-Arab Reader_ ed. Laqueur and Rubin.

Note the date of this meeting. This was the time that the gas-chambers and crematoria were completed at Auschwitz. This is way beyond the enemy of my enemy theory. Also see Benny Morris' _Righteous Victims_ were he documents early Arab sympathy with Nazi ideology. The alleged ignorance the "rank and file" is irrelevent, Arab leaders were pro-Nazi not just anti-British, there is a difference.

I may have understated the disaster that a pro-Axis government in Syria and Iraq would have been. The Luftwaffe would have been able to bomb the oil fields and the Suez Canal. This could have knocked Britain out of the war. Churchill had already made it clear that all allies of the Nazis were not just the enemies of Britain but of civilization and every value decent people hold dear. The Arab leaders were not unaware of this either.

I assume you are not indifferent to who won WWII. I also assume you do not mean to imply that Israel is the moral equivelent to Nazi-Germany.

As for the Soviet Union, Churchill had tried to "kill it in its cradle." He also told Stalin that he did not take back any of his statements or actions regarding the evil of Communism. It was Churchill who made the "Iron Curtin" speech. Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill were under any delusions of the nature of Stalin's regime. They were trying to save freedom in the West, The East was already lost for two generations. The Arabs sympathizers of Hitler were NOT freedom fighters. The wanted to replace the liberal ideology of Britain with odious tyranny. Which is just what Arab leaders did once they acquired independenace.

Steve Vinson - 11/13/2003

I'm not denying that any defeat of the British would have been a help to the Nazis. My point is: when you're been betrayed and oppressed by Party A, and when Party A is at war with Party B, it makes sense to ally yourself with Party B. Why shouldn't the Iraqis and other Arabs have been pro-German? The Germans were anti-British, and the British were the conquerors of the Arabs. The enemy of my enemy, etc. etc. To say that an anti-British movement that allied itself with the Germans was ipso facto illegitimate and inauthentic on that score is a moral judgment, not historical analysis. The real historical questions are: did the Iraqi nationalists who turned to the Germans for aid sympathize with, or even understand, Nazi ideology? That was clearly Grant Jones' implication. Or was this -- as was manifestly the case with Roosevelt and Churchill in their alliance with Stalin -- an allliance of convenience? And even if some Iraqi leaders were ideologically pro-fascist, would that fact by itself render resistance to British rule inauthentic? Were rank-and-file Arab nationalists in the 1940s any more politically sophisticated than rank-and-file Viet Cong in the 1960s, few of whom had the slightest idea of what Marxism was all about?

The modern political implication of this argument is that Arab resistance to outside domination must be fomented by some nefarious third party. That's been the story line in Israel/Palestine ("there are no Palestinians ... the Palestinians are the tools of failed Arab states ... the problem is anti-Semitism in Saudi or Pakistani madrassas, or bounties paid to suicide bombers' families by Saddam Hussein"); it's the story line today in Iraq ("outside Al-Qaeda fighers ... Syria, Iran, Yemen won't control the borders") and it's clearly what Jones is trying to imply was the case in Iraq in the 1940s.

Grant Jones - 11/12/2003

"'Iraq, Occupation of, 1941': 1941 under the pro-British government of Nuri es-Said. Anti-British feeling, fomented in part by the exiled Mufti of Jerusalem, was eagerly encouraged by the Germans, who found in Rashid Ali, an Iraqi opposition politician, a willing ally..." _The Rand McNally Encyclopedia of WWII, John Keegan General Editor.

Whatever your opinion of Churchill, the Iraq revolt was pro-Axis. If successful, it would have been a serious setback for the Allies.

Cary Fraser - 11/12/2003

One of the ironies of the first Gulf War was that America went into the war intent on destroying Saddam Hussein and preserving Iraq - in fact, they achieved the reverse, they destroyed Iraq and preserved Saddam Hussein. Given that sorry episode, one is left to wonder what consequences will flow from the Anglo-American strategy of destroying the Baathist regime. If one keeps in mind that the Anglo-American allaince conspired to overthrow the Mossadegh regime and have since harvested the Iranian revolution, one must ask whether the British and American leaders have learnt any lessons from their past actions in the Middle East.

John Brennan - 11/12/2003

The point of debate is to present the facts as they support one's argument, not support the argument of your opponent. Churchill was a Nobel Laureate--largely for his accomplishments related to the writing of history. One is usually on safe ground in quoting him on things that are historical. All historians are biased--to suggest that those who read and argue history do not know this is childish.

As to the choices of Roosevelt and Churchill on the selection of their allies--this is simply ignorant. What would Vinson advise? Should the allies have opened a second front against the Russians? Come on now. The Russians weren't threatening to bring on the demise of the British Empire--the Nazis were.

When an advisor to Lincoln recommended the possibility of military confrontation with the British during the Civil War--they were providing more than tacit support to the south--Lincoln made the simple observation: "One war at a time."

Stalin's police state was ultimately defeated in the Cold War.

I would advise any one who is interested in military history and current military matters to read Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR. It greatly informs both areas of knowledge. It will help prevent historical/political observers from making simplistic observations about military matters. It really isn't that simple.

Barbara Cornett - 11/12/2003

Among the lessons of history are that only the strong survive and the meek do not inherit the earth.

If a great man such as Winston Chruchill arranges a nation based upon its commerical assets then what can we expect from a man such as George Bush?

Isn't democracy a sham anyway? Democracy doesn't even exist in the US. Our government is arranged so that commerical interests are served first and the people get the scraps if there are any. Our public lands and resources are taken from us just as surely as Iraq's resources are taken from them on behalf of commerical interests.

The rich rule the world. Churchill did what was expedient for economic reasons and not democratic ones. A minority chose Bush and made that choice for the simplest of reasons, name recognition.

Corporations control the people's airwaves and make it impossible for us to know what is going on so that we can make democratic choices about our government and our lives.

Our own democracy was built on the ethnic cleansing of the Indians and the destruction of their culture.

No wonder people around the world want to emigrate to America. Our rich are the strongest and our military is the greatest.

Steve Vinson - 11/12/2003

Grant Jones posts this quote from Winston Churchil without comment, other than to place the word "socialist" after "nationalist," implying that the Iraqi revolt against the British in 1941 was done in the service of the Nazis -- thus lacking any legitimacy.

I'm no expert on World War II, and so have nothing to say on the question of Arab-German relations during World War II. I'd only wish for for a more impartial witness than the arch-imperialist Winston Churchill. But let's be fair: Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were pleased to ally themselves with the mass murderer Stalin in order to save their countries -- and in Britain's case, their conquest empire -- from Hitler. Why shouldn't Arabs have enjoyed the right to make a comparable choice, in their own hour of extreme emergency?

Grant Jones - 11/11/2003

"It must be remembered that the revolt in Iraq was but one small sector of the immense emergency in the Middle East...This comprised the impending German onslaught upon Crete, our plans to attack Rommel in the Western Desert, the campaigns in Abyssinia and Eritrea, and the bitter need to forstall the Germans in Syria...The German plan for raising rebellion in Iraq and mastering cheaply this wide area was frustrated on a small margin...Although weak in numbers and there was an Iraqi division in the city, their presence was too much for Rashid Ali and his companions, who that day fled to Persia, accompanied by other troublemakers the German and Italian Ministers, and the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem...The suppression of the revolt in Iraq and the Anglo-French occupation of Syria, achieved as they were by narrow margins, blotted out Hitler's Oriental plan..." Winston Churchill, _The Grand Alliance_