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Special Analysis: The Imminent Threat

| 31 Comments | 7 TrackBacks
Whether one supported or opposed the war in Iraq, one of the questions that has been raised in both liberal and conservative circles since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime is whether or not Iraq posed a sufficient threat to the United States and its allies to justify such an invasion. This analysis will attempt to argue that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime and its unmistakeable alliance with al-Qaeda was such that it posed a clear and present danger not only to the United States but also to some of fiercest opponents of the war - the populations of Western Europe. Much of this information is already on public record and was summarized by US Secretary of State Collin Powell in his presentation before the United Nations, but this is the first such presentation to my knowledge to make the allegation that Abu Musab Zarqawi was in active collusion with the government of Saddam Hussein in orchestrating his terrorist activities. Here's the Quick Summary; the detailed article follows...
Before I begin, it is imperative to point out that revisionist history to the contrary, claims of some type of tactical relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq are hardly new. Indeed, one can simply examine this story on the BBC website (hardly the most pro-American source) from October 2000 in which former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro states unequivocally that al-Qaeda was in contact with the Iraqi military and not a word about the "incompatability" of ideologies or the alleged hatred that bin Laden feels for Saddam Hussein. But the first signs that the relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda was far more than a tactical one appears to have been uncovered following the fall of Taliban and capture of numerous members of the organization's leadership. At some point during the interrogations of al-Qaeda's leaders, one of the training camp commanders claimed that Iraq agreed to assist the organization with the development of chemical and biological weapons as far back as December 2000. While it is unclear which of the al-Qaeda leaders now in custody made this claim to the US, a partial listing of the group's leadership leaves us with two potential sources: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi and Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. From the looks of things, there appears to have been more than just two terrorists' good word to back these claims up; US forces in Afghanistan found traces of anthrax and ricin at the organization's biological weapons sites in Afghanistan. These claims are further bolstered by the testimony of CIA Director George Tenet in February 2003. In mid-2002, Abu Musab Zarqawi arrived in Baghdad from Iran and received medical treatment there before heading north to join Ansar al-Islam. According to Secretary of State Collin Powell's presentation before the United Nations, shortly after Zarqawi's arrival in Baghdad over two dozen al-Qaeda operatives coverged on Baghdad and were apparently able to remain there at the behest of the Iraqi regime. This claim can be corroborated by reports that Saddam Hussein had created a "safe zone" for al-Qaeda within his territory at about the same time that Zarqawi left Baghdad for northern Iraq. In northern Iraq, Zarqawi and his lieutenants in Ansar al-Islam soon began testing ricin as well as other chemical weapons. These crude chemical weapons eventually made their way to Europe, a point I'll touch more on in a moment. Zarqawi also appears to have been the first al-Qaeda leader to attack Israel directly. In September 2002, Israeli radio reported the arrest of three Palestinian al-Qaeda operatives who had been trained in Iraq, presumably by Ansar al-Islam. As I noted in my earlier Zarqawi analysis, while in northern Iraq he ordered the assassination of US diplomat Lawrence Foley in Jordan. It is worth noting that one of Foley's killers, a Libyan national named Salem bin Suweid, is a probable member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and had had poison files on his computers. Zarqawi's deputy, Moammar Ahmed Yousef, oversaw the killing from Syria but was later detained. According to an article in the UK Independent that I am still trying to locate online, it was this deputy's capture that enabled the US to learn a great deal about al-Qaeda's ties with the Iraqi regime. On November 12 of 2002 al-Jazeera broadcast a purported audiotape of Osama bin Laden claiming responsibility for a string of terrorist attacks that included the Foley assassination. With less than a week, three Algerian al-Qaeda operatives were arrested plotting to release cyanide in the London Underground. Over the course of the next three months, other al-Qaeda cells in Europe were disrupted in Paris and Catalonia, as well as the discovery of a ricin lab in North London. What did all of these cells have in common? They all received training and marching orders from two al-Qaeda leaders - Abu Khabab, the organization's top WMD specialist, and Abu Musab Zarqawi. What does all of this mean as far as the threat from Iraq is concerned? The Algerian operatives who planned to use ricin to attack the UK were trained by Ansar al-Islam. Among Ansar al-Islam's leadership, according to no less respectable a source than Time Magazine was one of Saddam Hussein's agents. According to the Kurdistan Observer and other sources, the real leader of Ansar al-Islam is Abu Wael, who is apparently one and the same as the Mukhabarat agent referenced in Time Magazine. So what does this all mean to those unfamiliar with the murky world of international terrorism? Algerian terrorist aligned with al-Qaeda under the command of Abu Musab Zarqawi and Abu Khabab attempted to use chemical weapons to attack European (as well as Russian and US targets according to the State Department) targets between November 2002 and January 2003. Had any one of these attacks succeeded, it is likely that significant numbers of innocent people would have lost their lives. Most of these attacks were planned from northern Iraq by Ansar al-Islam. None of these facts are in dispute. If one assumes that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Ansar al-Islam to the point where one of his agents was, knowingly or unknowingly, the de facto leader of the organization. Assuming Abu Wael had some means by which to communicate with his superiors in the Iraqi Mukhabarat, this means that the Mukhabarat was likely aware of what was going on but made no effort to stop it or to inform the UK, France, or Spain of what was taking place, let alone Russia or the US. That makes Saddam for all pratical purposes complicit in these attempted attacks, especially if his relationship with Ansar al-Islam was as cozy in December 2002 as the Iraqi opposition claims it was, while the would-be attacks in Europe were ongoing. As Collin Powell said at the United Nations: "Terrorism has been a tool used by Saddam for decades. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism long before these terrorist networks had a name. And this support continues. The nexus of poisons and terror is new. The nexus of Iraq and terror is old. The combination is lethal." Indeed. There is much more on what has been learned or can be plausibly discerned from the evidence accumulated to date that Stephen F. Hayes laid out in a recent article in the Weekly Standard. However, my purpose writing this analysis is to explain that the regime of Saddam Hussein harbored and provided tacit if not active support to a terrorist organization that attempted to kill hundreds if not thousands of innocent people last year. Such an action constitutes a clear example of an imminent threat to US if not global security and is in of itself a clear and rational if not moral justification for removing the Baathist regime from power.

