By DALE McFEATTERS
Pre-war assertions by top Bush administration officials that there was substantive cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda were at best a stretch and at worst flat wrong, according to a report by the Pentagon inspector general’s office. The complete report was released this past week by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
A summary released earlier found that Douglas Feith, then undersecretary of defense for policy and an ardent advocate of the war, had made inappropriate use of what turned out to be sketchy intelligence. It was incorporated into a 2002 briefing intended to make the case for war and given to President Bush’s advisers.
The briefing stated that “fragmentary reporting points to possible Iraqi involvement” in the 9/11 attacks, for which no such proof has ever surfaced and which was debunked by the 9/11 commission.
Feith’s office was claiming a “symbiotic, mature” relationship between al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime when both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency had found no conclusive evidence of cooperation or an ongoing relationship.
The report, by acting Pentagon Inspector General Thomas Gimble, is based on captured Iraqi documents and the U.S. interrogations of Saddam, his foreign minister, his intelligence minister and a senior al Qaeda operative in Iraq.
Even as the report came out, Vice President Cheney was insisting that a U.S. pullout from Iraq “would play right into the hands of al Qaeda.”
By getting into a war that we can’t seem to win or let go of, we may already have played into the hands of al Qaeda.