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BUSH TELLS TRUTH FOR THE FIRST TIME ON LINK BETWEEN SADDAM HUSSEIN AND 9/11
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BUSH: NO EVIDENCE SADDAM LINKED TO 9-11 TERROR ATTACKS

Administration Has Been Vague on Issue, but President Says No Evidence Found

 

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 18, 2003; Page A18

President Bush said there has been no evidence that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, disavowing a link that had been hinted at previously by his administration.

"No, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th," the president said yesterday after a meeting at the White House with lawmakers.

In stating that position, Bush clarified an issue that has long been left vague by his administration. On Sunday, Vice President Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that success in Iraq means "we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

A Washington Post poll last month found that 69 percent of Americans thought it at least likely that Hussein had a role in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Polling experts said Americans held that view mostly because of an instinctive suspicion of Hussein, but Democrats and some public opinion experts said Bush and his aides exploited that impression by implying a link.

In his May 1 speech announcing the end of major combat in Iraq, Bush said, "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001." He added: "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got."

Bush, while seeing no link between Hussein and the attacks, said yesterday that Iraq was linked to Osama bin Laden's terror organization. "There's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties," he said. Some terrorism experts dispute the extent of those ties, but the ties are not disputed as vigorously as the link between Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday said he had no reason to believe that Hussein had a hand in the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Sunday, Cheney revived the possibility that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer five months before the attacks, saying, "We just don't know" whether the allegation is true. But an FBI investigation concluded that Atta was apparently in Florida at the time of the alleged meeting, and the CIA has always doubted it took place.

Cheney, speaking to a meeting of the Air Force Association here yesterday, delivered an impassioned defense of the Bush administration's actions in Iraq, and especially of its strategy of acting preemptively against perceived threats.

"Some people, both in this nation and abroad, have questions about that strategy," Cheney said. "Make no mistake: President Bush is acting to protect the American people against further attacks, even when that means moving aggressively against would-be attackers."

Some analysts have concluded that the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the March invasion has made future preventive actions unlikely.

In a talk to congressional staff members earlier this week, Andrew Krepinevich Jr., the director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the discovery that "there was no imminent danger" from Iraq made it unlikely that Americans would again support such a preventive action.

Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks contributed to this report.

2003 The Washington Post Company

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on.

President Bush: May 1, 2003 -- Speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln Declaring the End of Major Combat in Iraq

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Administration Comments on Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 Attacks

 

Five months after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence linking the Iraqi leader to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- yet seven in 10 Americans continue to believe there may have been such a link. Bush's political opponents say he and administration officials encouraged this misconception by linking al Qaeda to Hussein in most every speech on Iraq. Bush's defenders say Americans instinctively lump both foes together without any help from Bush.

Below are some key comments made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Vice President Cheney: Sept. 16, 2001 -- Meet the Press

NBC'S TIM RUSSERT: Saddam Hussein, your old friend, his government had this to say: "The American cowboy is rearing the fruits of crime against humanity." If we determine that Saddam Hussein is also harboring terrorists, and there's a track record there, would we have any reluctance of going after Saddam Hussein?

CHENEY: No.

RUSSERT: Do we have evidence that he's harboring terrorists?

CHENEY: There is--in the past, there have been some activities related to terrorism by Saddam Hussein. But at this stage, you know, the focus is over here on al Qaeda and the most recent events in New York. Saddam Hussein's bottled up, at this point, but clearly, we continue to have a fairly tough policy where the Iraqis are concerned.

RUSSERT: Do we have any evidence linking Saddam Hussein or Iraqis to this operation?

CHENEY: No.

National Security Adviser Dr. Condoleezza Rice -- Nov. 18, 2001 Meet the Press

RUSSERT: If we are, indeed, successful in Afghanistan in eliminating Osama bin Laden and rooting out al-Qaeda, will the war on terrorism then turn to Saddam Hussein in Iraq?

RICE: The president has made very clear that this is a broad war on terrorism; that you cannot be supportive of al-Qaeda and continue to harbor other terrorists. We're sending that message very clearly. Now, as to Iraq, we didn't need September 11 to tell us that Saddam Hussein is a very dangerous man. We didn't need September 11 to tell us that he's trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. There could be only one reason that he has not wanted U.N. inspectors in Iraq, and that's so that he can build weapons of mass destruction. We know that he tried twice before to acquire nuclear weapons. In 1981, when the Israelis pre-empted at Osyroc, he was trying to develop a nuclear weapon. In 1991, when our forces arrived in Iraq, they saw that, again, he was trying to acquire nuclear weapons. He is a very dangerous man. We have to deal with him on his own terms. We didn't need September 11 to tell us that he's a threat to American security.

RUSSERT: Would the world be safer if he was eliminated?

RICE: The world would clearly be better and the Iraqi people would be better off if Saddam Hussein were not in power in Iraq. I don't think there's any doubt about that.

