Below is the text of a response Michael Scheuer recently sent to National Review regarding their (and others’) misuse of his first book to “prove” a Saddam-al-Qaeda connection. (See here, here, and here.)
Mr. A. McCarthy’s blog article referring to the Mr. Joscelyn’s recent reiteration in The Weekly Standard of his apparently controlling fixation on the non-existent, pre-Iraq war, Iraq-Al-Qaeda connection is, I regret to say, ill-informed and perhaps even intellectually mediocre.
Messrs. McCarthy, Joscelyn, Hayes, Feith, Vice President Cheney, and their acolytes either suffer from a misunderstanding or intend to continue deceiving the American people. I did argue that there was Iraq-AQ connection in my first book. I was mistaken and said so in my second book, while leaving my original research in place to warn off future writers from pursuing the incorrect path I had pursued. I admitted my mistake after leading a complete review of CIA’s classified holdings on Iraq and al-Qaeda in early 2003, a review which was ordered after Mr. Feith’s staff published an engrossing but entirely false description of close Iraq-AQ working relationship. At DCI Tenet’s request, we reviewed more than 20,000 documents and 75,000 pages of material — none of which suggested anything that might remotely be called a “relationship” between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Whether Mr. Tenet delivered this message to the president and his cabinet, only he knows. Perhaps Mr. Tenet will clarify this point in his forthcoming book.
In any event, I corrected my mistake in Imperial Hubris based on the far better research material available to me when preparing that book. The fact is today, as it was before March, 2003, that the United States Government held no information prior to the invasion of Iraq that showed a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda of the type Secretary Powell described at the UN or Vice President Cheney has continued to monger about since. Again, there was no data about Iraq-AQ cooperation before the war that could reasonably be seen as contributing to a casus belli vis-a-vis Iraq. I assume that bottom line remains true because the U.S. government has not produced any data that it captured after the invasion of Iraq to definitively document such a relationship.
The question, of course, is why such learned gentlemen as those mentioned above continue to adhere to a demonstrably false claim, or, indeed, why they needed to raise it at all. Saddam had a long and definitively proven record of training and otherwise supporting Palestinian terrorists. If the administration needed a terrorism peg on which to hang the rest of its case for war, it had it in spades without the slightest need to even fabricate a tale about Saddam and Osama. Of course, Saddam’s Palestinian proteges only attacked Israelis, and it would hardly have been practical to leverage the Saddam-Palestinian relationship as a means of persuading American parents to spend the lives of their soldier-children to protect foreigners.
Michael F. Scheuer