7 TrackBacks

Tracked: September 4, 2003 3:41 PM
The Iraq/Terrorist Nexus from
Excerpt: Dan Darling over at Winds of Change has an excellent, and incredibly well-documented, argument about just how connected Hussein's Iraq was with terrorist organizations. It's hard to excerpt it, due to the number of links, but here's just a taste: In mi...
Tracked: September 4, 2003 4:00 PM
Excerpt: Here is an interesting writeup about the threat posed by Iraq before the war. It does a pretty good job of outlining some of the evidence supporting the theory that Iraq and Al Qaeda did provide support to each other. Whether one supported or opposed t...
Tracked: September 4, 2003 4:11 PM
Clarification from
Excerpt: Extending what I said in this post, it is not that I think Kurtz was wrong in pointing to the larger problems we have in this era, it is that he so completely absolved Bush of any responsibility. In my
Tracked: September 6, 2003 2:51 AM
Excerpt: Dan has posted a rather impressive threat analysis over at Winds of Change. He has even attracted some ignoramus named Tony who writes long ignorant (against Bush, the war in Iraq and link between Iraq and Al Queda) ranting comments....
Tracked: September 10, 2003 4:30 AM
Submitted for Your Approval from Watcher of Weasels
Excerpt: Here are the links submitted by members of the Watcher's Council for this week's vote.
Tracked: September 11, 2003 7:15 AM
Sad, Mad, and Glad from AlphaPatriot
Excerpt: On this, the second anniversary of the horrific attack on America, I recommend these three posts: I just don't think you can read this moving post by Michele without tearing up a little. After you read that, go read this Jeff Jarvis piece about the PB...
Tracked: September 12, 2003 3:25 AM
The Council Has Spoken! from Watcher of Weasels
Excerpt: The winning entries in the Watcher's Council vote for this week are Proud to Boycott by Alpha Patriot, and Don't Tell Me This Is "Progress" by Electric Venom. All members, please be sure to link to both winning entries (and to the full results of the ...


Anthrax Facts:

Only a small number of countries in the world have the capability to develop weaponized anthrax. Making the stuff once the means are known is theoretically possible for a small group of experts, but developing the means requires a major scientific and engineering effort of the sort available only to national governments and some large companies.

Each means of weaponizing anthrax has a characteristic chemical signature which is identifiable by qualified experts. With the exception of the means developed by Iraq's biological warfare program under its former Baathist regime headed by Saddam Hussein, we know what all of those are. One of the reasons we know is due to defections by Soviet biological warfare specialists, including project managers such as Ken Abilek.

The means used to weaponize the powdered anthrax used on us after 9/11 was new and not previously known to us, the Russians or any friendly foreign government. An Iraqi intelligence officer had contact with 9/11 terrorist chief Mohammed Atta in Prague less than a year prior to 9/11. Those who don't want to go there have spread much disinformation on the subject. It happened.

There is a fair amount of other information that the anthrax attacks on us were perpetrated by the 9/11 terrorists, such as medical treatment of one of them, by an American doctor, for skin lesions which in hindsight he diagnosed as cutaneous anthrax.

Steven Hatfill was smeared by the FBI just like they smeared Richard Jewell. He does not have the capability of developing an entirely new and rather ingenious means of weaponizing anthrax. His complete lack of associations with appropriate others means there is no ***king way he had anything to do with this.

The federal government, through FEMA, issued some rather large contracts in the summer and fall of 2002 to make plans, and acquire necessary equipment and supplies, to build humongous tent cities to house millions of people evacuated from major cities due to anthrax contamination. I pay attention to such things - I was a FEMA-trained civil defense volunteer for years in the 1980's, went to conferences and published in the Journal of Civil Defense.

Although he *slipped* once recently, Mansoor Ijaz is usually a pretty good source. Here's a portion of what he had to say about Iraq & al Qaeda chem/bio cooperation over the past decade.

