Anyone Who Bombs Baghdad Gets My Vote

Jonathan I. Katz

[Posted early 2002; updated later that year. Applied when Saddam was still in power; retained for historical interest only.]

The first campaign in the war against terrorism is nearly over, and has been a great success. The Taliban is gone, and our Afghan allies have recovered their country. Al Qaida, driven from its former home in Afghanistan, appears to have been shattered, although its shards (such as the shoe-bomber) may remain lethal for some time. Its fair-weather Arab and Muslim sympathizers now recognize that history is on America's side, and that the future of the Muslim world belongs to countries, like Turkey and the Central Asian republics, that recognize the West and democracy as friends and allies. All free men owe a debt to the American military, and to our allies in Afghanistan (who did most of the fighting, and nearly all of the dying) for this victory.

Unfortunately, one successful campaign does not conclude this war. There can be no doubt that Al Qaida plotted and carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; Osama bin Laden confessed in a notorious videotape. In a remarkable coup the Wall Street Journal (January 16, 2002) reported convincing evidence that the shoe-bomber was also a part of Al Qaida. But Al Qaida did not act alone.

Many lines of evidence argue that Al Qaida carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001 in cooperation with, and perhaps at the behest of, Saddam Hussein and Iraq. James Woolsey, the former U. S. Director of Central Intelligence, has summarized the evidence in The New Republic and elsewhere. The single most important fact (confirmed by the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic) is that Mohammad Atta, the ringleader of the terrorist attacks of September 11, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague a few months before.

What happened at this meeting? It is impossible to be sure; anyone who knows is not talking. But we can use common sense. Intelligence officers and terrorist ringleaders do not make social calls. The intelligence officer gave something to the terrorist. This ``something'' might have been a tangible object, or it might have been information. What was it? Again, anyone who knows is not talking, but there are three possibilities: Orders for the September 11 attack, orders for some other operation, or anthrax spores. It is likely that this single meeting was only the tip of an iceberg, and that there were other contacts (at the very least, this meeting had to be arranged as the result of a pre-existing relationship).

Iraq has a ten-year history of terrorism against America. The evidence is summarized in an important book ``Study of Revenge'' (AEI Press, 2000) by Laurie Mylroie. Some evidence is incontrovertable; for example, that Iraq organized an unsuccessful plot to assassinate former President Bush when he visited Kuwait in April, 1993. Other evidence is strongly indicative, such as that for Iraqi involvement in the first attack on the World Trade Center, in February 1993.

The perpetrators had hoped to demolish both towers with a truck bomb (to which cyanide had been added in order to kill survivors of the blast). Six people were killed and the damage was extensive. The ringleader had a Pakistani passport in the name of Abdul Basit. The real Abdul Basit was a Pakistani who lived in Kuwait but who disappeared, along with his family, during the Iraqi occupation. But the man claiming to be Abdul Basit does not closely resemble the real Abdul Basit, and previously traveled on an Iraqi passport. The man who mixed the explosives in 1993, Abdul Rahman Yasin, is in Baghdad, a fugitive from American justice. There is a great deal more evidence, all detailed in Mylroie's book. Reading it is eerie, because (writing before September 11, 2001) she repeatedly refers to the plot against the WTC, meaning the first (1993) plot. Saddam Hussein never gives up, and it appears that the 2001 hijacking finished the job begun in 1993.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact in ``Study of Revenge'' is the long history of contact between Al Qaida (and its leader Osama bin Laden) and Iraqi intelligence. This relationship goes back as least as far as 1995 (p. 223), when bin Laden was in Sudan, and was active in 1998 (pp. 235, 238) after his move to Afghanistan. In the shadowy worlds of intelligence and terrorism, this evidence is as good as it gets.

Intelligence agencies and terrorists are promiscuous; they will take advantage of any resources and opportunities available. Iraq is a secular state, but will not hesitate to use Muslim extremists like Al Qaida; Al Qaida is fundamentalist, but will work for secular states if they have interests in common. Both Al Qaida and Iraq hate America; Iraq, because America defeated it in the Gulf War, drove it out of Kuwait, and denied it the oil fields of Saudi Arabia; Al Qaida because America keeps it from taking over Saudi Arabia and because of a general hatred for the Western world. We should not be surprised to find them allies, just as they should not have been surprised at the U. S.-Afghan alliance against them.