RUSSERT: Czechoslovakian government has told us that they have evidence that Iraqi agents met with one of the hijackers who flew the plane into the World Trade Center. Do you agree with that assessment?

RICE: In evaluating the report, certainly one would have to suspect that there's no reason to believe Saddam Hussein wouldn't do something exactly of that kind; that he would not be supportive of terrorists is hard to imagine. But this particular report I don't want to comment on because I don't want to get into intelligence information, but I will say again, we do not need the events of September 11 to tell us that this is a very dangerous man who is a threat to his own people, a threat to the region and a threat to us because he is determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Vice President Cheney: Dec. 9, 2001 -- Meet the Press

RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iraq. When you were last on this program, September 16, five days after the attack on our country, I asked you whether there was any evidence that Iraq was involved in the attack and you said no. Since that time, a couple articles have appeared which I want to get you to react to. The first: "The Czech interior minister said today that an Iraqi intelligence officer met with Mohammed Atta, one of the ringleaders of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, just five months before the synchronized hijackings and mass killings were carried out."

And this from James Woolsey, former CIA director: "We know that at Salman Pak, on the southern edge of Baghdad, five different eyewitnesses--three Iraqi defectors and two American U.N. Inspectors--have said--and now there are aerial photographs to show it--a Boeing 707 that was used for training of hijackers, including non-Iraqi hijackers trained very secretly to take over airplanes with knives." And we have photographs. As you can see that little white speck--and there it is, the plane on the ground in Iraq used to train non-Iraqi hijackers. Do you still believe there's no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that--it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.

MR. RUSSERT: What we do know is they--Iraq is harboring terrorists.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Correct.

MR. RUSSERT: This was from Jim Hoagland of The Washington Post: "George Bush said that Abdul Rahman, who helped bomb the WTC back in 1993, according to Louis Free, was 'hiding in his native Iraq.'" And we'll show that right there on the screen as an exact quote.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: If they're harboring terrorists, why not go in and get them?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the evidence is pretty conclusive that the Iraqis have, indeed, harbored terrorists. That wasn't the question you asked me last time we met. You asked about evidence...

MR. RUSSERT: Correct.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: ...in involvement in September 11. Over the years, for example, they've provided safe harbor for Abu Nidal, worked out of Baghdad for a long time. The situation, I think, that leads a lot of people to be concerned about Iraq has to do not just with their past activity of harboring terrorists, but also with Saddam Hussein's behavior over the years and with his aggressive pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

If we go back and we look in 1981, he was pursuing nukes. The Israelis pre-empted when they hit the Osryic reactor and shut down the program. In 1991, 10 years later, when we went in, we found evidence of a very aggressive nuclear program. For the last three years, there have been no inspectors in Iraq, and he has aggressively pursued the development of additional weapons of mass destruction. He's had significant sums of money from smuggling oil that are outside the oil-for-food program that are available to him to undertake these activities. And we know, as well, he's had a robust biological weapons and chemical weapons program, and unlike just about anybody else in the world, he's used them. He used those weapons against the Kurds in Iraq and against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war.

President Bush: March 8, 2003 -- Weekly Radio Address

Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression and terrible crimes. He possesses weapons of terror. He provides funding and training and safe haven to terrorists -- terrorists who would willingly use weapons of mass destruction against America and other peace-loving countries. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country, to our people, and to all free people.

If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force, even as a last resort, free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks. The attacks of September the 11th, 2001 showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction.

We are determined to confront threats wherever they arise. I will not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.

President Bush: May 1, 2003 -- Speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln Declaring the End of Major Combat in Iraq

The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on. That terrible morning, 19 evil men -- the shock troops of a hateful ideology -- gave America and the civilized world a glimpse of their ambitions. They imagined, in the words of one terrorist, that September the 11th would be the "beginning of the end of America." By seeking to turn our cities into killing fields, terrorists and their allies believed that they could destroy this nation's resolve, and force our retreat from the world. They have failed.

In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained. We continue to help the Afghan people lay roads, restore hospitals, and educate all of their children. Yet we also have dangerous work to complete. As I speak, a Special Operations task force, led by the 82nd Airborne, is on the trail of the terrorists and those who seek to undermine the free government of Afghanistan. America and our coalition will finish what we have begun.

From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al Qaeda killers. Nineteen months ago, I pledged that the terrorists would not escape the patient justice of the United States. And as of tonight, nearly one-half of al Qaeda's senior operatives have been captured or killed.

The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We've removed an ally of al Qaeda, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more.

In these 19 months that changed the world, our actions have been focused and deliberate and proportionate to the offense. We have not forgotten the victims of September the 11th -- the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.

Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice.

Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes.

Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world -- and will be confronted.

2003 The Washington Post Company

 

 

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