>>What is not widely known-but was briefly alluded to in Sec. Powell's U.N. address-is that starting in the mid-1990s, Iraq's embassy in Islamabad routinely played host to Saddam's biochemical scientists, some of whom interacted with al Qaeda operatives, including Zarqawi and his lab technicians, under the diplomatic cover of the Taliban embassy nearby to teach them the art of mixing poisons from home grown and readily available raw materials.<<

The remainder is *here.*

Shameless, desperate Bush excusing and appeasing aside, - the alleged al Queda Iraq links, (and as of this date there is only proof of contact and intent, and much of that proof is suspect as the well layed out links above prove) points to an even more horrific failure in the ill-conceived and woefully misguided war in Iraq.

First, though links may have existed there was no imminent threat to justify Bush hurling America to a virtual unilateral preemptive war in Iraq.

Second, if the threats existed in any capacity, Bush has failed miserably to locate, minimize, or eliminate those threats.

So if you believe the hype, then somewhere in the middle east, Iraq, or Afghanistan tons of Iraqi B and C W assets, many experts, and now thousands of feverishly inspired broadly networked mass murderes with a religious desire to use them are preparing for a devastating attack on America, or Israel.

The ties - (if they existed, and again much of the evidence including that emerging out of Gitmo and Iraq after the war is hearsay and single sourced) - before the war are far more intense and bonded now, and the potential threats much greater since neither the alleged WMD, nor the key players, their networks, or funding sources have been unearthed.

Where is the WMD? Not the plans for, not the intent to, not the suspicion of, - but where is the actual physical WMD?

No doubt the various mass murder gangs, including al Queda, had some communications and certain shared interests with Iraq prior to the war (so did we) - and no doubt these same elements have some communications and certain shared interests with Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and North Korea) particularly involving the killing of Jews and Americans. The fact that al Queda and Iraq (if it is actually true) negotiated "non-aggression" pacts indicates these disparate and violently opposed factions of islam were not allied originally, - but may have aligned in someway,(though there is no factual evidence detailing specifics on these discussions) to advance their shared malefic interests involving Palestine, Israel, and the great satan. (The current devolving quagmire in Iraq is a clear indication of this ugly truth.)

Ken Alibek's (mentioned above) chilling book "Biohazard" provides ominous hints to the level of B and C W development world wide that is rapidly accelerating, proliferating, and largely undetectable.

Abu Musab Zarqawi was in Northern Iraq in areas controlled by the Kurds and heavily patrolled, and enforced uncontested by US airpower since 1991. Why did Bush not act before the war to eliminate this threat?

Why did Bush not act to eliminate known Iraqi WMD facilities prior to the war?

Why did Bush not involve the UN and the world in a vigorous weapons inspections process before the war?

Why did Bush not involve the UN and the world in the ensuinig nationbuilding enterprise?

Face it! Bush failed miserably in Iraq.

Bush failed to find and eliminate the WMD threats?

Bush failed to disentangle the al Queda Iraqi links if they existed, and has actually created a situation where al Queda has grown stronger and more potent in Iraq, increasing the threats exponentially.

Bush failed to make a convincing case to justify the war, and relied on hype and opportunistic marketing to SELL the visionary nationbuilding fictions of a clan of rightwingideologues bent on the colonization and exploitation of Iraqi oil.

Bush failed miserably to plan for the day after major combat operations ended, and pathetically underestimated the complexities of "democratizing", nationbuilding, and colonizing Iraq.

Hype all the excuses you want, but anyone with eyes, ears, and half a brain can clearly see Bush failed in Iraq, and has heaped the hazards and burdens of an exceedingly costly and bloody war and nationbuilding enterprise (directed at the wrong muslims) on the shoulders of future generations of Americans.


The WMD were moved from Iraq to Syria. Some went from there to the Iranian-controlled Bekka Valley in Lebanon, some stayed in Syria, and some went back to the original manufacturers in France for resale to different third world tyrants.

Why did Bush not act to eliminate known Iraqi WMD facilities prior to the war?

Because bombing them can create a much greater hazard, tip your intelligence sources, and in the end it doesn't really solve the problem - the regime hell-bent on developing said weapons.

It's a possible tactic if your sources are abundant and you're stalling for time, or if the enemy has a key bottleneck in its program (vid: Osirak reactor), or if invasion is not a realistic option for whatever reason and that's all you've got.

Why did Bush not involve the UN and the world in a vigorous weapons inspections process before the war?

That would have been nice. Too bad the U.N. effort was anything but vigorous - it was a joke from start to finish. Nor were there any consequences attached to non-compliance.

Nor is expecting weapons inspections to stop a serious weapons development program a serious option, based on historical precedent.

Why did Bush not involve the UN and the world in the ensuinig nationbuilding enterprise?

For all the reasons Armed Liberal cited in his post yesterday. The U.N. is worse than a failure at nation building - it is deterimental to the enterprise.

Oh, and in response to the implicit question...

Why didn't we assassinate Zarqawi?

