As William Safire of the New York Times notes, the press has been reporting the “thrilling” words that the 9/11 commission report disproves any connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.
But there are two cautions: This is a preliminary report by the “runaway” staff (led by ex-N.S.C. aide Philip Zelikov), and the staff may have gotten it wrong.
“[T]he staff had twisted the two strands together,” writes Safire, “to cast doubt on both the Qaeda-Iraq ties and the specific attacks of 9/11: ’There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda also occurred after bin Laden had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship.’Zelikow & Co. dismissed the reports, citing the denials of Qaeda agents and what they decided was’no credible evidence’of cooperation on 9/11.
“That paragraph — extending doubt on 9/11 to all previous contacts — put the story on front pages. Here was a release on the official commission’s letterhead not merely failing to find Saddam’s hand in 9/11, which Bush does not claim. The news was in the apparent contradiction of what the president repeatedly asserted as a powerful reason for war: that Iraq had long been dangerously in cahoots with terrorists.”