What should we do? Iraq has made war against us. It has attempted to murder a former President. It has attacked our homeland, destroying two large buildings, killing thousands of people, and striking the Pentagon, the headquarters of our military. The fourth hijacked plane was probably meant for the Capitol or the White House. Iraq is likely also responsible for several lesser acts of terror. Al Qaida was one of Iraq's weapons, but it has others. The war will not be over until Saddam Hussein's days in power are over. Now is the time to take the war to the den of the beast, to Baghdad itself. Under serious attack Saddam Hussein's regime will collapse as quickly and easily as did Muhammad Omar's Taliban.

Saddam Hussein was not the first terrorist to make war on America. On March 2, 1973, PLO terrorists acting on the orders of Yasser Arafat murdered two American diplomats (the Ambassador to the Sudan, Cleo A. Noel, Jr., and his deputy, George Curtis Moore) in Khartoum (this has been widely reported; see, for example, op-ed by Ion Pacepa, a former high-ranking Romanian intelligence officer, in the Wall Street Journal January 10, 2002). The victims had been held hostage in order to demand the release of another Palestinian terrorist, Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy when he was running for President in 1968. Did Arafat order the assassination of Senator Kennedy too? No direct evidence has emerged, but his attempt to obtain the release of the actual triggerman points in that direction. Since the murders in Khartoum, Arafat has enjoyed American support (one wonders just what sort of deal was struck; there was no attempt to punish Arafat or the PLO for the 1973 Khartoum murders, and no subsequent attacks by the PLO on American diplomats or American territory), a lesson which ever since has encouraged other terrorists to attack America.

Al Qaida had its roots in Saudia Arabia, whose official ideology is only a trifle less extreme and anti-Western than Al Qaida's. Osama bin Laden, the founder and leader of Al Qaida, is Saudi. Of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 15 were Saudi and two were from the United Arab Emirates (a Saudi satellite). Al Qaida accreted unbalanced people from all over the world, but it was essentially a Saudi organization. Even though working to overthrow the Saudi government, it received most of its support from high circles in Saudia Arabia, quite likely including the royal family. (The Saudi ``royal family'' is only the tribe which currently rules this tribal society.) Its foot soldiers came from the world-wide network of mosques and schools of extremist Muslim indoctrination financed by Saudi Arabia, a modern analogue of the Soviet-financed Comintern. (See the Wall Street Journal op-ed by Ralph Peters, January 4, 2002.) Unless this system of anti-American subversion is liquidated, Al Qaida will only be the first of a series of terrorist organizations, and its successors will learn from its failures.

On September 11, 2001 the Palestinians were dancing in the streets with joy, and extremists across the Muslim world were demonstrating against America. After the defeat of the Taliban, anti-Americanism vanished, and everyone wanted to be on our side. Success is the most powerful ideology. As long as we are seen to be defeating our enemies, we will have friends everywhere. If we hesitate or temporize, or let our enemies survive to fight again, as we permitted Saddam Hussein to remain in power after the Gulf War, our temporary friends will decide it is safer to be our enemies, and we will be attacked and beleaguered, as we were on September 11.

All statements made here are based on published evidence and common-sense inference from it.

The reader may also be interested in the November 16, 2002 speech by James Woolsey.

Following the posting of the preceding, I received (on March 12, 2002) the following unsolicited e-mail, which is appended because of its relevance and interest:

Mr. Katz, I read your article about bin Laden and Arafat. At the end of the article you mentioned the Khartoum murders. You wrote about the US government's lack of response to Arafat. I was involved in the radio intercepts made by NSA during the crisis. The reason that Arafat was (and is now) able to avoid the consequences of his actions were two: First, NSA had issued a warning he day before to State Department that a Black September operation was imminent in Khartoum which was disregarded by State and Two, Watergate was engulfing the Nixon Admini- stration. The Nixon Administration could not afford another scandal (failure to act). Later, subsequent administrations have all invested their reputations in quixotic schemes to0 rehabilitate or convert Arafat from his barbarian ways. The last thing the Arabists at the State Department would ever want to see the light of day is that our government, for 29 years, has held actual tape recordings of Arafat planning, directing, and finally issuing the orders to execute the diplomats.Just thought you might be interested in the real reason Arafat has never paid at least the political price for his part in the Khartoum murders. James Welsh NSA Palestinian Communications Analyst 1969-74

Mr. Welsh also draws the reader's attention to an account of the murders of American diplomats in Khartoum.

Postscript November 30, 2003: The reports of Prague meetings between Mohammad Atta and Iraqi intelligence have been the subject of competitive campaigns of leaks from those who assert, and those who doubt, they happened. The last word appears to be in William Safire's column of November 24, 2003, and an article in the November 24, 2003 Weekly Standard, which provide more detail, including confirmation of Atta's travels and at least one meeting with the Iraqi intelligence chief.

Jonathan Katz
Wed Jan 16 13:39:11 CST 2002