I would prefer to have this tactic become an accepted part of the U.S. response arsenal. Apparently it has been used on a few Saudis over the past couple years (direct or contracted out is not certain), and that's something. It's also possible that we haven't had a good shot to take at Zarqawi. Recall the difficulty finding and killing Uday & Qusay in a fully-occupied Baghdad.

It's also worthy of note that right now, assassination a legal grey area. and of course, if they did that the Left would make a martyr out of this man, saying he wasn't tried in court with evidence. So I'm going to treat this question as rhetorical.

Speaking of which, you'd be more effective if you just asked the questions. When you tie them so closely to your political position, it becomes easy to make the whole position look foolish by simply answering them well.

Regarding why the US didn't simply assassinate Zarqawi, most of our information on his movements is either after the fact from al-Qaeda detainees or else in locations where it would be completely unfeasible for the US to attack him. The only places where we appear to have definitive locks on his location is between May and August 2002 when he was in Baghdad and we asked the Iraqis to turn him over and recently following the Riyadh bombings, where he is said to have taken up residence at an IRGC military base in the Kerman province of Iran at last report.

Human intelligence is a key factor in assassinating anyone, and al-Qaeda's leadership is very keen to disguise their movements in order to avoid it.

As far as US military action against Ansar al-Islam goes, by the time we knew what was going on at Sergat and Khurmal (the chemical weapons labs) and the plots in Europe were being thwarted over the winter, the US was already lobbying the UN to go after Iraq. The presence of US ground forces inside the country would only serve to undercut that cause and hence would be untenable for political reasons. So long as Zarqawi's minions were still active in Iraq and the chemical weapons experts were still in service, he could simply send other cells into Europe and elsewhere to launch attacks at a later date.

The alleged failures of US intelligence, Bush's strategy, ect., wasn't intended as the subject of the blog, but rather an analysis that it appears that Saddam Hussein's government was indeed complicit in a series of thwarted terrorist attacks in Europe that could have killed hundreds of innocent people. If that isn't an "imminent threat," I'm not quite sure what is.

what is the purpose of war in iraq, and the war on terror?

I think most people would generally agree that the war on terror is an attempt to pre-empt any future September 11ths--particularly versions thereof that make Sept. 11, 2001 look like a picnic.

We have to do this pre-emptively, because we have no way to prevent such atrocities "at the time" or after the fact.

In the short term, the pre-emptive goal is to move to prevent states that would otherwise be likely --not proven, just likely--to give material support to such organizations from doing so by whatever means we can.

In the case of the Taliban and Hussein, this meant deposing the rulers, rooting out elements of the Ba'athist party, etc. "material support" means weapons, money, training facilities, logistical support, scientific support, and people. have we lessened the immediate threat by removing those elements? yes. have we lessened the immediate threat by capturing high level ba'athists, killing fedayeen and taliban fighters, and raiding al-qaeda training facilities? yes. have we lessened the immediate threat by freezing bank accounts of terrrorist orgs, stopping the corrupt oil-for-food program, and searching for WMD? yes, because now some of the people who would be buying DPRK nukes are on the run; some people who'd be in biolabs working on things are dead, or they have to regroup with less funding; some islamofascists who like to blow things up are dead, etc.

does this mean the threat is gone? of course not.

In the long term, the pre-emptive goal is to make states becomes less likely to give material support in the first place. Many on the left claim that poverty breeds terrorism. While I think that's not true, let's assume it is. In that case, bringing democracatic principles, a secular state, rule of law, property rights, women's suffrage, central banks, big and small corporations and the requisite free markets are the best known ways to rid a people of poverty. Therefore, it is only by rebuilding afghanistan and iraq that we will in the long term prevent more terrorist attacks.

In light of these goals, it is certainly not the case that GWB and his admin have failed in iraq or afghanistan. It's not possible to assess this quickly, but there are signs that the birthing of a civil society is occurring, with all the requisite labor pains.

Well, you say, those places don't solve the problem--there are other places and problems! yes, there are. but if people keep complaining we don't have enough troops in irq as it is, are you really going to tell me that we need to be doing more faster? we can only bring democracy and rule of law to so many places at once. If in fact you want the poverty to go away, you will have the patience to wait and see how the free market, rule of law, and a secular society can in fact bring people wealth and liberty.

The questions are tied to my political position because the answers lead to more and deeper questions, and focus precisely on said political position.

We agree on the targeted assassination strategy, but you do not answer the question as to why Bush failed to eliminate Zarqawi and his base of operations in a region controlled by the US if he was working with Saddam to glean WMD for al Queda.(Zarqawi is by the way, an "associate", not a member of al Queda).

Israel has been warning of the Iraqi WMD finding its way to the Bakka for more than a year, and again Tom, - why has Bush not acted to eliminate that threat. Israel will not hesitate if the threat is imminent.

Secondly pathological hatred of the French belies the fact that many nations, most particularly America (and specifically Rumsfied and Cheney) provided some form of bugs, chem, hardware and expertise to advance elements of Iraq's WMD programs over the years.

We spend 300 billion dollars a year on weapons and had sure as hell better have the capabilities (whatever they may be) to destroy WMD facilities without creating a "much greater hazard". What do you propose we do in North Korea, Iran, Syria if we do not?

