Hussein on the brain

Much has been written about the bizarre neocon conspiracy theorist Laurie Mylroie, and the seriousness with which her ludicrous notions were taken amongst the Bushie neocons. With the revelations of Richard Clarke currently in the spotlight, Mylroie’s influence with the neocons is once more at least part of the answer to the question “Why did they blame Iraq and not Al Qaida?”

Of particular interest to libertarians is a facet of Mylroie’s obsession that digby at Hullaballo is currently researching. Not only was Mylroie fixated on Saddam Hussein as Evil Personified, but foundational to her crackpot theories was the absolute insistence that terrorism must be state sponsored. She dismissed out of hand any suggestion that Al Qaida was what it actually is….a collection of loosely federated cells which share a common ideology and goals. Some interesting quotes digby has posted:

Actually, there’s quite a bit more evidence. In a post from last August, in which I wrote about this Wolfowitz/Mylroie connection I linked to Josh Marshall’s reporting on the backround controversy surrounding Sam Tannenhaus’ article on Wolfowitz in the August 2003 issue of Vanity Fair. Josh said:

As noted here a couple days ago, the Tanenhaus article says that Wolfowitz is “confident” that Saddam played some role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and that he had “entertained” the notion that Saddam had played some role in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as well. (Tanenhaus sources Wolfowitz’s ideas about Oklahoma City to a “longtime friend” of the Deputy Secretary.)

The exact quotes remain on backround and have never been revealed. But, in an earlier story, Time magazine reported:

One reason so many hawks seemed ready to make the case for retaliating against Saddam as well as bin Laden may have been the influence of Laurie Mylroie, a conservative scholar who had convinced herself and a number of influential conservatives, although not the U.S. intelligence community, that Iraq had been behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and was very likely behind 9/11, too. But as eccentric as her argument was to the U.S. intelligence community, it was hailed by Wolfowitz, who wrote in a blurb to her book that it “argues powerfully that the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was actually an agent of Iraqi intelligence.” And invade-Iraq cheerleader Richard Perle, formerly head of Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board, wrote in his own blurb: “Laurie Myroie has amassed convincing evidence of Saddam Hussein’s involvement in the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center. If she is right, and there are simple ways to test her hypothesis, we would be justified in concluding that Saddam was probably involved in the September 11, 2001, attacks as well.”

Clarke said that after 9/11 Wolfowitz wondered why the government was spending so much time on one apparently irrelevant man. Two days after the attacks, Wolfowitz made his famous Al Haig style comment in which he said (and which was slapped down immediately by Colin Powell):

I think one has to say it’s not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable, but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism. And that’s why it has to be a broad and sustained campaign.

It is indisputable that Wolfowitz swallowed whole the ridiculous theory that terrorists are unable to function without state sponsorship, as his comments above illustrate. This theory was set forth again last July by Mylroie testimony before congress in which she said:

Prior to the February 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center, it was assumed that major terrorist attacks against the U.S. were state-sponsored. But that bombing is said to mark the start of a new kind of terrorism that does not involve states.

That notion is dubious. Rather, the claim that a new, stateless terrorism emerged with the 1993 Trade Center bombing was a convenient explanation in that it required no military response. Once promulgated, it was hastily accepted–even before much progress had been made in the investigation of that attack itself.

There isn’t time to properly address that issue in this testimony. Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War against America contains the fullest account of this author’s argument that there is no new source of major terrorist attacks on the U.S. They were state-sponsored–and remain so. That that is not understood is the result of a major intelligence and policy failure that occurred in the 1990s.

In the time allotted here, I want to address three major terrorist plots that have been attributed to so-called “loose networks,” including al Qaeda, and illustrate that there is significant evidence to suggest that Iraq was involved: the 1993 Trade Center bombing; the 1995 plot in the Philippines to bomb a dozen US airplanes; and the 9/11 attacks.

According to Tannenhaus, as of August 2003 Wolfowitz still agreed with her about the WTC bombings. Perhaps by then he had accepted that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but his statements right after the attacks certainly comport with what Richard Clarke reports was his reaction to the information that Al Qaeda was to blame.

Here’s Mylroie on a CNN sponsored chat in October 2001 holding forth in the same vein:

Fruitcake soaked in Anthrax.
A little gem from that chat: “….the Clinton administration put out a false and fraudulent explanation for terrorism, saying that terrorism was no longer state-sponsored, but carried out by individuals. That false and fraudulent explanation was accepted and allowed Saddam to continue to attack the U.S.

Knowing the Wolfowitz and the Bush neocons swallowed Mylroie’s whoppers whole makes it much easier to understand why, when confronted with Clarke’s insistence that bin Laden have priority in counterterrorism efforts, Wolfowitz said, “No, no, no. We don’t have to deal with al Qaeda. Why are we talking about that little guy? We have to talk about Iraqi terrorism against the United States.”

Of course, Paul, that “little guy” couldn’t have done it – it had to be a state, didn’t it. Just ask Laurie.

Now, in light of what is known about this fruitloop, imagine how the people in the DIA felt when they were assigned her book.

On the day of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center,Wolfowitz told senior officials at the Pentagon that he believed Iraq might have been responsible. “I was scratching my head because everyone else thought of al Qaeda,” said a former senior defense official who was in one such meeting. Over the following year, “we got taskers to review the link between al Qaeda and Iraq. There was a very aggressive search.”

In the winter of 2001-02, officials who worked with Wolfowitz sent the Defense Intelligence Agency a message: Get hold of Laurie Mylroie’s book, which claimed Hussein was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and see if you can prove it, one former defense official said.

The DIA’s Middle East analysts were familiar with the book, “Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein’s War Against America.” But they and others in the U.S. intelligence community were convinced that radical Islamic fundamentalists, not Iraq, were involved. “The message was, why can’t we prove this is right?” said the official.

Retired Vice Adm. Thomas R. Wilson, then director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, directed his Middle East analysts to go through the book again, check all the allegations and see if they could be substantiated, said one current and one former intelligence official familiar with the request. The staff was unable to make the link.