The supposed costs of tipping intelligence sources are insignificant compared to the unholy horrors and costs of a WMD event in a major urban center. If these threats exist, and we know where they are, and they are likely to fall into the hands of the jihadist and islamofascist mass murderers who would have no problem using them - said threats must be eliminated lickity split. We can ask questions and deal with the political blowback after the threats are vaporized.

Invasion occupation (colonization) strategies are idiotic, cumbersome, and exceedingly costly and should be relegated to the attics and museums housing all the ancient warfare scenarios that are no longer relevant, necessary, or practical.

The UN did dismantle most of Iraqs' WMD capabilities and destroy most the arsenal prior to 1998, and there were "serious consequences" attached to non-compliance specified in 1441.

I also counter that a vigorous UN inspections process if fully applied is the only option to stop WMD development short of military force.

Bush's stupid and reckless war prevented anyone from knowing what could or would have happened, but we all know there was no imminent threat, that Iraq was well contained, and that there were far fewer mass murder gangs, and particularly al Queda before before the war.

Finally, the world must rely on the UN to resolve global crisis. Empire, imperialism, and world domination are as predatory, inhuman, unsustainable, and unachievable in the 21st Century as they were BC.

The UN, led by the US must be mended, repaired, fixed, improved, enhanced, buttressed, or redesigned, - but the UN is the only institution representing, and providing a platform for all the worlds nations, and so must be the only place to sanction and legitimize war and/or nationbuilding.

No nation, and certainly not America can or should impose its' will and way unilaterally militarily upon the world or any other nation for any reason. Elimination of imminent threats is justified, - but colonizing soveriegn nations will, and should only raise the ire of the world, and it is precisely this evil precedent that Bush has set.

Excellent points Dan. However if as you propose there was an imminent threat in Iraq, - now the situation is even worse since whatever threat may have existed remains - Iraq itself is devolving into chaos and a mixing of mass murder gangs that did not exist under Saddam, and the war has provided the islamofascist and jihadist islamic mass murderers the world over with the recruiting bonanza the war as opponents forwarned.

Applying your logic foobar, which most of us accept, Saudi Arabia, not Iraq should have been the target of Bush's preemption, since "the pre-emptive goal is to move to prevent states that would otherwise be likely --not proven, just likely--to give material support to such organizations from doing so by whatever means we can."

Iraq was the wrong war, for the wrong reasons, directed at the wrong muslims.

Striking out at, and eliminating our enemies and threats is perfectly justified and necessary in the post 9/11 world, and we all applaud those efforts anywhere. However, invading, occupying, and colonizing Iraq, or the middle east to realize some crackpot rightwingideologue empire fantasy is foolish, dim, simplistic, predatory, and patently un-American activity, and certain to lead to extraordinarily costly and bloody troubles now and in the future, as the devolving quagmire in Iraq proves.

First of all, on the subject of Zarqawi's affiliations.

Claims that he isn't an al-Qaeda leader simply aren't credible. He runs his own mob, al-Tawhid, much the same way that al-Zawahiri runs the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Hanbali ran Jemaah Islamiyyah, ect. Zarqawi runs a subsidiary but he still sits on the board of directors for al-Qaeda. His connections with the Chechen, Algerian, Iraqi, and Moroccan Islamists (to say nothing of his joint work with Abu Khabab) are testimony enough to that, as is the fact that the training camp he ran near Herat was the same place where al-Qaeda was hard at work on building radiological weaponry. He's bin Laden's lieutenant through and through, with claims to the contrary surfacing either politically motivated or else rest solely on the word of a minor al-Tawhid figure who was arrested in Germany and whose claims were reprinted on MSNBC a few months ago. You can either believe the word of Shadi Abdellah or you can believe the consensus of US intelligence as well as the evidence available to the public.

Regarding the imminent threat still existing in Iraq, my response is that it has been substantially diminished by a number of factors, not least of which being the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Tawfiq Attash Khallad, Ali Abd al-Ghamdi, and Hanbali. More to the point, the Ansar al-Islam facilities in northern Iraq were destroyed during the war, no one will ever be producing ricin or sarin or cyanide or botulinism from those camps ever again. It is also quite possible that several of Ansar's WMD team may have been killed during the course of war or have been forced to flee either to Iran or into the countryside. It's going to be a long time before they can get the necessary facilities to reconstitute al-Qaeda's WMD program, which is why the network has likely adopted its more conventional exploits of suicide bombings and the like in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Morocco, Russia, and Indonesia. With the exception of the double suicide bombing in Moscow in July, al-Qaeda has been unable to strike in the heart of Western nations since the Iraq war began. So as a result of the Iraq war and the scattering of Ansar al-Islam, we have a decent timetable within which to act to hunt down the Ansar al-Islam scientists and make sure that they'll never be able to hurt us again.

Additionally, the support that Ansar al-Islam and by extension al-Qaeda was receiving from the Iraqi government is now gone. No more Iraqi help in chemical weapons training and the like. That limits the scope of the threat right there because it turns the potential for an infinite supply of terrorists proficient in the use of chemical or biological weapons into a finite one. The Baathists may still serve as a tactical ally, but they'll never be able to give the network the WMDs that it so craves with which to attack the US.

As I said, the subject of this piece was not to address the strengths or weaknesses of US foreign policy or President Bush's strategies. Nor was it intended to address the substantial body of evidence involved in Saudi perfidy. However, the fact that the Saudis need to pay for what they've done in no way allows Saddam Hussein to get a pass on the activities of an organization whose leaders he provided medical assistance to and refused to extradite, whose affiliates he ordered armed, trained, and infiltrated, and whose operatives tried to kill hundreds of people. US actions in the past or motives in regards to prospective military action against Iraq are similarly irrelevant, because it doesn't matter if Bush, Cheney, the Neoconservatives, the Carlyle Group, et al. wanted an empire or oil or a new sandbox. None of that is irrelevant as to whether or not Iraq represented an imminent threat to the US so long as the evidence that it did is both true and accurate, as I have attempted to demonstrate here by quoting from a variety of sources and then drawing my own conclusions from it.


  • RE: Doing something about the Beka'a valley strategy, which Israel has indeed been warning about.

Like what? Invade Lebanon? Invade Syria? If you say there was no provable imminent threat by your standards for military action in Iraq, how can you turn around and say this with a straight face? Or were you planning to ask the local residents nicely and have the weapons miraculously appear?

  • RE: We should be able to destroy WMD facilities without creating a greater hazard.

Bunker-busting nukes that detonate deep underground are on the way. Glad to hear that you support them. Beyond that, your wish for magical solutions is touching.

  • RE: "I also counter that a vigorous UN inspections process if fully applied is the only option to stop WMD development short of military force."

Your religious faith is impressive. It must be religious, being backed by no historical evidence to support it and plenty to refute it. And since that inspection process was neither vigorous nor fully applied in any event, I'm glad to hear that you understand why force was necessary.

  • RE: costs of tipping intelligence sources.

Actually, that's a cost measured in lives. And once they're burned, who will come to you with the next round of intelligence, since the program continues? So no, it isn't a solution.

Tony, I really wonder if you've actually thought any of these things through. I'm sorry the world does not contain the magical solutions you continually wish for. It must be a frustrating experience. But if you want to be taken seriously, you're going to have to start offering an alternative vision that's internally consistent, makes sense, and is backed by something more than your fervent desires.

I'm not seeing that.

  • "UN is the only institution representing, and providing a platform for all the worlds nations"

...Most of whom are brutal, murdering, thugs, kletocracies who live in luxury while their people starve, and/or allies of Islamic terrorism. There is no moral content to such a body, not if morality means anything.

In an age of WMD and mega-terrorism, the classical principles of national sovereignty as a shield for anything and everything are gone and over. That's the real heart of a real debate, for which Lee Harris' "Our World Historical Gamble" offers the best explanation of my position.

Well said, Joe, Tony's lack of internal consistency and logic needs frequent emphasis.

My reading of our intelligence describes Zarqwai as an "associate" of al Queda, with primarily Palestinian objectives, but I concede that his ties to bin Laden are close enough to lump him and his organization as a defacto arm of al Queda, but the key point I am hoping to make is that Bush could have acted prior to the war, in all the ways you descibe to shut down the "Ansar al-Islam" operations.

Secondly, - I contend the threats have not diminshed in Iraq, (though we all applaud the "..capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Tawfiq Attash Khallad, Ali Abd al-Ghamdi, and Hanbali." and the successes that have been accomplished) - more al Queda and other mass murderers are flowing into Iraq on a daily basis, and they have the tactical advantage of blending in with the populace, and picking and choosing any targets and time they please, and having to defending nothing but their own identities and bodies. Our enemies can harrass and harry, and general disrupt any and every effort to stablize Iraq, for allah knows how long. The Iraqi citizenry cooperating with the US are being assissinated with impunity, and there is no way to protect them.

Iraq is fast turning into a bioreactor of animosity toward America, and the support our troops earned for "liberating" Iraq will over time dissapate unless the situation is stabilized.

Your excellent commentary Dan elucidating larger al Queda Iraqi links than I was previously aware of, certainly supports action against Saddam which we all wanted, - but it does not in my opinion prove - or rise to the level of imminent threats - that would warrant and justify Bush's war in Iraq. Further, and repeating - I believe the war (though successful in removing the Baa'thist, killing many bad guys, deposing Saddam and diminishing certain capabilities) has actually increased the larger security threats in Iraq, through out the region, in the middle east, in other parts of the world, and here in America.

Again Joe, and accepting with a tinge of insult your criticisms, I reject the invasion occupation scenarios as old world, and in favor of rapid response police actions, surgical strikes (precision guided munitions, covert ops, air strikes, tactical nukes is absolutely necessary) against targets of opportunities or imminent threats, and a global cooperative effort to shut off the flow of funds support the islamofascist and jihadist mass murder gangs.

Most of the "brutal, murdering, thugs, kletocracies who live in luxury while their people starve, and/or allies of Islamic terrorism." were put in place and have been long supported and defended by America. Need I remind you that America armed, trained, and supported both Saddam and bin Laden in the past.

My argument is that instead of spitting in the face of, and attempting to render irrelevent the UN, and global cooperation of our allies, particularly "old Europe" - America should fix, or work to mend that institution and those relations, because we cannot defeat this enemy alone.

We all seek the same ends my brothers, so the question remains what is the best (swiftest, cleanest, and least costly) way to achieve those ends. I submit that the devolving quagmire in Iraq is the worst possible approach imaginable.

We must pursue other options in Iraq today, and in other places tomorrow.

I welcome your replies, suggestions, and of course criticism.

A couple of points as far as Zarqawi goes. Keep in mind that Ayman al-Zawahiri pre-1998 was primarily concerned with the overthrow of the Egyptian government, but I don't think that anyone is going to make the claim that he isn't a member of al-Qaeda. Most Zarqawi's operations throughout the 1990s were directed against the Jordanian government, though the fact that his camp near Herat was involved in creating radiological weaponry would seem to indicate that he was a big picture person.

That being said, what I think occurred was that he rose through al-Qaeda's hierarchy as a good chunk of its leadership was caught or killed as a result of Operation Enduring Freedom. His robust ties to the Algerian and Chechen Islamists here again indicate that he is a major player within al-Qaeda. Keep in mind that al-Qaeda in of itself is composed of numerous individuals who are ample terrorist leaders on their own right. He is one such individual and has shown a liberal willingness to use chemical weapons against Western targets that should serve as one of several reasons why he must be captured or killed at all costs.

Regarding the international threat level having decreased as a result of the Iraq war, most of what is now occurring in Iraq is a mixture of the Baathist version of Nazi "Werwolf" movement after World War 2 that is being supported and reinforced by foreign irregulars that we must count al-Qaeda among. However, it needs to be remembered that those members of the organization now in Iraq are largely cannon fodder and while I do not under-estimate the threat they pose, I would far better our troops fight them in Iraq than us as civilians running into them on the streets of New York City or Washington DC.

As I mentioned in my last reply, the threat that his been removed is that there is no longer an active al-Qaeda chemical weapons training and production facility in play existing under the patronage of the Iraqi regime. As I said, the possibility of infinite numbers of terrorists trained in the use of chemical weapons has now been turned into a finite one and that finite number has been disrupted to allow us ample time to capture or kill them before they reconstitute themselves. As a result, the enemy (or the leadership at least) has been forced to make a tactical retreat to Iran or Georgia or Lebanon (the closest viable safe havens at this point) while they try to reconstitute what was lost during the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and the dispersal of Ansar al-Islam.

Or to put it another way, the possibility of a chemical weapons attack in Europe, Russia, or the US has been gone down by a significant factor as a result of military action in Iraq. How many US troops has al-Qaeda managed to kill to date in Iraq to date? 100-200, I imagine. That cell that was trained by Ansar al-Islam and Abu Khabab intended to let loose cyanide gas in the London Underground could have killed twice or three times that many had their plan succeeded. The ability of the enemy to launch such an attack has, for the time being, been lost. The war goes on, but that is what I mean when I say that the threat has been reduced.


Chemical weapons are much less effective terrorist weapons than conventional explosives. Some terrorists might find them attractive from a fantasy & PR point of view, as the Lee Harris article linked by Joe points out (plus Harris' original article, Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology), but I would much rather they try to use chemical weapons than explosive ones.

IMO the major utility of chemical weapons for terorists is that they can be improvised more easily than explosive weapons in developed societies. Security forces in the latter are much more alert to evidence of an explosive attack in preparation, so the ingredients and processing tools for chemical weapons are safer to obtain for terrorist security purposes.

Regarding effectiveness, terrorism isn't about conventional military effectiveness or even body count, that's a side bonus. It's about fear and the power to breach a society's defenses to strike in its most vulnerable areas.

That being said, how lethal a chemical weapon is depends a lot on how it's deployed. Al-Qaeda has a number of extremely smart and exceeding ruthless people working in it. They have stated their intention to kill as many of us as possible and they don't recognize the political or even national affiliatons that we do. I think it best to take them at their word until there is demonstrable proof otherwise.


Chemical weapons are much bulkier than explosive ones for the same effect, and so harder to smuggle over a border. That's why I talked about improvised chemical weapons, aka improvised from local materials. Keep in mind that 9/11 was perpetrated with improvised weapons.

Biological weapons are something else.

I'd much rather terrorists concentrated on chemical weapons. They'd be less of a threat to us and more of a threat to themselves.

Tony said:
Applying your logic foobar, which most of us accept, Saudi Arabia, not Iraq should have been the target of Bush's preemption, since "the pre-emptive goal is to move to prevent states that would otherwise be likely --not proven, just likely--to give material support to such organizations from doing so by whatever means we can."

Iraq was the wrong war, for the wrong reasons, directed at the wrong muslims.

No, because the larger goal is to establish democratic republics in the mideast. we can't start with that in saudi arabia--there's no known thirst for that, there's no known way to have that gorup of people seen as wnating out from under their current shackles. there isn't a gigantic set of atrocities catalogued by the UN, Amnesty Intl, etc, in SA--even if there should be. but on the level of atrocity, SA just isn't that high. but there was that in iraq, adn it was known.

while SA is probably funding most of the terrorism against us, directly or indirectly, they weren't seeking chem/bio/nuke weapons and they didn't use them Against Their Own People.

therefore, it'd be much harder to justify that invasion, that war, that toppling.

you must start where you can.

by starting with the removal of a known monster, we can build a democratic republic. that had to start in iraq, not SA.

now, should we continue until SA is a democratic republic? yes, of course. but iraq is the Right Battle, because the democratic republic of iraq scares the House of Saud, and Iran, and Pakistan, and Syria. and that may make it easier to have their own people agitate to bring them down, as Iraqis had been agitating for 30 years.

then Tony lost all credibility by saying this:

invading, occupying, and colonizing Iraq, or the middle east to realize some crackpot rightwingideologue empire fantasy is foolish, dim, simplistic, predatory, and patently un-American activity, and certain to lead to extraordinarily costly and bloody troubles now and in the future, as the devolving quagmire in Iraq proves...blah blah blah.

it's not been bloody. we've lost less people by nearly a factor of ten than we did on September 11, 2001. We have broken up a cell a day. theres' no quagmire. Rebuilding Japan, Germany, most of Europe wasn't unAmerican, and there's nothing predatory here. stick to facts you can back up.

I appreciate your judgement on my credibility foobar, but you are missinig a few critical facts.

First, though the Saudi's have not attacked anyone with chemical weapons, the wahabi mutation of islam governing Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive and abusive on the planet, and there are numerous human rights violations. Women are treated like cattle, beheadings are a daily event, and the royals abuse the citizenry with obdurate impunity.

Bush may want you to believe the gospel according to fox lie about the Saudi's being our 'good friends", but the truth is exactly opposite.

You might want to hit a few of these


and get back to me.

You may toss away the blood of American's Brit's and others on your team (and even those numbers are not being accurately disclosed), but many thousands of innocent Iraq have been slaughtered in this war my brother, and in case you have not been reading any news lately, - Bush is begging the UN and Old Europe for help and legitimacy in Iraq.

Back that up brother.

Way up above, Tom Holsinger wrote: "The WMD were moved from Iraq to Syria. Some went from there to the Iranian-controlled Bekka Valley in Lebanon, some stayed in Syria, and some went back to the original manufacturers in France for resale to different third world tyrants."

I have two questions:

1. Is there even one atom of concrete, factual evidence for this assertion?

2. Assuming the answer to (1) is "yes" and the evidence is provided and is unambiguous, why was it a good outcome to have these WMD move out of Iraq and into unknown hands?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Joel, regarding your #1, the "evidence" is DEBKA ... so the answer is nope, none.


I predicted in April 2002 that Iraq's WMD would go to Syria. There was more than gold in the heavily guarded trucks which went that route before our invasion kicked off.

Ah. So the evidence is that you predicted it? A new and unfamiliar use of the word "evidence."

Dan and Joe,

This guy Joel is a troll. Please ban him.

Tom -

"This guy Joel is a troll. Please ban him." ...what am I missing??


Asks awkward questions = troll?

This blog stands out from the usual drek of the blogosphere because of the (usually) thoughtful discourse and a high standard of evidence. I'm sorry to see there are some here who react to a request for substantiating evidence by ad hominem attacks and calls for censorship.

I am a professor at a midwestern medical school with over 40 refereed publications. In the science biz, we say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In the world of religion, prophecy may constitute a form of evidence, but, forgive me, I'm just a biochemist asking for the data.

Tom, the possibility exists that there is something to the reports of Iraq moving WMD into Syria. But as yet, I've seen nothing substantive beyond the unsourced rumors published by DEBKA months back and repeated by World Tribune.

One difficulty is evaluating such rumors is that the workings of the Syrian government right now are even more opaque than usual.

The claim about Iraqi WMDs being moved to Syria dates back at least to December 2002, when Sharon made the claim on Israeli TV and cited the CIA as the source.

The main problem with the Bekaa Valley story is both the sources involved and the fact that so much goes on under the watchful eyes of Hezbollah, their masters in the IRGC, and the Syrian rulers of Lebanon that is below the radar that there is no real means by which to verify it save an occupation of the area. I doubt that Hezbollah is going to let UNMOVIC travel into their private fiefdom unopposed ...

The fact that President Bush claimed that there where WMDs in Iraq being moved to Syria dates back to least to december 2002, so I don't understand the fact of they way that we are still in Iraq looking for them when we're not in Syria as well.

I believe that Iraq did not propose an imminent threat to the United States. Yes, we are at "war" with them, however, we first started off in Afganistan. At the time we went over in attack, we had no evidence of weapons of any kind. That doesn't mean they didn't have any, I know that, but I believe we jumped into it too fast without a plan to protect our troops and our country. As the packet we got stated, "after the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq's WMD program was destroyed and Saddam ended Iraq's nuclear program."

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